One of the major issues in all Pauline studies is justification.Michael Gorman’s newest collection of essays has a major chapter, one that could be required reading for seminary students (and surely for all pastors who preach Paul), on justification. His book is called Participating in Christ: Explorations in Paul’s Theology and Spirituality (#ad). His chp focuses on Galatians 2:15-21.
Context: justification is seen by many to be a legal transaction, it is forensic, and it is not transformative. For many it is about double imputation (our sins to Christ, Christ’s righteousness to us) and not about transformation or even, for some, about union with Christ or participation.
15 [But] we ourselves, by birth Jews and not sinners from the nations/gentiles, 16because we know that no person is justified by virtue of works of the law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, even we came to faith [that incorporates us] into the Messiah Jesus, so that we would be justified by virtue of the faithfulness of the Messiah and not by virtue of works of the law, for no human being be justified by virtue of works of the law. 17But if we, while seeking to be justified in the Messiah, are ourselves found to be sinners, then is the Messiah a servant of sin? May it never be! 18For if I rebuild the things I tore down, then I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19For I myself, through the law, died in relation to the law so that I could live in relation to God. I have been crucified with the Messiah: 20 thus I myself no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me; and the life I do now li the flesh, I live by means of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me by giving himself for me. 21 I do not annul the grace of God; for if justice/righteousness comes through the law, then the Messiah died for nothing.
1. Galatians 2:15-21 is a self-contained rhetorical unit, the subject of this unit is ‘justification,” and Paul is offering his own interpretation of justification.
2. According to Galatians 2:15-21, there are two mutually exclusive approaches to the means of justification—namely, the (works of the) law and the Messiah’s death—but because Messiah Jesus’ faithful and loving death is the manifestation (apocalypse) of God’s grace, it alone is the actual means, or objective basis, of justification.
3. According to Galatians 2:15-21, justification is a participatory reality described explicitly as entailing co-crucifixion with the Messiah,22 and this is what Paul means here by “faith”; it is this type of faith—a death with the Messiah, and both to the law and to the self—that brings a person into the realm of the Messiah. This is the mode, or subjective basis, of justification.
4. According to Galatians 2:15-21, justification is participation not only in the Messiah’s death but also in his resurrection, which means that justification entails resurrection to new life—that is, the emergence of a new self indwelt by the (Spirit of the) Messiah and living in proper relation to God.
5. According to Galatians 2:15-21, justification as participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection means transformation into justice/righteousness, which will be exhibited fundamentally as cruciform faithfulness and love.
6. A participatory and transformative understanding of justification based on 2:1521 does not rule out either (1) a covenantal, primarily “horizontal” understanding of justification as membership in the covenant community grounded in the context of gentile acceptance or (2) a declarative understanding of justification—if a divine declaration is rightly understood as effective.
7. The participatory and transformative understanding of justification presented in this chapter should contribute to theological rapprochement between old and new perspectives and between West and East.