Justification by faith is essential — three statements

Some things are worth fighting about.  Some things are worthy dying to defend.

Personal preferences aren’t worth defending (and more fits into that category than most of us would generally be willing to acknowledge).

Some truths are worth defending — but not worthy dying to defend.  So, while I believe that the Scriptures teach a particular and specific truth about divorce and remarriage, I wouldn’t die to defend that truth.  Someone might espouse a different view than me on church polity or the sequence of events at the end of time and I would be very unlikely to raise a public objection to those teachings.

But some truths are so critical that it is better to object and disagree and confront.  And as Peter discovered, justification is one of those truths.  Peter’s actions as recounted in Galatians 2 were not mere legalism; as Paul noted, his actions were from the fear of man (v. 12), hypocritical (v. 13), and most significant of all, a corruption of the truth of the gospel (v. 14).

So Paul confronted Peter.  Publicly.

Why?  Because the gospel of justification through the work of Christ and apart from the work of man to obey the Law is essential to salvation.  There is no salvation except by justification in Christ alone (v. 16).  Three times in verse 16 Paul asserted this truth:

  • a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus
  • so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law
  • since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified

With those statements, three times Paul affirmed the impossibility of the Law to save and the uniqueness of Christ to save.  If a man trusts anyone or anything else — especially his own self-righteousness — for his salvation, he is an eternally damned man. So to stay silent on this truth will result in the condemnation of others.  In this case, silence is deadly and the lack of conflict is infinitely troubling.

Our culture and the church-at-large exalts peace and tolerance.  But it is impossible to be “tolerant” about justification in the way that most want tolerance.

…truth is more important than outward harmony and peace.… No matter what the beneficial prospect might seem to be from a human perspective, compromise can do nothing but weaken the church.  Peace that is preserved by compromising God’s truth is the pseudo-peace of the world and is not of God. [John MacArthur]

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