Death to the Law!

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Galatians 2:19–21 ESV
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 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. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.


I had a conversation week before last that has just burdened me. I was speaking to a person about a mutual acquaintance who is a Jehovah’s Witness. In our conversation it was revealed that he didn’t understand the meaning of being “saved”. That has been on my heart for two weeks now, how many people do not know the meaning of being “saved”. Well, when I started digging some into the Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs, I started understanding how there could be confusion over the term being “saved”. They do believe salvation is a free gift from God, but do not believe in eternal security, as they feel salvation is not achievable without good works prompted by faith. In other words, works prove they are genuine in their faith.
Now, there are many other theological differences, but I looked closely at this faith by works as a means of salvation. When I read scripture, I cannot find anywhere that requires anything other than faith as the condition of salvation. By thinking we can do something, our works, to satisfy part of our requirement of salvation is blatantly saying that Christ died for no reason. But in these verses, we find Paul reminding Peter that it was not the law, it was not the works, it was not our view on our righteousness that provides us with salvation - saves us from an eternity in hell - but it is SOLELY by trusting and putting our faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus that we are saved.
To put these verse into context, we have to read from verse 11 to the end. In a shortened version, Peter had failed in his faith. Much like J.W., he was allowing man to influence his decisions regarding salvation and had returned to legalism. Peter had forgotten what the grace of God meant, and was interjecting the need for works and the law to confirm salvation. In other words Peter said faith, by itself, was not sufficient! These three verses, though prove to us as believers that man is justified by our faith, not the law or our works. Our faith in the gospel is not something in addition to the law, but replaces the law completely.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Judaizers had come into the church at Antioch and were teaching a false gospel. They were saying if people wished to be saved they had to be circumcised, they had to follow the Mosaic law, they had to adopt the ritual and ceremonies of the Jewish religion and follow strict dietary laws, and separate themselves from other Gentile Christians who were not following the same guidelines. They were works, in addition to faith, was required for true salvation. This placed the wrong focus on WHO is central in salvation of mankind. Righteousness by works honors and makes man supreme and preeminent, the center and core of life. Righteousness by faith honors God and makes God supreme and preeminent, the center and core of life.
Thinking a little more on the focus of works and the law, if we could be saved through our works or even through the law, then why did Christ have to come to earth to die? A better way to get this point across is this way, what work can a person do or law can they keep that will make them perfect in the eyes of God? NOTHING. Imperfect, sinful man will always be short of Gods perfection. Romans 3:23 tells us
Romans 3:23 ESV
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
If the law or works could save us, then Christ's death was in vain. But we know Christ’s death was not in vain, and that faith alone is what justifies us in the eyes of God.
Galatians 2:16 ESV
16 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.

The Law Does Nothing More Than Confirm Sin and Death

Galatians 2:19 ESV
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.
Paul tries to re-align Peters way of thinking. What does the law do? If we go back into the Old Testament, it pointed toward the sins of man, it reminded mankind how short of perfection and righteousness we come, and I would argue it had nothing to do with pointing us toward salvation.
Now, stick with me. The law was exactly what we would think of in our laws today - it is a set of moral standards that govern (or at least try to) the actions of citizens. Now, how many people follow all the laws of the land to the exact letter of the law? Please, before you raise your hand remember what the speed limit was on the way to church! The Old Testament law could only point out that we were sinners in the eyes of God. It did nothing to justify the Jews, the same as the law does not justify us today. The law could not make things right with God. The law could not save. In fact, it did the exact opposite it pointed out that no one could be justified by the works of the law. The law pointed out our shortcomings and reminded us we should be punished and could never live up to the expectations of God. The law reminded us that, on our own, we could never be accepted by God. The law reminded us we are consistently coming up short of the law and God’s glory. But, who was the law for? Timothy tells us in 1 Timothy 1:9.
1 Timothy 1:9 ESV
9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,
It was there to give law to the lawless. It was meant as a way to teach obedience to the disobedient. It was a set of holy guidelines for the unholy. It was to POINT OUT sin to the sinner, and show us our inability to ever live up to God’s holy standards on our own.
Where the law demanded death to those who broke it, JESUS paid the death penalty for all sinners! In essence, the law put Christ to death, and those who follow him, by faith, are offered a resurrected life in Him! You see, the only way we can ever have the hope of being acceptable to God is to die to the law. We must be delivered from the burden of the law. How can we do this? Paul points out that a person who has received Jesus Christ, by faith, as his personal savior has been freed from the bondage of sin and the law.
It is only through the death to the law and the self-righteousness of man that we can truly learn to LIVE for God.
Romans 7:6 ESV
6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I want us to remember, if the law could save us, if works could save us, if our own self-righteousness could save us, then Christ’s death was in vain! Works don’t save us today! The law doesn’t save us today! Our own self-righteousness doesn’t save us today! It is only Jesus Christ that offers us salvation!

