Does legalism represent a fatal misunderstanding of the purpose of OT law?
I fall into the trap of thinking that if I just follow the rules, I will be seen as good in the eyes of God. That is a big error. My journey with Jesus must start with faith in Him. From there on, I must follow the commands of my Master to love but I must start with faith.
Here is a paradox: the Jews sought for righteousness but did not find it, while the Gentiles, who were not searching for it, found it! The reason? Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected “grace righteousness” and tried to please God with “Law righteousness.”
The Jews thought that the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved; when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved. “For there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22–23). Instead of permitting their religious privileges (Rom. 9:1–5) to lead them to the Messiah, they used these privileges as a substitute for Jesus.
We need to decide what kind of righteousness we are seeking, whether we are depending on good works and character, or trusting Jesus alone for salvation. God does not save people on the basis of birth or behavior. He saves them “by grace, through faith” (Eph. 2:8–9). It is not a question of whether or not we are among God’s elect. That is a mystery known only to God. He offers us His salvation by faith. The offer is made to “whosoever will” (Rev. 22:17). After we have trusted Jesus, then we have the witness and evidence that we are among His elect (Eph. 1:4–14; 1 Thes. 1:1–10). But first we must trust Him and receive by faith His righteousness which alone can guarantee heaven.
No one will deny that there are many mysteries connected with divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Nowhere does God ask us to choose between these two truths, because they both come from God and are a part of God’s plan. They do not compete; they cooperate. The fact that we cannot fully understand how they work together does not deny the fact that they do. When a man asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciled divine sovereignty and human responsibility, Spurgeon replied: “I never try to reconcile friends!”
God is faithful, righteous, just, and gracious, and He can be depended on to accomplish His purposes and keep His promises. God is in a good mood. All the time.
- Romans 9:31–32 —But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
- Romans 3:20 —Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
- Galatians 3:10–11 —For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”
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