Found to Be Sinners (Galatians, Part 21)
This week we continue exploring the book of Galatians using a question-and-answer format.
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.
How were Peter and Paul “found to be sinners”?
Peter and Paul were teaching that people could not be accepted by God by trying to be a good person and by following all the rules in the Old Testament. And the reason why trying to keep all the rules doesn’t work is because no one can keep all the rules. So when Peter and Paul taught that the only way for people to enter the kingdom was to cling to Jesus and to ask God to forgive all of their failures, they were essentially admitting that being good enough for God was impossible.
Therefore, when they preached that the only way for anyone (including themselves) to enter the kingdom was to trust in Jesus, they were admitting themselves to be sinners who could not keep God’s law.
What does Paul mean when he asks, “Is Christ then a servant of sin?”
He is imagining what other people might say when they hear that sinners can enter the kingdom simply by trusting in Christ. Maybe the naysayers would ask something like this: “Wait, so people who break God’s law can enter his kingdom just by putting their faith in Jesus? God doesn’t punish them for being sinners, then? So that means Jesus must think sinning against God is a good thing. He doesn’t sound like a good King at all. No thanks, I don’t want to enter the kingdom by trusting in Jesus. I’d rather get in the old-fashioned, honest way by keeping all the laws in the Hebrew Scriptures.”
But Paul says that to reject Jesus’ way of entering the kingdom, and to try getting in by being obedient to all of God’s rules, is actually being disobedient to God in the worst way possible. If God sent his Son to bring us into the kingdom through faith, what kind of rebels would we be to refuse to trust him and enter?
The old system of rules has been torn down, Paul says, and for you to try and build it back up is not pious and godly—it’s just disobedient and rebellious! Imagine I tell my 6-year-old son to watch his baby sister while I go outside and make a phone call. Then I come back 15 minutes later and ask him to take out the trash, but he says, “No Dad, I can’t do that because I’m watching my sister.” To which I reply, “Thank you for watching your sister like I asked, but I can watch her myself now. What I need you to do now is take out the trash.”
What if he responds and says, “No Dad, I can’t do that because I want to obey you and watch my sister”? No matter how much he claims to be obeying me by staying inside with his sister, he is in fact disobeying me. He would be “rebuilding” the previous command that I had “torn down,” and he would be missing out on what I really want him to do. This is what Paul means when he says in verse 18, “For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.”
God is offering us entrance into the Kingdom through faith in his Son. Let us receive this gift with faith and joyful obedience!