The Setting
1. Paul, Barnabas, Peter, and the church at Antioch are together, sharing a common meal.
2. The church at Antioch included Gentiles who did not grow up with the religion of the Old Testament. They didn’t know about the Ten Commandments, or the religious or civil laws found in Judaism.
3. More than likely, these Gentiles grew up with idolatry and gross immorality.
4. Legalists came from Jerusalem to the church at Antioch. They wanted to insist that faith in Jesus wasn’t enough for salvation, but that circumcision and other actions were also needed.
5. They brought with them a strong religious bias against the Gentiles. They despised them
6. Peter normally ate with Gentiles, but when this group arrived, Peter withdrew from fellowship with the Gentile Christians, having felt the religious pressure from the legalists.
7. Barnabas also got caught up in the religious peer pressure to disassociate from the Gentiles.
8. In front of everyone, Paul began to rebuke Peter for his religious hypocrisy.
9. Peter normally was fine eating with Gentiles, but he flip flopped when the legalists came.
10. We pick up the story in verse 15, with Paul’s continuation of his rebuke to Peter.

15We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
1.Both Peter and Paul had been observant Jews before becoming Christians.
2. They had a rich religious, moral background, but it hadn’t been sufficient to save them.
3. Paul had been a Pharisee, the highest religious ranking in Judasim.
4. Both came from a religious system of trying to be right with God through good works.
5. Both had come to realize that in their efforts to earn their salvation, they had failed continually
6. Both had come to realize that salvation was the gift of God through faith in Jesus.
7. Both men were veterans in ministry; they were apostles, they had both preached many times that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus, not by works.
8. Both knew that the legalists were wrong, and that Peter had played the hypocrite.

16knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
1. Paul is speaking to Peter in front of the group, about what they both knew to be true.
2. knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law- Paul, Peter, Barnabas all knew this
3. but by faith in Jesus Christ– By trusting that Jesus’ death is sufficient to pay for our sins
4. even we have believed in Christ Jesus- Even we Jews, who used to think the law could save us.
5. for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified– There are no exceptions.

17“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!
1. With this statement, Paul seems to answer anticipated objections from the legalists.
2. Keep in mind what was happening.
a. Peter, Barnabas and others had sinned by giving into the pressure from the legalists. (V.12)
b. They had acted hypocritically in separating from the Gentile Christians. (V.13)
c. They had not acted straightforward about the Gospel. They had been duplicitous. (V.14)
d. They had wrongfully, and, by their actions, compelled the Gentiles to consider the need for circumcision, a kosher diet, religious holidays, etc. (V.14)
e. NOTE- By the way, this shows how strongly our non-verbal communication can affect people negatively, even with regards to them perhaps thinking themselves unsaved.
i. A disapproving look, a raised eyebrow, an awkward silence, an unwillingness to shake a hand, a turning away in social settings, etc.
ii. Even these slight actions can send a message to someone that God doesn’t approve of them, and can lead a Christian to think they are not saved, when indeed, they are.
3. Peter had clearly sinned, and Paul was openly rebuking him.
4. The Supposed Problem- If a man was trusting Jesus for salvation, but was found to be sinning, did that mean that Jesus was/is a minister of sin? Does Jesus promote sin, just because His people are sometimes found sinning? Does the Gospel of Jesus fail to deliver a man from sin?
a. Is Jesus the author or promoter of sin? Is His system faulty, or insufficient?
b. Certainly not!
5. It seems that since Peter was being called out for his sin, this would give opportunity for the legalists to try to make a case that “faith alone in Jesus” wasn’t enough to make a man holy, and that the obvious proof was Peter and his wrong behavior.
a. In other words, “faith alone in Jesus isn’t enough, because look, Peter is sinning”.
b. “Faith alone doesn’t make a man live a holy life; you need to add the law and works”.

NOTE- Christians still sin. It’s not O.K., but they do. Even Peter, and over the issue of salvation.

Luther- “To give a short definition of a Christian: A Christian is not somebody who has no sin, but somebody against whom God no longer chalks sin, because of his faith in Christ. This doctrine brings comfort to consciences in serious trouble.”

18For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
For- “truly therefore; as the case stands; in consideration of how things are…”.

Paul is saying that if he decided to go backwards to legalism, then he would truly be a sinner.
What does legalism say and/or imply?
1. The death of Jesus was insufficient to pay for our sins.
2. My good works can supplement what Jesus contributed in regards to my salvation.
3.“Faith alone Christians” sin, which proves that faith alone isn’t enough for salvation or holy living. Therefore, works need to be added.

Paul would have been a bigger sinner by setting aside the grace of God after having depended upon it and peached about it.
It would have been like saying grace got him saved enough for him to take over with his good works.

