Paul is arguing strenuously for the doctrine of grace being the only basis for our salvation.
He is going to present this argument as being one of death to self and life in Christ.
There is no reforming of the flesh possible.
When we allow the flesh to remain alive we exhibit the same despicable behaviors we exhibited when we were ‘controlled’ by the Law of God. The flesh doesn’t die easily, even in the most eminent apostles.
Take Peter, for example. (And Paul’s argument here is extraordinary.) Peter, of all people, should have understood the doctrine of the grace of Jesus Christ. He had been saved by grace, and his new life in Christ was founded upon grace. But how soon Peter reverted to the pattern of legalism once his liberty in Christ was imposed upon by the mere appearance of legalists.
And if Peter was not enough of an example of this kind of absurd behavior – Barnabas – think of it, Barnabas! – was also also taken in by the snare of the pressure imposed by legalists.
Peer pressure was stronger than the grace of Christ. Pure and simple. We may think we are immune to this kind of behavior once we are saved, but Paul presents this airtight case if even the great apostle Peter and the ‘Son of Encouragement’ Barnabas were prone to this – we may be as well.
The churches in Galatia certainly were, and this is the reason Paul writes this letter. To turn back by any degree from the grace of Christ is to return to a powerless life.
But how can grace alone change us? After all, there are no rules and restrictions. And if we do commit sin, (and we will,) is grace to blame? On the contrary, I have only myself to blame when/if I continue to commit sin, because through crucifixion of self along with Christ I have received the same power that raised Christ from the dead to bring me into Christ-like life.
Paul says this to such an extent it is as if he himself no longer lives – and his life is lived only by Christ made alive in himself.
This is such an incredible statement made with such startling clarity and poetic beauty it rolls off the tongue with a smooth and soothing velocity. But is it ‘live-able?’
Can the life of Christ in us truly conform our behavior? The true answer is: Only this life can! (We already know even the Law of God can’t.)