Law Versus Grace


Galatians 2:14-21 NKJV


As mentioned before, Paul’s letter to the Galatians is to strongly emphasize that we are Justified in God’s sight solely by His grace through faith.

1. We do not gain a right standing before God on the basis of obeying the law.

2 Paul tells us in Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us …”


Now, we saw in this chapter, verses 1-10, that Paul met with the Jerusalem Council concerning the rite of circumcision.

The question: Did the Gentiles have to be circumcised or not?

The meeting was sort of a standoff – a compromise at best.

The Jewish Christians would keep on living like the Jews by observing the law of circumcision – but the Gentile would be free of this practice.

Common sense tells you that this kind of agreement could not go on for long before something happened to cause it to come to a head, because if left unchecked it would produce two classes of Christians.

Well, that happened when Peter came to Antioch and lived with the Gentiles, and he lived as the Gentiles.

1. He ate with them – and behaved as they did – he accepted them as they were – he had no problem whatsoever with them and the way they worshiped.

2. But then, the Jews came to town, and Peter, being afraid of what his fellow Jews might think of him, deserted the camp of the Gentiles and went over to the camp of the Jews.

3. He made a 180 degree turn in his behavior toward the Gentiles.

What made it so bad was that Peter knew better because of his vision in Acts 10:9-16

Peter was acting contrary to what God had taught him in the vision.


In the family of God there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. (See Gal. 3:28)

This was the whole argument of Paul when he challenged Peter to his face.

Verse 14 – “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”


In Paul’s mind Peter was being the Hypocrite.

One thing about Paul, he was always straightforward regarding the truth of the Gospel.

1. He confronted Peter “before them all.”

Neither did Paul resort to easy language.

2. He carefully chose his words and intentionally addressed them to Peter. “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like the Jews?”

3. Then in verse 16, he says, “a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Paul tells Peter that he is stirring up the water and making it muddy – he is making it hard to see the truth – he is confusing the issue for both the Jews and the Greeks.

From all this we can learn some valuable truths for ourselves as believers today. 

We can learn that:

1.  We are all accountable to one another.

As Christians we are family, and what one member does affects all the members, whether good or evil.

A bad apple will affect the whole bushel, whether it be a family, a marriage, a Bible study or the whole church.

2.  Our commitment to truth must be more than intellectual – it must be applied into our lives

What good does it do to know the truth if we are going to live by the truth!

3.  None of us as Christians are exempt from upholding a life standard marked by God’s holiness.

For most Christians this is not a matter of not knowing how to live – it is a matter of choosing to live in the way we know we ought to live.

That was a terrible thing that Peter did, and especially so since Peter was a leader in the Church.


Verse 15“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,”

1. We must understand what “sinners of the Gentiles” mean.

When a Jew spoke of “sinners of the Gentiles” he is not speaking of moral qualities, but strictly of observance of the law.

According to the Jewish mindset, if a Gentile doesn’t observe all the Jewish rituals he is a sinner.


A Look At Justification:  16


1.  Because we are all sinners.

Rom. 3:10. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one”

Rom. 3:19, “… all the world may become guilty before God.”

Rom. 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory God”

Rom. 6:23, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”

Gal. 3:10-11, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’” 

11. “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for, ‘the just shall live by faith.”

Rom. 8:1 tells us that “There is … no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus …” We have been Justified!



What is Justification?

1. Justification is an act – not a process.

It is an act of God – not the result of man’s character or works. (Rom. 8:33, “It is God who justifies.”)

One person is not more justified than another. The Preacher in the Pulpit is no more Justified than the Person in the Pew.

2. Justification is not a pardon.

a. A pardon will set you free but it doesn’t satisfy the penal sanction of the law.

b. Justification  means that the sinner is not only set free, but that the just demands of God’s holy law is satisfied.

c. A Pardon leaves a record – Justification does not leave a record.

Why some people try to be justifies by works.

It appeals to many because:

1. It ministers to their pride.

2. Instead of giving praises to God – works seeks praises from God.

Verse 17 – “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!.

So Paul is saying to Peter, “If I eat the way the Gentiles eat – would that make me a sinner.” The answer is “Of Course not.”

Paul and Peter agreed a long time ago that no amount of observing the law can make a person right with God because Justification comes by Grace only.

Paul could tell Peter, “Remember what Jesus taught you. He did not teach you that you are saved by observing the law.”

1. That was the problem He had with the Pharisees.

2. Jesus taught Peter that one is saved by trusting in Him alone.

In other words, Peter, since Jesus told you in Acts 10:9-16 that observing the law did not save you, and that you were free to eat all things like the Gentiles eat – are you saying that Christ taught you how to become a sinner!

3. Justification cannot be both ways – it has to be either works or grace.

I like grace much better, don’t you?

Verses 18-19

18.“For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor”. 

Here, Paul reinforces his thought of “certainly not!” in the previous verse.

Paul is saying that if I go back and rebuild those things (the old system), I make myself guilty, “I  make myself a transgressor.”

19. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.

Paul, in saying that he is dead to the law is not saying that he is lawless, but that he has ceased to have any relation to it so that it has no further claim or control over him.

1. All the law did was to teach him the he was a sinner and was helpless to anything about it, for no can keep all its requirements.

2. The law exercises a double power over us, for it teaches us that we are sinners and then condemns and punishes us for being one.

3. Jesus Christ lived under and fully obeyed all aspects of the law.

Therefore, He, alone, is fully able to assume the guilt and penalty which the human race incurred for having violated the law.

4. Jesus Christ, therefore, dying under the law, satisfied all the law’s requirements, thus He passed out of the realm of the law where its legalistic aspect had control over Him.

5. With that thought in mind we turn our thoughts to the believer.

All believers are identified with Christ in His death and in His resurrection.

Therefore, since we have died with Christ and are in Christ, we, too, have passed out of the realm of the law in respect to its legalistic aspects.

Works Makes The Atonement of Christ Unnecessary. 

See verse 21, “I do not set aside the grace of God: for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

1. “set aside” is from the Gr. word “Ath-et-eh-o” which means “to make void; to nullify, to frustrate, to reject, or to despise.” To be saved, works and grace can never mix.

Dr. Wuest says, “There is no salvation for the sinner who depends in the least upon good works as a means of acceptance with God.”

2. “in vain” – means without cause.


If a person could be saved by works, then Christ died needlessly.

1. The angels in heaven would no longer have reason to rejoice if a sinner could get saved by works.

2. Self-righteousness and /or works would negate and make void the grace and mercy of God.

3 Works makes the death of Christ on the cross unnecessary.

4. Works would hush all the praises in heaven that are directed to Jesus. (Rev. 5:9, 11)

“And they sang a new song, saying: you are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood …”

And the angels said with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honour and glory and blessing!”

Dr. Jerry Vines says “no where in the Bible can you find anyone standing with the Redeemed and proclaiming “Unto me be the glory – I did it – I kept the commandments – I never transgressed – I am here because I did it.”

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