Many times we can go back to the Law (or our self-effort) by trying to keep unnecessary requirements or manmade rules. We cannot earn our righteousness that way. Jesus has already made us right with God. We should make the decision to be God-pleasers instead of men-pleasers. We often, foolishly, turn from trusting God’s grace to trusting our own efforts or other people’s opinions.
Paul, being led of the Holy Spirit, went to Jerusalem. When he got there he met with leaders of the church; James, Peter, and John who were known as pillars of the church (Galatians 2:1-10). Paul explained his message to the leaders so that he wouldn’t be discredited. The leaders saw the gift of God upon Paul’s life; he had been preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles while they were preaching the Gospel to the Jews. They all agreed to continue preaching as they were.
Peter, in particular, associated closely with other Jewish leaders, and those leaders operated according to the Law. This caused a problem later on because it was unlawful (according to the Law) for a Jew to keep company with someone who was of another nationality (Acts 10:28). Paul confronted Peter about trying to please the Jewish leaders who kept their rules, regulations, and prejudices (Galatians 2:11-21). For instance, Peter ate with the Gentile Christians at first, but when some of the Jewish people came around, he stopped eating with them (Galatians 2:12, 13, AMP). Paul publically told Peter that he was wrong for what he was doing; He was no longer operating according to the Gospel of grace.
If we go back to our self-efforts (or trying to keep the Law), we frustrate the grace of God. It is as if we are saying Jesus died in vain. We live by faith in Jesus Christ and His finished works, not by our works or our human ability (Galatians 2:13-21; Galatians 3:1, 2).
The Old Covenant of the Law vs. The New Covenant of Grace
Under the old covenant of the Law, God demanded righteousness from man. Under the new covenant of grace, He imparts righteousness to man through the finished works of Jesus. Under the old covenant of the Law, God kept track of our sins unto the third and fourth generations. Under the covenant of grace, God is merciful, and He no longer remembers our sins. Under the covenant of the Law, the children of Israel were blessed only if they obeyed God’s commandments perfectly. Under the covenant of grace, Believers do not have to depend on their own self-effort to receive God’s blessings.
However, every decision we make has a natural consequence. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to live a lifestyle that pleases God. He doesn’t want us to live in misery due to a sinful lifestyle.
Under the covenant of the Law, the children of Israel were cursed if they didn’t keep all the Law. Under the covenant of grace, Believers can enjoy God’s blessings and undeserved favor because Jesus became a curse for us on the cross. Under the covenant of the Law, self-effort produced a change of behavior but not a change of heart. Under the covenant of grace, we are changed from the inside out when we behold Jesus and His finished works. Under the covenant of the Law, the blood sacrifices of animals covered the children of Israel for only one year. Under the covenant of grace, the blood of Jesus has removed our sins completely, once and for all.
Galatians 3:1, 2