[Oct 14]—Justified

            Keep in mind what happened in the passage we read yesterday: Peter had led other believers into hypocrisy and a virtual denial of the truth of the Message of Christ, that all people are justified by faith in the Lord Jesus, not by works. Paul confronted him head-on about his abject failure to live up to the truth of what he (Peter) had been preaching all along. Before God there's no distinction between Jew and Gentile as far as salvation is concerned.
            There’s debate among biblical scholars as to whether or not today’s passage is continuing a quotation of his rebuke to Peter or not. In the end it doesn’t matter, because Paul’s words to the sinning Peter are intended for us as well.          
On a side-note, the word used in the title of today’s posting is one I wish I could improve upon. The way the word “justified” is mostly used in today’s language almost always means something different from how Paul uses it. If two non-Christians were talking with each other and used the term “justified,” they’d mean it in the sense of “provide a good reason for the actions of (someone).” E.G.: “He justified his reasons for leaving the company by listing all the times they’d passed him over for promotion.” The Bible often uses it in this sense. 
            That’s not how Paul means it. Every single time he uses it, it's in the sense of “declared not guilty in God’s court.” All of us are guilty before the Lord of creation because of our cosmic treason called sin. But when we place our faith in Christ, the Father declares us to be not only “not guilty,” but perfectly righteous in his justice system.
            Unfortunately, there’s no word in the English language which comes closer to what Paul is saying here.  “Acquitted” might be a good candidate, but that’s not forceful enough. You might use the term “counted righteous” like the ESV does in its footnotes, but that misses the legal aspect of it. So we’ll continue to use the word “justification” and explain to people what the word means in a biblical context.
            Paul--in this book and in his other epistles--makes it clear that our keeping the Law has nothing to do with our being declared righteous before God: “We. .  . know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Notice the completely mutually exclusive possibilities here. You’re either justified by faith in Jesus Christ, or you’re justified by the works of the law. There is no middle ground: It’s not that faith in Christ get you 90% of the way there and works makes up the other 10%. Or 95% and 5%. Or 99% and 1%. It’s faith in Christ, and faith alone, which justifies us, which saves us from the penalty of sin.
            But what I’d like to focus on for the rest of the posting is vss. 19-21. Jewish believers who were confused by what the Judaizers were teaching, might object thus: “If you’re teaching salvation by grace through faith, then where does that leave our relationship with the Law? What’s to keep someone from just ‘believing in Christ’ then living however they please? Don’t we need the Law to keep us in line?”
            Not in the way that the false teachers were talking about. As a means of being righteous before God, the Law of Moses has no place. We’re saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
            To keep us in line, the Lord has instituted something far better than giving us a set of rules to follow. When we trust in Christ for salvation, he does far more than just forgive our sin. We are—instantaneously and forever—united with Christ. Because of this union, we died to the law, not so that we can live however we please, but “so that [we] might live for God.” This is the mystery of our permanent union with Christ, which I think is one of the best-kept open secrets of the Christian life. When Christ died on the cross to sin, I died with him. When he was buried, I was buried with him. When he rose again—see a pattern here? For more on this, see here
            That’s what Paul means here when he says that we’re crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ is living his life through me now. That means, among other things, that sin no longer is my master. Over my head, in the spiritual realm, there might as well be a sign that says “Under new management.”
            Of course, I still struggle with sin, and sometimes I fail. Sometimes this truth--that I’m crucified with Christ and he lives through me—is not evident in the way I talk and act, to my shame. But over time, he’s in the process of working this truth out into my outside life, and he’s helping me to be what I am.

Lord Jesus, I’m not what I should be, but thanks to you I’m not what I once was, and I’m not what I will one day be. Please make it obvious to everyone around me that I’ve been crucified with you, and please live your life through me. 

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