The difference justification makes (Galatians 2 v 17-21)

Explore God's Word Daily
Explore God's Word Daily
2011 1 Dec

What difference does knowing you are justified by faith make? In this passage Paul deals with the objection that it actually has a negative effect: and then he shows us the wonderful change that being accepted by God produces.

The objection
Read Galatians 2:17

Verse 17 is a difficult verse…

• What will, sooner or later, become clear about people who are “justified in Christ” (v 17)?

So doesn’t believing I’m justified by Christ, not by keeping the law, encourage me to break the law, to sin?!

• What's Paul's rather curt answer (v 17)?!

Verse 18 is another tricky sentence! It could mean: “If someone keeps on with the same lifestyle after receiving Christ, it proves they are using the gospel as an excuse to keep disobeying God and doing what they want.” It's easy to see why someone who looked to the law for justification might worry that being justified without the law will remove any motivation
to live for God by keeping that law.

Paul’s answer
Read Galatians 2:19

• What does Paul say he's dead to now (v 19)?
• So what is he now able to do (v 19)?
• Where did the old Paul, who was obeying the law to try to gain justification, die (v 20)?

Paul is saying he never really lived for God when he was trying to save himself through obedience to the law. He was being very moral and good, but it was all done for Paul, not for God. Now that he is justified and accepted, Paul has a new
motive for obedience that is far more wholesome and powerful. He wants simply to live for the One “who loved me
and gave himself for me” (v 20).


This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from the good book company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore56 when you check out to get the current quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "my bible" at

more bible reading plans

So, Paul's answer is this: justification by God in Jesus gives a Christian a new and far stronger motive for obeying God than trying to be justified by works ever could.

A way of life
Read Galatians 2:21

Paul was saved initially by God's grace in Christ.

• What does he know he must never do as he seeks to continue as a Christian?
• If he could now merit justification, what would that mean about the cross? Why?

Christ will do everything for you, or nothing. You cannot combine your merit
and God's grace.
• So, which is it for you? Does Jesus' death mean everything or nothing to you?
• Look back at Galatians 2:11. Which verse is most special to you? Take some time to memorise it now.