The doers of the Law will be justified but NOT by the Works of the Law.

When discussing the letter to the Galatians, we often discuss the things that Paul opposed.  We discuss the Law of Moses, circumcision, the works of the Law and the freedom that Christians have from these things.  But do we sufficiently discuss the gospel in Galatians?  The purpose of this article series, therefore, is to discuss how people are saved according to the letter to the Galatians.

That letter mentions several concepts that are related to salvation, including:

      • End-time Judgment;
      • The Works of the Law;
      • Faith;
      • Justification;
      • Grace;
      • Christ’s death; and
      • Redemption.

The purpose of this article is to explain, from the letter to the Galatians alone, the relationship between these concepts.

To prepare this article series, I did not specifically consult the theological giants of this world, but simply read the letter many times over and organized the concepts. However, while doing this, I did listen, several times, to Graham Maxwell’s exposition of Galatians.

In certain respects, the conclusions in this article are radically different from the textbook explanations of salvation.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the NASB and from Galatians.

SUMMARY

JUDGED BY OUR DEEDS

The Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age.” He rescues us from “corruption” to “eternal life” in the future “kingdom of God.”

Whether we will “reap corruption” or “eternal life” depends on the end-time judgment, where we will be judged by our deeds. This is what the Old Testament and Jesus consistently taught.  Perhaps to the surprise of many, Paul also taught in his letters: “God … will render to each person according to his deeds.”  The question in this article series then becomes, if we are justified by grace through faith, why will we be judged by our deeds?

WORKS OF THE LAW

A frequent refrain in Galatians is that nobody will be justified by “the works of the Law.” This leaves us with an apparent contradiction, for “the doers of the Law will be justified” but “man is not justified by the works of the Law.”  For both these statements to be true, the “deeds” of the Law must be different from the “works” of the Law.

Deeds – Since “the doers of the Law will be justified,” the “deeds” of the Law must refer to good deeds; acts of love.

Works – The controversy in Galatians was particularly over circumcision, which is not an act of love, but a legal requirement. For this reason, and because nobody will be justified by the “works,” these “works” do not refer to good deeds, but to legal requirements.

Since “works” and “deeds” are different things, it is valid to say that “the doers of the Law will be justified” but “man is not justified by the works of the Law.”

– END OF SUMMARY –

ETERNAL LIFE

This article starts with the end of salvation and ends with the beginning thereof. Galatians refers to the end of salvation as follows:

The Lord Jesus Christ …
rescue us from this present evil age
” (1:3-4).

We … are waiting for the hope of righteousness” (5:5).

But, to what does He rescue us?  And what is our hope? According to 6:8, our end will either be “corruption” or “eternal life.”  For more detail, see Eternal Life and Death in Paul’s Letters.

JUDGED BY OUR DEEDS

Paul claims that, whether we will reap “corruption” or “eternal life,” depends on a future judgment. Many denominations today teach that some people will be saved irrespective of what kind of people they are and notwithstanding their sins, but that is not what Paul taught.  Galatians states that we will be JUDGED BY OUR DEEDS:

Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary“ (6:7-9).

Those who practice such things (“the deeds of the flesh” – 5:19) will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21).

Each one must examine his own work … for each one will bear his own load“ (6:4-5).

The one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment” (5:10).

This is also what the Old Testament and Jesus consistently taught.  Think, for example of Christ’s parable of the sheep and the goats:

I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me” (Mt. 25:31-)

Perhaps to the surprise of some, Paul also taught in his other letters that we will be judged by our deeds:

God … will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:5-6).

The doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13; cf. 8:13; 2 Cor. 5:10; 11:15; 2 Tim. 4:14).

This principle—that we will be judged by our deeds—is the point of departure in this article.  The purpose of this article can then be defined as follows: If we are justified by grace through faith, why will we be judged by our deeds?

THE WORKS OF THE LAW

A frequent refrain in Galatians is that nobody will be justified by “the works of the Law” (2:16). Let us then first ask, if nobody will be justified by “the works of the Law,” why will we be judged by our deeds?

Notice that ”justified” appears in both the following phrases:

      • The doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13).
      • Man is not justified by the works of the Law” (Gal 2:16).

For both statements to be true, the “deeds” of the Law must be something different from the “works” of the Law.

