2/08/20 – Galatians 2:15-21


Galatians 2:15We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,


JewsIoudaios (Jewish as respects birth, origin or religion)


by naturephysis (nature and natural things; here it relates to birth, physical origin) from phyo (beget; bring forth; produce; be born; spring up; grow; shoot forth) We get “physical” from a related Latin word physica (study of nature).


not sinners of the Gentiles – Gentiles did not generally have the benefit of knowing the law that defined their sin, so therefore could be expected to sin as a result of their ignorance. There may be some sarcasm involved here!


sinnershamartolos, translated “sinner/s” 43 times and “sinful” 4 times, yet could mean “heathen” as the Gentiles were seen to be. Thus it might read “and not like the heathen Gentiles” who couldn’t be expected to know any better. In a way, Paul is probably being sarcastic in suggesting that Jews, being of the law, were better than the heathen Gentiles because of the law, as if the law could itself guarantee holiness. That if a man could be justified by the law (see Vs 16 below), then the Jews would surely be justified and the Gentiles would not be justified! Jewish “purity” of religion automatically meant that they perceived themselves to be not as the Gentiles (ethnos) who could be expected to sin; Jews were not expected to sin!

Note the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners (hamartolos). (Matthew 26:45) where “sinners” clearly refers to the godless pharisees and the heathen Roman soldiers.


Galatians 2:15 alludes to Paul’s statement further on where the law is that which declares us guilty and not that which saves us by faith.

Galatians 3:22-2522But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.


That is, the purpose of the law was never to save, but to demonstrate our sinfulness. The law was to reveal our sin so that we would seek a Saviour. If the law could save, then the Gentile Christians should devote themselves to obey the law (including circumcision). But if the law cannot save, then obedience to the law (such as circumcision) is useless. That is why Paul says in Galatians 5:1-21Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.


Galatians 2:16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but (except) by the faith of (in) 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.


Psalm 143:2bfor in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

Romans 3:20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.

Note here that it is by the law that man knows what sin is. Therefore, by assumption, without the law can be no knowledge of sin (Romans 2:12).


justifiedrendered or pronounced just or righteous before God; free from guilt and condemnation. Works of the law cannot make one justified.


worksergon (work; labour; anything accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind)

We get our scientific unit of work (the erg) from this Greek word.


Paul says that despite this assumed advantage of being a Jew, we should realise that a man is not justified by obedience to the law, but instead by faith in Christ. This is similar to what Paul said to the Romans (that trusting in the law would put us in debt, and that righteousness before God was by faith).

Romans 4:4-54Now to him that worketh (ergazomai) is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh (ergazomai) not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.


This then leads into the equality of all to be saved by the gospel of Christ, with or without the law.

Romans 1:16-1716For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.


For those who have the law will be judged according to that law, but those who do not have the law can still perish. With or without the law there is no excuse.

Romans 2:12For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

This puts both Jew and Gentile on an equal footing as regards salvation, For whosoever (both Jew and Gentile) shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)


Therefore, says Paul, even we (the Jews) have believed in Jesus Christ that we may be made righteous before God, and not by obedience to the law. Despite the Jew having the advantage of knowing the law, if he doesn’t believe in Christ, he will be as unjustified as any of the heathen who don’t know the law. His works of the law cannot save him without Christ, yet Christ can save without the works of the law.  


Galatians 2:17But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, [is] therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.


minister – or “servant”


One way of looking at this:- But if we ourselves also (all are included here, both Jew and Gentile) who are justified by Christ were to remain condemned sinners in spite of that righteousness in Christ according to the gospel, then wouldn’t that cause Christ to be effectively administering sin? That we need more than Christ alone to be justified? If faith in Christ alone is not sufficient, and we remain condemned sinners unless something extra be added to it (such as the law, notably circumcision), if the law is still necessary for true righteousness (this is what the legalistic Jews required), then Christ’s gospel is not able on its own to justify us and therefore the gospel on its own leaves us still sinful, and therefore Christ is made effectively the servant or minister of sin. For if the law is necessary before one may be fully justified, then being justified by faith in Christ alone leaves us with sin yet to be dealt with by obedience to the law. So, argues Paul, does this mean that we need the law to perfect our righteousness in Christ? God forbid such an idea!


