No Righteousness Through the Law

Galatians 2:21

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

We are to be holy as God is holy.  We should desire to follow the law because it pleases God.  We should want to obey because obedience is a way of showing our love for the Lord.  And we should want to obey God because sin hurts our relationship with God.

We should not obey the law of God because we believe that we are better people because of it however.  This was the major problem of the Pharisees.  They believed that they were righteous because they followed the law.  They compared themselves to others and saw that they were better people.

Instead of seeing the sin in their lives – even if it truly was less sin than the average person – they were blinded by their own perceived self righteousness.  Being a better person than someone else isn’t good enough if our sin is still unforgiven.

We should obey God out of love, not because it is what we’re supposed to do.  The Pharisees obeyed because they thought it was what they were supposed to do, not because they actually wanted to do it.

If we were capable of being righteous on our own, Jesus didn’t have to die.  In claiming to have upheld the law, the Pharisees and others like them claimed that Jesus wasted His time and His life.  We need Jesus because we can’t keep the law.  But we continue to try to keep the law not out of duty but of love for God.

Justified

Romans 3:22-24

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Justification is a term that is used a lot in church but the meaning of the word isn’t thought about too often.  The word is similar to justice so that gives us a starting point in our understanding but doesn’t fully answer the question.

There are numerous religious words that all have the same general idea behind them.  To be justified is to be made righteous.  It is the same thing as being sanctified or being made holy.  These terms are all lumped together because they are all related to our salvation and take place at the same time.

All of these terms mean that God takes our sin, applies His grace to us, and gives us His righteousness.  It is more than just the balancing of a scale – giving us enough grace to counteract our sin.  Our sin is completely removed.  The debt that we owe is completely wiped clean so that all God sees when He looks at us is His grace and righteousness.

Justification is a legal term.  Because of our sin we should be found guilty before God.  But our justification removes that sin and therefore God no longer sees us as guilty.

Training in Righteousness

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

How does one become righteous?  There are two answers to this question.  The first is that God makes us righteous.  God gives us righteousness when we have faith in Jesus Christ.  This is immediate and applies to our salvation.

But there is another righteousness that takes a lifetime to achieve and it affects our relationship with God.  Even though we are Christians and our salvation is secure, our sin hurts our relationship with God but He delights when we obey Him.

The Bible is our training manual.  The more we study and the better we know God’s Word, the better we will follow it.  Some things are automatic and others must be applied.  It obviously does no good to know the difference between right and wrong if we choose to do wrong.  But knowledge of the Bible can be used in our defense.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He didn’t stand against Him with His own power or even call upon His Father for help.  Instead He used His knowledge of the scriptures to rebuke Satan and defeat temptation.

The more scripture we know, the more it is going to help us and serve as a reminder when we’re tempted by something.  It is our key to living a righteous life and to pleasing the Lord.

Darkness and Light

2 Corinthians 6:14

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

This verse is used often in connection with marriage.  A Christian should not marry a non-Christian not just because of the differences between the two people but also because the non-Christian will almost always drag the Christian down instead of the other way around.

This passage is applicable to our everyday life as well however.  We have choices to make every day.  Some choices are minor while other ones are major.  Some choices have obvious effects while it may appear as though others don’t matter.

As Christians, we must make the choice to avoid wickedness.  This does not just mean choosing not to do wicked things.  It also means that we should not be associated with wickedness.

When we are exposed to sin, we are affected by it.  Watching bad movies or playing violent video games may not make us a murderer but it affects the way that we think about life.

We can’t avoid all sin and we shouldn’t place ourselves in a bubble where we are protected from the world.  Jesus ate with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes.  He associated with them but He didn’t fellowship with them.  This is an important distinction because unless they repented of their ways, they had nothing in common.  We can be exposed to sin but shouldn’t put ourselves in a position where we accept it.

End of the Law

Romans 10:4-5

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.”

Nobody enjoys following rules.  This was precisely the problem with the law – it wasn’t kept and couldn’t be kept.  This brought problems for the human race because no one was righteous by virtue of following the law.

When Jesus came, He put an end to the burden of the law.  The law only served to point out how unrighteous we were because we were unable to keep it.  It pointed to the fact that we needed a savior to give us righteousness.  Once Jesus came, we no longer needed a reminder because Jesus was our reminder.

Under the law we were trying to gain righteousness by following rules that we couldn’t keep.  Under Christ, we are given righteousness by virtue of the fact that Jesus kept the law.

It should be noted that Jesus did not say that it was no longer important to follow the law.  The laws that God gave us weren’t without purpose, they were given with our best interest in mind.  What Jesus accomplished in the end of the law is that righteousness is no longer gained by following the law.  Today righteousness is only through Jesus and the gift of God.