Posted in GRACE, IDENTITY

GALATIANS 2:20 EXPLAINED

Gal. 2:20 has long been a favorite verse for many, but truly understanding its importance has left many outside the reality.

The main emphasis on the concept of faith during the past 50 years has been on the necessity of one’s exercise. “You gotta have faith!” “Be it unto you according to your faith.” (Matt. 9:29)

This has brought much condemnation to the Body of Christ because of the emphasis on the person’s level of faith. If they have “tried to believe” for healing, for instance, and it doesn’t happen, then it is because they didn’t have enough faith.

This carried over into one of the most despicable aspects of the Charismatic Movement, especially in the Word of Faith camp. If the man of God prayed for you and you were healed, it was because of “God’s man of faith and power for the hour.” But, if you did not receive a healing when prayed for, it was because YOU did not have enough faith. That is a total and complete line of nonsense which results in condemnation.

The source of our faith is Jesus Christ

This hypocrisy denies the reality of the source of our faith—JESUS CHRIST. To make my effort at believing to be the source of ‘results’ is to place me at the level of being supreme commander of my life.

This is not possible with a cruciform theology, where everything is centered and flows from the cross of Jesus. There is nothing man-centered in this view.

If that is true (and it is), then even our faith must be considered from a different perspective. As Steve McVey said, “It is the faith OF Christ, not IN, which is necessary for a solid cruciform theology.” This distinction between “of” and “in” is of more importance than most can realize. Yes, they are each a two-letter preposition, but the impact is monumental.

Again, let’s consider how the Bible presents this idea.

  • [Gal 2:20 ESV] 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.

I underlined the word ‘in’ twice, though it is used three times in the verse. The first two times the word is used in our English translation, there is a corresponding prepositional word in the Greek text. In the third instance there is not such a correspondence.

It is necessary to note that ALL translations are interpretations of the original language text. These interpretations are affected by the bias of the translators. A word-for-word literal translation would be so ‘wooden’ that it would be nearly unreadable for the average high-school graduate.

Thankfully, we have modern tools at our disposal which enable us to see past any particular bias if we are willing to do the work.

The third use of ‘in’ with “in the Son of God” is an example of bias affecting translation. The bias here is that of thinking that the faith necessary is something that we must do. Most of evangelical Christendom has now gone in this direction.

However, there is no corresponding preposition in the phrase from the original Greek text, although a preposition is necessary to make sense of the three words “faith, Son, God.” Those three words, if left to stand alone as they are in the original, would make no sense.

Each of those words are in the genitive case, which gives rise to an interpretation that can be translated into another language. The genitive case in the Greek language has two basic meanings—either possession or source. Our English language only uses the possessive case, as in “John’s book”, which would translate the “book of John” if there were only the two words in the genitive case. “Of” is added because of the genitive usage.

The so-called ‘literal’ translation, then, would be “the faith of the Son of God,” which is how the King James Version and a few more have it. Most of the modern translations (ESV, NIV, NASB, CEV, etc) have taken the route of using ‘in.’

The difference is monumental! Using “IN” indicates that it is by my effort to believe, whereas using the word “OF” puts the whole thing on Christ, the Son of God.

Some may think that this is a stretch, that I am making this up to suit my own bias. That would be a legitimate charge, except for more plain language from Paul.

“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phl 2:13)

He states that our ability to do anything is the result of God’s working in us. Jesus said the same thing as recorded in John 15:5—I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Paul let us know that it is all a gift of God—our salvation, the faith for salvation, grace—in another place. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Eph 2:8)

There is one verse which puts both the faithfulness of Jesus and our faith together as a synchronous work.

“…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.” (Gal 2:16)

This verse brings both the objective aspect and the subjective experience into a single place. And the KJV gets it right, showing again that our effort is encased within the faithfulness of Jesus.

[Gal 2:16 KJV] Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Our justification before God is a ‘done deal,’ because of Jesus, and we can enjoy the benefits of this justification when we exercise the gift of faith that He has given us.

Posted in GRACE

WHAT WERE YOU TAUGHT?

[Col 2:6-7 ESV] 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

This passage is a favorite for those who teach a works-oriented approach to walking with the Lord. I was one of those, and I was good at it.

The emphasis was on “just as you were taught,” which shone the spotlight on the teachers (me), though that was not my intent, nor was I aware of it at the time. The intent was to encourage being “rooted and built up.”

