Glad Tidings of Christ: No. 2

Galatians 2
We will now pursue our inquiries as to what it was that the false brethren sought to introduce, so as to mar the glad tidings of Christ. A comparison of this chapter with Acts 15 will greatly help us to understand this deeply important question. Here we see the inward exercise of the apostle's heart, guided, too, by the Holy Ghost, for the safety of the gospel. He says, "Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem.... and I went up by revelation." There was no uncertainty in his own mind, he well understood the object of these false brethren—"to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage." Paul was so clear, and had the Lord^ mind so distinctly, that he declares those at Jerusalem added nothing to him in conference. Yea, so clear was he about it, that he took Titus, uncircumcised as he was, with him; that is, with him the question was decided beforehand, the taking of Titus proved it to be so.
In Acts 15 we have the outward facts of the conference. And the conference decides exactly as Paul had decided beforehand, which must be so when guided by the Holy Ghost. The Gentile believers were not to be placed under the bondage of the law—the very bondage the false brethren sought to introduce. Titus was not compelled to be circumcised, and the work of the apostle Paul was fully owned to be of God. Thus did God, by the decision of the assembly, settle the matter in peace, and with one accord.
It did not follow, however, that Satan ceased to seek to destroy the gospel of the grace of God. Nay, in his next attempt (would you have thought it?) he uses the very apostle of the circumcision to compromise the gospel. Paul has to say, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." What need we have, as he himself says afterward, to be kept by the power of God! At first Peter acted according to the liberty and grace of God. He did not regard anything as unclean which the Lord had cleansed; he ate with the Gentiles. But when certain came from James—that is, from Jerusalem, where evidently the superiority of Judaism still sadly asserted itself—he withdrew, and separated himself. This led others to dissemble—the gospel was in jeopardy. The Gentile Christians had Christ, but Peter was acting as if that were not enough; there must be something besides Christ, or he could not eat with them. This was terrible. Now mark, Paul did not bow to him as the pope, or chief bishop of the church, but withstands him to the face.
Thus the gospel is not of man; it is not of Peter; it is not of Paul: it is of God. And God greatly overruled this fault of Peter, in bringing out for us this blessed defense of His truth. The place of the Jew who had been under law is thus fully examined: " Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
The Jews had been seeking righteousness by works for many centuries. They could not find it; they could not acquire it. They were still guilty, under death and condemnation. They had had to give up that by which they could not be justified. They had believed in Jesus Christ that they might be justified—accounted righteous in Him. How simple this is; but is it also true of the reader? Very likely you have been brought up as a Jew, that is, seeking to acquire righteousness by works of law. Have you not? Have you not hoped to do this or that, and at last hoped you might be justified? Have you found this cannot be, that you are still guilty, nothing but sin, and according to the holy law of God, He must condemn you? Is there no escape for your soul on the ground of the law—guilty and condemned? Now this is just what the believing Jews had found to be their case. And they had given up all hope of ever being saved or justified by the law; they believed in Christ, they had found righteousness in Him. Have you? Can you say, " Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ"? Now they had thus been led to give up the law, even the Jews, who had been under it as a means of attaining unto righteousness. They were accounted righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. But if they were still accounted, found sinners—as Peter's conduct implied—not fit to eat with, it was really making Christ a minister of sin; for it was through Christ they had given up the law as a means of seeking to be righteous. For if we preach again the law, or build it again, we make it appear that we have been sad transgressors in destroying it as a means of righteousness, even by preaching Christ. Was it not, then, a serious thing to thus mar and corrupt the glad tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ, by seeking to introduce the law again, as something additional or superior to Christ?
But now the apostle calls attention to one thing, as to the law, which is greatly overlooked. He says, " For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." The claims—the most holy claims—of God had come upon him with such force and power, that they overwhelmed him with death. As a responsible man there was nothing but death for him, and to him. God so holy, and I so bad—not an atom of good in me as a responsible man. Oh, what needed distress and death this brings! Paul accepted this fully, death to himself, that he might live to God. Now, apart from Christ this could not be, he could not live; there could only be death, no life. Hence he says, " 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."
Can you say, " I am crucified with Christ"? Every claim on me as a responsible man has been met in that death. I am dead with Him. There is an end of ' I.' Yes, the claims of a holy God have been fully met; yet I live; yet not I, Christ liveth in me. Oh, have we learned this end of the abominable old 6 Ρ in the cross of Christ? It is also blessedly true that He bare our sins in His own body on the tree. But here the great point is the end of old self, the vile old man; and the new ‘I.’ the new life in Christ, Death has had its full power according to the claims of God, and yet I live in Christ. Have you thus come to the end of yourself? Is it now, Not I, but Christ"?
This is not only so as to judgment due to us, but the same precious Son of God is the blessed object of sustaining faith. " I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
Oh, how unspeakably blessed! We have passed through death with Him into a life where all of the vile old self is reckoned behind, and where Christ is now our life, our all. And now He is the one object of our hearts—the living, loving Jesus, "who loved me, and gave himself for me." May we thus individually know Him, and feed on His matchless, infinite love!
All this is the true grace of God. We do not set it aside, surely. Is it not all the free favor, the grace of God? Do you say, But now, having Christ, must I not seek righteousness by the law, as a rule of that life which I now have? The answer is very plain. "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Is it not clear that if we are seeking righteousness by law, or by any means, we evidently have not found it? Did you ever see a person seeking a thing he had found? If I have found both the righteous judgment due to me, and complete justification, acceptance in perfect righteousness in Christ, how can I seek it in the law, where we have seen it never could be found? The soul, then, that seeks righteousness by works of law has given up Christ; for if he has Christ, he is justified from all things, is accounted righteous before God, through the redemption in Christ Jesus. Hence there are thousands who, whilst they profess to believe in Christ, yet have no peace, no rest of soul and heart, by faith in God. If they are seeking righteousness by works of law, it must be thus. If a man supposes he can attain to righteousness by the law, he has neither learned his own vileness, nor yet the overwhelming claims of the holy law of God. It has never come with death to his conscience; neither has he, as even the believing Jews who had been under it did, given it up entirely as a means of ever attaining to righteousness. And if he has not given it up, but is still under it—still seeking righteousness by works of law—then to him Christ has died in vain. If such should be the state of the reader, may the Lord use this paper in awakening him to these solemn, eternal realities.
Well, another says, I have known what it was for the holy claims of God to overwhelm me as a sinner. I long sought righteousness by trying to keep the law. I found it all in vain. At last the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see Jesus, and to believe on Jesus Christ. I am justified by faith, and have peace with God. I would just ask you this question: Must there not be a holy walk now? Ah, that is another matter, and just the point we shall find brought out in this epistle. Indeed, let us remember the opening statement as to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is, that He not only gave Himself for our sins, but also that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God our Father. Whilst there is the gracious provision, " If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;"—yes, He is still our righteousness—"and he is the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 2:1, 21My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1‑2).) Yet the very mark of a true child of God is, that he doth not practice sin, for he that is born of God cannot sin; that is his very nature as born of God. (1 John 3:1-91Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:1‑9).) Let it, however, be well understood that this cannot be accomplished by being under law, for the law finds nothing in the flesh but sin.
Now, as this is such a practical and deeply important question, and as both sides of it are fully opened out in this Epistle of the Galatians, we propose to examine how there cannot be, and how there can be, a walk of holiness. We shall consider in our next, if the Lord will, why the Galatians were so foolish, so senseless, in listening to those who would teach them to seek righteousness by works of law.