Even though it is incredibly clear in scripture that no man can save himself, millions still imagine that perhaps they are the one exception. They imagine that at some level they will be seen as “good enough” or “not that bad,” and God will offer them His acceptance and forgiveness based upon their superb effort. But the debt that is owed is insurmountable. The wrath to be endured is eternal. There is nothing in us or of us that can withstand the judgment of God.
From birth, we are at best the enemies of God, and in life we accumulate the wrath of God against our constant sinning. Ultimately, we are faced with the grave reality that our continual rebellion will not simply be dismissed. At this point of self-realized guilt, our conviction is doubly ensured. He has declared us guilty, and we now know it to be true. Like a man fallen in a pit, the frantic response of most is to claw at the sides of the pit to try to climb out; but scratching on the sides of this pit only serves to collapse the dirt walls and further bury the trapped in despair. Clambering at the sides of the pit only serves to further indict those at enmity with God, demonstrating that they know of their desperate state and are now seeking their own solution.
“All have sinned” the Scripture tells us. And now, as enemies, by birthright and by action, we will receive the wages of our sin – eternal death. Our actions have brought us nothing but condemnation and guilt. To imagine that the same dirty hands that guaranteed our judgment will somehow bring us life and forgiveness is nonsensical. Our greatest attempts have always ended in failure, because even when we succeeded at good works, they were laced with our wrong motives of self-justification and self-glorification.
Our only hope as enemies and rebels is that God, of His own will and grace, would extend to us forgiveness and peace. These two ingredients are the recipe of our reconciliation. First, forgiveness, because we cannot be resolved until we have been forgiven; and then, peace, because we cannot have a relationship until all the tension of difference is resolved. In Galatians 6:16, Paul argues that these two things are found only in Christ.
“As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy.” The rule that he is speaking of is what he just spent the entire Epistle explaining. There is nothing that you can do to earn the forgiveness and favor of God. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus for you. All those that come trusting this truth find “peace on them and mercy.” Here mercy is the same idea as forgiveness. We are reconciled and forgiven by God. But that peace and forgiveness only comes if we are following after the way that God has prescribed for our forgiveness. Peace is only had on his terms. Forgiveness and mercy can only spring from His heart, and it only comes on those who have surrendered their efforts and flung themselves in faith on the mercy of a gracious God.
Food For Thought: What two things mentioned in verse 16 are necessary for us to be right with God?