Luther And The Finnish School Paul, Luther, And Justification In Gal 2:15-21 -- By: Mark A. Seifrid

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 65:2 (Fall 2003)
Article: Luther And The Finnish School Paul, Luther, And Justification In Gal 2:15-21
Author: Mark A. Seifrid


Luther And The Finnish School
Paul, Luther, And Justification In Gal 2:15-21

Mark A. Seifrida

[Mark Seifrid is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.]

I. Paul

The succinct but powerful description of justifying faith in Gal 2:15–21 in terms of union with Christ provides an appropriate place, perhaps the most appropriate place, to examine this theme in Paul’s letters. In a manner typical of the apostle, this introductory passage presents the larger argument of the letter in a highly condensed form, as a sort of preview to the thought he is about to develop. Indeed, it is at this point in the letter that Paul introduces “justification” as the Leitmotiv which continues until the conclusion of the body of the letter.1 It is not surprising, therefore, that various expressions of “justifying union” with Christ (if we may so put the matter) appear throughout Galatians, as may be seen in some rather obvious examples: Paul expects Christ to be “formed” in the Galatians (Gal 4:19), that to be justified in the Law is to be “dismissed” from Christ (καταργέω, Gal 5:4; see Rom 7:2, 6), and that those who are “of Christ” have crucified the flesh (Gal 5:24). We proceed, therefore, under the assumption that Paul’s brief articulation of “justification” in terms of union with Christ in Gal 2:15–21 reveals a central thread in the fabric of the letter.

Before we turn our attention to the text, a caveat or two are necessary. First, we obviously cannot explore every exegetical detail. We shall have to confine ourselves to its salient features, especially those related to our theme. At certain points, particularly with regard to Paul’s use of righteousness language, we shall have to draw on more extensive arguments which cannot be repeated here. Secondly, our theme of “union with Christ” represents an old battleground in the

field of New Testament study, where fresh skirmishes regularly erupt. Not infrequently the “forensic” and “participatory” aspects of Paul’s thought have been regarded as separate and irreconcilable conceptions of salvation, forming an unstable configuration which scholars must somehow di...

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