Galatians 2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
In verse 15 God shows us the attitude that Peter was portraying with regard to himself and the Gentiles. Peter assumed that as a Jew he was better than the Gentiles. He seemed to have the attitude of the lost Jews in John 8. Jesus was addressing them regarding their need to be freed by the truth. The Jews in that passage took offence to Jesus’ words. They assumed that because they were descendants of Abraham, they were not bound by sin. They ignored the facts. They proved they were sinners by rejecting Jesus Christ and continuing the sad history of their forefathers. Many Jews had perished because they rejected the true God.
In verse 16 of our passage, Paul reminded Peter and all who would read this letter, that it is a fact that a man is not justified by the works of the law. As a born again Christian Jew, Peter should have known this, but in the presence of other Jews, he was acting as though he did not believe that. Salvation is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul was directed to repeat this same thought several times in this verse. Peter needed to wake up and pay attention to the facts. God made it abundantly clear that no flesh is justified by the works of the law.
This is important for those today who believe that salvation was by works in the Old Testament and by grace in the New Testament and it will be by works in the Millennium. The Bible is clear that salvation has always been by faith in Jesus Christ. It has never been by works. The Old Testament saints were saints because they believed the promises of God of the coming of the “seed of the woman”.
In Luke 2 both Simeon and Anna proved this fact. They were blessed with being able to witness with their own eyes, the coming of the Messiah — the Lord Jesus Christ. They had been waiting for this special day. All Old Testament saints were looking for the coming of the Messiah. They were blessed with trusting in God’s promises.
New Testament saints look back on Jesus’ first coming and we also look forward to His second coming. Our hope and salvation is in His first coming. His shed blood is the only means of salvation for all.
In verse 17 Paul reminded Peter and all others that if a person seeks to be justified by Christ, and yet sins, does this make Christ the cause of the sin? The answer is obvious. God forbid. Christ does not make anyone a sinner. Peter was committing sin because, as a born again Christian, he was yielding to temptation. He was seeking to look good before lost Jews, rather than seeking to help them to know the peace of God in their hearts.
Paul went on with another “if”; if Paul were to go back to that which his preaching destroyed. The fallacy of justification by works was destroyed with the preaching of the Gospel. If Paul were to go back to the Judaizers or the Pharisees’ position, he would be making himself a transgressor. He would be choosing to sin, rather than walk in truth and freedom from sin.
That was the dilemma that Peter had created for himself. He was reverting back to the time before he was saved. As a saved man, he was contradicting his liberty that was given to him in Christ.
In verse 19 the law, which stated that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent, had caused the recipient of the forgiveness of sin through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be dead to the law. The saved person does not live by law keeping. Romans 10:4 states:
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Christians do not ignore the law. The law is written in their hearts. True Christians do not keep the law to be saved or to secure their salvation. True Christians fulfil the law because they have been given a new nature which can keep the law. The circumcision that matters is that of the heart. That is something that only God can do. He does that through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are truly saved, have been set at liberty. As we will see yet, liberty is not license to sin. Liberty is the opportunity to serve God. Lost people cannot serve God no matter how hard they try.
There are many lost people who have “Bible Studies”.
II Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
A person can study the Bible their whole life and never be saved. They refuse to let the Holy Spirit open their understanding to the truth. They redefine truth to suit their sinful minds. The Calvinists are well known for this. They change the meaning of the word “all” to suggest it only refers to the “elect”. We could spend much more time on the foolishness of the many who want to ease their guilty conscience with an empty religion that is proven not to work.
The Judaizers in our text were famous for that. They were in bondage and wanted to keep others in bondage as well. The Gospel of Christ sets the captive free. Peter was free, but he was choosing to put himself back into bondage with his foolishness.
In verse 19 Paul reminded Peter and all others that through the law he was dead to the law so that he could live unto God. Christ went to the cross under the law, to deliver those who were condemned by the law. The Ten Commandments cannot save anyone. No person can keep them perfectly. Born again Christians need to obey the commandments, except for the one regarding the Sabbath, but they are not saved by keeping the commandments. They prove they are saved by having the ability to live under the liberty of the commandments. It is a blessing to not be guilty of stealing or lying or coveting, etc.
Verse 20 is one of my favourite verses. It is a very powerful verse for me. Paul states the facts here. The born again Christian has died with Christ. He has turned to God and thus left behind the old sinful life. The born again Christian is still living. He feels pain and joy. He enjoys certain things and dislikes others. He is alive, but as a born again Christian his life is found in Christ. He does not live for himself. He takes his desires and looks to God to change his desires to be what God wants them to be. The born again Christian does not lie or steal or cheat etc. because God shows him those things are sin. As a true child of God, he hates sin and does not want to commit sin. Jesus Christ never sinned. He indwells the true child of God.
Jesus Christ went to the cross and He took the curse of sin upon Him. The true saint, receives forgiveness of sin and a new life by faith in Christ. He lives for God’s glory. He is not forced to do that. He wants to do that because God has changed him.
In verse 21 Paul concludes this chapter by reminding Peter and all others that law keeping frustrates the grace of God. If law keeping were necessary for salvation, then why did Jesus Christ die for our sins? If we can save ourselves, then why did Jesus Christ die for our sins? The fact is that we cannot die for our sins. We need Christ to save us. We need to trust in Him alone. We do not need to apologize to other religions for that fact. We do not need to be concerned with offending some false religion with the truth. False religions prove they are offended by the truth, but the truth is what will make them free, if they will believe it. The good news is that a few people do turn to God in repentance and they do accept God’s grace and His salvation. Are you one of them?