Is Galatians 2:16 speaking of the Law of Moses and some kind of system of Faith?
Well, it is correct to state that the word “the” is not in the original translation in Galatians 2:16. But, the translators of both the KJV and the ASV perceived that it was required to express the full thought in English. Yet, there are other translations which removes the word “the” in this verse, in which case it says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” referring to a personal faith is to be mentioned here. But, when we start looking at the context of Galatians 2:4-3:25, we find more references to “the” faith.
In this continuous text, you find: The liberty of Christ mentioned in vs. 4, “the” truth of the gospel (vs. 5), vs. 9 “circumcision,” vs. 14 “the” truth of the gospel,” vs. 16 “works of the law,” vs. 19 “through the law,” vs. 20 “live by “the” faith,” vs. 21 "for if righteousness come by the law,” vs. 3:1 “obey “the” truth,” vs. 2 “works of the law,” vs. 5 “works of the law,” vs. 7 “they which are of faith,” vs. 11 “no man is justified by the law,” vs. 23 “the” faith,” vs. 25 “that faith . . . no longer under a schoolmaster.” Thus, it becomes very clear that Paul is speaking of the Law of Moses and teaching that we are saved by Christ, that is, our salvation is “by the faith of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16), not by the Law. Now, if this is speaking of the personal faith, then everyone would be saved regardless if they accepted Christ or not.
Furthermore, if you try to add the word “your personal” to faith in many of the verses we just mentioned, it would not fit. Consider further a different emphasis of Galatians 2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by “your personal” faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ . . .” If the passage was written this way, it would show Paul repeating himself twice if “the faith” in this passage would refer to our personal faith. Thus, this cannot be ones personal faith, but “the faith” which he revealed—the gospel. And there is, of course, one faith (Ephesians 4:4-5; Jude 3). The one faith is what individuals obey in being saved (Acts 6:7). The one faith is the message which Paul preached (Galatians 1:23). It was the gospel of Christ which he preached (Romans 15:19), which is God's power to save (Romans 1:16-17).
Now, it seems that the whole argument hinges on how Paul uses faith, works and law especially when it is tied in to James and how he uses faith, works and law. Well, the context is extremely important and yes, to some degree, the whole argument does hinge on the determination that Paul is using faith, works and law here in Gal. 2 in a different sense than James uses in Jam. 1-2, but then also, not really. I mean, works and law are, in the context of Gal. 2, shown to be speaking of the same thing. So, it is actually a difference between works and law (Old Testament) or the faith (New Testament Hebrews 9:15-20). And, Paul shows consistently throughout his writings that the faith is better to follow.
Now, in reference to James, he is speaking to the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad, that is the church as a whole and not to a particular congregation (James 1:2) and he begins his letter speaking of “your faith” (James 1:3). And, as you go through James, you continue to find him speaking of this personal faith which is different that what Paul mentions. But, in James 2, he intermingles faith with works saying that faith without works is dead. Well, what does it mean by the word “works” and is it the same as Paul? Well, Paul uses the word “works” referring to the Old Testament law of works because his audience is mentioning circumcision and uncircumsion, showing the context to the Old Law. But, James in James 2:6 tells us that those with a personal faith and heirs of the kingdom are those who love Him. Well, Jesus said in Matthew 14:15 that if ye love me, keep my commandments or rules. But James goes on in vs. 7 to tell them that they have not done anything with their faith which is why he says in vs 14, what good it is to for you to have faith but do nothing? James goes right in and says, just because you call yourself a Christian, doesn’t mean that you do nothing. The “golden rule,” the command to worship God, the command to follow after Christ, the command to teach people the Gospel, to help those who need help, to edify and build up the church, etc . . ., all of these are works. It is your faith in action, James says. And so, James shows us in James 2:15-16 that if you do not help one who has need, then what have you gained by having faith? Thus, he concludes that belief alone is not enough nor is faith alone enough and then goes so far as to say that a personal active faith makes one’s faith perfect (vs. 22). And so, we can see that James’s audience is more general to Christians who do not seem to be under the pressures of the Judiazing teachers as we see in Galatians.