“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Gal. 2:21)
There it is. Grace or law, take your pick. Law here may involve any process by which the sinner attempts to win justification by any means other than the free gift of grace. The good news as preached by Paul was the news of salvation by grace. The concept of justification by faith by which Paul had formerly lived and the Galatians were now returning to was based on animal sacrifices. The gospel of grace was based on the sacrifice of the Son of God, who thus became the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world.
How could grace be invalidated? Paul is saying that it could happen, and in fact, if someone went back to justification by the law then it would nullify the gift of grace and the death of Jesus. But why would someone want to cancel out the gift of Jesus? The Christ, as presented in the true gospel is the redemptive gift of God to the world and it certainly makes no sense to reject God’s gift.
There are two possibilities for Paul and the Galatia Jews. One is to trust in the law of Moses and the other is to trust in the death of Jesus. If the law has the power to justify men from sin then Jesus died for no reason. Since Jesus came to bring God’s grace through his death on the cross, if his death was unnecessary then the grace He brought was also unnecessary. The law would then make the grace of Jesus void.
In order for the grace of Jesus to be effective in the justification of mankind, the law would need to be nullified. Indeed, that is exactly what happened when Jesus was fastened to the cross. We read in Col. 2:14, “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This action opened the way for Jews and Gentiles to be justified by the blood of Christ rather than the blood of bulls and goats, which the Hebrew writer said could never take away sins (10:3, 4).
If justification is sought through the law then the entire law must be kept. Neither the Galatians nor modern day Christians can pick and choose from the law. There is no some law and some grace. It’s either animal blood or Christ’s blood. If you keep any law you must keep all the law and that has been proved an impossibility. God made sure of that by destroying the Jewish temple where sacrifices for sin were made. He established a new temple in the hearts of Christians and the church. Some today want to keep the Ten Commandments and some want to keep the Sabbath law and so forth. For the Christian, its grace or nothing. We must choose between the law and Jesus, between works under the law or grace from Christ.
Task for Today: Your salvation is dependent on whether you choose to work it out under the old law or accept the grace given in Jesus. Don’t try to mix them. As a Christian, you are a priest and a temple. There is no need for works of the law. The only works to be done by Christians are the good works God created us for. The works are to serve others, not save ourselves. You are saved by grace or you aren’t saved.