DEEDS OF THE LAW

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). This principle is contained in the Old Testament, but Jesus elevated it as the main principle of His kingdom. He replaced the multitude of requirements in the Law with this fundamental rule.  Because this is what Christ taught, Paul said, “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).  (See Law of Christ.) He also wrote, “through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (5:13-14). 

Since “the doers of the Law will be justified,” the “deeds” of the Law must refer to good deeds (“doing good” – 6:9), namely, acts of love.

WORKS OF THE LAW

If the “deeds” of the Law are good deeds, then the “works of the Law” cannot be good deeds. We can define these “works” from Galatians. The opposing parties argued particularly over circumcision. Circumcision was not an act of love, but a legal requirement. “Works,” therefore, refer to circumcision and other such ceremonies and rituals of the Law of Moses that are not intrinsically acts of love, but legal requirements.

The “party of the circumcision” (2:12) said that Gentiles must be circumcised because “man is … justified by the works of the Law” (2:16). They taught that people are justified by compliance with these legal requirements, irrespective of what kind of people they are and despite their sins.

To oppose this teaching, Paul said that nobody will be justified by the works of the Law. In saying this, Paul was not talking about good deeds (acts of love). He was not saying that we are not now free to sin. We will still be judged by our deeds:

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

1. “The doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13). CURRENT
2. Justified through faith NEXT
3. Justification
4. Christ’s death enabled the grace of God.
Table of Contents for the articles on Galatians

Graham Maxwell, a talented Adventist preacher, explains his view of God’s use of the law from the letter to the Galatians.

If people are justified through faith, why will they be judged by their deeds?

This is the second article in the Gospel in Galatians-series.  The first article dealt with the apparent contradiction that nobody will be justified by “the works of the Law,” but “the doers of the Law will be justified.” Another main theme in Galatians is that people are justified through faith:

Man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus” (2:16; cf. 2:20; 3:2, 5-9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 27; 5:5).

The question in this article is, if people are justified through faith, why will they be judged by their deeds, as argued in that article?  This article will argue that deeds and faith, correctly understood, are the same thing.

SUMMARY

Deeds – If God judged humans strictly by our deeds, nobody will be saved. But God does not judge us what we do; He judges what we WANT to do. The true Christian “wants to do good” for he “joyfully concur(s) with the law of God in the inner man.” Nevertheless, the Christian remains a prisoner “of the law of sin which is in my members” for his or her entire life.

Faith – To have faith is not simply to believe something to be true, based on the best available evidence.  To have faith in God is to TRUST Him; that He, in His infinite power, will only do what is best for every one of His creatures.  Furthermore, “faith” is not just something in the mind without external, physical consequences.  The person that is “a new creation” has “faith working through love.

Both good “deeds” and true faith describe a “new creation” in the “inner man” that is invisible to the human eyes.  Only God is able to see and rightly judge this “inner man.” Defined in this way, to be judged by our deeds, is the same as to be justified by faith.

– END OF SUMMARY- 

ALL HAVE SINNED

Firstly, no person can be saved based on his or her deeds. Paul, for example, wrote that “the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin” (3:22). In other words, according to “the Scripture” (the Old Testament) all people are sinners.  This principle is stated many times in Romans, for example, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Judged strictly by our deeds, nobody will be saved.

DEEDS – WHAT WE WANT TO DO

But God does not judge what we do; He judges what we WANT to do. For example, Romans 8:13 reads:

If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Putting to death” the deeds of the body does not mean that the person has ALREADY put to death the deeds of the body. The person will “live” if he or she is IN THE PROCESS OF putting such deeds to death.

Paul described himself as such a person in the previous chapter of Romans. He says that he (himself):

Wants to do good” for he “joyfully concur(s) with the law of God in the inner man,” but he is a prisoner “of the law of sin which is in my members” (7:21-23). “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (7:15).

Paul remained a prisoner “of the law of sin which is in my members” all his life, but that does not mean that he is eternally lost.  As a person who “wants to do good,” he was “putting to death the deeds of the body.” He will live. Paul could, therefore, joyfully conclude:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:24-25).

Note, in the quotes above, how many times Paul referred to his “inner man;” what he “wants to do” and what he hates. This is what God judges; not the horrible and evil things we actually do.

FAITH – TO TRUST GOD

Faith does not mean simply to have hope or knowledge that God exists. Faith, in Paul, is not merely something that I believe to be true, such as that it is going to rain tomorrow, based on the best available evidence.  “The demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). 

