10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
All of this discussion over the last 14 days about not relating to God through works can be hard to digest. It goes against everything that the world teaches about success through hard work, promotion through merit, and repaying debts. Keeping it clear in our minds and hearts that Jesus really did erase all of our debt and has forever made us right with God is a lifetime journey. Our minds fight us with thoughts like, “Surely my efforts to keep religious rules count for something.”
Thankfully, Paul speaks very clearly in today’s passage. To paraphrase verse 10, if we insist that religious works have value in how we relate to God, then we are walking in the curse that the law brings. We are working toward the curse that Jesus took upon Himself so that we could be free.
No amount of effort will ever justify us to God. There is no blending of law and grace. The two are wholly incompatible. Rather, Paul says, “the just shall live by faith.” The “just” are those who are justified in God’s sight. The only path to this justification is faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Not one person who ever lived, or will live, is justified before God by religious works.
Because the law cannot justify us and faith can, Paul goes on to say in verse 12 that “the law is not of faith.” Religion confuses people because we assume that the appearance of law-keeping equals faith. But when we dig beneath the surface, we can find out quickly that people who look religious often don’t have strong faith. Works cause us to put faith in ourselves, but we can’t fool ourselves because we know deep down that we can’t keep the law perfectly. That’s why we compare ourselves to others to see how we measure up. The person of faith is free from that insecurity. Those who understand that justification is by faith alone aren’t concerned with performance measurements; they just enjoy the freedom that Jesus purchased for them.
Peace comes from knowing that we don’t strive to relate to God. Jesus has justified you. Don’t work toward the curse. Brave grace, and rest in the blessing of God’s unmerited favor.