Sunday, 13 March 2016
“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:21
There are several exceedingly important truths which are seen in this verse, and which must be taken to heart. Paul says “I do not set aside the grace of God.” Grace is getting what one does not deserve. The giving of Jesus Christ is the ultimate act of grace. No one on earth “deserves” what God has done through Him. All have sinned and all deserve death, condemnation, and hell. But God sent Christ to redeem us from that sorrowful end.
Paul exclaims here that he does not “set aside” this gift which is from God; the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word here is atheteó and it means “to make of no effect,” “to set aside,” or “to break faith with.” In the epistle to the Hebrews when speaking of the Law of Moses the author uses the word athetésis, which is derived from atheteó. He uses this word to make a specific point concerning the law –
“For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18
This word, athetésis, speaks of annulment, nullification, or abrogation. Paul understood that one cannot be under grace and under the law at the same time. The two are contradictory ideas and either one or the other can be held to. If one chooses to be justified before God based on the law, then it is impossible to be justified before God based on the grace found in Christ. Likewise, the reciprocal is true. If one finds his righteousness in Christ who fulfilled the law, then one cannot find their righteousness in the law, except as it has been granted through the work of Christ.
If one claims to receive the grace of Christ and then attempts to obtain righteousness through the law (such as giving up on pork, which is according to the law), then they proclaim that Christ’s fulfillment of the law, and His death which occurred for that fulfillment, was both pointless and unnecessary. This is found in Paul’s next words which say, “…for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
For those who believe in God, and who want to be pleasing to God, their deeds are done in an attempt to be righteous before Him. A provision within the law allows for the law to grant this –
“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 18:5
However, there is the truth, which is borne out in the rest of the Old Testament, which is that no person can perfectly keep the law. This is clearly and precisely explained in the book of Romans. In Romans 3, Paul says this concerning the law –
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19, 20
His words are clear that “by deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” As this is a truth found in God’s word, then the only way to be justified in His sight is through the grace of Christ. The same testament which proclaims one also proclaims the other. One cannot dismiss Romans without dismissing any other portion of the New Testament, including the record of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Because of this, if one fails to accept this premise and instead goes about seeking righteousness through deeds of the law, then for them “Christ died for nothing.” There can be no grace for the one who seeks justification before God based on their deeds under the law. There can only be the expectation of judgment based on their deeds. And in this, there can only be condemnation and an eternal swim in the Lake of Fire.
Life application: One may attempt to be justified by their good deeds, done under the law, or they may be justified by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. There is no other option given for man to stand sinless and in righteousness before God. Choose wisely.
I was found a sinner from birth, even from my mother’s womb. What good deeds could I do that would wash such stain away? No matter what I do, I have already offended an infinitely holy God. But then I found grace. God sent His Son into the world to take away my guilt, declare me righteous, and allow me to stand justified in His presence… all because of the work of Another. I do not set aside the grace of Christ my Lord. In fact, I place my soul in His hands, knowing that any other choice is condemnation and eternal separation. Thank You, O God, for Christ my Lord! Amen.