One of my favorite Bible verses is Galatians 2:20. Open a Bible and read Galatians 2:17-21, and take note especially of verse 20.
See what Paul says in verse 20? The amazing truth is that by faith Christ Jesus can live in us!!! That’s a million times better than trying to keep the law! God in us. The power of God works in us, changing us, making us more like Jesus. That’s how to make things right. Best yet, it all stems from God’s love for us, Paul says.
Compare the work of God to the work of the Law. The Law is a pathetic, weak shadow that can teach us about sin, but it cannot make us right. But Jesus alive and at work in us? Amazing! Life changing and transformative.
Furthermore, Paul says that if we could made righteous by keeping the Law, then Jesus’ died for nothing. Paul’s point is very clear: Jesus didn’t die for nothing because we cannot be made righteous by attempting to do good works and keep the Law. Jesus’s death and resurrection is everything.
That powerful truth is why Paul is so upset with the false Christians. They were trying to get the Galatian Christians to start keeping the law again. Especially to get circumcised.
Look at what Paul says next in Galatians chapter 3 verses 1-5. These verses are so intense! But for good reason. The Gospel is at stake! To Paul, what Jesus has made possible through his death and resurrection is so obviously better and so clearly the truth, that Paul cannot believe what he is hearing. Why would the Galatians go crawling back into the dark, dank life of living under the Law?
Also in this section, he mentions a word for the first time. Spirit. Paul is saying, “Galatians, you know that placing your faith in Jesus is the truth because of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.” There’s evidence that this is true. The work of the Spirit shows us that Jesus is the true way to be made right.
Paul continues. He really wants to drive home his point. He wants to prove that he is not just making this up, but that it is God’s truth. In chapter 3, verses 6-25, which Paul makes numerous points about the truth of Jesus. Take a look at verse 14. There Paul says that one of the main reasons for being made right through faith in Jesus is so that we can receive the promise of the Spirit. For Paul, the presence of the Spirit in our lives is exceedingly important.
You can’t have the Spirit in your life if you don’t turn away from trying to keep the Law and turn towards placing your faith in Jesus. Notice the image Paul uses in verses 23-24. Prison. Trying to the keep the Law is like being stuck in prison. But faith frees us. We are free from the law of sin and death.
Paul has come full circle from what he mentioned in chapter 2 verse 4, when he talked about the false Christians who were spying on their freedom. Those false Christians were teaching that non-Jewish Christians needed to get circumcised, thus they could show they are following the law.
Paul says, “No way. Jesus came to set us free from the law.” Do you see why Paul would confront Peter? Peter was giving in to the circumcision group. Paul is saying, “Peter, if you start requiring people to follow the Law, Jesus’ death and resurrection is meaningless.”
But Jesus did die and rise again, and that means we are free from the prison that is the Law. If we are set free from the Law, does that mean we can live however we want?
Paul will address that question, as we’ll see in the next post.