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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Galatians 2:16–21

Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is 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 do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (NRSV)

Reflection
There’s an intriguing debate hiding behind the NRSV’s rendering of Galatians 2:16 and 2:20. In both cases a prepositional phrase in English follows the noun faith, producing, in verse 16, “faith in Jesus Christ” and “faith in the son of God” in verse 20.

But what if in is of?

What if we are not so much justified by our faith in Jesus Christ but by Jesus Christ’s faith?

Translators have good reasons for their choices, and the minds behind the NRSV are no doubt both sharp and faithful. Still, it’s a little sobering to note that these verses—which are as bedrock as bedrock gets for Christians in the traditions that burst out of the Protestant Reformation—turn significantly on someone’s decision for in and not of.

Here’s what doesn’t turn on anything, though: justification. Even if in is of, we are still justified. Because of Jesus and because of faith, we’re good. It’s as true today as ever that we have access to the very goodness of God not through our behaviors but through God’s free choice. We didn’t do that. God did. And God is doing it still.

Paul says in verse 21, “I do not nullify the grace of God.” Indeed, the central claim of our faith might be rendered just that way, that neither we nor anything we might do nullifies the grace of God. Our faith doesn’t do that. Our lack of faith doesn’t either.

The grace of God is not nullified by in being of or of being in. And so we get one of the great watchwords of the Reformation: grace alone.

Prayer
God of grace, for the justifying faith of Jesus Christ, we praise you. For the sweetness of our faith in him, we bless you. By grace, through faith in and faith of, we live and hope that the free gift of your love might be known by all. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry


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