John Yarbrough, TMU director of alumni affairs and public policy
Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Galatians 3:10-25
God is holy, He is perfect, and no matter how hard we try and how good we are we fail in our ability to meet his standards.
As I share with people the need for each of us to realize that we are all sinners I am often confronted with individuals who are good, moral people and they quickly point to the fact they live a good life and do good things. They will often compare themselves with others and say I am “better than…”
I am quick to let them know they are probably even better than me, but that the issue is how they compare with God. I will often say, “If God is the standard of 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you compare to God?”
They will frequently respond, “I am a 7 or 8,” which is self-over-rating to me. I let them know that the gap between God’s 10 and their 7 is SIN and must be bridged if we are to have the relationship with God that He desires to have with us. The Bible is very clear that none of us are righteous, “There is none Righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)
In the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture we think we can fix or do just about anything. Many individuals think they can be good on their own. That is not original in our 21st century culture. Under the law, Jews believed that through obedience they could, as lawkeepers, repair the gap and offer their goodness to God. The law was God’s provision to point them to Jesus Christ and His provision.
Even in the early church there was a difference of opinion that had to be resolved concerning the law and faith. There were those who felt the Gentiles who came to faith in Jesus Christ still had to live under the law. Paul informs the Galatians that the law was a tutor, “Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
The law was a provision, “until the seed should come…” (Galatians 3:19), until Christ. We can only be justified (made righteous) through faith in Jesus Christ. By faith we stand in the righteousness of Christ.
Our personal righteousness based on the works we do will never make us righteous, “since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16b).
The Bible is clear concerning faith and works. Our redemption comes by faith, not by works. However, we must be clear. Those who say we can do anything we want to do, that works are no longer important, simply do not understand the Christian life. I often say, in a joking way, “I am so saved that I can no longer enjoy sin.” After they laugh, true Christ followers recognize the truth in that statement.
Our conduct doesn’t save us, justify us, or make us righteous. But, our conduct does reflect the change that comes through faith in Christ and abiding in Him.
It is not wrong to “do good.” The question is, why do good? If we are doing good to earn God’s good favor and “fix” that which is broken in our relationship with Him, those works will never suffice. However, if we do good because we have a faith relationship with Jesus Christ that has changed us and given us purpose, then those works are right and good.
There is a reason we live by faith until a time we will, by sight, see the fulfillment of our faith. We live to bring glory to God, to have a relationship with God, and obey His Great Commission and His command.