Justification by Faith
In verse 15, Paul writes, "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners" Paul seems to be telling his gentile reader that the Torah has no bearing on their salvation. I feel that he purposely or inadvertently gives the law merit more merit than intended by suggesting that Jews are not sinners because they received the law. He draws a distinction between himself and "the gentile sinners" yet he is telling his audience that the ways, some of which are still a part of his own way of life, are irrelevant. He seems to almost make a separation of culture and religion. He seems to be saying that the rectitude of the Jews dates from birth, because the Jewish religion is a part of their culture. Peter claims to live up to the requirements of the Law. He had circumcision, the covenant, the promises, the apostleship. But in spite of his advantages as a Jew he still lets readers know that the law alone cannot save them.
Verse 16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ." this is one of the clearest definitions in Scripture regarding the way in which we can become justified. Here in Galatians 2:16, justification deals with the fact that we cannot be justified—or given good standing before God—through our obedience to the Law of Moses. According to Paul, it must be given to us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ.
Verse 16 "Even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by doing the works of the law."
The later part of verse 16 shows how much Paul has dedicated his work to the concept of justification by faith. Some would say that the reason for his adamant insistance of faith in Christ is related to his vision on the way to Damascus. It was such an incredible experience that he felt that every one needed to know that it was by faith alone that they could be justified. As a devout Jew he had followed the Law his entire life and felt it important that people know that in spite of his doing all the works of the Torah he was not justified before his vision.
Verse 17." But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are
found sinners; is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid."
Some critics of this passage would argue that there are two sets of behavior standards given for Christian and Jews. In order to obtain salvation in Jewish faith one must follow the rule of like and ceremony. In order that a Christian obtain salvation they must only believe in Christ. Some were worried that this new religion would be saturated by people who wanted to commit acts against the law and still be saved because they professed to believe in Christ. The concept of grace and mercy was a foreign one and harsh judgment was a reality of the day. The other part of this verse was, is Christ a master of sin?