Throughout this chapter, Paul has kind of been on the defensive, fighting the claims that God’s gospel of grace leads to a promotion of sin.
But here in verse 21, he goes on the offensive. He says,
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
In short, he was saying to these Judaizers, “If we need to keep the law in order to be righteous before God, what was the point of Christ’s death? God could have just kept the old system, and Christ would not have had to come at all. Are you telling me that God let Jesus get punched, whipped, beaten, bloodied, battered, and crucified…just to put us back under law again? That’s ridiculous!”
Yet many people hold this idea today, particularly in the cults where they say, “Yes, Jesus died for your sin, but that’s not enough to pay for your sin. You have to work for your salvation as well.”
But Paul totally debunks that view, saying, “That’s ridiculous! It is simply impossible to do enough to earn your salvation. If it were possible, God would have never sent Jesus in the first place.”
Paul’s argument also debunks the idea that Jesus is just one of many ways to God. That people can get to God through Buddhism, or Hinduism, or through one of the countless other religions in this world. If it were possible, God would have just used those methods. Why let Jesus suffer as he did if there was another way? It makes no sense.
So let us do away with the idea that there are other ways to heaven. And let us do away with the idea that we can somehow earn God’s favor through our own works.
Jesus suffered on the cross because there was no other way for us to be made right before God. Let us never spit upon what Jesus did for us on the cross by claiming there is another way.