“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!”
But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ,
Paul’s antagonists contended that justification by faith eradicates the moral law. If grace does away with law, then people can live as they please. They argued that eliminating the law would mean that a person could do as he or she pleases. Peter and his crowd argued by implication that a person has to work for justification. The cross of Christ is not enough for salvation.
we ourselves also are found sinners,
It was an admission on the part of Jewish Christians that justification by works proves that they are sinners. Their failure in keeping the law forces them to admit their sinful condition. They did not find righteousness in keeping the law.
is Christ therefore a minister of sin?
If God declares a person right in His eyes by faith, does this make Christians lawless? Legalists argued in this way, “If Christ does away with the law for salvation and sanctification, then that would make Christ lawless.” Christ would endorse sin. This conclusion is false because Christ dealt with the sin issue on the cross. To believe that God justifies and sanctifies a person by faith does not imply lawlessness.
Liberty is not liberty from God’s righteous standards. Neither is it lawlessness to fellowship with Gentiles. Going back to the law as a system of salvation and sanctification abandons the grace principle. We imply what Christ did on the cross was not sufficient.
If Peter is right in going back to the Mosaic Law, then he was wrong in eating with the Gentiles. If he is right in eating with the Gentiles, then he was wrong in going back to the Mosaic Law. If he is right in one place, he is wrong in the other. He cannot hold the two at the same time. They are mutually exclusive. If he starts by grace, then goes back to the law, he then abandons grace. He would say in effect that what Christ did on the cross was not enough. Peter’s return to legalism was an attack on grace.
The conclusion that Christ is the minister of sin is the right inference if Peter’s reversion to legalism is right. The thought that Christ is the minister of sin is a revolting thought to Paul. The law cannot add anything to the death of Christ for our sins. If we carefully investigate justification in Christ and find ourselves to be sinners still, that doesn’t make Christ the minister of sin. This is an abhorrent thought. Paul adamantly denied the accusation that Christ promotes sin by offering the principle of grace.
The principle of grace does not endorse licentiousness.
The principle of grace never encourages sinful living. People who believe in Christ no longer do as they please because they are under the lordship of Christ.
When Christians abandon grace and revert to legalism as a way to gain God’s approbation, then they vilify Christ’s work on the cross. They imply that His work is not sufficient for salvation or sanctification. They say in effect that, after they accept Christ as Savior, they are still not sure of salvation.
Christ’s finished work on the cross flies in the face of all that. He is sufficient for salvation and sanctification.