The Heart of the Message: Justification by Faith in Christ (2:15–16): Our passage comes off the heels of Paul telling Peter he was wrong to withdraw from eating with the Gentiles (Gal 2:11–14). Peter’s problem was to imply through his behavior that the Gentiles needed to add obedience to the Mosaic law to their faith in Christ in order to be seen as righteous before God. In clarifying the matter further, Paul pointed out to Peter that even their privileged ethnicity as Jews in receiving the law did not make the law effective in bringing about their justification: “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know 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.”
To be justified is to be declared by God as righteous, and the works of the law are not works produced by the law but works done in obedience to the law. And while we know that Jesus was perfectly faithful in His obedience to the law, “faith in Jesus Christ” is just that—the believer’s faith in Him and should not be translated as “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” The difference between the two options would be that our own faith is left unmentioned in the matter of justification if we speak only of the righteousness of Christ, not to mention we would be speaking of Christ in way that would be altogether unique in the NT.
Our faith in Jesus Christ is to have faith in who He is and what He has done for us. Not only did He as both God and man live perfectly according to the law, but He also suffered its penalty of death that you and I deserve. To believe, trust, and have faith in Him is to believe in a number of truths: (1) we have violated God’s law and stand condemned before Him; (2) Jesus lived out the law sinlessly and perfectly and merited a righteousness that we could never gain for ourselves; (3) Jesus died an undeserved death on our behalf and was vindicated as sinless at His resurrection (cf. 1 Tim 3:16); (4) His death and righteousness are our own when we believe in Him.
So, in putting these things together, our faith in Christ unites us to Christ and His righteousness becomes our own. The Father obviously approved of His Son when He raised Him from the dead, and we are thus approved and declared righteous by virtue of our standing in Christ. What a truth!
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.