It’s not because we followed the law. Galatians 2:16-19

Yes, I am aware, I already covered 2 Galatians 2:16, but there is always that one last thing, and I am trying to keep the posts relatively short. Read this verse from one of the standards like the NIV, and you get a very impersonal feel. I feel as though I have to read it several times to understand the meaning.

Galatians 2:16 NIV know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

So I opted to try the Easy to Read Version and found that it makes the point without all the religious doublespeak.

So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, because we wanted to be made right with God. And we are right with him because we trusted in Christ—not because we followed the law. I can say this because no one can be made right with God by following the law.”

Why would anyone want to put their faith in another?

Perhaps out of necessity; possibly their words were convincing; or maybe, they were charismatic and dressed nice. Short of some miraculous vision, one in which you see Jesus (It happens daily,) few of us have seen Him. No one could describe him as a well dressed, handsome man.

Isaiah 53:2 NASB For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

There is a method of approaching others about the gospel in which you, in a sense, defend the message of Jesus with good, solid arguments. This approach is referred to as Apologetics. While I find it interesting that someone can stand toe to toe with some argumentative blowhard, it is not my cup of tea, that and I see my memory to be borderline useless anymore.

As I have read the Bible I never really saw God finding a need to play the Apologetics card. Instead, He merely said, “As for me”; after making that statement He just went on to fulfill the promises made, regardless of what the person He made the covenant with would do. (And yes, I get it, that many of those promises took hundreds of years in some cases.) If you were to ask me, why do you trust God, or, how could you put your faith in Him? I would have to say because He has consistently stayed faithful to His Word. Simply put, He is believable. Take Jesus, for example; He told the disciples what He was going to go through and why. It’s evident that most of those who traveled with Him did not understand what He was telling them, but it did not slow Him down. He still rose from the dead, and many witnessed to the fact that He appeared to them, alive.

All these things give me reasons to believe Him, and I have.

Paul says,

So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, because we wanted to be made right with God.”

I think, in some way, I wanted to be right with Him. Growing up in church, we went down front to pray, and there repented every week, as though the power of God never took root in us. See, this is what I am talking about when I tell you that religion is filled with false teachings. Sure, the pastor may stand in front of and say you are forgiven, but then you wait for next week because they will tell you what a sinner you are. Understand something. When you put your faith in Christ Jesus, it is a permanent gesture on your part. The Father engraves you on his hand, and you are ever before Him.

I contend that this book we carry around, (at least some of us do,) is a profoundly Jewish book. The subject matter carries a Jewish style at every turn. Galatians 2:17 is one of those places we can see this.

Galatians 2:17 NASB “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!

if, while seeking to be justified in Christ,”

The Jews considered the Gentiles to be wholly idolatrous and lost causes to God. Why then would a phrase like this be associated with a Gentile? It wouldn’t. It would most definitely be attributable to the Jew, as their lives were little more than efforts to be justified, but not in Christ. If you take the phrase on step farther, and consider how the early church was primarily Jewish, up to the point that they balked at the possibility of Gentiles joining in without enduring Jewish rituals found under the law of Moses, such as circumcision.

So, Paul writes as a Jewish believer, that had experienced the concept of trying to be justified in Christ, while performing what constitutes works for redemption religion/faith.

we ourselves have also been found sinners,”

Keep in mind that the sentence effectively starts with the word “if.” This phrase continues to play a huge role in our understanding of what Paul is saying.

  • we ourselves” – The Jewish community of believers.

  • have also been found sinners,”

    Wait a minute. Since we like to read this letter as though it was written to Gentiles, people who as new believers, only have an understanding and background in the newly appreciated grace of Christ, then this idea of having been found sinners, doesn’t make sense. It does, however, make sense when applied to a Jewish community that thought their righteous acts (acts mandated by law, and tradition) made them holy and acceptable to God. It did not.

    I told you that the Jewish community deemed outsiders to be godless pagans. There must have been a realization in some of the Jews that without a relationship with Christ Jesus, there was no acceptance, and therefore no righteousness.

  • is Christ then a minister of sin?”

    This statement could only apply if one had accepted the extraordinary sacrifice offered by the Father, and performed by the Son. The implication then would be that the acceptance of Yahshua as the Messiah sent by the Father, as the prophets foretold, caused many Jews to see precisely how unrighteous they indeed were.

    If acceptance causes this kind of effect, then the presumption is that Christ is the administrator of sin. Is that true? Hardly, as He merely shines a light into your soul through the Holy Spirit; that light shows you the sin.

    Stop here for a moment. Focus on the truth that “sin” is simply your missing the mark of the target at which you are shooting. We have these opportunities to hit the mark multiple times on any given day.

The Greek word for minister is diakonos and means an attendant or waiter. Christ then, would be thought of as being God’s waiter? Sin is the Greek word hamartia, meaning offense or sin. So, Christ would be the waiter that brings you a variety of infractions to use? Don’t be ridiculous.

Galatians 2:18 is a continuance of Paul’s thought and theme, so pay attention. I am going to give you three versions, starting with one of the most difficult.

Galatians 2:18 KJV For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

If I was not paying attention, nor reading with purpose, I could readily be asking what buildings did Paul destroy? The obvious extension of such thought is that committing a crime, such as the destruction of property, makes you a transgressor; a criminal. The problem, however, is that what Paul destroyed was people; in particular, Jewish believers and their desire to trust and cling to things such as tradition and bad religion. (Stop. Am I saying that Judaism is a bad religion? Only if it tries to circumvent acceptance of the Messiah, through a multitude of added on rules and laws, which is exactly what they did.)