True faith is to TRUST God. To have faith in God is to know that He is kind and loving as well as Almighty. He will only do what is best for every one of His creatures. Since “God is love” (e.g. 1 John 4:8), and since “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16), we can put all our trust in Him. That is faith; to trust God.

This may be contrasted with the theology of Paul’s opponents. They hoped to be saved by the “works of the Law.” This means to trust in what you can do for yourself. To be justified by faith means to realize that I cannot do ANYTHING for myself, but I trust and rely on God’s kindness and grace.

FAITH WORKS THROUGH LOVE.

But “faith” is not just something in the mind without external, physical consequences.  In Galatians, Paul says twice that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything.” In both instances, he goes on to explain what really matters:

      • But faith working through love” (5:6).
      • But a new creation” (6:15).

In other words, the person that is “a new creation” has “faith working through love.” This phrase contains three concepts; work, faith and love:

Work refers to our deeds; the things we do. In this context, it refers to deeds of love.

Faith is not something that is limited to the mind but results in deeds of love.

Love is the motive behind the work. Love is the power that converts faith into deeds. 

Work, faith and love, but the greatest of these is love. (I am playing on 1 Corinthians 13:13).  We cannot separate these three concepts. When we refer to faith, that includes love and deeds of love.

GOD ALONE CAN JUDGE.

Defined in this way, both “deeds” and “faith” are invisible to human eyes.  Only God is able to see and rightly judge this “inner man.” God will judge in His infinite wisdom. In the millennia of His eternal kingdom, we will study His judgments (Rev. 20:4), and will always continue to be astounded by His unending wisdom. The One who created the marvel of the human body has prepared for those who love him “things … which have not entered the heart of man” (1 Cor. 2:9).

CONCLUSION

In this article we ask, if people are justified by their faith, why will they be judged by their deeds?  We have said that to be judged by our deeds, is the same as to be justified by faith:

Deeds – Man’s deeds are always inadequate but God knows what we really WANT to do in our inner being and He judges us by it. 

Faith – True faith trusts God in the “inner man.” True faith works through love. It wants to do what is right.

Both good “deeds” and true faith describe a “new creation” in the “inner man” and in our thinking. 

Both what a person wants to do and whether a person trusts God are invisible to humans. Some people want to do good. Others want to do bad.  Only God knows the difference, for only God is able to judge the “inner man.”

If we want to be part of God’s kingdom, where the strong serves the weak, then we will be saved. If we do not like God’s principles of loving your enemy and turning the other cheek, then God will not force us. However, that means “corruption” (6:8), for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

1. “The doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13).
2. Justified through faith
3. Justification
4. Christ’s death enabled the grace of God.
Table of Contents for the articles on Galatians

Graham Maxwell, a talented Adventist preacher, explains his view of God’s use of the law from the letter to the Galatians.

 

Is justification a legal process or does it mean that the person is changed?

This is the third article in the Gospel in Galatians-series:

The first article dealt with the apparent contradiction that:
a man is not justified by the works of the Law” (Gal. 2:16)
but “the doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13)

The second article asks, if people are justified through faith, why will they be judged by their deeds?

This third article investigates the meaning of the word “justified.”

SUMMARY

The Galatians were seeking to be justified by “the works of the Law.” This means that they thought that people are put right with God by complying with the legal requirements of the Law, irrespective of what kind of people they are.  For that reason, they were fond of using a legal word that we today often translate as “justified.” 

In his rebuttal of their position, Paul used the same legal word when he wrote that we are “justified by faith.” However, he did not think of justification as a legal process, unconnected to what kind of person you are. Rather, he thought of justification as a substantive change in the person.  He used the word “justified” because he was talking to Jews and that it was a favorite term in Jewish circles.

– END OF SUMMARY –

JUSTIFICATION – LEGAL PROCESS

JustifiedThe Galatians were trying to be “perfected by the flesh” (3:3), which means to work for salvation in their own power. 

In particular, they were seeking to be justified by “the works of the Law” (2:16; 5:4). This means that they thought that people are put right with God by complying with the legal requirements of the Law, irrespective of what kind of people they are. These legal requirements included many rituals and ceremonies but circumcision was the prime example. 

Because they thought of salvation as a technical legal process, the Jews were fond of using a legal word that we today often translate as “justification.” 

