Thursday, 24 March 2016
But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:11
Paul has just shown that the law brings a curse. In order for the Galatians to understand this, he says, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident.” The words, “…in the sight of God” are given as if we are already standing before God in judgment. In our trial, our life is being evaluated. What deeds of the law can justify us? The answer is, “None.”
But how can this be? The law was given by God. So how can it be that we cannot stand justified before Him by observing the law? The answer comes from the words of Habakkuk who lived under the law and wrote his words under divine inspiration. In his words he said, “…the just shall live by faith.” Within the law itself, was a requirement which necessitated faith in order to have one’s sins atoned for, the Day of Atonement. If faith was required for this to occur, then it showed that observance of the law had failed to justify anyone over the previous year. This went on, year after year, for the entire time of the law.
What Habakkuk (and later Paul) explains is that it is impossible for the law to justify anyone because there was already a way of being justified by God, which is through faith. This was seen in Abraham and it was seen each year on the Day of Atonement. As there cannot be two means of obtaining justification, and the law is not that means, then it must be faith alone which justifies. No other means can come in and replace what has been established by precedent.
In this verse, stress is placed on the word “faith.” Because of this, it needs to be determined if this is active or passive faith. If passive, then it is speaking of trusting God; taking Him at his word. If it is active faith, then it would mean “living faithfully.” What Paul is speaking of is the passive faith of trust. This is what Abraham was credited for. This is what atoned for the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement, and it is what justifies us now. We believe God’s word and He imputes to us His righteousness. After this, we can then demonstrate active faith through living faithfully, but our failure to do so will not negate His imputation of righteousness to us.
David found this out several times. His failure to live faithfully did not negate his standing before God because of his simple trust in God’s mercy and grace.
Life application: All things come from God. The only thing that we can give Him which can be credited to our account for righteousness is to believe. When we do this simple thing, taking Him at His word, we stand justified before Him. From that point on, we can then add in praise, worship, and faithful conduct as a means of pleasing Him, but we must first demonstrate that we believe His word before those other things can find their proper place.
Heavenly Father, You have shown that what pleases You is faith in Your word. What else could we give to please You if we don’t first trust Your word? Help us to be faithful and pleasing to You by standing on what You have already shown us about Yourself and what You have done in human history through Christ our Lord. After that, we will surely be acceptable to You in other ways as well. Give us a burning desire to know and to accept Your word for what it truly is – life and light to guide us all our days. Amen.