“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Galatians 2:16
We read in this section of scripture an account from Paul in a confrontation that He had some time earlier with the Apostle Peter in Antioch. You see, Peter was having no problem eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles in Antioch. The other Jewish believers living there were in accord with Peter’s actions.
But then, the Judaizers came, pretending to be sent from James in Jerusalem. They had lied, giving false claims of support from the apostles. (Remember, Peter had already given up all Mosaic ceremony (Acts. 10:9-22)) And James, at times, held to only some of it (Acts 21:18-26).
So Peter withdrew and separated himself from eating with the Judaizers as he had previously done, and was now eating with these Judaizers instead. You see he was afraid of losing popularity with the legalistic Judaizers segment of people in the church….even though they were self-righteous hypocrites promoting a heretical doctrine.
Now to the Apostle Paul, this was just too much. Even Paul’s companion, Barnabas was carried away with this hypocrisy. Thus Paul confronts them and tells them that by their hypocritical actions they were not behaving “uprightly” in alignment with God’s word.
Three times he declares that salvation is only through faith in Jesus Christ and not by law. The first is general: “a man is not justified”; the second is personal: “we might be justified”; and the third is universal: “no flesh shall be justified”. Now this term, “justified”, is a word a judge would use describing that a person accused of being guilty is innocent…..not guilty before the law. And throughout the Scripture it refers to God declaring a sinner not guilty and fully righteous before Him by imputing to him the divine righteousness of Christ and imputing the man’s sins to his sinless Savior for punishment.
And, the law only served as a mirror to reveal sin, not a cure for it. There’s no way that salvation comes to any man by merely attempting to keep the law, because the root of sinfulness rests in the fallenness of man’s heart.