“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).
The final verse of Galatians chapter two presents us with the logical conclusion to the argument that Paul the Apostle has developed over the course of this chapter. That argument can be summarized in the following manner: if someone could be made right with God through his or her own personal effort, then Jesus’ death on the cross was meaningless and ineffective.
This is important to remember, especially for those who may claim to ” have their own way” of following God. The problem is that no one has “their own way” of following God. You see, we cannot approach God on our terms; we must approach God on His terms- and His terms are defined in 1 Timothy 3:16: “…there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…”
If we wish to be accepted by God, we must approach Him through the Mediator He has established- Jesus Christ. Any attempt to approach God in another fashion means that Jesus’ sacrificial death was something that was unnecessary and useless. One source explains this concept in greater detail…
“This is the theological climax of Paul’s rejection of the Judaizers’ emphasis on human performance. If human actions could bring right standing with God, then there was no need for Jesus to die! However, both (1) the OT, especially Judges and the history of Israel (cf. Nehemiah 9) and (2) the current experiences of diligent religionists such as Paul, show humanity’s inability to obey and conform to God’s covenant.
The Old Covenant, instead of bringing life, brought death and condemnation (cf. Galatians 3). The New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) brings life as a gracious gift from a loving God by giving believing, fallen mankind a new heart, new mind, new spirit! This gift is only possibly through the sacrificial work of Christ. He fulfilled the Law! He restores the breach of fellowship (i.e., the damaged image of God in humanity from Genesis 3 has been repaired and restored!).” (1)
Because of this, Paul refused to nullify (or set aside) God’s grace expressed through Christ for that would have made Jesus’ sacrifice pointless and ineffectual.
So having started this chapter by relating some of his personal experiences, Paul the Apostle will go on to complete the transition to doctrinal teaching in the next chapter. He will do so by turning to the example of Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch and man of faith.
(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, Galatians 2 Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07A_02.html