Brothers and sisters, let us consider two passages of scripture which seems to contradict each other, and we will attempt to make sense of them.
“…by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” – Galatians 2:16
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” – Galatians 5:4
The first passage, Galatians 2:16, says that no flesh shall be justified by the law. Yet the second passage, Galatians 5:4, speaks of those who are justified by the law. Do these verses contradict one another? I don’t believe so.
A key to understanding these passages of God’s holy scripture is knowing the definition of the word “justified”. It does not mean “to make just”; rather, it means “to declare to be just”.
Galatians 2:16 tells us that no flesh shall be justified (declared to be just) by the law. This is in God’s sight.
In contrast, the folks in Galatians 5:4 were justifying themselves (declaring themselves to be just) in their own mind because they believed they had followed the laws of God so perfectly.
Galatians 5:4 also says that Christ had become of no effect to them. This was again in their own mind. They had fallen from grace, not in an eternal sense but instead here in this life. They were still children of God and are in Heaven today, but while they lived on the earth they had lost the benefits of Christ and his marvelous grace.
We can learn the lesson of “what not to do” from the brethren referenced in Galatians 5:4. May we hold fast to the truth of God’s word and his grace so that we may never lose the joy of our salvation!