“The Law Is Not of Faith”

There is a difference between seeking justification* before God by faith or by the law. Some think we must combine the two, relying both on faith and individual works of obedience. Is this what God requires? Galatians 3 has the answer.

enoughFor all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.  (Galatians 3:10-14)

Believing Versus Doing
From Tabletalk, June 2013

Faith that invests itself wholly and completely in God and His promises alone is the only faith that pleases the Lord. When, in the seventh century BC, Habakkuk could not understand how God could use the evil Babylonians to chastise His people, when it seemed from a human perspective that the Lord’s purposes for Israel had failed and that His faithful servants would not be vindicated, God responded that those He regards as righteous live by faith (Hab. 2:4). That is, those who are righteous in His sight continue trusting Him and do not rely on what they can see from a human perspective or what they can do to vindicate their own righteousness. Dr. R.C. Sproul explains: “Anybody can believe in God. What it means to be a Christian is to trust him when he speaks, which does not require a leap of faith or a crucifixion of the intellect. It requires a crucifixion of pride, because no one is more trustworthy than God” ([Commentary on] Romans, p. 35).

Note Dr. Sproul’s key point that God-pleasing faith means crucifying our pride. This is another way of saying, as Paul does in [Galatians 3:10-14], that we give up trying to attain our own righteousness before the Lord. The righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is ours by faith alone, for it is God’s gift to His people, the result of His saving acts that fulfill His promises to redeem His elect (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26; 4:1-5; 5:12-21). To say that the righteous live by faith does not mean only that God’s people believe in Him but also that those whom the Lord declares to be righteous trust in Him alone. The essence of such faith is believing God in contrast to doing works of obedience. Galatians 3:10-14 contrasts these ways of establishing our relationship with the Father. No one can be declared righteous before God by obeying His law, for the law demands perfect obedience for our justification – our right standing before Him – and no sinner can obey God perfectly. Hoping even a little in our good works of obedience puts us under the Lord’s curse (vv. 10, 12). Our only hope is to trust Christ alone. In so doing, we are redeemed by His death from God’s curse for breaking His law, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to our account, making our standing before the Lord all of grace (vv. 11, 13-14).

Attempting to earn our right standing before God is the stance of pride, the arrogant assertion that our sin-tainted good works can meet His perfect standard. It is not the stance of faith, which rests wholly in Christ alone for His righteousness.

Coram Deo

We can say with certainty that the one temptation that all people have in common is the temptation to believe we can make ourselves right with God, that our efforts, even when done with His help, are good enough; rather, we are to be perfect (Matt. 5:48). That means that only Christ’s perfect righteousness can suffice to put us in a right relationship with the Father. We must trust in Him and Him alone.

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: [email protected] Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

*Justification: “a forensic (legal) term related to the idea of acquittal, justification refers to the divine act whereby God makes humans, who are sinful and therefore worthy of condemnation, acceptable before a God who is holy and righteous.” (Grenz, Guretzika & Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Forgiveness, Salvation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

110 Responses to “The Law Is Not of Faith”

  1. luvinlife says:

