Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Heidelberg Disputation Series Part 9: The Truth About Galatians 2:20

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 25, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 9 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, The Truth About Galatians 2:20.”

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Galatians 2:20 is the go-to verse for all stripes of progressive justification. For those who seek to live an aggressive sanctification and life of fearless love, its constant twisting by proponents of progressive justification is an ongoing nuisance of biblical proportions. This episode attempts to end the argument once and for all.

What is the constant mantra that we here today in regard to Galatians 2:20? “See, it is not I who lives, I am still spiritually dead, and the life I appear to live is really Christ living through me.”

First, what is our specific beef with this notion? Ok, so folks have a passive view of sanctification (Christian living); so what? The so what follows: a passive approach to sanctification assumes that justification is an unfinished  process, and therefore, any actions by “saved” people must not circumvent the justification (salvation) process. That’s default works salvation because we are involved in keeping the salvation process going, albeit doing nothing with intentionality.

This is the crux of the Protestant gospel; justification by faith. We are justified by faith alone in the same gospel that saved us because not doing anything but believing is supposedly a faith alone work. But not doing anything with intentionality is doing something—that’s the problem. And as we will see, the biblical definition of faith is contrary to the Reformed definition of faith.

Let me walk you through our process tonight. We will begin by looking at the proper interpretive method that must be used in rightly dividing Galatians 2:20. Then we will look at the proper context, followed by the right definitions of the words used in the verse resulting in correct interpretive conclusions.

Let’s look at the proper interpretive method for rightly dividing Galatians 2:20. We call this hermeneutics. Whenever we read our Bibles, we must ask ourselves if the context is justification or sanctification. What is the difference?

Justification, unlike the Reformed definition, is a state of being brought about by the new birth. It is not merely a legal declaration that changes our status. The Bible uses the words “justification” and “righteousness” interchangeably.

Know the difference between the Biblicist remedy to prevent legal fiction, and the Reformed remedy to prevent legal fiction. The Reformed remedy states that the declaration is not legal fiction because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the “believer” and substitutes the believer’s righteousness with the righteousness of Christ. This is Martin Luther’s alien righteousness and the Reformed doctrine of Christ for us. Even though the saint remains a sinner, Martin Luther’s Simul iustus et peccator, or simultaneously saint and sinner, covers the believer with the righteousness of Christ. In Reformed thought, the standard of this righteousness is the law.

The Biblicist remedy doesn’t cover sin, it ends it. The standard for righteousness in being justified is the new birth, not the law. We are not only declared righteous, we are righteous because we are born again into the literal family of God. In essence, the Trinity became a family. That’s huge. For eternity the Trinity was only one between the three of them, but their remedy for sin was to make mankind one with them as a family. In the plan of salvation, in the election of the salvific plan, God became a Father, and the Messiah became a Son. This nomenclature denotes the plan of salvation specifically; God not only redeems man, He makes Him His literal family through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Hence, righteousness is not a declaration made true by a double substitution, it is true because the new birth makes us righteous; it is a state of being, not a mere forensic declaration. The new birth is a onetime event that results in the Spirit living within us forever. Our hearts are truly redeemed, but we are still weak and therefore susceptible to breaking the law. Yet, we are righteous because God’s seed dwells within us, and the law’s ability to judge us has been cancelled. More on that later.

Therefore, Scripture verses must be interpreted by the context of justification or sanctification. Does the verse pertain to the new birth which is a onetime finished event, or the Christian life which is ongoing? What is the difference between the two?

Simply stated, one is a gift, and the other is a reward. Does the context speak of the gift, or what we do to earn our rewards? Does the context speak of the finished work of salvation, or our endeavor to live in fearless and aggressive love followed by its rewards and blessings?

Let’s define the difference by defining the lost versus the saved; the unrighteous versus the righteous. The two have a different master, a different reward, and a different law. The master correlates to the wages received according to their slavery.

We are all born under sin which is defined in the Bible as a master. In this sense, we are/were enslaved to sin. As slaves under the Sin master, though they can do good works, the only wage that can be received is death and condemnation. The law, or the Bible, condemns those who are “under law.”

