This is a sequel to my article “Salvation By Faith Plus Works?” published in our February 11, 2012 issue. This has been a controversial and confusing issue among Christians in the first century up to this 21st century. Hence, I thought it appropriate to share my research on this very important topic in every believer’s life and ministry. My “belief” or “theology” if I may call it that way, is based principally from my learning in Bible school and my own research, principally from the New Living Translation (NLT) also known as the Life Application Bible, and from other translations of the Holy Bible. The Commentaries of the NLT on Galatians (Gal.) Chapter 2 and 3 are instructive and enlightening on the topic “Salvation By Faith”.
The New Living Translation (NLT) is the work of ninety Bible evangelical scholars from various theological background and denominations who were commissioned in 1989 to revise the Living Bible (LB). They worked for seven years resulting to this NLT “a general purpose translation that is accurate, easy to read, and excellent for study” (the Publishers of NLT, July 1996). Salvation by following the law of Moses [613 including the 10 commandments] or salvation based on the law and good works is the theology of the Jews which has been the influence of the Greeks. They were called the Judaizers.
Who are the Judaizers? This is what the NLT Commentators said:
Gal. “3:2, 3 Some of the believers in Galatia may have been in Jerusalem at Pentecost and received the Holy Spirit there. They knew that they hadn’t received God’s Spirit by obeying the Jewish laws. Paul stressed that just as they began their Christian lives in the power of the Spirit, so they should grow by the Spirit’s power. The Galatians had taken a step backward when they had decided to insist on keeping the Jewish laws. We must realize that we grow spiritually because of God’s work in us by his Spirit, not by following special rules.”
x x x x x x x x x
“2:11 The Judaizers accused Paul of watering down the Good News to make it easier for Gentiles to accept, while Paul accused the Judaizers of nullifying the truth of the Good News by adding conditions to it. The basis of salvation was the issue: Is salvation through Christ alone, or does it come through Christ and adherence to the law? The argument came to a climax when Peter, Paul, the Judaizers, and some Gentile Christians all gathered together in Antioch in Syria [recent day Turkey as distinguished from Antioch in Pisidia] to share a meal. Peter probably thought that by staying away from the Gentiles, he was promoting harmony – he did not want to offend James and the Jewish Christians. James had a very prominent position and presided over the Jerusalem council (Acts. 15). But Paul charged that Peter’s action violated the Good News. By joining the Judaizers, Peter implicitly was supporting their claim that Christ was not sufficient for salvation. Compromise is an important element in getting along with others, but we should never compromise the truth of God’s Word. If we feel we have to change our Christian beliefs to match those of our companions, we are on dangerous ground.
2:11, 12 Although Peter was a leader of the church, he was acting like a hypocrite. He knew better, yet he was driven by fear of what James and the others would think. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap.” Paul knew that he had to confront Peter before his actions damaged the church. So, Paul publicly opposed Peter. Note, however, that Paul did not go to the other leaders, nor did he write letters to the churches telling them not to follow Peter’s example. Instead, he opposed Peter face to face. Sometimes sincere Christians, even Christian leaders, make mistakes. And it may take other sincere Christians to get them back on track. If you are convinced that someone is doing harm to himself/herself or the church, try the direct approach. There is no place for back-stabbing in the body of Christ.
2:15.16 If observing the Jewish laws cannot justify us, why should we still obey the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament laws? We know that Paul was not saying the law is bad, because in another letter he wrote, “The law itself is holy and right and good” (Romans 7:12). Instead, he is saying that the law can never make us acceptable to God. The law still has an important role to play in the life of a Christian. The law (1) guards us from sin by giving us standards for behavior; (2) convicts us of sin, leaving us the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness; and (3) drives us to trust in the sufficiency of Christ, because we can never keep the Ten Commandments perfectly. The law cannot possibly save us. But after we become Christians, it can guide us to live as God requires.
2:17-19 Through studying the Old Testament Scriptures, Paul realized that he could not be saved by obeying God’s laws. The prophets knew that God’s plan of salvation did not rest on keeping the law. Because we have all been infected by sin, we cannot keep God’s laws perfectly. Fortunately, God has provided a way of salvation that depends on Jesus Christ, not on our own efforts. Even though we know this truth, we must guard against the temptation of using service, good deeds, charitable giving, or any other effort as a substitute for faith.
2:19, 20 How have we been crucified with Christ? Legally, God looks at us as if we had died with Christ. Because our sins died with him, we are no longer condemned (Colossians 2:13-15). Relationally, we have become one with Christ, and his experiences are ours. Our Christian life began when, in unity with him, we died to our old life (see Romans 6:5-11). In our daily life, we must regularly crucify sinful desires that keep us from following Christ. This, too, is a kind of dying with him (Luke 9:23-25).
And yet the focus of Christianity is not dying but living. Because we have been crucified with Christ, we have also been raised with him (Romans 6:5). Legally, we have been reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:19) and are free to grow into Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29). And in our daily life, we have Christ’s resurrection power as we continue to fight sin (Ephesians 1:19, 20). We are no longer alone, for Christ lives in us – he is our power for living and our hope for the future (Colossians 1:27).
2:21 Believers today may still be in danger of acting as if Christ died for nothing. How? By replacing Jewish legalism with their own brand of Christian legalism, they are giving people extra laws to obey. By believing they can earn God’s favor by what they do, they are not trusting completely in Christ’s work on the cross. By struggling to appropriate God’s power to change them (sanctification), they are not resting in God’s power to save them (justification). If we could be saved by being good, then Christ would not have had to die. But the cross is the only way to salvation” (underscoring supplied).
I stress that the foregoing comments and ideas are not mine but are quotations from the NLT, for whatever worth it will serve the readers.
Some well-meaning believers like the Judaizers, believe that salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone is too easy and simple. They say that salvation is not that easy or simple. They add good works to faith, which is the opposite of faith evidenced by good works. Or that they have to do good works to make up for their sins in order that they will be saved. Precisely, God made salvation easy through the sacrifice in the cross of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, because of his love for man. God wants that if possible no one will perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9 KJV).
Do we follow the Judaizer’s theology or that of the Apostle Paul? The choice is ours. (FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin, Feb 25, 2012)