JUSTIFICATION – A CHANGED PERSON

In his rebuttal of their position, when he said that nobody will be justified by the works of the Law, Paul used the same legal word when he wrote that we are “justified by faith” (2:16; 3:11). However, he did not think of justification as a legal process, unconnected to what kind of person you are. Rather, he thought of justification as a substantive change in the person.  This can be shown in several ways:

1. Doers will be justified

As already shown above, Paul taught that “the doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13). And as explained, that does NOT mean that a person is “justified” on some technical legal basis. Rather, people are saved if they, in their “inner man,” want to comply with God’s law (Rom. 7:22).

2. Justified by faith

Paul also argued that people are “justified by faith” (3:24). This is not a legal technicality. Faith, or the lack there-of, speaks to the substance of the human being. “Justified by faith,” therefore, actually, is a contradiction in terms, unless we understand “justified” in a non-legal way.

3. God justifies

Paul added that justification is something which God does: “God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (3:8). Justification, therefore, is not some legal technicality that justifies us before God. It is not something which I do myself or which Christ did to justify us before God. Rather, God Himself justifies us.

4. God changes us by the Spirit.

God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts” (4:6). The Spirit is a power that is able to change us: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (5:24-25). “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness …” (5:22-23). “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (6:6).

To be “justified,” therefore, does not simply mean that our sins are forgiven through some legal technicality: God will not populate heaven with pardoned criminals: Justified means to be a changed person.  It means to be “a new creation” (6:15) that has “faith working through love” (5:6).  God creates a right spirit within us.

WHY PAUL USED THE WORD JUSTIFICATION

Paul, therefore, did not use the word “justification” because he thought that people are saved by complying with some legal requirements, irrespective of their sins: He used that word because it was a favorite term in Jewish circles and he was debating Jews. He used Jewish language to counter the claim of his Jewish opponents that man is justified by the works of the Law (5:4; 2:16; 3:2, 4).

Furthermore, we should remember that Paul used many different metaphors to describe how people are put right with God.  For example, faith will not only justify us but by faith, we also receive the promise that God made to Abraham (3:14, 22) and are we adopted as “sons of God” (3:26; 4:5-7).  This is discussed in the article Metaphors of Salvation. “Justification,” therefore, is simply one of many metaphors that Paul used to describe something which is probably beyond human understanding, namely how people are saved. 

FALSE GOD

Many theologians today still describe salvation as a legal process. They no longer propose that people are justified by the legal demands of the law. They now say that God demands that somebody had to suffer for our sins, and Christ suffered in our place.  That theology presents God as an arbitrary tyrant and is inconsistent with the Bible.  God does not need some legal technicality to save people.  Christ “gave Himself for our sins … ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF OUR GOD AND FATHER” (1:4).  Or, stated even stronger, “GOD SENT FORTH HIS SON” (4:4). Christ’s death, therefore, did not make the Father willing to forgive or to be gracious.  People who think that God needs a technical legal process to forgive people do not really worship the God of the Bible: They worship something created in their own image.

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

1. “The doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13).
2. Justified through faith
3. Justification
4. Christ’s death enabled the grace of God.
Table of Contents for the articles on Galatians

Perhaps the reader will benefit from listening to Graham Maxwell, a talented but somewhat controversial Adventist preacher, as he explains his view of God’s use of the law from the letter to the Galatians.

Christ’s death removed our sin and thus enabled the grace of God.

This is the fourth article in the Gospel in Galatians-series:

The first article dealt with the apparent contradiction that:
a man is not justified by the works of the Law” (Gal. 2:16)
but “the doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13)

The second article asks, if people are justified through faith, why will they be judged by their deeds?

The third article concludes that Justification is not a legal process through which the sinner is merely forgiven but a substantive process through which the sinner is changed.

This fourth article, consequently, asks, if we will be judged by whether we are changed people, where does grace fit in God’s plan of salvation?

SUMMARY

The word “grace,” when used in the context of salvation, appears only twice in Galatians, namely in two very similar phrases (2:21 and 5:2-4).  These verses imply a close connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace. Therefore, when Paul refers to “grace,” he specifically thought of Christ’s death. 

