I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Paul makes a strong statement of clarity in today’s verse. If we could attain to righteousness through our own efforts, then Jesus’ death had no purpose. This should serve as a powerful reminder for us in those moments when we feel condemned for our shortcomings. Condemnation gives weight to the awareness of sin by placing within us a sense that we need to fix ourselves accompanied by the hopeless knowledge that we can’t do it. Condemnation is from the law. Grace never condemns.
Now, if righteousness came through the law, then condemnation would be justified. Unfortunately, religion would have us believe that righteousness does come through our own efforts. This is why condemnation is so prevalent in religious circles. When people are indoctrinated into a works mentality, they come to believe that they can draw closer to God by good works. Naturally, comparison to others follows and judgement and condemnation are right on its heels. Many people have been to churches where they felt condemned. Not knowing what else to do, they either continue to go and feel beat up, or they stop going altogether, concluding that they can’t live up to God’s standards so there’s no sense in trying.
The problem with religion is that is sets the grace of God aside. It puts the demand back on man to earn righteousness. But if righteousness could be obtained through self-effort, then there was no need in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. However, because we could never obtain righteousness on our own, and because God so loved the world, He sent His only Son to purchase our freedom. He extended abundant grace through which we are made just as righteous as Jesus is.
If you are experiencing guilt, condemnation or shame today, be encouraged that Jesus paid the full price and more for all sin, forever. Right standing with God is based on faith in Jesus, not on our efforts. When religion tries to weigh you down with judgement, or when you are tempted to feel good about yourself because of someone else’s failure, fight the temptation to set grace aside. Brave grace by remembering that Jesus’ death was not in vain.