15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
This is a follow-up from Paul’s encounter with Peter. Peter and others had acted hypocritically in relation to Gentiles (after certain Jews arrived they wanted to impress). Paul dealt with Peter and others about that. This is a follow-up.
“Jews by birth” should know, after hearing the gospel, that one’s birth, race or nationality is not a pathway to justification. And, doing the works of the law of Moses is not awarded with access to God. Access to God after the resurrection and today is “through faith in Christ.”
That phrase needs to be marked, underlined, highlighted and considered as the main idea of this section. It is not race, nationality or obedience to the law that takes sin away and brings the forgiven sinner into fellowship with God. It is “through faith in Christ.”
To know what this means, please read everything in the New Testament that is before this phrase and everything after. Especially, engage in a good reading of the book of Acts. All that is involved in “faith in Christ” emerges right on the pages. Hearing the gospel, believing in Christ, confessing that belief with repentance followed by baptism – makes you a Christian, no matter if you were/are Jew or Gentile.
This question comes up (verse 17): “But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!”
Sins committed by Christians (i.e., Peter’s hypocrisy at Antioch) never reflect on Christ. The fact that one becomes associated with Christ in baptism, does not imply that all future mistakes are attributed to Christ. Paul wanted it to be known, Peter’s mistake belonged to Peter, not Christ.
Paul applied this to himself: “For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.” The sins of the servant do not reflect on the Master.
To this Paul added: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
Christ lives in His followers, as long as His followers are living “by faith in the Son of God.” This leads Paul to praise God for His grace, in contrast to keeping the law of Moses. Christ died for the express purpose of making the way to God accessible to all.
From Expository Files 23.12; December 2016