Galatians 2:20 I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This was the secret of Paul’s passion. He did not say, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved the world and gave himself for the world, or . . . who loved us and gave himself for us, but . . . who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul was passionate about Jesus Christ because he believed that Jesus loved Paul enough to die on a cross for Paul. Until we understand that Jesus loves us enough to die on a cross for us personally, we will never feel about Jesus the way he feels about us.
Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
If we think we are going to heaven because we are pretty good people, we are saying that Christ died for nothing. If we think we are going to heaven because our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we are saying that Christ died for nothing. If we think we are going to heaven because of the best things we have ever done, we are saying that Christ died for nothing. If there was anything we could do to get ourselves into heaven, it was not necessary for Christ to come to earth and die on a cross for us.
A man escaped from prison, and adopted a new identity. He went on to become a model husband, father, citizen and employee. He lived a perfect life in every way, except he was a fugitive. Years later he was brought to court where he argued that his good deeds should make up for his bad deeds. The judge insisted that was no defense, and that justice had to be served. He was guilty.
Muslims believe if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, they are going to heaven—which they are not. Hindus believe if their good karma outweighs their bad karma they will have a better reincarnation—which they will not. Others believe they are going to heaven because they keep the Ten Commandments—which they do not. Others believe they are going to heaven because they are pretty good people—which they are not.
The one thing all these beliefs have in common is that they make the death of Jesus Christ unnecessary. If you try to get to heaven by being a pretty good person, or any other way, you are saying the death of Christ on the cross was unnecessary. You are saying the eternal plan of redemption was unnecessary. You are saying the greatest price ever paid for anything was unnecessary. And you will go to hell—unnecessarily.
Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
The center of Paul’s preaching was Jesus Christ crucified for the salvation of all who believe. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was not something Paul mentioned in passing, or stated without detail, but clearly portrayed through words.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, Paul portrayed the crucifixion so vividly that the Galatians could see it in their minds. They could see his body bloodied from the lashing. They could see his nail-pierced hands and feet. They could see the pain in his eyes, and hear it in his voice as he cried out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).
They also saw the wickedness of their sin like never before, and the love of God who atoned for it. And against all odds, as they heard this remarkable message, they found themselves believing, and trusting Christ for their salvation. That is why Paul said elsewhere, we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).
This must also be the central message of the church. The preacher’s job is to tell God’s people what they already know. God Almighty came into the world to die on a cross for our sins. He bore the lash for us. He took the nails for the evil we have done, and bore the shame for the good we haven’t done. His love can never be doubted because he loved us unto death. Therefore we have peace with God (Romans 5:1), and everlasting life with him (John 5:24). That is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of the church.
Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.
Paul wanted to show the foolishness of trying to be saved by being good, so he paraphrased Moses who received God’s law from God himself. Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out (Deuteronomy 27:26), he wrote.
But even Moses could not keep the law of God perfectly. God told him to get water for his people by speaking to a rock. Instead, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff. Water came out, but Moses had to die because he broke God’s law (Numbers 20:1-12). Moses was better than most people, but the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), wrote Paul. It still is.
If you get pulled over for speeding, the police will not care that you have never stolen, or committed murder. You broke the law and are getting a ticket. That is how the law of God works. Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law. Apart from Jesus Christ, we are all in serious trouble. But thanks be to God, Jesus kept God’s law on our behalf.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17), he said. Jesus did the will of God perfectly every day of his life, so he could be a perfect sacrifice for our sins. So we 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 (Galatians 2:16b), wrote Paul.
Reflection and Review
Why do so many people think they are going to heaven by being good?
Why can’t our good deeds make up for our bad deeds?
How long can you go without sinning?