In our last reading we commenced Paul’s summary of his early Christian life, we now continue the narrative.
He went up to Jerusalem lest he might be misrepresented and thought to be a teacher of some novel doctrine, and not one at heart with the rest of the brotherhood. We must be careful not to create misunderstandings by holding too much aloof from other believers.
There were many who wished to make Paul exchange the liberty of the gospel for the yoke of the Jewish law, but he would not for a moment submit to them. We need to be equally staunch against Romanism in these days.
Good men are sometimes afraid of a straight course of action because it may cause trouble, or appear to be too bold. In such a case we must not be silent out of respect for them, but openly oppose them. Dear is Peter, but dearer still the truth.
How boldly is this stated! Faith alone and not works justify the soul before God. He who does not believe this rejects the gospel.
Justification by faith does not make us think lightly of sin; on the contrary, it creates in us such love to God that we loathe the very idea of offending him.
We cannot be saved by our own merits, for if so, the atonement was unnecessary,—a blasphemous idea not to be tolerated for a moment. Are we all believers in Jesus?
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.”
What strange, Satanic influence has come over you? By what horrible deceit have you been entangled and held captive? You have heard and known the way of salvation by faith in the crucified Saviour—how could you then have been duped by legal teachers?
Paul’s argument is, that hitherto all the good they had received had come to them by grace and not by works, by the Spirit and not by the flesh, by faith and not by ceremonies, and he chides them for yielding in any degree to the delusive teaching of Judaizers. We have the best reason for keeping to the gospel, for no real good ever comes to men by the opposite teaching. The following testimony is only one of many, and establishes the point:—”I preached up sanctification very earnestly for six years in a former parish,” says Mr. Bennet, in a letter, “and never brought one soul to Christ. I did the same at this parish for two years, without having any success at all; but as soon as ever I preached Jesus Christ, and faith in his blood, then believers were added to the Church, and the people flocked from all parts to hear the glorious sound of the gospel, some coming six, others eight, and others ten miles, and that constantly. The reason why my ministry was not blessed when I preached up salvation partly by faith and partly by works is, because the doctrine is not of God; and he will prosper no ministers but such as preach salvation in his own appointed way, namely, by faith in Jesus Christ.”
If it cannot save, why was it given? It was given to discover and lay bare our sin to us. A sight of misery must go before a sense of mercy. Lex, lux, the law is a light, and shows us our need of a mediator. Therefore the apostle says—
And this proves that God and men were opposed, or a mediator would not have been needed. Thus the giving of the law showed mans state of alienation.
concluded or shut up as prisoners
The law is not therefore the opponent of the promise, but an agent for putting men where they feel themselves to be in need of mercy, and therefore accept salvation by grace.
We are not baptized unto Moses, we have put off legal robes, and are dressed in the garments of grace.
So that we obtain all the blessings of the law by faith, even in the same manner as Abraham became the heir of all things. Evermore in our hearts let us make a clear distinction between the law and the grace of God, so shall we be sound in doctrine and preserved from much bondage.