Lesson 6 - Paul defends the doctrine of justification by faith

Lesson 6 - Paul defends the doctrine of justification by faith

(Galatians 3:1-9)

Now that Paul had successfully defended his apostleship, he confronted the false doctrine of keeping the Law for salvation and for the Christian Way of Life. Paul began with a rather harsh Greek word to describe the Galatians who had abandoned grace. Paul called them foolish, which is the Greek word “anoetos,” and means lacking the power of perception or failing to properly reflect on a subject. The Galatian believers to whom this letter was written had accepted Paul’s message of grace, but he said they had lost their power of perception and thus had allowed themselves to be misled by the Judiazers. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word, bewitch to describe what the Judaizers were doing. Bewitch is the Greek word “baskaino,” which means to give the “evil eye” or to charm them. Paul asked these believers who it was that had charmed them (though I’m sure he already knew) to the point of turning their backs on the truth.

Once again, Paul used a debater’s technique to first prove his point, that the works of the Law have nothing to do with salvation. The question had to do with the way in which these believers had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul asked them if it was by keeping the Law or by believing (faith) the Gospel. The obvious answer was by believing in Jesus Christ. I doubt that most of these believers had even heard of the Holy Spirit before Paul presented Him to them.

Paul continued to question these believers by asking them if their good works of keeping the Law was now the means of being made perfect before God instead of the Holy Spirit. Once again, the answer is no. Furthermore, Paul added the question: “have you been suffering persecution in vain?” Paul, however, knew that their sufferings were not in vain, being designed for their spiritual growth.

Paul continued his questions, as a trained debater would do. Paul referred these believers to many miracles that he had done among them and asked them if these were done by the works of the Law or by faith. This, of course, was in contrast to the Judaizers who had no miracles to their credit, yet were insisting that the believers keep the Law for salvation and the Christian Way of Life. All these questions seemed to say, “who will you believe – the one who introduced you to the Gospel, to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and performed miracles to prove the authenticity of the message of grace or will you believe the Judaizers who want to put you back under the Law?


The Greek word for justification is “dikaiosis’ and means “to declare righteous” or “to be acquitted from guilt.” Justification is one half of God’s holiness (integrity), righteousness being the other half. Justification is the function or action of God’s integrity and righteousness is the principle or standard of God’s integrity. God’s justice carries out the judicial sentences pronounced by God’s righteousness.

At the moment of salvation, we are justified by God because His righteousness is credited to our account. Justification means vindication. Because of the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ, the believer is vindicated or set free from all charges against him. The penalty for personal sins and Adam’s original sin was paid by Jesus Christ. Therefore, the believer’s sin debt has been paid in full. The obligation that God’s righteousness (the standard of God’s integrity) demanded, with regard to sin, was satisfied by the justice of God (the action of God’s integrity) at the Cross. (Romans 3:28, 5:1; Galatians 3:24)

The Work of Christ

It was the work of Christ on the Cross that completely satisfied (propitiated) the justice and the righteousness of God. Once God’s justice and righteousness were satisfied, He was justified in declaring anyone that would believe in Christ to be righteous. At salvation, the believer is said to be “freely justified by His grace.” Justification, like righteousness, is a grace function of God, which means we cannot earn it nor do we deserve it. (Romans 5:8-9; 9:30-32; I John 2:2)

Justification is the provision by God to solve the problem of man’s sinful condition. God’s justice had to find a way to deal with sin without compromising His perfect character. God’s love provided the answer in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Since Christ had no sin of His own to pay for, He was qualified to pay the penalty of sin (spiritual death) for the entire human race. (II Corinthians 5:21)

It is the imputation of God’s righteousness to the believer that guarantees him an eternal relationship with God and qualifies him to spend eternity in Heaven. Imputation means that God credits to your account something that properly belongs to another. In this case, God credits the righteousness of Christ to your account because at salvation you were justified and placed in union with Him (baptism of the Holy Spirit). (Romans 3:22; II Corinthians 5:21)

Justification by Keeping the Law

A single act of faith in Christ removes the guilt and punishment of sin. The believer is redeemed (bought back and set free) from the Law. The Mosaic Law was never designed to justify mankind. Justification has always been, and always will be, by faith alone in Christ alone. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16)

The Law was good and served a specific purpose: to point people to Christ. Every aspect of the Law, including ritual worship, the furniture in the Tabernacle and sacrifices, pointed to the Person and work of Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law by never violating any point it. Jesus is, therefore, the personification of the righteousness and the justice of God.

Justification in the Old Testament

In order to show that justification has always been the same throughout the history of mankind, we need to examine salvation in the Old Testament. Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were created perfect from the hand of God and “fell” because of sin. Their decision to sin against God resulted in much more than simple expulsion from the Garden, a minor result. The most serious result was spiritual death (separation from God without the ability to do anything about it). Amazingly, Jehovah (Jesus Christ) had walked with them daily in the cool of the evening and taught them doctrine. After the Fall, we see Adam and Eve being clothed in the skins of animals, an illustration of the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross. Both Adam and Eve understood and accepted God’s salvation solution and its resultant eternal life. (Genesis 3:21-22)

After the expulsion from the Garden, Adam and Eve began to have children. The first two were Cain and Abel, and they provide for us another illustration of salvation in the Old Testament. As the story goes, both sons had been taught the proper approach to God, which was a blood sacrifice. It was the blood sacrifice that symbolized the actual sacrifice that Jesus Christ would someday make on their behalf. However, there was no salvation in the ritual itself, as it was to be only a representation of an inward faith in the coming Savior. You know the story… Cain brought a sacrifice to God from the labor of his hands, illustrating the fact that he had rejected the teaching of grace and attempted to reconcile himself to God by works, which God rejected. On the other hand, Abel followed the instructions of his father and brought a blood sacrifice to God (which He accepted), illustrating that Abel had understood and accepted salvation through the coming Savior.

The other well-known illustration is Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation. Abraham believed in the coming Savior as illustrated in Genesis 15:6. He also understood that his faith must be demonstrated before the world. The story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice to God is the classic example in Scripture of a believer’s complete and unwavering faith in God. Abraham was already justified before God, so this test of his faith could be only an illustration of his faith to the world. (Genesis 22:1-14; Romans 4:1-5, 22-25)

Why would Paul use Abraham and not Moses as an example of justification by faith since the Law wasn’t even given until after Abraham lived? The answer is in the Abrahamic Covenant given to Abraham and his spiritual heirs, namely those who believed in Christ for salvation. The covenant was a by-faith covenant, not a by-works covenant. The sign of this covenant was circumcision, but salvation for Abraham preceded the ritual, demonstrating that circumcision had nothing to do with Abraham’s salvation.

Furthermore, Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation and any Jew would do well to follow in his footsteps, namely, believing in Jesus Christ as Messiah (Savior). The covenant that God made, which is irrevocable, promised Abraham that through him and his “seed” (Jesus Christ) all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This blessing included both Israel and all Gentile nations.