Machen: The Key Verse Of Galatians

“I do not make void the grace of God; for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21)

“I do not make void the grace of God,” says Paul in concluding the report of his speech to Peter; “for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died in vain.” The “for” here gives a reason for the use of the harsh word “make void”–” ‘make void,’ I say; for that is just the right word, since if Judaizers say, justification comes even in part through our obedience to the law, then Christ died in vain.”

This verse is the key verse of the Epistle to the Galatians; it expresses the central thought of the Epistle. The Judiazers attempted to supplement the saving work of Christ by the merit of their own obedience to the law. “That,” says Paul, “is impossible; Christ will do everything or nothing: earn your salvation if your obedience to the law is perfect, or else trust wholly to Christ’s completed work; you cannot do both; you cannot combine merit and grace; if justification even in slightest measure, is through human merit, then Christ died in vain.” Read more»

J.Gresham Machen | Notes on Galatians, 161. (HT: Iustitia Aliena)


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  1. Machen quote day…

    They [the Judaizers], believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they also believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer’s own effort to keep the Law…

    Paul saw very clearly that the difference between the Judaizers and himself was the difference between a religion of merit and a religion of grace…

    The difference which divided him from the Judaizers was no mere theological subtlety, but concerned the very heart and core of the religion of Christ. “Just as I am without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me” – that is what Paul was contending for in Galatia; That hymn would never have been written if the Judaizers had won. And without the thing which that hymn expresses there is no Christianity at all. (Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 20-21)

    A daily dose of Machen is good for one’s spiritual health! Thanks, RSC…

  2. But,but,but covenant nomism and really really super smart historians and, and Second Temple Judaism, and and manliness and beards, yes yes manly beards are critical, and and we’re not Lutherans and stuff and meany pants intolerant confessionalists and well um secret Escondido insider things and well like I said Lutheranism and stuff and the capital of Russia er um somewhere like that where they have real theology professors, the good manly kind who are self taught and no wimpy feminine girly schools so there and and and dumb non historical secret Lutherans! And did I mention Reformed is really us! except a little more even and oh yeah NT Wright is not a liberal and so there!

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