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“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin?”—Galatians 2:17a (NKJV)
There’s a well-known saying concerning the study of the Bible: “Context is key!” That’s never truer than in this passage from Galatians. This is one of those Bible verses that can really confuse us without understanding what came before it. So, let’s back up a bit and consider the context of what Paul is saying here.
Previously, Paul has been establishing his authority to declare what makes a person “right” with God. The word he frequently uses to describe this state is righteousness, and it conveys the concept of all being right between a holy, perfect God and a sinful, imperfect human.
How does this happen? Is it the result of religious performance? Following the strictest moral code? Being a better person through more effort? No. None of that makes a person right with God. There is only one thing that can. A person can only be made right with God by believing that He has secured their righteousness for them by His Son’s sacrificial death on the cross.
By trusting that Christ died in their place, a sinner is declared “righteous” by God. Period. This is the message of the gospel. The profound simplicity of the gospel is almost too good to be true. In fact, the human heart has a hard time accepting it.
Anticipating this, Paul plays a bit of “what if” in the verse before us. In essence, he rhetorically asks, “If Christ is our only way of salvation, but we still sin, then doesn’t that make Christ sinful, too?” He’s confronting the objection that there’s something insufficient or imperfect with Christ because those who trust in Him aren’t perfect. But Paul goes on to dispel the concern he just raised: “Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” (Galatians 2:17b-18 NKJV).
The fact that a person still does wrong, while trusting Christ to make them right with God, doesn’t make them “un-right” with God. That would be the old performance-based, effort-based reasoning on righteousness. But the gospel demolishes that notion. To rebuild it by equating righteousness with performance instead of faith is the real sin!
Paul is pointing out that faith in Christ is the only possible avenue of freedom from sin. Again, human nature doesn’t want to accept this. It wants another way to be right with God, a way that it can control. But faith means God is in control, not us—and may we never try to rebuild what the gospel has leveled!
DIG: How does a person get “right” with God?
DISCOVER: Why is this so hard for human nature to accept? What’s the relationship between faith and a sense of control?
DO: Examine your heart today. Is there any root of performance mentality in you? If so, pray and ask the Lord to help you see clearly that His grace is enough!
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.