Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sin in Galatians 1-2

At the moment, I date Galatians right after 1 Corinthians. With Galatians, we're in the thick of it!

The word hamartia appears in the prescript! Jesus "gave himself for our sins" (1:4). This is the same basic expression we just saw in 1 Corinthians 15:3. Without calling it a creed, I suspect this was a common expression in Paul's circles, "for our sins." The same comments we made in the last post apply.

Sin is not mentioned in the rest of Galatians 1 or in the continuation of the story through 2:14. Galatians 2:15-21, in my opinion is the "proposition" of Galatians, the core blurb on the jacket of the book. It deals primarily with justification, which of course has implications for the subject of sin.

In 2:15, Paul uses the word "sinner" (hamartolos): "one who has sinned." He speaks of Gentiles as sinners. The NIV has this in quotes because we tend to think of this as stereotypical thinking. We are so Paulinized we think--Gentiles aren't less righteous than the Jews just because they're not Jews.

But of course Gentiles by definition did not keep the Jewish law in the OT, and what other standard would be the starting point for discussing sin? So sin in this verse is implied to be violation of the law, in this case the Jewish law. Yes, by definition, a Gentile was a sinner.

In 2:16, Paul indicates that works of law--of the Jewish law--do not justify, do not make a person righteous before God. Our trust in the faithfulness of Jesus to death justifies.

In 2:17 we encounter the word hamartolos again. Now Paul has startlingly turned the tables. What if we Jews, while seeking to be justified in Christ, were also found to be sinners? In my opinion, Paul is pointing out that people like Peter and the Judaizers are violators of the Jewish law as well. As he will say in 6:13: "Not even the ones trying to circumcise you themselves keep the law"

So Paul poses the question: if Christ makes it possible for us to be innocent before God even though we are violators of the law, does this make Christ a minister of sin? Paul says, "No!" We have died to the law, presumably as the standard by which sin is judged? If I reconstruct that "righteousing system," yes, I establish myself as transgressor (parabates: 2:18). But in Christ, I am judged by his faithfulness: I live in the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

It is easy to see where Luther got his simul iustus et peccator. Paul does seem to use the idea of imputed righteousness here. I am a transgressor of the law, but in Christ, I am not judged by that standard. Paul seems to imply that Christians remain violators of the Jewish law even subsequent to faith. But what does he mean?


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but seeking for yourself the virtuous life instead of judging another's lack of virtue maintains "peace" in society... AND inhibits the sin of Pride, the first and foremost "sin" to avoid. Making judgments based upon an objective standard (the "Law") is not "justice", for justice is fairness in understanding the individual's capacity of understanding and judge a mentally retarded person for running across the street to help someone disregarding the red light, might be dangerous behavior, but cannot be judged as "wrong" in the fairness understanding of justice. Legalist or absolutist would view the "standard" of the red light as justice alone. There are no contingencies, grayness or other things that might be considered. It is "breaking of the law" PERIOD> And it MUST be punished...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Oh, and since Paul was astute in addressing his audience, he attempted to draw the Jewish legalist mind-set into a "dead-end", when it came about to judging. I think of the first section of Romans where he teaches the Gentile, and turn around and rebukes the Jew...For the Law makes nothing perfect...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Law is to maintain structure, order and to limit our individual freedoms if it inhibits others' their right of freedom. It determined the boundaries. Freedom, in this sense, is not absolute. Moral relativity is not about "law and order" (the Reconstructionist's ideal for society, i.e. Biblical LAW, which is a stage 3,or 4 moral development), but about human beings who are created in God's image, that might not have had the opportunities that some others have had to develop their moral sense. It is equality before the law, as far as opportunity. Therefore, is NOT discrimanatory...It is grace where there has not been "heritage" (like the Jews had). But, as Paul addresses that it is by grace and faith in which we are sanctified, as well as justified...for it is not through the law, but the spirit that brings sanctification....And it is a democratic government that gives that freedom to others to pursue thier own ends according to their own before God.