Galatians 2:19-20 “Died to the Law” means obedience to the letter of the Law is no longer required.

SUMMARY

Paul wrote, “Through the Law I died to the Law.” Through the Law” means that the Scriptures foresaw that this would happen. “I died to the Law” means that Jewish Christians are “released from the Law” (Rom. 7:6) and now no longer have to serve “in oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6). In other words, strict obedience to the Law is no longer required. This is consistent with the entire trust of Galatians, namely that Gentile Christians do not have to be circumcised.

GALATIANS 2:19-20

2:19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST

These verses teach a mysterious unity between Christ and the believer:

      • I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20)
      • Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20)

The “In Christ” page discusses this unity. It concludes that Christ is the Vehicle through which we are saved.  He “gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4).  Without Christ, there would not have been any rescue.

DIED TO (THE LETTER OF) THE LAW

2:19-20 use death and new life as metaphors to explain the radical change in Paul’s life.  He previously lived subject to the Law, but he has now “died to the Law” (2:19).  He was “crucified with Christ” (2:20).  “Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live … I live by faith in the Son of God”.

Paul also uses the metaphor “died to the Law” in Romans 7:4, where it is explained as:

released from the Law … so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (7:6).

To die to the Law, therefore, means not to have to serve the “in oldness of the letter”.  In other words, strict obedience to the Law is no longer required.  This is consistent with the entire trust of Galatians, namely that Gentile Christians do not have to be circumcised. It is also confirmed by veiled implications in the two preceding verses that the Law is no longer applicable:

The question, “is Christ then a minister of sin?” (2:17) seems to indicate that Paul’s opponents argued that Paul’s teachings, namely that Gentile Christians do not have to observe the Law of Moses, imply that Christ is “a minister of sin”.

That which Paul “destroyed” (2:18) is “the barrier of the dividing wall” between Jew and Gentile, namely “the Law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15).

DIED THROUGH THE LAW

Through the Law,” Paul died to the law. This means that the Law itself predicted the death of the Law. This is a point that Paul often makes to support his teachings:

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Rom. 3:21).

… the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:1-2).

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU” (Gal. 3:8, quoting Gen. 12:3).

In the phrase “through the Law,” the “Law” is not limited to the law of commandments but refers to the Old Testament in general or the five books of Moses more specifically.  For instance, Romans 3:21 refers to the “Law and the Prophets”.  In that case, the “Law” is the five books of Moses.  And in Galatians 4:21 and following, Paul recalls the story of Abraham and his two wives from the “Law”.

CHRIST LIVES IN ME.

We are “in Christ”, but Paul also claims that “Christ lives in me” (2:20).  These are two different concepts.  To “have the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9) means that “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom. 8:9), which means to be “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18).  Created beings do not exist independently from their Creator.  We need God to continually sustain us. Sin has severed our link with God, but God wants to repair it.

In the “new heaven and … new earth” (Rev. 21:1) “God … will dwell among them (men), and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Rev. 21:3).  Perhaps that will be literally true, but perhaps it means that the invisible bond between the Creator and His creatures will be completely repaired, guiding man’s every thought and motive for good, because God is good.

GOD LOVED US.

The Son of God … loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).  Some people seem to think that Jesus loves His creatures, but the Father needs to be convinced by the death of His Son to forgive our sins.  However, 1:3-4 also says that “Jesus Christ … gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age”, but then adds “according to the will of our God and Father” (1:3-4).  John 3:16 is a well-known verse that says that the Father is the Driving Force of Love behind the Cross.  We should not think of Christ and the Father as different.  Christ said: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).  That the Word was willing to become a human being and even to allow His creatures to kill Him, because that was the only way that He could “rescue us from this present evil age”, indicates how much God loves the people He made.

TO: Galatians Table of Contents
TO: Summary of Galatians chapters 1 to 3
NEXT: Galatians 2:21

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