'Saved By Law or By Faith in Christ?'

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“The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Galatians 3:22 (Read Galatians 3:1-29)

Are we saved by our obedience to the law of God or through faith in Jesus Christ and for the sake of His perfect obedience to God’s commandments and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead to atone for our sins and the sins of all? That is the question the Apostle Paul answers for his readers in Galatia and for us today in Galatians, chapter three.

But first of all, we might consider how David was justified as he expressed it in the words of Psalm 32. Was it by his own righteousness? Or, was it by means of repentance and faith in God’s promises for the sake of the Messiah and Savior who was to come?

David says in verses 3-5: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. … I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” (Cf. Psalm 130.)

And, what about the Jewish lawyer in Luke 10 who wondered what good work he must do to inherit eternal life? Did he measure up to his own summary of God’s law? Did he love God with all his heart, soul and strength, and his neighbor as himself? What does the parable reveal?

What does the Apostle Paul say to the Galatians? Paul opens the chapter (v. 1-3): “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

Paul asks them why they were turning aside from the truth that they had known and believed. By the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the hearing of God’s Word, they had been brought to trust in Christ crucified for their salvation. Were they now going to go back to trusting in the inadequate works of their flesh under the law of God?

And, consider Abraham. How was he justified? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (v. 6; cf. Gen. 15:6). And those who share in the faith of Abra- ham — whether Jew or Gentile — are counted children of Abraham and share in the blessings promised to him (cf. v. 6-9).

The apostle couldn’t be more clear than what he writes in verses 10-14: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

Paul explains further that the giving of the law some 430 years later did not nullify God’s covenant with Abraham. His covenant promises made to Abraham still stand. And Paul explains (v. 18): “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” And, with Abraham, God has promised to us and all who believe in the promised Seed of Abraham, which is Christ Jesus, an eternal inheritance in His kingdom.

Why did God give the law? Was it that we might begin with faith but then seek to be righteous and acceptable to God by keeping His law? “It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (v. 19).

The law is not opposed to the promises of God. St. Paul writes (v. 21): “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”

Verse 22 says it all: “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

This is exactly what we read in Romans 3:19-20: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

How are we saved? Romans 3:21-22 explains: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe …” (read 21-28).

It is as St. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

Or, in the words of verse 22 of Galatians 3, “The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

So, are we saved by our obedience to the law of God or through faith in Jesus Christ and His perfect obedience to God’s commandments and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead to atone for our sins and the sins of all? We are counted just and righteous and are saved eternally through faith alone in Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us.

God grant that we hold fast to Christ Jesus in faith. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.]

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