In contrast, Christ purchased all men with His blood by paying the penalty for sin. He has effectively purchased all slaves from the other slave master. You were “bought with a price.” If you believe this, you are now a slave to the new Master through the new birth. You can only receive wages for life, and there is no condemnation. As Christians, our goal is not to stop doing sinful things; our goal is to gain things pertaining to life. Christians focus on sin way too much—our focus should be love. Peter said that “above all” focus on love because love covers a multitude of sins. The Bible is now our guide for loving God and others, and does not condemn us.

Moreover, salvation is not a mere assent to the facts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, it is a decision to follow Christ in death and resurrection through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that results in the new birth and the permanent receiving of the Holy Spirit. The old you literally dies and you are resurrected a new person.

Amazingly, lost people know this intuitively; the most common reason that the unregenerate don’t want to become saved is because they know it means giving up their present life, and being resurrected to the uncertainty of being a totally new person sold out to the kingdom. I believe that to be the focus of Christ’s exchange with Nicodemus in John 3.

And this is also the focal point of Galatians 2:20. Proponents of progressive justification use this verse to refute Biblicism which proffers a radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification. But in truth, Paul is attacking the Galatian error of progressive justification which substitutes the believer’s love in sanctification for a ritual that keeps justification moving forward. It’s the exact same error propagated by the Reformation.

The context is Paul’s rebuttal regarding how the Galatians were attempting to be justified. Justification is clearly the context. The fact that Paul is addressing the subject of justification in the body of text where Galatians 2:20 resides, is clearly evident (three times alone in Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:17, 2:21, 3:8, 3:11, 3:24, 5:4). The Galatians were being led away into error via a justification which has law as its standard. It’s the same old song and dance with progressive justification; some sort of ritual or tradition fulfills the whole law which is not the standard of justification to begin with.

Since people cannot keep the law perfectly, the law is dumbed down into some sort of ritual or ceremony. Paul therefore warns them that if they want to be justified by the law, they are responsible for all of the law, not just the recognition of a few rituals:

Galatians 5:2 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Obviously, they believed that circumcision satisfied what many call today the “righteous demands of the law,” or a satisfaction “under the eyes of the law.” It is clear that a salvation by circumcision (ordinance) is in the mix here: 2:3, 2:12, 5:2, 5:3, 5:6, and 5:11. Perhaps circumcision saved you, and then the ongoing observance of other rituals maintained ones “just standing” (Gal 4:10, 11). At any rate, this results in the “relaxing of the law” for purposes of love in sanctification. Or in other words, antinomianism:

Galatians 2:15 – We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] 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.

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.

Galatians 5:7 – You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Of particular interest to further the point is Paul’s assertion as to what actually fulfills the law; LOVE, not ritual or tradition, especially since we are not justified by the law to begin with.

Now, as we move into the focal point of Galatians 2:20, it is important to define the words used in the verse.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (KJV [nevertheless I live excluded by ESV]).

Look, this verse is nothing more or less than run of the mill Pauline soteriology. It speaks of the Spirit’s baptism and the new birth. It is arguing against progressive justification by reiterating the new birth. “I am crucified with Christ” speaks of the old us that was crucified with Christ:

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

In light of Romans 6 and 7, here is what I think this verse is saying:

The old I was crucified with Christ, but nevertheless the new I lives, not the old I, but the new I that is indwelt by Christ. The new I lives by faith in Christ who loved me and died for me.

In light of other Scripture, this is the only conceivable interpretation. And we must also consider the biblical definition of “by faith.” Galatians 5:6 makes the definition absolutely certain:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Also note what James said about faith:

James 2:14 – What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

This is the EXACT same faith that is advocated by progressive justification soteriology in general, and Reformation soteriology in particular; a faith without works that invokes some kind of substitution for our works in sanctification. And they love to use Galatians 2:20 to promote it. Last week, we looked at this in-depth through the ministry of one of the more mainline evangelical churches; John MacArthur’s Grace to You ministries. We deconstructed a sermon on Galatians 2:20 by one of the ministry’s most prominent leaders, Phil Johnson, [also see Part 2 here].

In his Reformed run of the mill evaluation of the verse, he advocated the idea that it is a paradox; Paul was speaking of one man that is both dead and alive. Because of Christ, we are dead to the law because Christ fulfilled the law for us. We are alive when Christ’s fulfillment of the law is imputed to us in sanctification. Justification does not change the person in any way, shape, or form, but because of Christ, we are dead to the law for justification and alive to the law in sanctification because Christ fulfills the law in our place. There is no real exchange of masters because justification does not change us; the other Master, Christ, is a servant for us while we remain a slave sold under sin.

