Justification: His Work or Ours?
We will answer the question of, Why it is so important that we are not Justified by Works of the Law? The answer, in short, is that we are either Justified by our actions or by Jesus’. If we gain salvation through the following of the law, the works of the flesh, then Christ has died needlessly.
Consider the passage from Galatians 2:
16nevertheless 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.
17"But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!
18"For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
19"For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
20"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.
21"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."
I have altered the text to draw out important points. Emboldened text indicates that we are not Justified by the Law or Works of the flesh. Underlined text indicates what we are saved by, namely faith in Jesus. Italicized text gives the rational behind such statements.
This is such a crucial reality that must be grasped. We are all horrific sinners having transgressed the law which is a reflection of the Character of God. In other words, we have terribly offended an infinite God infinitely much. Just one sin, one transgression, is enough that we should face an eternity of His wrath. However, we do not sin only once. On the contrary, we sin repeatedly and suppress the truth. Instead of serving the one true God we created idols after ourselves.
So then, what is the only way that we must be sparred? Can we redeem ourselves? Will all of the tears in the world cleanse us? Will penance for an eternity lessen our guilt? Will enough good works absolve us of past sin?
May it never be.
As humans we have the peculiar tendency to believe that time cleanses us for past wrongs. This is not the case with an eternal God who has been eternally offended to the infinite degree.
We also may believe that our righteous deeds may merit us standing before God. Again, may it never be. Our Lord says that all of our righteousness is but dirty rags before Him. Furthermore, the Scriptures teach that done do good, none seek righteousness, none seek God, not even one.
What then is the only way to be saved? The redemptive work of Jesus on the cross is the only solution. Consider Paul’s answer to this very question in Romans 3:
21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for (AJ)there is no distinction;
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
What a truth! May we cling to this truth with all of our being. To give up this truth is to give up the gospel. To do so is to render Christ’s work nullified.
Furthermore, the words of Paul in the first chapter of Galatians:
8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
If anyone, the Apostle himself, yea, even an angel, should preach a foreign gospel then he is to be accursed.
In Christ alone,