by Dr. Robert R. Seyda



This then leads to another question: “How can someone die to the Law through the Law?” Ryken says it may make more sense if Paul died to the Law so he might live for God. Instead, he declares that it was the Law itself that persuaded him to abandon the law as though he died. This could mean that Paul saw the futility of the Law in providing justification before God and salvation for the punishment due to him as a lawbreaker and thus a sinner.[1] It wouldn’t make sense for the Law to die because those commandments were meant to last forever. So, it dawned on Paul that the Law could not save him, all it could do was condemn him. Ryken then quotes from the writings of the Scottish Puritan minister John Brown (1784-1858), who said that the sinner must, therefore, cease to expect justification and salvation by obedience its requirements. I like what else John Brown says; when it comes to God’s grand manifestation of His free sovereign love as the way to salvation through the sacrifice of the Anointed One and faith in the Gospel, “If we act in such a way as to lead to the implication that this display of God’s love and Grace on the cross was either unnecessary or insufficient for its avowed purpose,” we are frustrating the Grace of God.[2] Since the Law cannot promise life it is only threatening sinners with death. So, it is not surprising that Paul decided to declare himself dead to the Law.[3]

Duncan Hester makes the point that when we frustrate the Grace of God, we are also frustrating the Will of God. It is a total waste of the blood of the Lamb of God poured out for sinners such as we. Paul wanted the Judaizers to know that he gave up on the Law, not the Grace of God. To waste God’s Grace would be to make everything the Anointed One did for us nothing more than rubbish. Such a thought should not only have been unthinkable for the Apostle Paul but for us as well.[4]

Don Garlington observes that for the Jews, the Torah was the embodiment of God’s Grace. Therefore, by making a shipwreck of the Torah Paul was frustrating the Grace of God. But, says Garlington, this is precisely what Paul does not do, because “if righteousness is through the law, then the Anointed One died for no purpose.” Paul’s vocabulary now shifts from “grace” to “righteousness” because “righteousness” is the outcome of “grace.” If God’s grace represents His giving of Himself to His people in His election and nourishment of them, then Israel’s expected response should be righteousness and being faithful to the terms of the covenant relationship established at Sinai. Righteousness, therefore, speaks of Israel’s obligations and privileges under the law. This being so, Paul’s logic is clear enough: if their relationship with God is unchanged by the coming of the Messiah, then the death of the Anointed One is of “no purpose,” because of Paul’s use of the Greek adjective dōrean, (“in vain” KJV). Because the Jews believed that the Sinai covenant made every provision for salvation and timeless life needed why switch? Therefore, God’s people might as well continue under that covenant. But as we see, Paul objected to such thinking vigorously by arguing from both history and prophecy.[5]

For most of us, it is so hard to shake off the addiction of getting applause and compliments by being good, doing what’s right, and pleasing those in authority in order to be favored, treated special, and loved. Truth is, many of us were raised that way. From infancy we were told by our parents, “Mommy will love you if you drink your milk from a glass; daddy will love you if you sit there nice and quiet and let him watch TV; mommy will love you if you keep your room clean; daddy will love you if you get good grades in school.” The list is almost endless. Without being conscious of it, we were trained to “earn love.”

Marriages are often built on this same platform. So, it is no surprise that some churches also adopted this same scale for rewarding those who are faithful and hard working. That’s why it seems so hard to accept the love of God as a “gift.” Truth is, we can’t earn it, merit it, beg for it, bargain for it, or receive it as an award just for participating. This seemed to be one of the sticking points among the Jewish believers. They worked their whole lives to merit God’s love; how could they now be convinced they didn’t need to keep earning it anymore? As the contextual paraphrase puts this verse: “Therefore, I do not reject God’s free offer of a guiltless and righteous standing with Him based on the Anointed One’s death and by trying to obey His Law. For if we could be guiltless and righteous by obeying His Law, then the Anointed One’s death was utterly useless.”[6]

God wants to help us understand that doing all we do – such as reading the Bible, praying, going to church, worshiping, serving in the congregation, and volunteering for church ministries should not be intended to make Him love us more and bless us more. He wants us to do it because we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength for setting us free from sin’s bondage. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!” Those who worship Him will worship Him in spirit and in truth! God loves us because of who we are in the Anointed One, we don’t need to earn it. Ask yourself honestly, how much of your Christian life and activities are performed because you believe that God will love you more because you are being so good? Would you accept this instead: “Everything you do for God is intended to honor Him and glorify Him, not to please Him?” As Paul told the believers in Rome: “He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?”[7]

Early church writer Victorinus gives us a well-constructed summary by saying that Paul reached a conclusion about the errors of the Galatians and those who add the legality of Judaism to the grace of Christianity. It is obvious that if justice is through the Law, the Anointed One died for nothing. However, if the Anointed One died because justification does not depend on the Law then we ought to follow the Anointed One and Him alone. If after the coming of the Anointed One, however, we still believe that we are justified through good works, then the Anointed One did not die on our account but died in vain – that is, died for no reason. To believe in the Anointed One and follow the works of the Law is inconsistent and self-contradictory. Since the Law consistently failed to justify humankind on the basis of its works, the Anointed One came, so that there would be justification for humankind by His death. To return now to the Law after faith in the Anointed One will make it seem as though the Anointed One died in vain and achieved nothing for us, as the Law was already supposedly doing so. But in fact, the Law was not doing it, and that is why the Anointed One came to do it Himself. Therefore, the Anointed One did not die in vain; rather, through the Anointed One Himself, justification came to us. If this is the case, there is no justice on the basis of the works of the Law. So, we might as well die to the Law as a means of salvation.[8] However, once justified by the work of the Anointed One on the cross, then the Law becomes a guideline for following Him in a way that is pleasing to Him.


[1] See Romans 7:9-11

[2] John Brown: An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Published by William Oliphant and Sons, Edinburgh, 1853, p.98

[3] Ryken, Philip Graham: op cit., Kindle Location 1300-1313

[4] Duncan Heaster: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit, Kindle Location 596-602), Kindle Edition.

[5] Don Garlington: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.,

[6] Aiyer, Ramsey, The Contextual Bible Galatians, loc. cit., p. 88

[7] Romans 8:2

[8] Marius Victorinus, Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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