    Fifth monarchy man,
    The reason I don’t like the article Sharon posted is not because I think there is error in it. It is that I think it’s message will have 0 impact on a mormon. Why? because it doesn’t tell the whole story. I’m telling you as a former mormon of 12 years who has a lot of family and friends who are still mormons, I know how they think. They will write this off as easy believism, and they will even find scriptures in the Bible to support their belief. They will fall back on the quote from Joseph Smith “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” See most Christians think that the part of James Ch 2 that mormons will rely on is Faith without works is dead. There is much more in James Ch 2 that on the surface can seem to stand directly opposed to Justification by faith alone. For instance previously someone quoted Galatians Ch 3 where Paul says Abraham was justified by his faith and not his works. Now lets look at the last six verses in James Ch 2.
    21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
    22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
    23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
    24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
    25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
    26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
    Take for instance the later Chapters of Ephesians, Romans, and the rest of Paul’s epistles. They all talk about action and doing. None of Paul’s epistles give any hint that obedience is optional for the believer. This type of article will never help a Mormon understand how they are in the wrong. I am telling you they will write it off. They will even think that it’s unbiblical. As wrong as they may be, it’s what they’ll do. They will know that works and obedience are important, but they will never understand the true relationship between salvation by faith alone and works of obedience. The reason being is because they have never been shown the full picture. When you tell them that faith alone will justify them, and not obedience they will think that is ridiculous. They think that they already have a tremendous faith in Jesus Christ. So according to you they just need to hang on to the faith they already have and stop being obedient and working. Of course that isn’t the case at all. Unfortunately some Christians think this is what is required as well. What Mormon’s fail to see is firstly that their faith isn’t even in the real Jesus. Secondly they don’t need to stop working or being obedient, they need to stop putting their faith in their works and Church and put their faith in Christ Alone. We can never earn our Justification or even help to pay for it. If we could, then as Paul says Christ died for nothing. Our obedience and works have to be totally selfless. They have to come from a pure love of God and a desire to show appreciation for his love and Grace. They have to come from an understanding that we are completely helpless to save ourselves. We are totally dependent on the works Christ did and not our own. Our works are what God made us for. Holiness is what we have been set free to be. The moment we think that anything we do earns us more love or favor with God, then our motive becomes selfish. No doubt God is pleased when we do His will. It has to be all for Him though. The Glory is all His and none is ours. I love what Spurgeon said in the article I linked earlier. He said “Heart-work, carried out afterwards into life-work,—this is what the Lord wants.” We have inherited a heart problem. The heart work can only be done by the Holy Ghost, and this will only happen once we come to terms with our total dependence on Christ and put our faith in Him alone. Then and only then can we have the experience of being born again. Unfortunately many Christians don’t understand the part about heart work being carried out into life work which only adds to the mormons false understanding of Salvation.
    Remember what I said before, satan sends errors into the world in pairs hoping that your dislike of one extreme will lead you into the opposite extreme. Mormons fall under the error of thinking they can earn their Justification. Many Christians fall under the error of thinking that saving faith will not include any works, and striving for personal holiness goes against saving faith in Jesus Christ. I have said it before, but I will say it again. As James points out, works and obedience are an inseparable part of saving faith. The works and obedience earn us nothing. They are just a part of the true saving faith that we have in Jesus Christ. We are saved by Faith alone, but saving faith is never alone. That sums up the book of James perfectly. For the Christians who fall into the second error I would say this. If you believe that your just a weak and miserable sinner who can’t be victorious over sin in your life and can’t strive for holiness then I would say your faith is in yourself and not Jesus Christ. For we know that with God all things are possible. If His spirit is in you then there is nothing you can’t do. One of the biggest obstacles I faced coming out of Mormonism was encountering Christians who didn’t understand sound Biblical Doctrines. This made it so hard to wrap my mind around the truth. You will always be a sinner no doubt, but sin must no longer have dominion in your life. If you’re truly saved then sin will grieve you. You will have an uncontrollable urge to war against it. You will hate it because your Father in Heaven who you love so much hates it too. You will be dead to the law in the sense that you are no longer under its requirements for your Justification. However once you’ve been justified the law won’t be dead to you, it will be written on your heart. When you transgress it you won’t fear it’s curse, you’ll fear the hurt and pain you’ve caused your Father. You won’t ever wonder if you have done something wrong because His spirit that lives inside of you will convict you of your transgressions. Not to condemn you, but to free you from the grip of sin on your life. He’s called you to Holiness and His will for your life is Holiness. He’s asking you to reach for the mark, not based on your own feeble abilities, but based on His limitless power working in your life. If His spirit is in you, it won’t be still, nor will it live side by side with willful, unrepentant and unconfessed sin. I know you guy’s have to be tired of my rambling. I feel I have said all I can say on this topic so I will leave it be. If I have offended anyone I apologize. I only want to help you with your progress in reaching out to Mormons. I hope that my experiences can shed some light on what mormons leaving the church face when trying to understand biblical concepts.

