After explaining that not only was the law never capable of bringing righteousness, but also it wasn’t ever meant to bring righteousness, Paul further explained that righteousness only comes by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus. The law was not a means of justification, it was simply a means of condemnation. It served the purpose of showing how far short of God’s glory every man, woman, and child that has ever lived is. Compared to the standard of God’s holiness demonstrated in the law, all of mankind fall’s short.
Historically, there are two interactions that mankind has made in regards to God’s law. Many people, after seeing the law of God, imagine if they tried hard enough, they could be able to perfectly obey it. Many others, being faced with the indomitable task of perfectly obeying God, turn away in self-abasement, acknowledging that there is no way they will ever be able to fulfill the things required in the law. Both groups condemn themselves in the end.
The self-justifiers ultimately condemn themselves in their constant pursuit of being better and better. By the very nature of their needing to be better and better, they admit that they are not in a state of perfection, and therefore must work harder to meet the standard of perfection. Sadly, they will never reach perfection before their pursuit of it is over. This means that in their constant effort they acknowledge they are not righteous and therefore will not be declared righteous by God.
The second group, by surrendering to complacency after being faced with such an impossible task, admits that they too are not righteous enough to stand before a holy and perfect God. Whether they are pursuant of God’s favor through the law, or if they are defeatedly surrendered to the impending judgment brought on by their indifference to the law, any who view the law as a means of earning God’s favor will always end up far short of being declared righteous by God.
To this disappointing reality, Paul presents the gospel. The gospel is the good news in the face of such horrible news. After hearing that the law can never bring righteousness, we must resolve that either righteousness can never be had, or that there must be some other means than the law that can bring righteousness. In the gospel, we find that there is some other means by which righteousness comes. And this righteousness is not our own, because we have already understood that we are unable to do what is expected. It must come from someone else.
In the gospel, we find that there was someone else, Jesus. We find that He came, lived perfectly, died, and resurrected, and now offers His own personal righteous account to all those who come in faith to Him. When we place our faith in the saving work of Jesus as our only hope for receiving righteousness, then we can be called the children of God. The good news of the gospel is that it is for everyone and anyone. All who come in faith to Jesus can receive the grace of God.
Paul finishes this thought by taking us back to a key point. Receiving God’s grace and righteousness by faith is not a new thing. Again, we need to remember this is what God has always expected. We can see this as far back as 2,000 B.C. when Abraham came in faith and was declared righteous. Now 4,000 years later, we can come in faith and become heirs of that promise by receiving the grace of God and being given a righteous account that is not our own.
Food For Thought: If the law wasn’t meant as a means of justification, then what purpose did it serve?