Knowing Law

Is a lakeberg still an iceberg?

Is a lakeberg still an iceberg?

We could camp here for a very long time—knowing about God versus knowing God. In and of itself, this is a profound focus leading into a new year.

But with this insight from the Greek language, I want to explore Galatians 2:16. In this letter from Paul to the church located in Galatia (today’s eastern Turkey), he says, “Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ….”

Paul’s “knowing word” to the Galatians was, “Nevertheless you fully and completely understand (know) that a man is not justified by the works of the Law….”

This is interesting. Galatians is certainly the most passionate, angry book in the New Testament. The rational and systematic writer, Paul, is so incensed he doesn’t even get off to a courteous start when he pens his letter.

What gives? Why is Paul upset with the Galatians?

Oddly enough, the reason he is so peeved is that the Galatian Christians had departed from sound theology, i.e. the sufficiency of Christ, and were attempting to amalgamate human effort and divine provision. They were hoping to merge legalism—things they could do to earn God’s favor—and the complete work of Jesus Christ to reconcile them to God. Law and grace don’t mix. Never have, never will. Paul is informed of their theological diversion and takes pen in hand.

Obviously, the verse we are looking at, 2:16, is a third of the way into the letter. Paul’s been chewing them up for a chapter and a half already, and here’s why: The Galatians couldn’t claim ignorance as the reason they were persisting to live according to the law as opposed to the new covenant of grace. Paul makes this perfectly plain later in the same verse, “…since by works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”

His point is clear: You know this, Galatians. You fully and completely understand that law and grace go together like oil and water.

The question then is,” If the Galatians so clearly understood that they could not be justified by the law, i.e. with human effort, why were they persisting to live according to the Mosaic Law and religious law?

I think there are three primary reasons—and these are pertinent enough that I want to share them with you: First, the Galatians must have felt like they needed to live under the Law’s demands. They were crafting theology based on how they felt as humans before God instead of the faith outlined by God.

We can’t throw the Galatians under the bus, at least, not without our fingers crossed. We all struggle with the same issue, don’t we? We are SO taken with the idea of connecting with God that we endeavor to add to what Jesus Christ accomplished fully on our behalf. The reality that there is nothing we can do to entice God to love us more—or less, for that matter—just begs for us to pile on with human effort. 

Reasons two and three are only a day away.