We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet 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. 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 (Galatians 2:15-21 ESV).
What’s it all about?
Paul explains that a right standing with God cannot be obtained through strict adherence to the Law. Those who revert to the Law are demonstrating their own sinfulness and rejecting the grace of God. Only faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can make you right with God (i.e., save you, justify you).
So what? Since no one possesses a perfect nature and cannot faithfully adhere to God’s Law, it would be foolish to think that a person could make himself righteous. If you could be made right with God (justified) by your works, then you could boast in your own abilities, and the death of Jesus Christ would have been in vain. Therefore, we must completely reject the notion that a person can be saved by sincere effort, good intentions, or moral living. Instead, we must trust only in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for salvation.
1. What makes the gospel unique and different from all other religions (2:16)?
2. What does Paul mean when he says, “I’ve died to the Law, so that I might live to God” (2:19)?
3. What does it mean to live “by faith in the Son of God” (2:20)?
4. Why is reliance upon one’s own ability to do good to obtain salvation a rejection of the cross (2:21)?
First, apart from Christ, God sees nothing in us that would warrant righteousness. Therefore, we must forsake the notion that anyone is good enough to merit or warrant salvation.
Second, we must put our complete trust in the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for salvation.
Finally, we must resist the temptation to add anything to the gospel after conversion. We are saved by grace and kept (preserved) by grace.
Small Group Questions
Scripture: Genesis 15:1-21; Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:1-12; Hebrews 11
1. Were people in the Old Testament saved by keeping the Law or by faith?
2. What does Hebrews 11 teach us about how people were saved (made righteous) in the Old Testament?
3. What does Genesis 15:6 say about how Abraham was saved?
4. How does Paul interpret and apply Psalm 32:1-2?