Three passages in Galatians use the phrases “in order that” and “so that” to explain why Christ had to die (1:3-4, 3:13-14 and 4:4-5). These passages explain the connection between Christ’ death and God’s grace:

Christ died “for our sins.” We are all sinners and we all deserve to die. However, somehow, through His death, Christ did something to solve the problem of our sin.  If He did not overcome, we would all have been eternally lost.

Secondly, because Christ removed the problem of our sin, we are justified by faith. Christ’s death alone, for that reason, is insufficient for salvation: Faith is also required.

Thirdly and consequently, if Christ did not remove the problem of sin through His death, God would have been forced to judge us by our deeds, and we would all have been lost. But since Christ has removed the problem of our sin, God is able to judge us by our faith.  To be judged by faith is grace.  Therefore, Christ’s death enabled God’s grace

Why Christ’s death enabled God’s grace is a topic of huge debate. Romans 3:25-26 explains why Christ’s death enabled God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith.” 

– END OF SUMMARY – 

GRACE OF GOD 

The word “grace,” when used in the context of salvation, appears only twice in Galatians:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (2:21).

If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 … 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (5:2-4).

These verses are very similar. The following phrases are parallel:

2:21 5:2-4
To receive “righteousness To be “justified
Nullify the grace of God Fallen from grace
Through the Law By law
Christ died needlessly Christ will be of no benefit to you

Furthermore, both passages contrast how people are justified according to the Jews and according to Paul:

In Jewish thinking, people are justified “through the Law” (2:21; 5:4).

In these verses, Paul, in response, argued that people are justified through Christ’s death and God’s grace.

GRACE – CONNECTED TO CHRIST’S DEATH.

Allen correctly aligns the grace of God to Christ's deathHowever, what is important for our question where grace fits, is that both these verses imply a close connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace:

According to 2:21, if people can receive righteousness “through the Law,” then “the grace of God” is not required and “Christ died needlessly.” 

5:2-4 similarly states that, if the Galatians receive circumcision, then, “Christ will be of no benefit to you” and “you have fallen from grace.” “Christ” implies Christ’s death (3:13).

The point is that, in Galatians, we find “grace of God” associated with Christ’s death.  God is grace.  He does not desire any person to die.  He wants every person to come to Him to become “a new creation.”  However, when Paul refers to “grace,” he thought specifically of Christ’s death. 

WHY JESUS HAD TO DIE

The following passages have been selected from Galatians to investigate, in more depth, the connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace. These passages explain why Christ had to die. Note, in particular, the phrases “in order that,” “so that” and “that” in these verses.  Christ’s death is described before those phrases.  What follows after these phrases describes the consequences or benefits of His death:

CHRIST’S DEATH   CONSEQUENCES
The Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (1:3-4).
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law … 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” (3:13-14).
God sent forth His Son… 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons“ (4:4-5).

CHRIST’S DEATH

First, consider the column on the left: Christ’s death. He died “for our sins” (1:4) and “redeemed us from the curse of the Law” (3:13; cf. 4:5). The “curse” refers to the consequences of our sins (see 3:10).

We all are sinners and we all deserve to die: “the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin” (3:22) and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 7:23).  Our sins prevented us from receiving eternal life. However, somehow, through His death, Christ did something to deal with “the curse of the Law.” Through His death, He solved the problem of our sin.  As is also stated in Romans 8:3:

God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.

In this article, I often refer to Christ’s death, but if He sinned in any way during His life, His death would have been of no value.  His entire life was a test, but His death was His highest test as well as the end of His test. His death, therefore, represents His entire life.

Incidentally, notice the word “redeem” in 3:13 and 4:5.  These are the only instances of this word in Galatians and in both instances this word describes what Christ did through His death.

CONSEQUENCES OF CHRIST’S DEATH

After the phrases “in order that” and “so that,” Paul lists the consequences of the fact that Christ solved the problem of our sin:

“… rescue us from this present evil age” (1:4).

… the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles … through faith” (3:13-14).

…we might receive the adoption as sons“ (4:4-5).

ABRAHAM’S BLESSINGS

Just a quick word to explain “the blessing of Abraham.

It was important for Paul to write that Abraham was “reckoned … as righteousness” based on his FAITH (3:6) and that believers receive the blessings which God promised to Abraham “through FAITH” (3:14; cf. 3:8, 9, 11, 29). Paul’s point was that people were also justified by their faith in the Old Testament. Therefore, Paul argued, his claim that people are justified by their faith, rather than by the legal requirements of the Law, is a continuation of the gospel from the Old Testament; not a break from it.

