Paul strongly rejects the erroneous conclusion that being justified by faith in Christ actually made Jews sinners, thus painting Christ as a promoter of sin. Those who attempt to be justified through “the works of the law” are “cursed” (Galatians 3:10). If anyone attempts to reassert the “works of the law” as having any part in justification before God, the law itself convicts that person of being a transgressor (Galatians 3:19–25). The law itself is not sinful; its purpose is to convince individuals of their personal spiritual deadness in sin outside of faith in Christ (Romans 7:7–13).
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. (Galatians 2:17-19)
Through studying the Old Testament Scriptures, Paul realized that he could not be saved by obeying God’s laws. The prophets knew that God’s plan of salvation did not rest on keeping the law. Because we have all been infected by sin, we cannot keep God’s laws perfectly. Fortunately, God has provided a way of salvation that depends on Jesus Christ, not on our own efforts. Even though we know this truth, we must guard against the temptation of using service, good deeds, charitable giving, or any other effort as a substitute for faith.
Paul and every believer were crucified with Christ in order to die to sin, the law, and “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). While believers live on physically, Christ also lives within them spiritually. Christ’s resurrection power through the Spirit is worked out through the Christian (Romans 6:4–11) who chooses to live by faith in the Son of God.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which 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 set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:20-21)
How have we been crucified with Christ? Legally, God looks at us as if we had died with Christ. Because our sins died with Him, we are no longer condemned (Colossians 2:13-15). Relationally, we have become one with Christ, and His experiences are ours. Our Christian life began, in unity with Him; we died to our old life (Romans 6:5-11). In our daily life, we must regularly crucify sinful desires that keep us from following Christ. This too is a kind of dying with Him (Luke 23:25).
And yet the focus of Christianity is not dying, but living. Because we have been crucified with Christ, we have also been raised with Him (Romans 6:5). Legally, we have been reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:19) and are free to grow into Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29). And in our daily life, we have Christ’s resurrection power as we continue to fight sin (Ephesians 1:19, 20). We are no longer alone, for Christ lives in us – He is our power for living and our hope for the future (Colossians 1:27).
Believers today may still be in danger of acting as if Christ died for nothing. How? By replacing Jewish legalism with their own brand of Christian legalism, they are giving people extra laws to obey. By believing they can earn God’s favor by what they do, they are not trusting completely in Christ’s work on the cross. By struggling to appropriate God’s power to change them (sanctification), they are not resting in God’s power to save them (justification). If we could be saved by being good, then Christ did not have to die. But the cross is the only way to salvation. If righteousness is attainable through keeping the law of Moses, then God’s gracious act of sending Christ to die on the Cross to pay for sin was unnecessary and useless ( Romans 3:4–26).
Father God, it is my prayer this morning to humbly fall down at the foot of the cross and thank you for Your free gift of salvation. I ask You to search my heart and soul to rid me of all pride, jealousy, envy and hatred. I ask You Lord to fill my heart and soul with the joy, peace and happiness that can only come from knowing and following You. I pray this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.