Podcast: 22 April 2020

It’s Wednesday 22nd April – the middle of the working week for many people.

And today, I would like to start by saying a huge thank you to those of you listening to or reading this who are keyworkers – those working in the NHS and social care, to all the teachers and nursery staff. I know there are people who access this podcast working in the local council, for Royal Mail, on public transport, in supermarkets, for charities and organisations supporting those who are vulnerable.

Thank you for the sacrifices that you are making in your working week, and thank you for taking 10 minutes in your busy day to spend time with God, reflect on his word in the Bible, and engage with worship.

I hope that these podcasts are an encouragement to you, as you serve others and live out your faith in the workplace this week.


Our Bible reading today is Galatians Chapter 2 vs15-21, and I’m going to focus on verse 16 from the English Standard Version:

“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

Whilst we are in the middle of this coronavirus crisis, there have been many fantastic examples of communities coming together to support one another.  So far, via our Whatsapp group, neighbours on our street have shared or given away eggs, strawberry plants, Lego, freezer bags, a baby monitor, Monopoly, and a large amount of compost……to name just a few items!  People have given musical performances in the garden, collected fabric for making hospital scrubs, and filled two boxes with donations for Foodbank.  I am sure many of you have similar stories from your street and neighbours – if not, maybe set up a Whatsapp group and see what happens!

However, on social media and in the press, what we have also seen in recent weeks is an increase in people who have been labelled “corona curtain twitchers” – those who name and shame, accuse others of not following social distancing guidelines, and make judgements about what is or is not an ‘essential’ item, journey or form of exercise.

There was a great piece in the Guardian last week about the ‘virtuous saints’ and ‘the sinners’ of the coronavirus crisis.

Virtuous saints follow government lockdown guidelines to the letter, and believe that because of their total obedience to the law, they are entitled to enforce others to follow them in exactly the same way as they do.

And then there are the sinners – people who, according to the virtuous saints, should not be in the park, or riding their bike, or buying flour again; and because of their failure to follow the law in the same ways as the virtuous saints……well these sinners cannot possibly claim to be supporting the NHS or helping the nation.

This is legalism and it is condemnation.

And it is the same issue that Paul address in this passage to the Galatians.

The argument was between Judaizers – those who believed that before someone could become a Christian they had to take on full obedience to the Jewish law including circumcision – and those, like Paul, who believed that justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

The word ‘justification’ or ‘justified’ is key here.

The dictionary definition of the verb ‘to justify’ is to declare someone not guilty, innocent or righteous.  Its theological application is for someone to have been declared or made righteous in the sight of God.

Justification by the law teaches us that the only way we can be righteous is to work hard to obey every law, and work even harder to refrain from doing anything that the law forbids.  And if you do this, God will accept you – you will be justified by the law.

Maybe outwardly it looks like we are doing a good job of this……but behind closed doors, behind those twitching net curtains, when we examine our hearts, our minds and our motives, we realise that we have fallen short.

In truth, no-one is a virtuous saint.  None of us can be justified by the law.  Doing this is impossible for all of us.

This being the case, we would therefore expect the opposite of justification – and that is condemnation.

‘To condemn’ means to declare someone guilty, to express complete disapproval of, or to sentence someone to a punishment, especially death.

But rather than leaving us with this feeling of guilt, a sense of disapproval, the belief that a relationship with our Heavenly Father is simply unobtainable, we see God do something remarkable.

He sent Jesus to earth to live – the only person to ever perfectly keep every law throughout his life, and he sent him to die – to take the punishment for our law-breaking.  And in doing so, he gave us the opportunity to be justified by faith.

We need to recognise that we are not a virtuous saint, but in fact a sinner; and when we repent of this, and put our trust and confidence in Christ, then through our faith in Jesus, we are made righteous in the sight of God.

Understanding what it means to be justified by faith in Jesus, not by the works of the law, is central to our Christian faith.  We really need to grasp what this means for us, if we are to live in the freedom and truth that we looked at yesterday.

Understanding the concept of justification by faith was so important to Paul that he used the phrase 4 times in 6 verses.  Perhaps he thought the Galatians needed it repeating again and again to really understand it?

Over 1000 years later, Martin Luther wrote that justification by faith was “The truth of the Gospel…..we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

I am not suggesting that we adopt this exact approach, but today where do we need to get this teaching into our head?  Are there areas of our lives, attitudes of our heart and mind, where this understanding really needs to permeate and sink in?  Do we need to take down the net curtains that hide our pride, self-sufficiency, or repeated efforts to try and earn God’s favour or approval?  Where do we need to come to God again, admit that we are a sinner, and choose to put our trust and confidence in Jesus?


Heavenly Father, teach us again the truth of the Gospel – that only through faith in Christ are we made righteous in your sight.  Today wherever we are and whatever we do, help us to put our trust and confidence in Jesus.  Amen.

BIBLE READING: Galatians 2:15-21 (ESV)

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.