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 are made right with God by faith alone in Jesus—not by obeying the law.
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 do something for us in response to what we do for Him disgraces Him. Jesus has already paid for our forgiveness, our healing, and everything we will ever need. Faith appropriates the promises God has provided through His Son’s finished work of grace. Faith believes in God’s promise without needing physical proof for it to be true. Believing in only what you see is not faith. Faith is the substance of what you hope for. It is the evidence of what you have not seen.
Obedience is the fruit of faith. The promises of God 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. If God’s promises are only received in response to what we do, then faith in Jesus Christ is pointless.
Any work born of a need to prove to God or to ourselves or to others that we are good is purely self-righteous. This kind of obedience is dead. But obedience and works born of our faith in our right relationship with God are full of His life. When we believe we don’t have to serve God to prove our love for Him—when we are obedient with nothing to prove to ourselves or anyone else, the works that we do for Him are alive. They are full of faith and are powerful.
The wrong kind of obedience to God 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. For Him to be the Lord of our lives, we need to know who He is within us and the difference He has made in us.
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. And because He loved us before we ever loved Him, we have nothing to prove. There is nothing we need to do to win His acceptance and love. Jesus won God’s 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. It is only by faith in His finished work of grace that we can be obedient.
What we do for God is only powerful and alive, when we live for Him out of the righteousness that is ours in Christ. When we believe we are right with God, there is nothing to hinder His work in us. We are obedient not to be obedient. We are obedient because we know He first loved us.
© 2023 Lynn Lacher