As John Piper once stated it, Christ is a school teacher that does our homework for us, and takes the test for us as well. He is also, for all practical purposes, a Master who purchased us with His blood, and then does our work for us. Again, it’s a matter of several single perspectives that unites what God separates. And in fact, the Reformed state constantly that Christians are still enslaved to sin.

This also unites gift and reward making salivation the reward for living by their definition of faith alone. This makes faith alone a work for purposes of earning our salvation. It is doing nothing with intentionality because love in sanctification is deemed works salvation. The servant is not free to love. The servant is not free to serve the other Master because he/she is still under the law that cannot be kept perfectly. But, it is love that fulfills the law, not law-keeping.

Note the following text:

Hebrews 6:9 – Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Note that God would be “unjust” in not rewarding their love and servitude. Why? Because sanctification is about the earning of reward while justification is a gift. Scripture must be interpreted according to the context of justification or sanctification accordingly.

Faith works in love. Faith works—this is not mere contemplationism or faith in Christocentric facts, it’s a working faith that we will be rewarded for. Let’s now define how faith works by, or through love. It’s the freedom to obey the law of the Spirit of life as opposed to the law of sin and death that the new man was under (Romans 6:14 and 8:2). This is what fulfills the law, not a dumbed down tradition. This is why Christ said that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees; it must be a righteousness that works through love and fulfills the law accordingly. Not that the law is a standard for justification to begin with, but this is set against the idea that it is. The new birth frees the saint to aggressively love through obedience without any fear of condemnation.

Because the Pharisees sought to fulfill the law with their traditions, they relaxed the law and ignored its weightier tenets of mercy and love. As a result, they were rank antinomians on the inside and the outside (Matthew 23:28, Luke 11:39), and just another example of those who hold to progressive justification.

Moreover in closing, if justification does not change us through the baptism of the Spirit and Galatians 2:20 pertains to mere death and life experiences imputed to us by Christ as proponents of progressive justification assert, that leaves us with the raw reality of what the institutional church will look like. As ones still under the law of sin and death, the reading and teaching of God’s law will actually provoke people to sin:

Romans 7:7 – What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Sin is empowered by its ability to condemn through the law (1Cor 15:56). Sin is empowered and alive via condemnation. The person who is not reborn is under the law and its condemnation. Sin is still empowered by its ability to condemn through the law. This is why Christ came to end the law (Romans 10:4). Regardless of what kind of front the institutional church is able to erect, progressive justification keeps people under the law, under the Sin master, and the law itself will only provoke and promote sin.

In fact, in regard to youth groups, they will turn your children into antinomian rebels. This is irrefutable and a foregone conclusion regarding any doctrine that keeps people under the law. The law will only provoke them to sin because of its ability to condemn those who are still under it. In contrast consider the following:

Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

See what is really going on in Galatians 2:20? Take the “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” and interpret it with, “you also have died to the law through the body of Christ.” Because the verse is strictly about how we are truly justified, it must be interpreted with the law in mind. And you can see that context in the venue of Galatians 2:20 with a capital C. Consider another interpretive paraphrase:

I am crucified with Christ and no longer under the law that enslaved me to sin, nevertheless I live according to the new way of the Spirit; yet not the I that was under the law, but the I with Christ living in me because I died to the law through His body: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith working through love according to the Spirit’s law of life.

This is a fair paraphrase unless you want to totally disregard Romans 6, 7, and 8, or worse yet, contradict those chapters. So why in the world is Galatians 2:20 worded this way? First, remember, it is ONE verse, and unlike any other verse about justification. Is this some sort of thumbnail statement that represents the corpus of Paul’s teachings on justification? I think that is very likely. Paul bemoans throughout his letter to the Galatians that he had invested all kinds of time in teaching them about law and gospel. It is very likely that this is a bumper sticker statement that represents the corpus of that teaching. If this verse says what purveyors of progressive justification say that it says, the rest of Pauline soteriology is clearly and completely upside down.

But be certain of this: this teaching of Galatians 2:20 is exactly why the institutional church looks like it does today. It is a return to Pharisee-like antinomianism traditions. It was in fact the Judaizers that were troubling the saints at Galatia.

With that, let’s go to the phones.

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