Verse By Verse Through Galatians (2:17)

17 But if, while we seek to be justified in Christ, we ourselves are found to be sinners, does that make Christ a minister of sin? Certainly not! -Galatians 2:17 BSB

Paul argues that people are made righteous in God’s eyes apart from the Law of Moses. Righteousness cannot come from the Law because the Law acts as a mirror, only showing the individual’s sinful condition. However, by placing our faith in Jesus and accepting what He did for us on the cross, He gives us His righteousness, while the Law, made of stone, cannot do that.

Paul asked a rhetorical question: if a person places their faith in Jesus Christ with the understanding that we are sinners and must abandon the Law to receive the righteousness that comes from faith in Christ, does that suggest Christ is leading us into sin since we are no longer under the Law? His answer is a resounding no. A person’s true conversion does not come through an outward adherence but from within, the heart, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The Judaizers (Christians who bond themselves to the Law, see Acts 15:1), at the time of Paul—who can be found even today—were teaching the churches that salvation is obtained by having faith in Jesus Christ and keeping the Law. They were probably advocating that those who have abandoned the Law for faith in Jesus alone are still living in sin, as they no longer adhere to the Law, specifically, circumcision. However, Paul makes it clear in Galatians 5:2-4 that those who want to revert to the Law are forfeiting their faith in Christ.

Verse By Verse Through Galatians (2:16)

16 know that a man is not justified by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. -Galatians 2:16 BSB

The word “justified” means that a person has been made right in God’s eyes, from being a sinner to being righteous.

The purpose of the law is to show how far we fall from God’s standard of righteousness. Only by believing and accepting what Jesus did for us on the cross and His resurrection can our sins be forgiven.

Some Jews following Jesus asked Him what works God required of them. In John 6:29, Jesus answered them like this: “Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”  

With much clarity, Paul tells the Galatians, those who are going back to the law, that the only way to have our sins forgiven is by receiving Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus is the only one who lived His life on earth without sinning once and kept the whole law. The moment we put our trust in Jesus Christ, He credits us with His righteousness, and God looks at us as if we kept the whole law, even though we didn’t. If anyone thinks that someone can keep the law from childhood to one’s death, it shows a lack of biblical understanding because the moment you sin once, you have become a lawbreaker.

It also reveals that the church in Galatia was under great deception, and many were falling into Satan’s trap, see Galatians 5:2-4.

Verse By Verse Through Galatians (2:15)

15 We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile “sinners” -Galatians 2:15 BSB

A person born in a Jewish family had a high probability of knowing and worshiping the true God, Yahweh—the Creator of heaven and earth.

6 These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. -Deuteronomy 6:6-9 BSB

Gentiles, on the other hand, had a tremendous disadvantage compared to Jews because almost all of them were born into pagan families who worshiped false deities. That’s why Gentiles were called, in those times, sinners.

Paganism is the worship of idols and demons and also participating in offering their children up to their false gods in sacrificial rituals. Paganism is another way to say witchcraft. The practice of paganism continues to this day with modern terms like abortion, to give one example.