As we have seen, Paul is utterly astonished at how quickly the church has been sucked into wrong teaching. Perhaps these men from Jerusalem were very charismatic teachers. Here are some definitions that might help you avoid being deceived someday:
justification: To be declared or counted as righteous.
righteous:To be perfect.
righteousness:To live in a state of perfection.
Look at how Paul uses these terms to refute the wrong teaching of the people from Jerusalem. Remember, they are saying that one can live forever if one believes that Jesus is the Savior and Lord AND just keeps the Jewish traditions of diet and circumcision. Paul , a Jew himself, is horrified:
…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to 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).
To insert the above definitions:
“We know that a person is not declared perfect by keeping the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be declared perfect by faith in Christ and not by works of the law,….because by works of the law no one will be declared perfect.”
In other words, since no one can keep the law perfectly, no one can earn eternal life. This is the reason Paul is so adamantly opposed to adding anything to faith. Anything added, like diet or circumcision, would have to be kept perfectly. It is obvious to each of us that will not work! When was the last time you even kept to your weightloss program? If perfection is required by the very nature of God, then it has to be given us.
Israel’s history certainly shows us an example of failure to obtain perfection through eating certain foods, going through prescribed rituals. The Ten Commandments showed them the same thing; no matter how hard they tried, there would also be some way they failed. Jesus said that even to look at another woman with desire was to commit adultry in the heart. “Why restore a system like this again?” he asks. It was designed to show all of us our need for a Savior since no one could keep the law perfectly. Don’t tack on anything to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, Paul was saying. It was God’s plan all along to provide a Savior who would sacrifice himself so we could, through faith, be declared perfect enough to be set apart by God, to live for Him here, and know Him eternally.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2:20-2l).
Once this doctrine becomes clear to us, our hearts sing with Charles Wesley,
Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Tis mercy all! Immense and free! for, O my God it found out me. (And Can It Be by Charles Wesley)
Ask God to stir up your heart toward him so that you can believe him and love him and serve him more fervently, depending on him to declare you acceptable in the Day of Judgment.