Mankind is not justified before God by working hard to please Him. Paul simply says that if that were so, then Christ died in vain. Rather mankind is saved by the Work of God in His Son, Jesus Christ and by God’s Grace and Mercy.
Paul also says that if we fall into sin, that does not then make Christ the “minister of sin!” He also claims that if we strive to obey the Law, we make ourselves trespassers. Rather we “are fixed to the Cross” so as “to live to God with Christ.” The Law is nailed there on the tree, and all its power destroyed.
Paul warns “cast not away the Grace of God.”
“16 know that a man [soothly knowing for a man] is not justified of the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; and we believe in Jesus Christ, that we be justified of the faith of Christ [that we be justified by the faith of Christ], and not of the works of the law. Wherefore of the works of the law each flesh shall not be justified.
17 And if we seek to be justified in Christ, we ourselves be found sinful men, whether Christ be minister of sin? God forbid. [That if we seeking to be justified in Christ, and we ourselves be found sinners, whether Christ is minister of sin? Far be it.]
18 And if I build again things that I have destroyed [Soothly if I build again those things that I destroyed], I make myself a trespasser.
19 For by the law I am dead to the law, [For by the law I am dead to the law, that I live to God;]
20 and I am fixed to the cross, that I live to God with Christ. And now live not I, but Christ liveth in me. But that I live now in flesh, I live in the faith of God’s Son, that loved me, and gave himself for me. [with Christ I am fixed to the cross. Forsooth I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me. Forsooth that I live now in flesh, I live in the faith of God’s Son, which loved me, and betook himself for me.]
21 I cast not away the grace of God; for if rightwiseness be through law [for if rightwiseness is by the law], then Christ died without cause.”
“For God is not unkind, unjust, unrighteous.”
He remembers your works. He does not ignore them; He does not forget them. Only, your works — for God or for the saints — do not save you. They do not make God love you. Rather, God remembers your faithfulness to Him. He cherishes your loyalty. He honors your obedience.
God forgets your sins, but He remembers your works.
Yes, it is that simple!
God “leads [us] in paths of righteousness,” says the psalmist. Noah, “in reverent fear constructs an ark for the saving of his household” when he is “warned by God concerning events as yet unseen.” (Hebrews 11: 7) He is led by God into a path which “condemns the world” and causes Noah to “become an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11: 7)
God marks the paths we are to travel, asking us to follow Him in faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11: 1) Noah believes God, that the flood is coming, that the ark can be built, that he and his family are able to gather representatives of every living thing, that the ark is able to save. Therefore, he acts righteously in this faith. And his faith is based in his trust of God — in the God he knows.
James writes, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” He firmly presents Abraham as a man who is “justified by his works,” writing: “You see that faith is active along with his works; and faith is completed by his works, and the Scripture is fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believes God, and it is credited to him as righteousness.’ ” (James 2: 22, 23)
We are saved before time begins in Christ Jesus who is with God and is God. As John writes, “In the beginning is the Word, and the Word is with God, and the Word is God.” (John 1: 1)
Paul tells us that our salvation is not due to our works, but completely rests on Christ’s finished work, which is God’s purpose and will.
“For [God] chooses us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestines us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favors us with in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1: 4 – 6)
Paul calls us to be strong in God’s grace, keeping ourselves from entanglement in the affairs of the world so that we are “set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2: 1, 21)
For the good works we do are prepared in advance for us by our Heavenly Father, and performed by the power of His Holy Spirit through the grace of His Beloved Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Righteousness pursued “as if it is based on works” does not result in the attainment of that righteousness, says Paul.
A zeal for God is not enough. The cornerstone, who is Jesus Christ, makes those who seek God under their own power, stumble.
“For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they do not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10: 3 – 4)
We do not bring Jesus down nor do we rise up to Him; instead His “Word is near [us], in [our] mouths and in [our] hearts.” (Romans 10: 8)
Our righteousness is based on faith alone.
“For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken.” “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls — she was told, ‘The older shall serve the younger’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Romans 9: 10 – 14) Neither our heritage nor our works make us right with God. Having all the treasure in the world does not make us right in His sight. “So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its maker, ‘Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay?” (Romans 9: 18 – 21) Yes, we are clay — we are all alike. We come from the same father, Adam — just as Jacob and Esau come from the same father, Isaac. Yes, God is the potter. He made and owns the clay. Yes, He has all rights over us. He is allowed. “But to all who do receive Him, who believe in His Name, He gives the right to become children of God, who are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 12 – 13)