“But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God” (Galatians 2:17-19 ESV).
Galatians 2:17-19 offers a glimpse into the convoluted logic that some employ in seeking to avoid the need for salvation in Christ alone. For instance, one commentary identifies the inconsistencies hidden within the argument given to us in the passage quoted above…
“Paul’s opponents argued, however, that since justification by faith eliminated the Law, it encouraged sinful living. A person could believe in Christ for salvation and then do as he pleased, having no need to do good works. Paul hotly denied the charge, especially noting that this made Christ the promoter of sin. On the contrary, if a believer would return to the Law after trusting Christ alone for salvation, that Law would only demonstrate that he was a sinner, a lawbreaker.” (1)
Paul the Apostle likely encountered such questions from those who sought to stretch his teachings to ridiculous conclusions in order to discredit him and ease their discomfort over the implications of the gospel message. In addition to the question posed here in Galatians 2:17, the Biblical book of Romans records three similar challenges that surely confronted Paul during his missionary journeys…
“A person might say, ‘When I lie, it really gives him glory, because my lie shows God’s truth. So why am I judged a sinner?’ It would be the same to say, ‘We should do evil so that good will come’…” (Romans 3:7-8 NCV).
“Well then, shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness?” (Romans 6:1 TLB).
“What does all this mean? Does it mean we are free to sin, because we are ruled by God’s wonderful kindness and not by the Law? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:15 CEV).
Paul addressed those questions with similarly reasoned responses in each instance (see Romans 3:7-26, Romans 6:1-11 and Romans 6:15-23). But rather than follow such fallacious side roads, another commentator summarizes the real idea behind this passage…
“The freedom of the believer is not freedom to sin, but freedom from the curse the law pronounces on sin (3:10–14; 5:1, 13). In this context, Paul also has in view believers’ freedom, under the new covenant, from aspects of the law of Moses such as circumcision and the dietary laws, which set ancient Israel apart from the nations.” (2)
(1) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary [p.595]
(2) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2076). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.