  2. luvinlife says:

    CattyJane,
    Remember it’s reaching for the mark, knowing full well we will never reach the mark. It’s not battling sin to earn God’s grace, it’s battling sin because of the Grace we have received. It’s not about what we can do, but rather what God can do in us. The fact that sin grieves you is evidence enough you are heading in the right direction. If you have truly been born again you shouldn’t ever worry that sin will keep you out of heaven. That can’t be your motivation for battling sin. Your motivation must be based on the faith that you have in God’s promise that those he justifies he sanctifies as well. It’s about enjoying the freedom we have in Chris. Freedom from the reign of sin in your life. Keep your eyes on Christ and sin will not be an issue. The moment Satan tricks you into removing your eyes from Christ and obsessing about your failures you will be miserable. You will begin to put your faith in your own abilities instead of God’s limitless power. We’re not trying to live up to a standard, we’re instead becoming completely reliant and dependent on God to have His will done in our life. We are giving control back over to Him and partaking in the birth of our new self. It’s more about a change in desires and a conformity of our will to his. We will always suffer from the weakness of the flesh. We will sin. It’s going to happen, but it will grieve us because it is no longer part of our nature. Sin will cause us to cling that much tighter to the Cross relying on the power of God to change us.

  3. fifth monarchy man says:

    luvinlife.

    Did you catch cattyjanes comment,

    It sounds like she totally missed the gospel in the message I posted.
    It sounds like she thinks that Washer is preaching works. You and I both know that it would break his heart if he thought his sermon was being understood in this way.

    This is exactly why I hesitate to share this kind of message to folks like her.

    She is having the same reaction that the Judaizers had when they heard James. They heard the calls to obedience but did not notice the context of free grace through faith that such calls were given in.

    I don’t know what the answer is and in the end it is up to the Holy Spirit to open someones heart to the gospel and I’m just very glad that he can draw a strait line with a very crooked stick.

    peace

  4. fifth monarchy man says:

    cattyjane says,

    I realize that there are things that I allow in my life that don’t line up. There are things that I have to let go of if I am going to be able to call myself a servant of the Creator. I think it will be difficult to let go of some things because my rebellion against the Creator and his will is much deeper than I realize.

    I say,

    What you need to realize is that if you have even one thing in your life that does not measure up to God’s standard you are already condemned in his eyes.

    let me quote James:

    For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
    (Jas 2:10)

    end quote:

    I think you need to contemplate that.

    It’s not a question of of how difficult it will be for you to give up your sin. Living up to God’s standard is simply impossible for people because we love our sin more than we love God.

    Remember the story of the Rich young ruler? He had kept all the commandments from his youth yet Jesus told him he had not done enough. I recommend you read that story again it ends like this

    quote:

    Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
    (Luk 18:26-27)

    end quote:

    I pray that God would reveal the depths of this truth to you.
    Once you understand what this means you will get what Washer was saying.

    Instead of looking at what you need to give up why don’t you ask God to make you love him more?

    peace

  5. fifth monarchy man says:

    luvinlife said,

    Sin will cause us to cling that much tighter to the Cross relying on the power of God to change us.

    I say,

    Amen and amen, all God’s people said amen

    peace

  6. cattyjane says:

    Luvinlife,
    I like what you said here. I have never considered the idea of being set free in order to be Holy. That fits actually. When you consider that the Israelites were delivered from Egypt and brought to Mt. Sinai where they received the covenant; at that time they were called out to be Holy and be a light unto the Nations. That is a great thought to keep in our minds!
    “Our works are what God made us for. Holiness is what we have been set free to be. The moment we think that anything we do earns us more love or favor with God, then our motive becomes selfish.”

    I will try to remember what you said in this next paragraph. I have a very real fear of the Creator. When I mess up I don’t feel that I have hurt him but instead I feel like I have dishonored Him or failed Him. I don’t have that Father/Daughter feeling. I see him as my King who I serve by choice because He is a good King.
    “When you transgress it you won’t fear it’s curse, you’ll fear the hurt and pain you’ve caused your Father. You won’t ever wonder if you have done something wrong because His spirit that lives inside of you will convict you of your transgressions. Not to condemn you, but to free you from the grip of sin on your life. He’s called you to Holiness and His will for your life is Holiness. He’s asking you to reach for the mark, not based on your own feeble abilities, but based on His limitless power working in your life. “

