“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:15-16a)
Let me explain just a little bit, beloved reader. The type/sect of Jew that Saul/Paul was believed that adherence to the law was the way of salvation in God. God, they believed, desired close following of the law in every minute detail. And such Jews were determined to follow the law in every minute detail, even if it meant ignoring the big picture, or ignoring the actual intent or purpose of the law. Furthermore, because Gentiles do not have these laws, such Jews believe that Gentiles are sinners and can have no hope of salvation in God.
“And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so 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 the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” (Verses 16b -21)
The NRSV makes it tough going in some of these verses. I find it help to read other versions so as to parse through some of Paul’s theology. Paul does make some clearer statements at the end of this passage – living by having faith in Jesus as the Son of God who died for Paul’s (and our) sins.
Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles, and by all accounts he did very well in this. I am not sure how I would feel as a Gentile reading this. I know that sometimes some of the Jews of Paul’s time did not appreciate him well. But then Paul did not seek the “appreciation” of others. I think I said before that as bull headed as Saul/Paul was before his transformation and conversion, he was the same way afterward. Unswerving dogmatic faith, that was Paul. We would not do so badly ourselves, beloved reader, to be as firm in our faith. Selah!