The message of the New Testament is simple, direct, and unmistakable. We are
saved by God's grace through faith alone, not on the basis of any good works we
have done. The sole responsibility of a Christian is to believe in the love and
grace which God freely offers.
This clear message stands in sharp contrast to the teachings of those who want
us to trust in Christ and obey certain rules or practice certain rites. These
teachers call their message a gospel, but it isn't really good news at all. They
claim that in order to be acceptable to God, we need to do adequate works. Law
and works are placed side by side with grace as a two-part ticket to
righteousness. Contrary to these teachers, however, the New Testament insists
that it is not law and works that justify, but God's grace and our response of
We are faced with a classic either/or situation. Righteousness must either come
by faith in Christ alone, or by a perfect keeping of God's law. Right standing with
God by faith or salvation by works are mutually exclusive. When we seek
righteousness before God, we must make our choice and not look for some
compromising middle ground.
Abraham was a man who simply believed God, and God accounted him
righteous. We stand on the same ground as Abraham and are heirs of the same
blessings and promises that he enjoyed. This place of privilege comes only by
faith, not by obedience to a code of law or a set of rules. If we seek to be
righteous before God by our works, rather than by faith, we find ourselves under
a curse. There are no exceptions to this rule.
If we look to the law as our hope of assurance before God, the only way we can
know security is to keep every commandment flawlessly. As Paul wrote, "Cursed
is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the
law to do them" (Galatians 3:10). This means we could never really know if we
were saved until we died, and who can live with that kind of pressure?
Imagine that you lived a perfect life, keeping every commandment, never
committing a wrong action. One day, you decide to cross the street while the
walk sign is lit. Suddenly, some driver runs the red light and strikes you down.
As you watch his car's transmission pass over your head, you raise your fist and
your parting words before leaving this world are your assessment of this idiot's
driving habits. In that one small act, you missed the mark. You fell from
perfection. You sinned - and the Bible says the wages of sin is death.
You may be able to keep nine of God's commandments perfectly, but if you fall
short on number ten, you've missed the target. You have sinned. And the badnews is, unless you keep the whole law and do all that is written in it, you are
guilty. It doesn't matter which law you violate; just one failure puts you out.
Therefore, you don't stand a ghost of a chance of being declared righteous on
the basis of your goodness. You are already out. You've already missed the
mark. All you can expect is the curse of the law. Justification by good works is
impossible because it relies on imperfect human effort. Legalism is the way of
Conversely, the avenue of true righteousness and blessing is the way of faith
because it relies not on your effort but on God's great mercy and abundant grace
toward you in Jesus Christ. Though you have missed the mark - though you have
utterly failed to be righteous by your own efforts - God has justified, you in His
Son. Jesus took the responsibility for your falling short of God's standard and
paid the penalty that you owed but could never pay. He gives you His perfect
righteousness if you will just believe in Him and place your faith in Him. And
now, being made right with God through Him, you are a beneficiary of all the
wonderful blessings of God.