“We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Galatians 2:15-16 [NASB]
Paul’s ministry extended to the non-Jews within the Roman Empire. Prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus, he persecuted any person who followed Jesus. Paul taught strict adherence to the Laws of God and His teachings given to Moses and to His prophets and priests. With his conversion to Christianity, Paul’s heart changed to care for the Gentiles – people who were not Jews by birth.
In Galatians, a letter written to the Christians in Galatia (part of current day Turkey), Paul taught against men who said Gentile Christians must become Jews by law before they could be valid Christ followers. Those men meant Gentile Christian men had to be circumcised. In Galatians 2, Paul began his teaching against the need to become a Jew before becoming a Christian.
Paul, in Galatians 2:15-16, explained he, Barnabas, and the other Jewish-background Christians with him were Jews by nature – by birth. Even they, though Jewish by nature, God’s chosen people, did not become Christians by the works of the Law God gave them by which to live. God’s laws led the Jews to God to stay in relationship with Him, but did not make them clean from sin. If that were so, they would not have offered animal sacrifices repeatedly over the years.
Paul said, “A man is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus.” He taught that obeying God’s Law through actions did not make a person clean from sin – disobedience to God. Only faith in Christ Jesus justified them – made them innocent and guiltless before God.
If a man such as Paul – born a Jew, in the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eight day according to God’s Law, trained in the laws of God to be a priest and a chief Pharisee – could not receive acquittal/absolution from guilt and sin by being obedient to the laws of God, then the Law did not give salvation. Paul said even he believed in Christ Jesus so that he would be justified (made just, innocent, and guiltless) by Christ and not by the works of the Law. The works of the Law do not give justification – being made right in God’s eyes.
No actions or works we can do will ever be able to absolve our bad/sinful actions. We cannot make ourselves right before God. Even living by the laws of God from the Old Testament cannot remove our sin and guilt so that we can be in the presence of the righteous and holy God. We must each decide if we will believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God whose death and resurrection provides reparation for our sins. Belief is a choice and a gift. It is a choice in that we each must choose to believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It is a gift in that God provides faith for us to accept it. Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so no one may boast.” Faith is a gift from God according to 1 Corinthians 12:9. Peter said this, too, in 2 Peter 1:1.
Now, understanding faith is a gift of God as grace (God’s unmerited favor) toward you, do you choose to believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do you choose to accept God’s gift of faith to believe in His Son and the salvation He provides for your sins? By God’s grace, He chose you to be His son or daughter by the expense of His Son’s life. He loves you that much. John 3:16 says that, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
God gave us free will to determine our own minds. We have a choice.
Will you choose to believe?