9d. Excursus: Additional “Tough Phrasing” (covers 2:19, 21)
*The audio recording of this podcast represents the last class in a semester. The first half of the audio recorded a refresher discussion that is out of sequence with the larger teaching.
2:19 - For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Comments: At first blush this verse seems to spell the end of any Torah relevance for the apostle. But a careful reading will reveal its true meaning. The verse starts out with the word “for” (Greek= gar) a conjunction indicating that it is linked to a previous argument. In this case, Paul’s “for” represents an answer to the “if” clause introduced in verse 17 ("If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners..."). The key to understanding verse 19 is in answering exactly how we as individuals in verse 17 come to be made aware that “we ourselves are sinners”). Prior to his salvation experience Sha'ul was blinded to his true condition: dead in trespasses and sin. However, now that the Spirit has taken up residence within him, via the sacrificial death of Yeshua, he can look back to how the Torah played a part in bringing him to this newfound revelation about himself. The Torah, working in concert with the Spirit of God, revealed sin for what it was: violation of God’s righteous standard. Thus, through the Torah—that is, through its proper function of revealing and condemning sin, the individual is brought to the goal of the Torah, namely the revelation of the Messiah himself. Once faced with the choice to remain in sin or be set free by the power of the Blood, Paul confesses that he “died” to his old self and was consequently made alive in the newness that is accredited to those who choose life!
But Paul says that he died to Torah. What does he mean by such a statement? Are we to assume that in Yeshua Paul is now somehow dead to obedience to the Torah? May it never be! Simply put, he now realizes that his new life in the Spirit is a life to be lived without the fear of being condemned as a sinner by the very Torah he previously thought he was upholding! The Torah has a properly installed built-in function of sentencing sinners to become the object of HaShem’s punishment and ultimate rejection, a rejection that will result in death if the person never chooses the Messiah of life. Paul is teaching the Galatians that his choice of Yeshua is to be understood as a death of self and the former life that Torah condemned in favor of a new life of serving God through the Spirit, a choice brought on by the revelation of Messiah found within the very pages of the Torah itself! Such freedom in Messiah does not liberate one from Torah, rather, such freedom liberates one to be able to walk into Torah as properly assisted and seen from God’s perspective!
2:21 - I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
Comments: Bringing his arguments of the previous verses, and indeed the chapter as we have it, to a close, Paul again reinforces the truth that the “righteousness of God” is attained for an individual at Christ’s expense and not through the rubrics of a man-made conversion ceremony (read here as “through the law”). The “law” in question is the Oral Tradition that only Isra'el can inherit blessings in the World to Come, a belief formerly held to by the apostle himself. To be sure, if being declared righteous (understood to be primarily forensic, but including behavioral as well) could be achieved via the flesh (that is, being born Jewish or converting to Judaism) then truly what need would there be for a Messiah to come and provide it later for anyone? Paul would have the reader to understand that such righteousness is altogether outside of human achievement and therefore must be procured by surrendering to the power of the Anointed One of God.