We are Crucified With Christ

Galatians 2:20 ESV
20 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.
We, like Christ, have died and been resurrected - we are crucified with Him! How is it that we can be crucified with Christ? When a person, by faith, believes that Jesus died for them - that Jesus took their own personal punishment for their sins upon himself and died for them, then God takes that faith and and counts that faith as having died in Christ, counts that faith as identifying with Christ in death, counts that faith as having already been punished for their sin in the death of Christ. As scripture points out, we are “crucified with Christ”. God accepts that, through faith, their sins have been paid in full when Christ died and when we die to self.
Romans 6:3–5 ESV
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Paul again points out in his letter to the Roman Christians that when we accept Christ, through faith, as our savior we die to self, our old life is buried in baptism, and we are resurrected into a new life, as Christ was raised from the dead! Once we are saved, then we do not face condemnation for our sins.
Romans 8:1 ESV
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
But notice the last part of this verse - for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is not a fire insurance! We cannot just ask for forgiveness with no changes in our lives, no repentance, and expect that we are saved! You see, as a believer by faith, we should be so immersed in Christ that it is almost as though He is still walking on this earth in his body. We should be so much in tune with Christ that we feed from him and draw our very life from Him. It is an active and continual process. When we look at the literal translation Paul is saying “I have been and am now crucified in Christ”. He no longer was the man he once was, he (his former self) no longer lived. If the law could save, then Christ's death was in vain. The self-centered and self-righteous Saul died so that Christ could live in him and so that Christ’s death was NOT in vain. Can I tell you, there is not enough room in our physical body for our self and Christ? Don’t believe me? Try living this old life on your own and leave Jesus out of it. Paul realized it was not his own strength that allowed him to live a Christian life, but instead it was the living Christ who took up residence in him - Christ lives in me. It is by faith, not works, and not the law that gives divine power to the believer.

Salvation is by God’s Grace Only

Galatians 2:21 ESV
21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Paul points out that, if we were still bound by the law, then Christ’s death would have been for nothing. Paul reminds Peter that there is no way to discount the grace of God. In its own definition, the essence of grace if for God to give believers something they have not worked for.
Romans 4:4 ESV
4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
What we do for God is seen, not as our gift to Him, but as dues owed to Him because of what He has given us in return. Think of this, what could we - as sinful mankind - give God that would even come close to repaying Him for the precious gift of salvation? To even think that our works could appease God is to nullify the grace of God - and it almost is like us arrogantly professing that Christ died for nothing. If we could follow the law and be justified by God, Christ died for nothing. But plainly tells us this is not true.
Colossians 1:22 ESV
22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
1 Peter 2:24 ESV
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Reconciliation - restoring unity, harmony, or agreement in something that has been broken/destroyed.


So, to answer the question asked in the opening. What does it mean to be saved? Simply this - accepting the free gift of salvation made possible by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, repenting or turning away from our sinful life, and allowing Him to live in us. It does not require living by a set of laws. It does not require a certain set of works. It is only by our FAITH that we can be made acceptable to God.
Romans 3:23 ESV
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23 ESV
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 ESV
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Acts 4:12 ESV
12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
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