Being rooted, built up and established is the aim of the five-fold ministry for the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). I find it interesting that after 2,000 years, we are still struggling to make that happen.

It appears that the Church is weaker now than at any other time in history—more divided (40k denominations), without faith (running for cover from COVID), unable to contend with government (“yessir, we will lock our churches, as you said, sir”).

Thankfully, the Lord is bringing to light a grace-filled understanding of Paul’s teachings on grace.

(While we may criticize our former understanding of the apostle’s teaching, we must also realize that nothing can be accomplished without the light of the Holy Spirit shining into our mind. Paul taught against the law, rules, regulations and rituals by emphasizing grace. Yet, it is only now that a majority understanding of grace is beginning to take place.)

The passage quoted above is one that is taking on new meaning and understanding as the grace of God takes the center stage of teaching.

Let’s dig a little deeper into this passage.

Therefore

One of the first rules of interpretation is—whenever you see a ‘therefore’, find out what it’s there for. The word is used to draw attention to a conclusion.

In this case, Paul is directing his readers to think about what he has just written and to understand how they are to live.

In the previous verses (2:1-5), he wanted them to know how he longed for them “to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (v. 2) even though he had not personally visited them.

Having not visited them, he had not taught them; but he was concerned about those who might be teaching (v. 4). He was once again battling the possibility of those who would teach a legalistic form of faith by using a logically reasonable understanding.

As You Received Christ Jesus the Lord

(Therefore) Paul appeals to their beginning faith walk.

This is not a statement of fact, but an appeal to recall how they received the Lord.

Therefore, the question is—how did they receive the Lord?

The answer is found in the opening lines of this letter (Col. 1:5b-7). Epaphras preached the gospel of grace to them, and they had been walking in that understanding ever since.

We can see, then, that they received Jesus through the ‘hearing of faith’ (Rom. 10:17). They did not receive Him through any kind of law or works (Gal. 3:2).

So Walk In Him

Since they did not receive Christ through any kind of work or law, but through faith, Paul encourages them to continue in like manner. Their growth in grace in the Lord is to be by faith, not by any kind of rule or rigor.

Rooted and Built Up in Him

This speaks of both the beginning and the continuing process. Both are in Christ.

It’s not that we begin with faith and grow by law (Gal. 3:3). No. It is all by the Spirit.

Established in the Faith

The word translated ‘established’ is often translated ‘confirm’. When something is confirmed for us, we tend to become ‘established’ in that area.

The idea is that once established, there is a firm foundation—in this case, a firm foundation of understanding.

All of this comes BEFORE “just as you were taught.”

Just as You Were Taught

We need to see and understand Paul’s logical progression in this passage. He did not begin with the idea of being taught—which is what I formerly emphasized.

He is re-iterating the fact that they were taught about the faith with which they received the Lord.

How did that occur?

We have already seen that it was through the preaching of grace by Epaphras. And, Paul mentions elsewhere that it is grace which teaches us (Tit. 2:11-12).

Abounding in Thanksgiving

Paul tells them they should express their gratitude for the grace of God in a manner that far exceeds a simple ‘thank you.’

The word ‘abounding’ carries with it the idea of being immeasurable, more than enough, but not nearly too much.

Why should there be this abundance of thanksgiving?

Because the grace of God towards us is immeasurable, more than enough, but not nearly too much.

CONCLUSION

None of this is to say that we do not need teachers, for we do. They are a gift from God for the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).

It is the manner, method and material which they teach that can be a problem. This is what Paul, Peter, John and Jesus cautioned us about.

Teachers help us to be able to hear with faith if the message is clear. ‘Do’ or ‘don’t do’ are seldom clear messages, for there is always an exception, a caveat to that which is presented.

Not so with grace. It is far bigger than we can comprehend or contain.

A teacher, a pastor, or an evangelist must be willing to trust the Lord with the lives of those to whom they minister. The ‘razor’s edge’ for these ministers of truth is to recognize and allow that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

That means that as a minister, I might not be able to ‘accept’ what someone may be doing, but I must trust that the Lord will make a way—either for their betterment or for my understanding.

Ultimately, though, if we can learn to abound with thanksgiving for the grace of God in our life and the lives of others, everything will work out for our good (Rom. 8:28).