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 (2:14)

14 When I saw that they were not walking in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” -Galatians 2:14 BSB

When Paul saw Peter, Barnabas, see verse 13, and the others deviating from the truth through their hypocrisy, Paul decided to rebuke Peter in the presence of the believers he was leading astray. Paul did it that way because Peter was becoming their stumbling block, and they had to know it.

Paul also understood that the Gentile believers are not supposed to go back to the Law like the Jews. The Law of Moses points to Jesus Christ, as the Law cannot make anyone righteous before a holy God.

Any believer who thinks that they have to be like a Jew to get closer to the Lord has misunderstood the purpose of the Law. The Law was to show everyone that they have broken God’s Law and are not living according to His standard. As a matter of fact, no one can keep God’s holy standard. They are too lofty. For starters, we are born in sin, and the moment we fall into one sin, we become Lawbreakers.

10 Whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. -James 2:10 BSB

Verse By Verse Through Galatians (2:4)

4 This issue arose because some false brothers had come in under false pretenses to spy on our freedom in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us. -Galatians 2:4 BSB

The phrase “This issue” is about making believers go back to the Law of Moses to observe it and keep it. See verse 3 and its commentary.

What makes “some false brothers” is when they add to God’s Word, which changes it to say something other than what God said, and preaches it to others as the truth.

False teachers came to the Galatians and pretended to believe in sound teachings like salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), not revealing to them that, in reality, they hold to work-based salvation. They teach that a person needs to keep the Law, which is works, plus believe in Jesus Christ to get saved. Read Galatians 3:1-2.

Paul understood that Satan is the one who influences false teachers, see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, to enslave believers by entrapping them, teaching them to keep the Law, which makes them forsake the finished work of the cross, see Galatians 5:1-4. The cross—Jesus, who died for our sins (John 3:16, Romans 5:6-9), was to show us that our good works cannot atone for our sins and make us right in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:11). Only by accepting the gift that God offers through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into our hearts by faith in Him can we have all of our sins forgiven.