Galatians 2:15-16 :
“We, being Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law.
The Jews had the best legal system in the world. If you were to follow it, you would be civil and able to live a holy life on the earth. The Jews experienced, however, that this was not humanly possible. They experienced it so well that Paul and Peter decided to give it up to follow Christ. That is what we read here.
Do you realize that they knew that had to give up the law in order to follow Christ? This was obvious to them. I believe that it was Jesus that made it so obvious. When you read the gospels you read how the disciples were constantly failing to be good, while, at the same time, Jesus was constantly doing what was right. The light of Jesus righteousness shown brightly on the backdrop of the disciples stumbling.
It is a very wrong idea to think that if they had only tried harder, they would have been able to live properly without the need for sacrifice. That is what we call self-righteousness. That’s the kind of righteousness that God defined in the law. He, wisely, also defined a system of sacrifice. Does that mean God wasn’t a positive thinker? No, it means He was realistic about our condition, even when we were not. One man did succeeded at being self-righteous, however.
These Jews were able to come to the realization that no one can be made righteous by the works of the law. They can be made clean by sacrifice, but not by their works. Now these Jews stopped sacrificing animals for their sin. They were demonstrating that they were depending on some other way to be made clean.
The world “justified” has been said to mean: Just as if I’d never sinned. I think that these Jews knew that there was no animal that could really take the blame for their sin. Things were now quite different. Jesus was a man and He lived a sinless life right in front of them. His death was the only sacrifice that was actually able to do take care of our problem.