Faith In Christ; the Faithfulness Of Christ

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 — Week of 3 Epiphany (Year One)

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 944)

Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) // 49, [53] (evening)

Isaiah 49:1-12

Galatians 2:11-21

Mark 6:13-29

This section of the letter to the Galatians is a snapshot of Paul’s theology. Paul’s experience of Jesus freed him from the anxiety and self-concern that had troubled him so terribly before. As a practicing and observant Jew, he had sought acceptance before God through his obedience to the Torah and other traditional laws. He was zealous and careful to follow all the rules and ethical regulations. Instead of feeling right with God, he only experienced “performance anxiety.”

His liberation came with the realization that a right relationship with God is God’s gift to us in and through Jesus. Instead of relating to God by following the rules, now he related to God by accepting the gift of acceptance.

Here is his language. The goal is to be “made righteous” or “justified” or “reckoned as righteous.” (various translations) In other words, to be okay with God.

“We know that a person isn’t made righteous by the works of the law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:16, CEB) For Paul, Christ is the object of our faith because we trust Christ as God’s agent of justification. Christ’s own faithfulness to God is not only our example, but also enables and effects our salvation. Paul can declare he is saved through “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” For Paul it is both “faith in” and “the faith of” Jesus Christ that liberates him from being justified by his own performance.

In Christ, Paul died to his old way of living by the law. Now he lives by faith in Jesus and by the faith of Jesus. “…Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. I don’t ignore the grace of God, because if we become righteous through the Law, the Christ died for no purpose.” (20b-21)

It is easy to see how threatening Paul’s gospel must have been to traditional Jews, including those who were Jewish Christians. We see today a reflection of a conflict between Paul and Peter. While visiting in Antioch, Peter was sitting at table eating with Gentiles in violation of kosher laws until conservative leaders came there. Peter separated himself from the Gentile tables out of fear or respect for the “circumcision faction.” Paul berates Peter for his hypocrisy.

A comforting image — In traditional Christian iconography, Paul and Peter are often pictured together as companions in ministry. Their feast days are linked — the Confession of Peter and the Conversion of Paul being one week apart, marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Their conflict was overcome and transcended by the justifying grace of Jesus Christ. So will ours.

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