“Righteousness” is the big concern. But the word’s not in our vocabulary–not part of our daily conversation. So we go round and round with the Apostle Paul trying to get our arms around his struggle.
Galatians 2:16 ff. It’s “God’s APPROVAL” that Paul longs for–I as well. (Sons need it from their dads. We all need it from the Significant Authorities in our lives.) Paul is absolutely convinced that that APPROVAL comes in no way from our deserving, but only at God’s initiative: “grace”. We agree. And Paul’s heated polemic is against anything at all minimalizing the absolute agreement of that.
Gal. 2:18. So, he is not about to set up the same old system of “merit/demerit” for trying to get God’s approval. That would just re-define him as “a law-breaker” in his own eyes and throw him into the same old quandry. (V. 19) But, Paul say, it’s through that very system that he died to that system. (He couldn’t stand anymore to live in that system. Figure: our way out was cinched by Jesus’ “dying as our proxy” .) Our identification is now totally IN JESUS, no longer in the merit/demerit system. Now, “co-crucified with him”, our reality is: “I’m a dead man, and my life is hidden with God in Christ Jesus”.