Gruesome as it was, there had to be some satisfaction to God’s system of sacrifices and offerings for sin. Lay your hand on the animal’s head, slay and gut it according to God’s specifications, and then let the priest offer its sacred parts on the altar, thus satisfying Him, our conscience, and our need to have some semblance of control. “I did this, this, and this, and therefore, I’m secure. Surely all I’ve done good is good enough for God.”
Receiving salvation as a gift by faith requires giving up control. It takes faith! And it forces us to trust the sovereignty of an all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful God who has total control, even when things aren’t going the way we want. Even when we’re hurting. Even when we can’t make sense of our world according to our human understanding.
The law, on the other hand, doesn’t require faith at all, but the man who tries to follow it exactly is only its slave. Galatians 3:10 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, and do them.’” For “no one is justified by the law in the sight of God”; rather, “the just shall live by faith” (verse eleven). Therefore, we are “justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law…for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified…for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:16, 20).
Why the law at all? Especially when scripture forever foretold a final sacrifice – no longer a covering for sin, but Whose blood actually washes sin away. No longer perpetual; once and for all! “The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25).
Romans 3:19-26 explains:
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. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This is the gospel!
Every single human being (except Jesus alone) is born with no defense against sin. We might have the ability to sometimes do good, but not one of us has the ability to not sin at all. Even our righteous acts are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), so deeds we think are ethical, right, and just are treacherous and deceitful before a holy God! Even in our doing good, we sin.
Thankfully, Jesus is the righteousness of God apart from the law. When we put our faith in Christ, His righteousness becomes our righteousness, and we are eternally reconciled to God. Our sin condition becomes a saved condition; our heavenly destination sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Bad things are going to happen. Death comes for every one of us. Sometimes it’s tragic. Other times premature. Sometimes it’s cancer or an accident or a crime. Companies go bankrupt, others downsize. Faithful employees lose their jobs, their houses, and can’t find work. Crimes bring intense pain and suffering into our lives. Horrible things happen to good people, and good things happen to horrible people.
Being a Christian isn’t going to change any of that. In fact, given cultural trends, it might make things even more uncomfortable, which takes me back to the fact that salvation isn’t something to seek in order to have a better life. It is something every single one of us must have in order to have forgiveness of sin, the help and power of God on our side to endure what life delivers here on earth, and assurance of eternal life in heaven once our time here is through, for us and our loves ones who place their faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
Who do you know who needs to hear this today?
Lord, thank You that we are never without Your presence, strength, and comfort. Hedge us behind and before and lay Your hand upon us (Psalm 139:5) as we trust in Jesus, “a better hope, through which we draw near to (You)” (Hebrews 7:19). As we become more wholly Yours, may we “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks (us) a reason for the hope that is in (us)” (I Peter 3:15).