I was reading a Protestant apologetics site and I found two verses in Galatians 2 that they used to defend their "faith alone" position. The verses are verse 16 and verse 21. Let's look at those.
Galatians 2:16 reads as "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified."
Galatians 2:21 reads as "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."
These verses are clearly referring to works under the "old" Law, not under Christ's "new" Law. This is even obvious by verse 16 alone, but for further proof, look at the verse before it. Verse 15 reads as "We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles".
Paul is saying that, though Christianity came out of Judaism, its Law is no longer binding on Christians. He didn't want Christians to get swept up into the proud, Pharasaical mentality of "Oh, I'm so good for doing all of these great things all by myself." Under that mentality, Christ's importance seems lessened, so Paul was warning against that.
Paul is emphasizing, like he, especially, is known to emphasize: that everything must be done through Christ. In verse 20, he writes, "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 faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
He is pointing out that it is by our faith in Christ that our lives have meaning. Without faith, our works mean nothing.
If we can be saved by doing works under the Jewish Law, apart from faith in Christ, then yes, like Paul writes in verse 21, "Christ died needlessly."
Basically, Paul is telling us to keep our minds on Christ, never doing anything apart from him. He is NOT, however, telling us that good works done through Christ mean nothing.
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