Of course, it is not the law which is sinful, either, but ourselves. The law merely defines our sin against God; it cannot justify; it can only condemn. But the law itself is good and holy; it is only those who break the law who are evil and unholy.

Romans 7:7; 12-137What shall we say then? [Is] the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

12Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.


So this introduces another way of looking at this. The law was that which “justified” them in the OT, yet in itself it could do nothing. The OT law was required if God were to remain their God. They had to follow the rules. But the rules in themselves couldn’t save; their salvation was imputed to them by their continuing obedience.

Hebrews 10:1-41For the law having a shadow of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3But in those [sacrifices there is] a remembrance again [made] of sins every year. 4 For [it is] not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.


It was the condemnation of the law for our sin that brought us to faith in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:24). Justification by faith now effectively replaced the OT law. In the eyes of legalistic Jews this disregard for the law then caused us to be condemned as sinners according to the law. They argued that faith in Christ made them sinners according to the OT law, because faith in Christ replaced the law that they had previously lived by. So if we in being justified by Christ are then found to be sinners by the law, wouldn’t this then require continued obedience to the law as well? Doesn’t faith in Christ without the law make Christ one who encourages us to sin according to the law?


However, Paul also taught that faith in Christ freed us from the condemnation of the law, so that even though the law remained (Christ came to fulfill the law – Matthew 5:17) it no longer had the power to condemn us once we were justified by faith in Christ.

Romans 8:1-21[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.


Therefore faith establishes the law.

Romans 3:31Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.


While the law still exists, its penalty can have no more dominion over those who live by faith in Christ through grace. But it cannot be a license to sin, either.

Romans 6:14-1514For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.


Galatians 2:18For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make (prove; demonstrate; commend) myself a transgressor.


makesynistao (to place together; to stand with) This is a synthesis word, where many parts become one whole. Translated “commendeth” in Romans 5:8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.


transgressorsinner; one who breaks the law.


For, if I reintroduce the law as a requirement for full justification, then I demonstrate myself to be one with those who transgress. That is, I would be no different from (I would be one with) those who require obedience to the law to be added to faith in Christ in order to be saved.


Question: What were the things destroyed that Paul discusses rebuilding? We must start with “God forbid that Christ should be the servant of sin!” (see Vs 17 above) It is clear that in the past 3 verses Paul has effectively argued that once a person is justified by faith in Christ, then this must of necessity mean the removal of the law from the faith-in-Christ equation. Once a person is justified by Christ, then the law cannot be a necessary added extra in order to complete that justification. Therefore Paul has destroyed the claim of the Jews that the law remains necessary for justification. The legalistic Jews had put pressure on Gentile Christians to adhere to the letter of the law in order to gain a more perfect salvation (like tongues to a pentecostal, or works to a SDA) and Paul has effectively destroyed their argument. If Paul were to introduce a requirement that obedience to the law (such as in circumcision) was necessary for full salvation, then not only Christ would be made servant of sin, but Paul also would become a transgressor along with the others who were trying to force this extra burden of the law upon the Gentile Christians. Reintroducing the law would cause the condemnation for sin of those who were no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1).


Galatians 2:19For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.


For I must die to the requirements of the law if I desire to live for God (through the righteousness of Christ by faith). The law has brought me to this point at which stage I then die to it in order to live for God.

The old man (of sin, our flesh nature) must be destroyed before the new man can be created.

Romans 6:6-86Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

Old things pass away in order for the new to take their place.

2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.


The law though was fulfilled by Christ, not destroyed (Matthew 5:17) so therefore the law itself cannot be destroyed. It is therefore the effect of the law on us that has been cancelled. That cancelled effect of the law is its condemnation and penalty for sin.


All that which condemned us has been dealt with on the cross. The law’s dominion must therefore be ended for those who live by faith in Christ.

