Galatians 2:16 ESV
“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.”
By “law” is meant here the Old Covenant liturgical, ceremonial and purification laws and customs required by God of the Jews prior to Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection and ascension back to heaven. The “law” also included the Sabbath requirement and circumcision of all males.
We cannot be made right with God, have our sins forgiven, and have the hope of eternal life on the basis of us following any set of religious rituals, including the ones that the Jews were required to follow under the Old Covenant. Going through the motions of religion will not save us, either.
We are only saved by God’s grace, through God-persuaded faith in Jesus Christ. So, what is faith? What does it look like? Well, it isn’t an emotional decision made at an altar. It isn’t a prayer we pray, repeating words after someone else. And it isn’t an intellectual assent to what Jesus did for us.
Not one of us can come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father first draws (persuades) us to Christ (Jn 6:44). In fact, the word translated “faith” or “believe” means “persuasion.” And since God is the one doing the convincing, this faith is going to align with his will and purpose for us.
Also, this faith and our salvation are not of ourselves. They are the gift of God to us, not of works lest any of us should boast. For, if we can’t be saved of our own selves, but only as gifted by God, then the faith required to be saved is also not of ourselves (Eph 2:8-9), for we are persuaded of God.
What is the Gift?
So, then, what is the gift? What are we saved from? What are we saved to?
Well, in Romans 6 we learn that we are saved (delivered, set free) from our slavery (bondage, addiction) to sin. For, by faith in Jesus Christ we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to walk with him in newness of life in him.
By faith in Jesus Christ, our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Therefore, we are not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies to make us obey its passions. For, sin will have no more dominion over us since we are not under law but under grace. Grace does not free us to sin.
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16)
God’s gift of grace to us in salvation is not just forgiveness of sins so that we can go to heaven when we die. Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co 5:15).
So, the gift is deliverance from our slavery (addiction) to sin and it is empowerment of God’s Spirit to say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives (Titus 2:11-14).
Galatians 2:17-21 ESV
“But if, in our endeavor 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.”
Therefore, being justified by God’s grace, through faith, which is not of ourselves, is not free license to keep on living in sin. Jesus did not do away with all those old liturgical laws and customs so that we could now live in sin, in disobedience to him, and in denying him as Lord of our lives.
Dying to “the law” (liturgical laws) is not dying to righteousness. We don’t become lawless to prove that we are no longer under “the law.” We die to legalism in order that we might live to God. Following a set of religious rituals will never save us. Obedience to God saves, because obedience is an expression of true faith.
When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior (from slavery to sin) of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin so that we (our flesh) no longer lives (reigns). Now Christ lives (reigns supreme) in our lives. And now we live our lives for him, not for ourselves.
But we don’t do this in our own power and strength. We can do nothing in and of ourselves to earn or to deserve or to preserve our own salvation. We live by faith in Jesus Christ, in his power and strength. For it is now him living his life in us and through us for his glory and praise.
But, although we aren’t saved by our own works, we are saved to do the works of God, as his workmanship, which he prepared and planned in advance that we should walk in them. And we will be judged by our works, too. For, if we live to please the flesh, we will reap destruction. But if we live to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-8).
So, please understand that being freed from legalistic rituals is not freedom to live however we want. Jesus saved us so that we would now submit to him as Lord, repent (leave our sins behind us), and walk in obedience to his commands (under the New Covenant).
And please know that if we continue to live in sin, and we walk according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit, and we make sin our practice, and not righteousness our practice, and if we don’t walk in obedience to our Lord, but we obey sin, we will die in our sins, not have eternal life.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 6:44; Jn 14:23-24; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15, 21; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8]
By Jonathan Foreman
I give you my destiny
I’m giving you all of me
I want your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs
I’m giving it my all
So, I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours I pray
To be only yours I pray
To be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope
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