Justification by Faith

David Bast

READ : Galatians 2:15-16

A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. (v. 16)

When the writer David Thoreau lay on his deathbed, a devout aunt asked him if he had
made his peace with God. “I was not aware that we had quarreled,” he replied. (I wonder if
he was quite so flippant after he died.)

Ask people today how they expect to be put right with God, and they’ll look at you in
amazement. “What makes you think I’m not already?” Or they will mumble about how they try
to live a decent life, and surely God accepts all good people, doesn’t he?

In Galatians 2:16 Paul gives classic expression to what Luther called “the chiefest
article of Christianity,” the doctrine of justification by faith. We are declared
righteous by God – accepted by him – simply on the basis of our trusting in Christ
and not by virtue of anything we do. And lest we should miss the point Paul repeats “not
by works but by faith” no less than four times in this one verse (v. 16), before
concluding: “by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

That may seem like overkill, but the reason Paul hammers at this point is because the
idea of earning salvation through religion or good works is one of the most deeply
ingrained of all human instincts. It’s very hard for people to believe that they need
Christ in order for God to accept them. But they do. Good works are not enough.


I praise you, Father, for accepting me for Jesus’ sake.