Colossians 2:13-14; 2013And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

20Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,


The law accused man of sin and condemned him to death as a result. The law put to death, but God’s Spirit (through Christ) made alive again.

2 Corinthians 3:6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.


Thus, the law demands the penalty of death for those who are judged by the law, but the law also permits the sacrifice of a ransom (by Christ) paid for us that we may then be able to live instead for God. Thus we must remove the penalty of the law (die to the law) in order to live for God (or Christ who is God). We must remove one before the other may take its place.

Note Hebrews 10:9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 


Galatians 2:20I 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.


Vs 19 above (For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.) explains the context of this verse. The law has to be removed in order to make way for justification by faith in Christ. The old has to die before we can live for the new.

The law required a perfect Lamb (Christ) to be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind.

1 John 2:2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.


crucified withsustauroo (to crucify along with) This is another of those synthesis words where many act as one. Here we are crucified together with Christ, both taking part in the action as one. This is its only occurrence in the NT.


All have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the law required that those who sin must die (Romans 6:23). Only the perfect sacrificial Lamb could pay the penalty for man’s sin and satisfy the requirements of the law. I am partaker with Christ in His death; I am crucified with Christ in order to be raised up to walk in newness of life. We cannot be raised from death’s penalty according to the law unless we die first with Christ.

Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

The law’s condemnation for my sin was nailed to the cross, left behind with the death of the old man (Colossians 2:14).


Yet in spite of being dead, crucified together with Christ, I still live, because I have been raised to newness of life by Christ. However, it isn’t really me that lives now for it is the Spirit of Christ in me that has made me alive and continues to live in me. My flesh life was under my control (and condemned by the law) but my new life is under new management; I no longer hold sovereignty over my life. Once I was dead in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1) but now have been transformed into a spiritually living person through the Spirit of God who indwells me. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Romans 8:11-1311But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.


And, the life which I now live physically I live by the faith of (in) the Son of God who loved me enough to die for me, to share with me His sinless nature.

Romans 5:8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 4:25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.


We have to see this in terms of 2 separate types of life: our old man sin nature (the flesh) and our new man (the spiritual man). Paul saw this as the 2 sides of our service (similar to the service of either God or mammon – Matthew 6:24)

Romans 7:25So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.


now – This indicates the present situation of righteousness by faith in Christ, as opposed to the past which was according to the law. That is, a change in circumstances from the past to now.


which I now live in the flesh – Despite being justified, we are still humans in the physical sense; it is our inner life that is hid with Christ in God that we live by faith in Christ.

Colossians 3:2-32Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.


Galatians 2:21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.


frustrateatheteo (do away with; set aside; disregard; thwart the efficacy of anything; nullify; make void; frustrate; refuse; reject; to slight; despise) It is translated “despiseth” 4 times in Luke 10:16He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.


in vaindorean (freely; as a gift; in vain; uselessly)


I do not render God’s grace ineffectual by removing (or denying) the law’s hold over me (see Vs 18 above), for if I needed the law to be righteous, then Christ died in vain (uselessly).


If righteousness before God could be achieved by obedience to the law, then for what reason did Christ die if I can be made righteous without Him? It’s like the question: If the calvinist is justified with eternal life as a result of his regeneration, then what purpose does the sacrifice of Christ play in that life? If all one needs to go to heaven is to be regenerated (justified with eternal life before I may believe in the gospel of Christ and be saved), then what is the use of the gospel of Christ? For if one can be made righteous through regeneration, before coming to Christ, then what can Christ offer that the person doesn’t have already.


Note Galatians 1:8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (anathema).

This is the context of Paul’s letter so far: there is only one biblical gospel, and there is no other gospel (good tidings) at all. Therefore he is accursed who would add to or take away from the biblical gospel in any way at all. There are a number of doctrines that Christians may differ on without great harm to the church. But, the one that may never be changed in any way is the gospel of Christ. The biblical gospel is the one doctrine that must be agreed upon by all Christians or else there is confusion. There can be no compromise at all with the gospel of Christ!


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