Paul could have been tempted to go back to a system of legalism for the following reasons:
1. It is difficult to resist the pressure from these legalists who seemed to mean well.
2. It is obvious that Christians still sin. Even Peter sinned. We can’t make the Gospel look bad. We need to change that. Maybe we should add some works.
3. If Paul went back to legalism, he would have been rebuilding what he had destroyed.

David Guzik- Essentially, Paul says “There is more sin in trying to find acceptance before God by our law-keeping than there is sin in everyday life as a Christian.” Of course, this is the great tragedy of legalism. In trying to be more right with God, they end up being less right with God.
19For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.
Paul now redefines his relationship to the Law.
He calls himself dead to it.
What does he mean, and how did this happen?

19For I through the law died to the law-
1. Romans 7:12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
2. The law is designed to restrain man from evil, and directs him towards good.
3. But since it is law, it must judge the one who disobeys it.
4. Therefore, since the law must pronounce judgment on those who disobey it, we discover that we are all guilty before God, and deserving of His punishment.
a. Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
5. The law does not provide holiness for a man, but rather, judgment.
6. The law shows a man that he is a sinner, and then punished him for being one.
7. The law shows a man his failure before God. It takes away any hope of salvation by works

that I might live to God-
1. The law brings a man to the end of himself that he might trust in God’s method of salvation.
2. The law ends self-righteousness, and shows a man his need for imputed righteousness.
3. It brings a man to call out to God in faith, and confess his sins, and ask for forgiveness.
4. It brings a man to the cross where he can find true spiritual life, and be born again.

Luther- “Blessed is the person who knows how to use this truth in times of distress. He can talk. He can say: ‘Mr. Law, go ahead and accuse me as much as you like. I know I have committed many sins, and I continue to sin daily. But that does not bother me. You have got to shout louder, Mr. Law. I am deaf, you know. Talk as much as you like, I am dead to you. If you want to talk to me about my sins, go and talk to my flesh. Belabor that, but don’t talk to my conscience. My conscience is a lady and a queen, and has nothing to do with the likes of you, because my conscience lives to Christ under another law, a new and better law, the law of grace.’”

David Guzik- So Paul’s life isn’t his own anymore, it belongs to Jesus Christ! Paul doesn’t own his own life (that life died); he is simply “managing” the new life Jesus gave him.

20I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. .

“Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldly say: ‘I am now one with Christ. Therefore Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.’ On the other hand, Christ may say: ‘I am that big sinner. His sins and death are mine, because he is joined to me, and I to him.’” (Luther)

Kenneth Wuest- The new life is a person within a person, living out His life in that person.

The new life that the Christian lives with Jesus can only be lived and experienced in the realm and awareness of faith.

  1. If I look at my life with Jesus through the Law, then feelings of condemnation sweep over me.
  2. Romans 8:1a 1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus
  3. Conviction over sin? Yes. Condemnation because of sin? No.
  4. I must live this new life in faith and in confidence.

a. Faith that Christ fully paid for my sins.
b. Faith that He lives in me, and is the holy prompting of my guilt ridden heart..

5. He prompts me to confess my sins, and to forsake them, but He also prompts me to walk in the forgiveness and pardon that His death procured for me.
6. Jesus does not look at me according to my performance, but according to my faith.

and the life which I now live in the flesh- We lived the life of faith in bodies of flesh.
There will always be a conflict between our flesh and Christ in us.
Paul will elaborate on that in Chapter 5.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

But the point is this: Our lives of faith are lived out in bodies of flesh.
The flesh and the Spirit are contrary.
That fight between flesh and spirit will not end until we depart from the flesh.
Until then, we live by faith, we walk in the pardon of God, and gain victory over sin by the Spirit.

Chuck Smith- We are redeemed souls living in unredeemed bodies.

The object of Paul’s faith is Jesus, and what Jesus accomplished.
The truth is that Jesus died for the sins of the world. (1 John 2:2)
Whether a person believes that or not doesn’t change that fact.
If they do believe it, and ask for pardon, they are pardoned.
But to make it a conscious, emotional reality, we need to continue to believe it when we sin.
We must keep ourselves from going back to the human default setting, which is the mindset that says we must pay for our sins, that we must earn God’s love through good works, and we must make sure others behave the same way.

“Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever.” (Luther)

21I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
1. It is possible to set aside the grace of God.
2. We are saved by grace through faith.
3. The grace of God provided the payment for our sins, and the offer to us of pardon.
4. To seek to be saved by works is to set aside the grace of God.
5. It is to remove it from its place, and to replace it with the works of man.
6. It is to minimize the grace of God and wrongfully exalt the supposed capacity of man.
7. If salvations can be attained by man’s efforts, Jesus’ death was unneeded.