Sin is defined by the law. Sin means "to miss the mark." Jesus took away that target, the law, by His death on the cross. "Jesus canceled our debt to the law that that stood against us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). Romans 4:15 says, "Where there is no law there is no sin." Galatians 3:25 tells us that we who trust Christ are not under the law. The law condemns (2 Corinthians 3:9). It judges us as guilty. God removed us from under the law and put us under His grace (Romans 6:14). In Christ we are no longer found guilty of sin, condemned because of sin, or even charged with sin (Romans 5:13). We are not sinners. This is one reason why 1 John 3:9 says, "Every child of God cannot commit sin and is not able to sin." With this in mind let us look at Galatians 2 and what it means for the Christian to "find himself to be a sinner."
The Law Views Every Man as a Sinner Even If God Does Not
Galatians 2 talks about how Peter, who lives by trust in Christ, compelled the Gentiles to live like the Jews by putting themselves under the law. Galatians 2:14 tells us that Paul said to Peter, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" Paul goes on to say, "We know that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through trust in Christ Jesus. We have trusted in Christ Jesus so that we may be justified by trust in Christ and not by the works of the Law since no one will be justified by the works of the law." He then says "If, while seeking to be justified in Christ (as Peter does), we ourselves have also been found sinners (by putting ourselves under the law), is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! If I rebuild what I have once destroyed (the law), I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God" (Galatians 2:16-19).
When we put ourselves under the law we rebuild what was once destroyed, the target of the law. Today we can set up our own target which is usually made up of old covenant laws, new testament commands, extracted principles, traditions, & personal obligations & expectations. Colossians 2:23 tells us that "These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, self-denial, and severe bodily discipline but they provide no help in conquering a person's evil desires."
When we put up a target (put ourselves under law) we "find ourselves to be sinners" (Galatians 2:17) and "prove ourselves to be transgressors." Peter was in a sense making sinners out of Gentile saints by requiring them to keep the law. They became sinners in their own eyes. This is talking about our perception and how our life will be lived out but not God's perception. What this scripture tells us is that if we judge ourselves by the law we will always find ourselves to be guilty because as James 2:10 says, "The person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God's laws."
Remember God does not judge us by the law but by our trust in Jesus. That is the point of what Paul is saying here. Paul was not charging Peter with sin. Galatians 2:17 was not saying, "Just because Peter, who seeks to be justified by trust in Christ, sinned doesn't mean Christ is a servant of sin." The story Paul told could be exchanged for any example of a Christian sinning if that was his point. Paul was addressing the fact that if the law charges you with sin because you put yourself under it that does not mean God is charging you with sin. Being under the law does mean you will live like a transgressor (sinner) because you cannot keep the law and not keeping the law will cause you to feel condemned. This is how our lives play out under the law but it is not our spiritual reality in Christ. In Christ we are not condemned and we are not found to be sinners. If you put yourself under the law Christ will not ignore His own blood and put you under the law too. That cannot happen!
If we who trust in Jesus don't rebuild the law we prove ourselves not to be transgressors (sinners) because we are under grace & not under the law (Romans 6:14). If we count ourselves as sinners by putting ourselves under the law that does not mean that "Christ is a server of sin" (Galatians 2:17). Sin does not come out from Christ and we are in Him! Our perception does not change God's reality. Our perception can make our lives miserable but it does not change the truth of the cross! We do not become unborn. The new creation of our spirit is still sinless.
"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 Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by trusting in the trustworthiness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God (by putting myself under the law), for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:19-21).
To "nullify the grace of God" means to not live by it. Grace becomes null, nothing, in your life if you put yourself under the law. It doesn't change the fact that God has grace (favor) for you. Putting yourself under the law doesn't remove the true power of the cross to save and make you righteous before God but it does empty it of its power in your day to day life.
People throw around the term "cheap grace" referring to a message that doesn't talk about the "need for repentance" by which they mean turning from sin. How do I turn from something Christ already took away? All salvation requires is that I trust Christ and receive His forgiveness & grace which He bought for me at the cross. The true "cheap grace" is that which says, "What Jesus paid was too cheap. I have to add to it." We are the pearl of great price because Jesus gave all He had, His life, to get us. That is a parable of His love not of our obligation. If I'm still indebted then Jesus didn't pay it all. Paul was pointing out that trying to be justified by the law for salvation or for daily living ignores the grace of God and the cross of Christ. This is why he says in Galatians 3:3 "Are you so foolish to think that having begun by the Spirit that you are now being perfected by the flesh?"
Paul continues in Galatians 3 and tells us why the law was given and how it is no longer of use to those who are children of God. Paul points out that the Galatians are sons born of the Spirit of God (Galatians 4:6) but they have turned back to the law and the weak and worthless things which bring them into bondage (Galatians 4:9). Galatians 5:18 tells us that a man cannot be led by the Spirit if he is under the law. This is because by default they follow the law rather than the Spirit. They, as Romans 7:6 speaks of, live by the old way of the letter (external rules) and not the new way of the Spirit (internal relationship with God).
"Stand firm in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Every man who receives circumcision is a debtor to do the whole law. You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace. Christ will profit you nothing" (Galatians 5:1-4).
The person who gets circumcised desiring to be justified by the law views himself as a debtor to God. God does not want to relate to us as debtors who try to pay him back. God wants us to live free by recognizing He paid the whole debt. Notice this is about how we live our lives not our spiritual reality in Christ. Galatians 5:6 says, "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but trust working through love." Paul's point is that physically receiving circumcision isn't the issue (Timothy was circumcised in Acts 16:3). The condition of your physical body doesn't matter to God. Only trust working through love matters to Him and that comes by the Spirit and not by the law because the law is not based on trust (Galatians 3:12). If you put yourself under the law you walk by the flesh and not by trust in Jesus. This is why Paul says, "If we live by the Spirit (are reborn), let us also walk by the Spirit (put our minds on and trust in Jesus)."
Again this is about how we live our lives not our spiritual reality in Christ. Galatians 6:15-16 says, "In Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. As many as walk by this rule (that only new creation counts), peace and mercy be on them." Christ doesn't care about your flesh. Jesus said in John 6:63, "The flesh counts for nothing." What matters is if your spirit is a new creation. When you understand that then peace and mercy will be upon you. You will experience peace and have mercy when you "no longer regard anyone (including yourself) according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16). Trust Jesus using the spirit of your new creation. This is the only kind of trust because your spirit can relationally communicate with Jesus as it is seated with Him beyond what we can see.
The spirit of the Christian is sinless (1 John 3:9, 1 John 5:18, Romans 7:17). Putting yourself under the law makes you count yourself as a sinner. If you think you are a sinner you will act like a sinner. You will feel guilt, shame, and condemnation. You will be burdened with obligations and feel inadequate. You will think you owe God and if you don't pay He won't like you or relate to you. Your new creation, your new man, is designed by God to let Jesus live through it as you trust Him. The Good News is Jesus has already hit the bull’s eye for us! We are Christ’s and God is forever pleased with us.