Read Galatians 2
What does justification mean? In academic research, justification explains a theory or thesis in order to support the conclusion. In ethics, justification is the category of theories that tries to answer questions like “Why should I be moral?” In popular usage, if we say a decision or action is justified we mean it was an acceptable choice. But what does it mean to say we are justified in Christ?
Our passage today provides us with a clear answer. Being justified is a central part of our identity in Christ, and it is part of our understanding salvation in Jesus.
First, justification means we are declared righteous before God (v. 21). As we saw yesterday, we can never justify ourselves. We can never be right with God on our own terms. “We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ” (v. 16).
Second, justification means we now live by faith in Christ (v. 20). Being justified in Christ not only changes the status
of our relationship with God but also transforms the way we live. We have the Spirit of God living within us to guide our lives. We can embrace grace rather than legalistic ideas of how to please God.
Justification also matters for our relationships with others. If we grasp that our identity of being justified in Christ is entirely based on what He has done for us—not our own goodness— then we can extend that grace to others. We don’t have to impose additional restrictions or expectations on others when we know that Jesus does the work of justification for all who believe in Him (vv. 4, 21).
APPLY THE WORD
Peter and Paul clashed over associating with Gentiles. Disagreement between Christians is not new and need not mean breaking fellowship. In disagreements, the gospel takes priority over our preferences. Paul confronted Peter for choosing Law over grace; Peter later became a persuasive advocate for Gentile believers (vv. 11–14; Acts 15).