“no one is justified before God by the law” – Almost every time I’ve done one of these studies on Galatians, someone has warned about the danger of antinomianism. Now, I’m all for the law showing me my guilt and my need of Christ to save me from my sin, and I’m all for the law showing me how God wants me to live as a Christian, but as far as my righteous standing before God is concerned, I can’t look at the law – in fact I am antinomian, in the sense that I’m opposed to anyone who suggests we should, because God’s own word clearly says the law cannot make us righteous before Him. “No one is justified by the law”.
Instead, “the righteous shall live by faith”. (Just in case anyone thought this was a new concept introduced by the apostle Paul, he’s actually quoting Habakkuk 2. There’s quite a few quotes from the Old Testament in this passage. It’s like Paul’s taking on the Judaizers at their own game; they were telling people that what Paul taught was good, but it wasn’t the full picture, and they needed to obey some of the Old Testament rules as well, but Paul’s showing that actually the Old Testament was pointing towards this gospel he was preaching of complete salvation by faith alone.)
Some people know that if God judges their lives against his full law there’s no way they’re going to be counted righteous, but instead of giving up on justifying themselves, they twist the Bible to come up with what they think looks like a righteousness they can achieve for themselves, things like “I prayed the right words to ask God to forgive my sins, and I really tried my hardest to mean it and to feel repentant, so surely God will have to accept me, won’t he?”
That’s not living by faith. It’s relying on your own religiousness, and if your hope that God sees you as righteous is based on anything you’ve done, then God will look at your works, and he’ll hold you accountable for every bit of His law that you’ve broken.
The righteous live by faith. They believe God when he says he’s going to make them righteous in Christ, and that’s that. It sounds too easy. We want to add some qualifications on the end, “the righteous shall live by having faith and getting their act together”, but God’s word doesn’t let us do that. It’s supposed to be too easy. It’s humbling for us, and it glorifies God.