By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
Galatians 2:1-16 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2 It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. 6 But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
Today’s text ends saying: Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. While Christians today may not have the tendency to revert to the law as the early Jewish believers did, there is still a tendency to depend on works and religion rather than solely on grace and faith. Most churches will rightly encourage unbelievers to come as they are. Regardless of background, heritage or previous lifestyle, unbelievers are encouraged to come to Christ and receive salvation by grace through faith. The invitation is to come as you are, but unfortunately the unspoken doctrine in many churches is while you can come as you are, if you want to stay, you must become as we are. While grace may continue to be extended to people as they grow in Christ, they are expected to quickly conform to the traditions and the religious preferences of the church. In Matthew 23:13-15 Jesus says: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” By trying to make people conform to our religious traditions and preferences, we too, in the church, may actually hinder people from coming into the kingdom of heaven. Because they resist and reject religious tradition and regulations, they also resist and reject God and His grace.
Romans 12:1-6 it says: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them… Paul is writing here about spiritual gifts and how the diversity of gifts are all for the benefit of the body. In the same way that it says: do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, our goal should not be that people would become conformed to the church, but rather that they would be renewed and transformed into the image of Christ. Just as the diversity of spiritual gifts benefits and strengthens the body, so too do the diversity in traditions and preferences of individual members strengthen the body. It is not that we sacrifice or compromise our faith in Christ, but rather that we seek unity in Christ rather than conformity to tradition. The church is not strengthened by making everyone the same. It is strengthened by everyone becoming like Christ, in their own unique gifts and qualities.
If it is by grace that we are saved, may we also continue in grace; not that we conform to, accept, tolerate and embrace the world and sin, but that we are transformed to the image of Christ. Rather than seeking to make others like us, we should seek to see the Christ in them. If Christ likeness is our goal and our focus, rather than tradition and conformity, the church will be strengthened and renewed. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) May we truly love one another, not seeking our own way, not embracing unrighteousness, but loving as Jesus has loved us, that all that we are would be used for His glory.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; thank You for the beauty and diversity of creation, that You made all things for Your glory. May I also see the beauty and diversity of every person You have created in Your image and likeness, and so may we all be transformed and strengthened according to Your will. Amen.