My dear friend, I want to thank you for your very good question, for I believe that in these verses, we find the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I believe that to understand the Epistle to the Galatians, one must understand that in the early church, after the Apostle Paul had been on a missionary journey to Asia Minor, there were many Gentiles in the region of Galatia who had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus some assemblies or local churches had been established there. But, sometime after leaving that region, Paul learned that there were those of Jewish background who were influencing these Galatian Christians, and falsely teaching them a need to follow the Law of Moses with certain of its required rites in order to be saved, such as a need to be circumcised, and thus adding to the true Gospel. Now, some were also questioning Paul’s authority to preach the Gospel, seeing that the original apostles were of the disciples who walked with the Lord Jesus in his earthly ministry, who were sent forth by the Lord Himself just before He ascended into heaven. Thus, they were undermining the confidence of the Galatians in the truth of Paul’s teaching among them, since Paul had not been one of the original disciples. The very word “apostle” means “sent one”, or “messenger”, and you will recall that Paul himself had seen the risen Christ on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:3-6. On that day, Paul, whose former name was Saul of Tarsus, well known for persecuting the Christians, was saved, and was chosen by the Lord to do His work.  So, Paul was indeed a Christian himself and thus a true apostle sent by the Lord to minister. The Lord had given him the true Gospel, which now some were questioning to their ruin.

In any case, these “Judaizers” were troubling the Galatians by calling into question Paul’s Gospel that one is saved by Grace through faith alone, as we see clearly in verse 16 of Galatians 2. But, these false teachers were “adding to” this Gospel, saying that one must first believe and then keep the law in order to be saved. This teaching totally undermines the value of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross of Calvary and would lead the Galatians to put their trust in their own works under the law, which cannot save but only judge. In the final verses you cited, we read, “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” The effect of believing this false teaching would be to put Christians back under the curse of the law, because if one must keep the law in order to be saved, then salvation would not be based on Grace (unmerited favor) through faith, but rather on the works of the law. Thus, if these Gentile Christians were not being circumcised, and were basing their salvation on the keeping of the law, or on good works, or on anything other than the finished work of Christ Jesus at Calvary, then they were putting themselves under a law that they nor anyone could keep perfectly and would thus have only the judgement of the law before them. Being sinners, as we all are, the law called for perfect obedience or death. However, we read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. We also read in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”.

You see from Ephesians 2:10 that good works do not save us but seeing the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in paying the full penalty of our sins, we who are sinners by nature and by choice but who are saved from the penalty of the law, should demonstrate good works in our lives in response to the Lord’s desire for us.  William McDonald in his commentary writes” The only way we can live to God is by being dead to the law. The law could never produce a holy life; God never intended that it should”.

Finally, if we go on in Ephesians 2:20-21, we find, “I am crucified with Christ: neverthless 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. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Thus, you can see that Paul is appealing to the Galatians not to listen to those who were confusing them, for thus they would put themselves back under the law and not under Grace. Identifying with Christ who died for our sins, we who believe are “dead” to the law, and now live by Grace.

And now, my dear friend, I must ask you, are you saved? Have you trusted fully in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross? Salvation is not based on any works that we can do on our own behalf, neither on works of the law, nor baptism, nor on any good works that we can do; , but is solely and alone based on the Grace of our Lord Jesus, through faith in Him. Consider, I pray you, the words of the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”. May the Lord bless these words to your heart.  (468.3)  (SF)