Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ . . . But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “The just shall live by faith.” (Gal 2:16 and Gal 3:11)
Our great initial need before God is to be justified, to have God Himself declare us not guilty, to have the Lord pronounce us righteous in His sight. At first glance this appears to be an impossible situation for man. God, our Judge, is holy. Man is innately unholy. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6).
The consequences of such ungodliness are inevitably universal and appropriately severe. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23). The just sentence for all of humanity, in light of their sins against a pure and holy God, is death, everlasting separation from God.
The law of God offers no help and provides no hope of remedying this dire situation. People are “not justified by the works of the law.” Trying one’s best to measure up to the law never produces a verdict of not guilty. In all the history of humanity, not one person could ever perform sufficiently before God’s law to achieve a declaration of being righteous. “No one is justified by the law in the sight of God.”
Vows and pledges of personal improvement offer no hope. Asking others how to strive more earnestly provides no assistance. Only faith supplies the necessary remedy. “A man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Trusting in our own best efforts leaves us guilty before God. Trusting in Christ’s perfect work on the cross leaves us justified before God. “The just shall live by faith.”
O Lord, my God, I praise You for Your glorious grace poured out upon me in justification. By Your grace alone You have declared me righteous in Your sight. I was totally guilty before Your holy law. I had no excuses and no hope of rescuing myself. Your law rightly condemned me, and I never could have reversed that verdict by my own performance. I trusted in Your Son, and You pronounced me just in Your sight. To You, my Lord, I give all honor, glory, adoration, and thanksgiving, through Christ Jesus, my Savior, Amen.
Copyright © 2004 by Bob Hoekstra. Used by permission. All rights reserved.