The Apostle Paul explains the reason for God’s laws, which makes God’s grace even more amazing.
By Faith or by Works
The Apostle Paul addressed a very big problem for the Galatians, but also for a lot of believers, and that was legalism. Just after they were introduced to the gospel of salvation by grace and not by works, some cunning Jews came in to subvert the gospel by adding works to it. Even though many of them had been eye witnesses of Jesus’ crucifixion, they were “bewitched” (Gal 3:1), and told that they needed to completed their salvation by keeping the law, however, trying to keep the law as part one’s salvation, makes it an altogether different gospel, and one that can’t save! He reminded them that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Gal 3:6). When Abraham believed God, God accounted that to Him as righteousness. Today, if we believe in Christ, we receive the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). Paul’s point is, “it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7). This same faith was opened to Gentiles who trusted in Christ, and thus “all the nations [were] blessed” (Gal 3:8c). Regardless of who you are or how many works of the law you do, “those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal 3:9), but they’re not blessed by their works…but by their faith in Christ.
Since it is in our nature to try and justify ourselves before God, we tend to think that our works will help us on the Day of Judgment. It’s almost subconscious in a way, but it is who we are by nature, however, Paul has a serious warning for those who try to justify themselves before God by keeping the law. He says that “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Gal 3:10). That’s bad news for us since none of us can keep the law perfectly. James adds it’s not worth trying, since “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). This doesn’t mean we head to the other ditch and think we can break God’s laws. We ought to strive to live by them, but still recognize we are not saved by obedience to the law. Paul says “it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith” (Gal 3:11). Only Jesus Christ kept the law with perfection, but He is God, and we are not. Our nature is to sin, but thankfully we’re forgiven and justified by Christ, standing in His righteousness before God (2 Cor 5:21), so “the law is not of faith” (Gal 3:12).
Imprisoned by Sin
We ought to give thanks to God that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13a). To try and keep the law is to put that curse back on us. Jesus has already redeemed us from the curse of the law, so there’s no reason to try and keep ourselves saved by keeping the law (Rom 7:19-20). It just can’t be done. I wouldn’t trust the best 10 minutes of my life to buy me a split-second in heaven! The law is good…it actually shows us what sin is (Rom 7:7), but the law cannot save. The law makes us all stand guilty before God and flee to the cross and our Savior. Paul wrote that “the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal 3:22). The law shows us our only hope is the grace of God found only in Christ, so “before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed” (Gal 3:23), and that faith was revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul states that law takes away our excuses or disables our argument that we’ve done enough good things that we ought to go to heaven. He says, “we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Rom 3:19). The law condemned us all (Rom 3:23, 6:23), “so that every mouth may be stopped.”
Since we know we can’t be saved by works, we must not go to the other extreme and think there won’t be any works. James wrote that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). God has prepared opportunities for good works in our lives (Eph 2:10), but we recognize those works don’t save us. We are not saved by works, but the saved will do works; but not to justify themselves. They are doing it as unto Christ (Matt 25:40). We are not saved by works but by grace (Eph 2:8-9), since “now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Gal 3:25) of the law (Gal 2:23-24). We are set free from the curse of the law, and we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, so “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
The Apostle Paul was not the only one who battled legalism. We can battle it too, but it’s almost a silent invasion. It’s our nature to be seen by others and to do good works in front of people so we can get recognition, but there’s a hidden danger with doing good works. Many who have stated they believe in Jesus will be turned away on Judgment Day because they never had a saving relationship with Him, therefore He doesn’t even know them. They boast of their many works for the Lord, but those same “many” will be turned away forever (Matt 7:21-23). I love what Voddie Baucham said: “It amazes me that we believe this: that God would crush and kill His own Son, but let you slide.” In fact, He won’t. Without Jesus’ own righteousness accredited to you (2 Cor 5:21), you will stand before God and be judged according to your works. Scripture tells us that it will not turn out well (Rev 20:12-15). Repent and believe today and be redeemed from the curse of the law.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is a Pastor and Prison Minister in the State of Kansas. Jack is also a writer at Christian Quotes and Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.