Galatians 2:17-20 “If while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a law-breaker. For through the law I died to the law that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
If God freely forgives our sins, if he justifies us without requiring us to keep the law as a condition of saving us, doesn’t that promote sin?
The same question occurred to Paul. But just because Jesus has forgiven us and God has said we are not guilty doesn’t make them responsible if we go out and sin again. We are the ones rebuilding sin in our lives. We are the lawbreakers. In practice, forgiveness has the opposite effect upon us. It is not only the answer for sins committed. It is the answer for not committing sins. “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.”
Using God’s law alone to stop committing sin is an exercise in frustration. Some Christians believe you can use it like I use my daily planner. Every day I make a list of the things I hope to accomplish and check them off as I do them. When they are all checked off, I know I have accomplished my goal.
You can’t do that with the law of God. He requires more than the external acts. When you know the Ten Commandments well, you know they are just as concerned about your attitudes and motivations as behavior. The more I know the commandments, the more ways I can see that I am falling short. My check list keeps growing longer. So does the list of personal failures I can see. The Law shows me what to do. It never gives me the power to do it.
That is why Paul can say “through the law I died to the law.” The law does do something. But that something is not giving me faith, or life, or the power to stop sinning.
The law does me the favor of showing me how useless it is to prevent me from sinning. It makes me ever more aware how much I need my Lord, not just for sins I have committed, but also to stop committing sins. Only when I have died to the law can I live for God.
You see, God justifies us by faith. That means he takes our sins, forgives them, and so declares us his perfect, not-guilty children as a gift. That impacts our future as well as resolving our past. Paul continues, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” I have been crucified with Christ. Jesus death on the cross is my death. When Jesus died there, God counted that death for me. My sins are gone. My Father sees me only as his holy perfect child.
But he doesn’t leave me hanging on that cross, so to speak. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. When Jesus takes away my sins, he also puts to death my old, sinful self and makes my heart his own home. He lives his life in each one of us. Any life that Jesus is living looks exactly the way God says we are: not guilty, free from sin.
So even though we don’t have the power to do what the law says, Jesus does. When Jesus makes our own hearts his home that means more than thinking of him a lot or loving him. It means that Jesus has a genuine presence in my heart and soul. And his life gives us power to stop committing sins and live a life of love.
It isn’t dangerous for God to forgive our sins so freely. It is the only way he can make it less common in our lives.