It was a simple exercise. I was doing a paraphrase and summary of the book last night in preparation for the release of my latest book on Galatians. Some parts are clear and easy to paraphrase while other parts are a little more challenging.
Then there was that simple sentence in Gal 3:11 – “No one is justified before God by the Law, because “The righteous will live by faith.””
I didn’t think anything of it. I went on to paraphrase the rest of the book and I went to bed. But somehow throughout the night my mind wandered back to that verse.
Most people, indeed most of us, have this sense that righteousness is based on our good/bad behavior. If we do good most of the time, which all of us including criminals, think that we do. We feel we’re pretty good. And if we do bad, we either believe we’re bad or justify our behavior until it twists into the shape of “good.” But regardless, we think it is our choices for good and bad that make us right or wrong. Or pleasing to God or not pleasing to God.
This is righteousness by law.
When I ask myself why God has not given me the desires of my heart like he has other people, a part of feels like it’s because I’m not “enough” somehow in God’s eyes. I’m not pleasing enough. Or living it “right” enough. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It can really strike us to the core.
Yesterday there was another school shooting (Florida) and I’m sure parents are asking the same question, ‘why did my son die and this other person’s son live? Was not my son a better person than the other kid? Do you not love me like you love them? Why was their life spared and not my son’s?’
Difficult times emotionally really bring this to the surface. It’s because we want answers to our suffering, our disappointment and our hurt. And we ask ourselves, “are we not enough for you, God? Why do you bless others and not me? Why do others get the miracle but not myself? Do you think they are better?’
This may sound like a deviation from the topic…righteousness, and perhaps it is.
But righteousness by being good, Paul says, is placing yourself under the curse.
It is utterly hopeless. It is a righteousness, but it is a righteousness through law that we cannot uphold. And yet we find ourselves right there. Believing somehow we are pleasing God because of our good behavior.
On the contrary the true righteousness live by faith. Faith is the secure belief that God is who he says he is and what he says is right. That faith in Jesus is what secures our salvation, not faith in our ability to be good people.
But it also goes beyond this. The faith that believes God is good, that he has good things for us. That when things don’t turn out like we want–young people are killed, our hopes and dreams do not come to fruition, women are barren and so much more grief, that even in this God is still good. He has our best interest in mind. He loves us. He is engaged with our lives. This takes faith.
It’s not a faith that understands. It’s a faith that doesn’t understand and believes anyway.
It’s the whole picture of faith. It’s the faith the believes for salvation but also the faith that believes God in all areas of our lives.
As one has said: We not longer live for his pleasure, but from it.
This is the place of faith.