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Galatians 2:16 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 52 secs

Grace Excludes All Human Merit; Gal. 2:16


Galatians 2:16 NASB "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified."


The verse begins with a perfect active participle of the verb oida [o)ida], the word for knowledge. This is an adverbial participle, which means that it is going to add something to the verb; it is going to explain the main verb in a fuller way. So we have to understand what the main verb is in the sentence. The phrase that follows the "that" is a subordinate clause, it is not the main clause. The main clause comes after "even"—"even we have believed" contains the main verb, the aorist active indicative of pisteuo [pisteuw], which is the main verb to have faith or to believe or to trust. The participle is going to tell us something about the action of the main verb, the aorist active indicative of pisteuo. Why make an issue out of this? In Greek grammar to understand the tense of the participle it is dependent upon the tense of the main verb. A participle really has no independent tense because it is dependent verbal, not an independent verb. The perfect participle of oida depends upon pisteuo, and a perfect participle shows action that precedes the action of the main verb. That is going to give us a very important point to understand here. And because it lacks the article it means it is going to be an adverbial participle, and adverbial perfect participles are almost always causal. So Paul is saying "because we know something"—"because we have known," the perfect tense emphasises the present reality of a completed past action. So from X-time in the past up to Y-time in the present we have known something. The action here of knowing is going to precede the action of believing. You have to know something before you can believe it. That is the first application from this: that faith is not based on a feeling, on an intuition; faith is based on knowledge of something—because we have known something we believed it. By using an aorist tense it summarises all of the action in one element and places it in the past.


Translation: "Nevertheless because we knew [something]," and here we have the Greek word hoti [o(ti] which indicates indirect discourse, and probably the best way to translate this is, "we know that: [colon, then the principle] a man is not justified by the works of the law." The main verb here is the present passive indicative of dikaioo [dikaiow] which is related to the verb for justice and righteousness and how they work together. dikaioo means to put something in right relationship legally; it is a forensic term, it has to do with the courtroom. At the point of salvation we were imputed the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and God the Father declares us to be righteous, but we are not righteous in our experience. Justification itself is a forensic act—legal principles related to the courtroom of God: His justice and His righteousness. His righteousness provides the absolute standard and His justice is the outworking or the practice of that standard, the application of it to His creatures. There is a principle: Man is not justified by something, and here we have a very important phrase: "the works of the law"—ergon nomou [e)rgwn nomou], a genitive form plus the preposition ek [e)k], "out from the source of the works of law." There is something missing in that phrase that is added to the English text, and it is not in italics. It is the word "the," our definite article. If we say "the law" then it specifies one particular law as over against any other law code. In this context if there were a definite article here then we would rightfully conclude it was talking about the Mosaic Law. The context is definitely talking about the Mosaic Law, but because there is no definite article in the Greek here it is emphasising the quality of the noun nomos [nomoj], which means any law. It includes any law, no matter what it is—anybody who comes up with a list of stipulations which would form the basis for a relationship with God: that if you follow these rules and procedures then you can have a relationship with God and gain His approbation, and God will be impressed enough with your life to let you into heaven. That is a law code. The Mosaic Law is simply one kind of law code.


A man is not declared righteous or vindicated by works of law. Contrast: "but through faith in Christ Jesus." This is a very strong contrast. Paul is setting up to say there is only one of two options. You are either trying to get vindicated before God by works of law or you are going to rely on Jesus Christ. It is one or the other, you can't blend it together. You can't say faith plus works. It is either faith or works; one or the other, and faith plus works is nothing. Here again we have a very important construction in the Greek, dia [dia] plus the genitive. The use of the genitive expresses means or instrumentality—it is through faith. The cause of our salvation is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. dia plus the accusative case would be causal, but it doesn't use that here.


Then we have a purpose result clause expressed by the particle hina [i(na]—we believed for a purpose and it produced a result: "that we may be justified by faith." This is an aorist active subjunctive of the verb dikaioo [dikaiow]. The subjunctive is the mood of potentiality and when expressing purpose in the Greek there is always hina plus the subjunctive. The subjunctive is the mood of potentiality and it often emphasises volition: your decision whether to be justified or not. What we have here is not a present or a future subjunctive. Usually a decision is put in the future. It is in the future you have potentiality, not in the past. What Paul is saying is "we believed in the past that we might be justified," and by using this he is saying "we had a potential and we took it and we are saved." The potential has been secured in the past so why now try to gain God's approval through legal obedience?  The potential was resolved in the past. That is the aorist tense, the potential is no longer a potential. Why try to gain God's approval through all this legalistic nonsense? That is the thrust of all this grammar.


The final statement: "by the works of law shall no flesh be justified." This is a strong phrase to make sure we get the point. Literally in the Greek it is "all flesh shall not be justified," which is bad English. All flesh includes every single human being. The Law was not designed for salvation. Romans 3:20 NASB "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law {comes} the knowledge of sin" … [28] "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."