Galatians 2:18 CJB Indeed, if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed, I really do make myself a transgressor.

The Complete Jewish Bible states the case rather bluntly when it says, “if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed.”

Question? Did Paul destroy Judaism? No! But, he did have a considerable influence on many Jews; and, this impact included the Gentiles toward the end of his life. So, when he refers to something which he destroyed, he is speaking then of changes in individual lives.

One more version, the Easy To Read version.

Galatians 2:18 ERV But I would be wrong to begin teaching again those things that I gave up.

The ERV translation makes it personal and prompts us to consider that the legalistic bondage Paul felt was primarily internal. The destruction, on the other hand, was more about what he gave up. If I were to try and figure out what Paul/Saul gave up that day, on the road to Damascus, it is all wrapped up in personal history, Jewish traditions, community status, acceptance on an intellectual level with the Pharisees, and entirely possible that monetary and family issues were impacted.

Vincent’s Word Studies declares,

Peter, by his Christian profession, had asserted that justification was by faith alone; and by his eating with Gentiles had declared that the Mosaic law was no longer binding upon him. He had thus, figuratively, destroyed or pulled down the Jewish law as a standard of Christian faith and conduct. By his subsequent refusal to eat with Gentiles he had retracted this declaration, had asserted that the Jewish law was still binding upon Christians, and had thus built again what he had pulled down.”

I also like what Finis Jennings Dake tells us.

If I act like a Jew, and enjoin the observance of the law upon Gentiles, which I have repeatedly asserted and proved to be abolished by the death of Christ (Eph_2:14-15; Col_2:14-17; 2Co_3:6-15; Hebrews 7:11-10:18), then I build again the things I destroyed and thus make myself a transgressor, undoing my justification by faith in Christ.”

Moving forward into more muddy water; we look at Galatians 2:19.

Galatians 2:19 NASB “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.

How did that come about? I am not sure, using this translation that I even understand. So, again, I indulge in alternate translations.

Galatians 2:19 CJB For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might live in direct relationship with God.

In the CJB I get the sense of something I had suspected for a long time. The Torah contained the freedoms that Paul taught. Paul, who was well trained in the Torah, expounded this new freedom from example and a fresh understanding, that he obtained directly from Jesus (in a vision.) It was this understanding alone, for over ten years, that has opened my eyes to what I see in the Old Testament, a knowledge of where, Jesus, as a human, obtained the truths and freedoms He taught.

Our Monday morning study leader invited a lady to give a brief testimony. Raised a Catholic, she somehow meets a Pentecostal young man, and attempts to date him. That young man, whom I know personally, got her to come to our Holy Spirit and fire inspired church; at least it was back then. She said that during the prayer time, at the end of the service, that her now-husband said, I am going down front for prayer. Someone nearby told her, you should go down also; and, she did. That night she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke with other tongues. Apparently, she was sixteen at this point and wanted to please her parents. So when she went home and told them that she was now filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, they exploded on her. She was taken to the priests to bring her back to some form of normalcy for their family. She said, the priest talked with for a time and then stepped out to tell the parents that in time she would be back to normal. When the priest returned she began to describe to him about the love of God, and how he too should be teaching this (at which point she showed him out of Corinthians. As she spoke, she could feel the presence of God fill the room, and she began speaking to the priest in tongues. He again excused himself so that he could talk with her parents. He told them that she just spoke to me in perfect Latin. It would be important to note that she did not know Latin. Well, you might think that everything went great for her, but it did not. The parents restricted her from seeing this young man for two years; however, at the end of that time, the two got married.

What’s the point of this information?

Somehow, this young lady stepped out of God’s way, without realizing what she was doing, and let the “Torah” speak for itself. When it did, several lives were, in time, dramatically changed. That priest and a nun from the school she went to went on to become Holy Spirit filled Catholics (These are known as Charismatics.) As this dear lady finished her “testimony,” one of the men in our group asked a legitimate question; he said, “as a Catholic, did you read the Bible? To which, she answered rather emphatically, NO. We were taught not to, as we would misinterpret what it said.
Interesting, I have heard far too many teach a version of that very thing, in spite of sound bible teachers instructing us to let the scriptures interpret scripture. Sadly, most Christians seem to think no one can understand the Bible and therefore must have someone to teach them. This kind of thought is in opposition to what Paul tells us here in Galatians 2:19.

For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself.”

I perceive from this statement that Paul was able to gain access to the scrolls that were so few and costly that they were only maintained at the Synagogues. There is an alternative possibility, and that would be that Paul relied upon the training and memory of what he learned as an up and coming Pharisee. In reading these scrolls, he was this time, given new and fresh insight. These words were no longer laws to govern, but guides to freedom. As I write these words, images of Jephthah crossed my mind. I have I ever seen him, no, but my mind, as I read the story in Judges 11, paints a vivid picture of someone who would fit the imagery of a motorcycle gang member. Short tempered and harsh as they could come, thanks to childhood abuse at the hands of half-brothers, he frees Israel from its oppressors and goes on to become listed as a hall-of-famer. When you read the story, you see a man guided more by grace and muscles than law (the Torah.) Even in God’s story (if I may call it that,) grace and mercy shine like the sun at every turn.

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