September 1, 1900.
“BUT when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but only [margin] through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believe on Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
We come now to the very heart of the epistle, and we shall find need for even more earnest study than heretofore. Hitherto we have had mostly simple narrative, which, although full of rich instruction, is quite easily comprehended. That which now follows is more involved; yet if we have put the amount of study upon the preceding lessons that we ought, following the directions given, we shall have less difficulty with what follows than we otherwise would; for let it be understood that the deeper study required now is only in the same line as heretofore. We are not to speculate about the meaning, for that is not study at all, hut only to take diligent heed to find out exactly all that the apostle says. The verses should be read carefully, and questioned and cross-questioned many times.
Some may think that five or six verses are not enough for a lesson. It may be that some who are called teachers can not find enough in them to occupy all the time allowed for class exercise which is usually not more than half as long as it should be. Those who will find the lessons too short, are the ones who study it least. If any think it too short, let them see if they know every word in it, not simply so that they can repeat it parrot-like, but so that they can recognize and make clear its relation to all that stands in connection with it. If they can not, they are not yet in the place where they can reasonably complain that the lesson is too short. If they can, then they will find so much in it, so many new things will open before them, that they would gladly spend another week upon it. Such ones may be comforted with the thought that the lessons will necessarily always overlap, since the verses are so closely connected. That which, for want of time, must be passed by one week, may be dwelt upon the next.
Above all things, do not attempt to make somebody else’s work and thought take the place of your own individual study. Many read a verse which is not at once clear to them, and straightway look up some book to see what another says about it, and they call this studying the Bible. Now it may be that what they read is the exact truth, but, for all that, they know no more of the Bible than they did before. Their undisciplined haste to understand the Word of God keeps them from an understanding of it. It is impatience, if not laziness, and certainly not zeal for God, that leads them to seek an explanation the first thing without waiting for the words of God to make an impression upon their hearts. Do not, therefore, read anything, no matter how good it may be--not the notes in the lesson book--until you have mastered the text for the week. There is where the lesson is.
- Note that it was “the truth of the Gospel” that was still in question. It was whether a man is saved by his own efforts, or a power higher and greater than himself.
- Sinners of the Jews and sinners of the Gentiles are all alike in God’s sight. There is no difference. See Rom. 3:9-19. In fact, the breaking of the commandments of God changes a Jew into a Gentile. Rom. 2:25.
- The word “justify” means literally “to make righteous.” In the German and Danish the word used in every case where the English has “justified,” is the exact translation of the English “made righteous.” It would be better if we used that term in the English, because many do not see the full meaning in the word “justify.” If we stop to think, however, we can see that a just man is a righteous man. Justitia is the Latin word for “righteousness.” To be just is to be righteous. The termination fy is from the Latin word meaning to make, so that the Latin compound is the exact equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon expression.
- The law can not make any man righteous; it can only tell us what righteousness is, leaving us to do it in the best way we can. To be made righteous by the works of the law is, therefore, simply to be justified by the works which we ourselves do, since the written law does not do itself. So justification by the works of the law is self-righteousness, which is nothing but sin.
- God has “dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3); “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7). The power by which Christ overcame is given to every one. Our part is to keep the faith. 2 Tim. 4:7; Rev. 14:12. Christ alone is righteous; He has overcome the world, and He alone has the power to do it; in Him dwelleth all the fulness of God, because the law was in His heart; He alone has kept and can keep the law to perfection; therefore only by His faith--living faith, that is, His life in us--can we be made and kept righteous.