Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.
—Galatians 2:16 (NLT)
Keeping the law doesn’t make us right with God. We wouldn’t have needed Christ to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins if it did. Working to prove ourselves right with God is frustrating because it is impossible. Our right standing with God is a gift we received by faith in Jesus Christ. We can’t earn the gift of salvation that Jesus has already earned for us. We can’t earn the healing that He already paid the price for us to have. Believing that God will save or heal or provide in response to what we do for Him demeans the precious blood and sacrifice of Jesus.
We are made right with God by faith alone in Jesus—not by obeying the law. If God’s promises are only for those who are obedient, then faith is not necessary and His promises are pointless (Romans 4:14). His promises are true, and we receive them by faith—not by our works. We don’t receive salvation or healing or God’s promises because we have obeyed the law. We receive salvation and healing and God’s promises only by faith in the finished work of Christ.
Any work born of a need to prove to God or to ourselves or to others that we are holy is purely self-righteous. This kind of obedience is full of death. But obedience and works born of our faith in our right relationship with God are full of His life. When we know we don’t have to serve Him to prove our love for Him—when we are obedient to Him and serve Him with nothing to prove to ourselves or anyone else, the works that we do for Him are full of faith and are powerful.
The wrong kind of obedience is full of ourselves and disgraces the finished work of Jesus. The right kind of obedience is full of faith and God’s love. God calls us to be obedient but He desires obedience born of faith and not of a selfish need to prove ourselves to Him. To serve God out of our love and faith in Him, we need to know the new person Jesus created us to be. To make Him the Lord of our lives, we need to know who He is within us and the difference He has made in us. The old selfish nature has been crucified with Christ. When we believe our old nature is dead, then we can put on the new nature He has given us—the new man full of His righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:23-24).
Until we know our position—our right-standing in Christ and surrender our need to be accepted, recognized, and rewarded—until we believe that God has already accepted, recognized, and rewarded us—until we believe the righteousness of Christ is alive in us, we will wrestle with our obedience to God.
We love and serve God when we know and believe with unshakeable certainty that God first loved us (1 John 4:19). And because He loved us before we ever loved Him, we have nothing to do to win His acceptance and love. Jesus won His love for us.
Faith works through love. Works without faith and God’s love have no life. Works born out of our faith in Jesus and His love for us, are alive and bring glory to God. It is only by faith in Christ we have right-standing with God. Out of our belief in our identity in Christ—out of the righteousness He died to give us, we serve Him. We are obedient because He first loved us.
© 2022 Lynn Lacher