  7. cattyjane says:

    fifth monarchy man,

    Im not saying that we can do it without Messiah and Im not saying that is what I heard that guy say. What I heard him say is that we must constantly examine ourselves to see if we are truly known by the Most High. Just because I am not caught in sexual immorality, adultery, drukeness, murder, or being a theif does not mean that my other sins do not matter to the Almighty. Anger, deceitfulness, dishonoring my parents, talking bad about someone, pride, impatience and not helping out my neighbors are all sin and they matter just as much. If I am ignoring these because I don’t see them as bad than that means I am not seeing through His eyes. I am not seeing the sin in my life. The world is in agreement that those other things are bad so how does that make me different? It doesn’t. Darkness cannot exist in light. I should be just as troubled by yelling at someone I lost my temper with as I would be if I slept with my best friends husband, and yet when I tell someone exactly how I feel I am liberated in some way. That is wrong. I have a lot of pride and I am not unhappy about that. Something isn’t right. I am going to do what he said and search the scriptures and see how my life should measure up. I think maybe I have excused some things that should not be excused. Narrow is the way, and few find it. In my opinion that means it isn’t easy.

  8. fifth monarchy man says:

    cattyjane said,

    I don’t have that Father/Daughter feeling.

    I say,

    No offense but perhaps that is the problem,

    quote:

    And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
    (Gal 4:6)

    and,

    For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
    (Rom 8:15-16)

    end quote:

    You said,
    Im not saying that we can do it without Messiah

    I say,

    Even Mormons think that they need Messiah’s help to be holy. That is not the issue. A Christian will cease to rely on his labor but instead will trust in the work already done by Messiah and at the same time Christ will send his Spirit to do the work of sanctification in him.

    The Spirit works in me and produces fruit that will please God.
    That way God gets all the Glory.

    You said you had a problem with pride the sure remedy for that to realize that anything good in you is not your doing.

    quoting James:

    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
    (Jas 1:17-18)

    and Paul,

    for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
    (Php 2:13)

    peace

  9. luvinlife says:

    Fifth monarchy Man,
    I understand your hesitation about discussing the topic of Holiness. Keep in mind that CattyJane has struggled with this for a long time. It didn’t start with this conversation. Actually believe it or not this conversation is an excellent topic. Heres why. When I first had my born again experience I was a lot like CattyJane. Suddenly I had a strong urge to live a holy life, and an even stronger urge to war against sin in my life. There may be some others lurking on this board who are going through the same thing. The problem was that a lot of the Christians I encounter lacked this same desire. So I was left confused and at first I began to war against sin just like I had done as a mormon. I was fighting sin based on my own abilities. I was using self discipline and a ton of self will, but this was only changing behavior. It took me a long time to understand that I had to put my faith in Christ to change my heart, and not my self. Heart-work, carried out afterwards into life-work. That’s what it took me so long to understand. The changes have to start from the inside and only Christ can change our heart. Our outward actions should be a reflection of our heart. If we try to change ourselves with outward actions all we will change is behavior. You can see this come to life in any religion that has really strict rules (especially rules about things that are morally neutral like food, music, movies, cloths, electricity, etc…). You end up with a lot of hypocrisy, pride and self righteousness. Take for instance my young children. If I try to mold them into a Christian standard by placing them under strict rules then what will result is an almost certain rebellion once the get out on their own. True lasting change must happen on the inside. This will only happen as I help them put their faith in Christ, and teach them to look to Him for their strength. Once I grasped this concept my spiritual growth skyrocketed. When Christ makes a change in you, not only does your behavior change, but so does your temptation to sin. This goes along with what I said earlier about the fact that we don’t produce the fruits, we merely bear them. Christ is the true vine and when we are grafted in, we will bear fruits.
    CatttJane,
    On my way to and from work I usually listen to archived In touch broadcasts with Dr. Charles Stanley. He is my favorite modern day preacher. I listened to one yesterday that would be so fitting for you. Click on the link below and then search for the broadcast I listed using the date. There are several in that month that are perfect for this topic. Let me know what you think.

    http://www.intouch.org/broadcast/today-on-radio
    Monday, January 04, 2010
    Our Intimacy With God – Part 1

  10. MJP says:

    Catty– If God is the good king, and wants us to be obedient, consider this, from Luke 18:

    “15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.””

    Further, consider how many times are we told we become part of God’s family when we follow Jesus, and that we are heirs to God. We are more than just loyal servants following the Good King, are an intimate part of his family.

    That’s just a thought to remember when you consider your role in following God.

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