According to 3:21, those promises are “able to impart life.” This means that Paul understood Abraham’s blessings as promises of eternal life.

Because they become the recipients of Abraham’s blessings, Paul referred to Gentile believers as “sons of Abraham” (3:7), as “Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (3:29) and as an “heir through God” (4:7).

CONCLUSIONS

From the consequences of Christ’s death, we draw the following conclusions:

Firstly, people can only be saved because of Christ’s death.  If He did not overcome (Rev. 3:21), we would all have been eternally lost.

Secondly, the Gentiles receive “the blessing of Abraham … through faith” (3:13-14) and they are adopted as sons “through faith” (3:26). Christ’s death alone, consequently, is insufficient for salvation: Faith is also required.

Thirdly, and consequently, Christ’s death enabled the grace of God.  If Christ did not solve the problem of sin, God would not have been able to forgive our sins. He would have been forced to judge us by our literal deeds, and we would have been eternally lost. But now that Christ has removed the problem of our sin, God is able to judge us by our faith.  To be judged by faith, rather than by our deeds, is grace. 

In this section, we try to understand where grace fits into God’s plan of salvation. Above, we have established that grace is closely connected to Christ’s death. We have now also discovered that the connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace is that Christ’s death enabled God’s grace.  Salvation by faith would have been impossible without Christ’s sacrifice.  In fact, no salvation would have been possible at all, for only sinless beings would have been allowed to live.

CONFIRMATION FROM ROMANS

To confirm this understanding, I selected from Romans the first occurrences of the word “grace” when used in the context of salvation.  The first is Romans 3:24:

Justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

Compared to the quotes above from Galatians, this verse is reversed, for it first mentions the consequences of Christ’s death and ends with Christ’s death. Since the sentence has been reversed, the “so that” in Galatians has here been replaced with “through.”  But the message is the same:

      • This verse links the word “redemption” to Christ’s death.
      • Grace is “through” (the consequence of) Christ’s death.

The second occurrence of “grace” is in Romans 4:16:

It is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace.” (Romans 4:16).

In other words, the fact that God judges by faith, and overlooks our sins, is grace. 

EXPLANATION BY ROMANS 3:25-26

These few examples, therefore, confirm that Christ’s death enabled God’s grace.  Why this is so, is a subject of huge debate. Romans 3:25-26 helps to explain why Christ’s death enabled God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith.”  I quote:

Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In other words, without Christ’s death, it would not have been “just” for God to justify people simply based on faith.  To explain this, please refer to Why did Jesus have to die or Christ’s death demonstrated the rightness of God’s judgments. That goes into the area of the Atonement Theories, which we will not attempt to explain here.

IN CHRIST

Because of the fundamental role which the Cross has in the salvation process, Paul often states that salvation is “in Christ:”

      • Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus“ (Gal. 2:4)
      • Seeking to be justified in Christ” (2:17)
      • In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but …” (5:6; cf. 3:14, 22, 26).

This same concept is also expressed in other ways:

      • Crucified with Christ” (2:20);
      • Baptized into Christ” (3:27);
      • Clothed … with Christ” (3:27);
      • Belong to Christ” (3:29 and 5:24); and
      • Severed from Christ” (5:4).

Sometimes the phrase “through faith” is added to “in Christ:”

      • A man is … justified … through faith in Christ Jesus” (2:16).
      • The promise by faith in Jesus Christ
        might be given to those who believe
        ” (3:22)
      • For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:26)

However, as explained in the article In Christ, “through faith in Christ Jesus” does not only mean to believe in Jesus.  The phrases “through faith” and “in Christ” are two different concepts.  This is shown by the fact that one finds the phrase “in Christ” several times without the words “through faith,” for example 2:17, 3:14 and 5:6.

The main point remains that Christ’s death enabled God’s grace. Because of Christ’s death, God able to judge our inner man, rather than our literal, horrible and sinful deeds.

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

1. “The doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13).
2.
Justified through faith
3.
Justification
4. Christ’s death enabled the grace of God.
Table of Contents for the articles on Galatians

Perhaps the reader will benefit from listening to Graham Maxwell, a talented but somewhat controversial Adventist preacher, as he explains his view of God’s use of the law from the letter to the Galatians.