“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. (Gal. 2:19)
When Paul crucified his old self to live in Jesus he left the law behind. Jesus nailed that law to the cross and Paul sees himself (and all Jewish Christians) having died to the law. Because it was ineffectual in justifying those who tried to keep it, it was of no value. Paul traded a life of death under the law for a life of living in Jesus. He died to the law to live to God.
In another place, Paul brags about his position among the Jews. He boasted in his Jewish heritage and defended it with ardor. When he met Jesus on the road to Damascus all of that changed. He found that the law was not able to justify him before God and that only faith in Jesus could do that. This is a vital part of the gospel to Paul and he is defending that essence of the gospel with the same vigor he fought it.
Paul and Peter thought they were living to God under the law but the truth was in trying to earn their justification by works of the law they were really living for themselves. True, they were endeavoring to be moral and good just as the law required but in so doing they were obeying to get a reward. The motivation for keeping the law was selfish in that sense. It had an end result and that result was all self-motivated.
When the Jews left the law for Jesus they submitted to His death, burial, and resurrection. They went to the cross with Him crucifying their old life of sin and joined Him in a new life of righteousness. This was a life that was being lived for God and not for self since self could do nothing towards justification. God does it all. God offered himself as the sacrifice and cleansed the sinner of his sin and paid the penalty for sin itself.
The Jew was dead to the law, buried by baptism in the death of Jesus and then came out a resurrected new man to live for God. Now the works weren’t for justification but to honor God. God took away the sin of the world and reinstated mankind to the paradise where he began. The law was powerless to do that. Only God could and only God did.
It was hard for the Jews to leave the law they had been living under for generations. They struggled with the idea that it was a dead letter rather than a living word and because of that they fought against burying it and leaving it among the dead. But, having faith in the Christ was the only way to get grace and grace was the only thing that could save them. No act of the law, including circumcision, could obtain that grace. Paul’s statement here is meant to explain that he and his fellow Jews had to be dead to the law in order to be live to God.
Just like the Jews had to choose which God they would serve when they left Egypt, Paul is not explaining that they must choose between a temporary law and a permanent covenant with God. The Jews wanted to keep some of both and Paul is saying no to that. Law or God, death or life, no justification or justification and so on are the choices the Jewish Christians had.
Task for Today: You must choose as well. Which gospel will you obey, one given by men or one preached by Paul? His gospel requires you to have faithful trust in Jesus which leads to repentance of the old life, speaking the name of Jesus as Lord, and then being baptized into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. That will result in the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. How can you go wrong? Put to death the law of men and live to the truth of God.