Keeping the Law is hard work – IT WASN’T JUST JESUS THAT DIED
Galatians 2:19–21 (NLT) 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
Keeping the law is hard work. Not that I’m an avid law breaker, but… That’s why I use cruise control when I drive. Everywhere, in town, on the highway, going to the office. It regulates my speed and prevents me from receiving an infringement notice along with the accompanying fine. So far, I have a clean slate in South Australia. Not so in Victoria. That crew would book their mother. My last offence was for speeding. Again. At some ridiculous hour of the dark side of morning and kilometers from anywhere.
Like I said, keeping the law is hard work. The Apostle Paul found it hard work as well. His learned experience was that “when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me.” Just a word of clarification, the term ‘law’ here refers to a body of teaching in the Old Testament, probably Deuteronomy and Leviticus, if not the whole Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible written by Moses). To certain Jews, obedience to the law meant being counted righteous before God.
The background to this discussion is v11: “But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.” (See Acts 15:1,35) What followed was a stinging rebuke. Peter, and even Barnabas, had been eating with the Gentiles till some of the circumcision party (vs 12 see Acts 11:2) visited, at which point he withdrew or separated himself from the Gentiles. This was a public scandal that resulted in a public rebuke from Paul because ‘their conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel’ (vs 14).
Here’s the link for us as we approach Easter. Peter and the ‘other Jewish believer’ including Barnabas were by their actions denying the truth that on the basis of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ both Jew and Gentile alike who believe are accepted equally by God, or ‘declared righteous’ – right with God (opposite of ‘to condemn’). ‘For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die’ (v 21).
So in Paul’s experience, the harder he tried to be ‘declared righteous’ (right with God) by keeping the law, the more it condemned him. Therefore, Paul stopped trying to meet all its requirements – so that he might live for God. Death to the law, live for God, because Christ lives in him (v 20). This is the life of faith: ‘So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (v 20).
Like I said, keeping the law is hard work. Trust Christ instead.