Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ…
I. IN WHAT MANNER JUSTIFICATION CANNOT BE OBTAINED. "We are justified not by the works of the law." It will naturally be asked, what is meant by "the law," as spoken of here by the apostle? To this I reply, reference is no doubt here made to the ceremonial law, and hence to circumcision, and the other rites and ceremonies enjoined by that ritual. By these things, however, a man cannot be justified. Nor can the moral law, as embodied in the Ten Commandments, do so; for the whole tenor of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, declares, with reference to man as a sinner, "We are justified not by works of the law." As given to Adam, when a perfect creature, the moral law (comprised in one brief injunction, as the test of his obedience) was ordained unto life, and was calculated, if observed, to perpetuate life; but as given to us, who are fallen and corrupt, it is only calculated to produce death, showing us our guilt, and our consequent desert of death as the punishment of that guilt. Like the angel, then, with the flaming sword at the east of the garden of Eden, the law drives us from itself that we may seek salvation elsewhere. And whither does it drive us? This we shall see while we notice —
II. IN WHAT MANNER JUSTIFICATION CAN BE OBTAINED. "We have believed in Jesus Christ."
1. We are justified by believing in what Christ did. The Lord Jesus Christ, made of a woman, made under the law, obeyed the law perfectly in our behalf. But we are justified by believing, not only in what Christ did, but also —
2. In what Christ suffered.Having thus, in accordance with the words of our text, stated in what manner we cannot, and in what manner we can, be justified before God, I now proceed to apply the subject, in the way of warning and of consolation.
1. Warning. The reason, my brethren, why St. Paul was so earnest upon this matter was, because he felt that the eternal salvation of multitudes was herein involved. I ask, if you are conscious that you are sinners against God, how are your sins to be forgiven? You reply, that "you hope your good moral character will screen your secret deficiencies." But, brethren, trust not in such a spider's web. Such a confidence will assuredly fail you when you most want it. You cannot have a debtor-and-creditor account with God. Perhaps you are saying, "God is merciful, and will not be extreme to mark what is done amiss." God is merciful; but you must remember that He is at the same time just, and that He will by no means clear the guilty. Do you say, that "you will do your best, and leave Christ to make up the remainder?" In that case you make Christ a divided Saviour. If, again, you would plead "your sincere obedience," you must remember that God is a perfect God, and can therefore accept nothing short of a perfect obedience. No, brethren; in Christ, and Christ alone, must be our confidence. I need not, however, I trust, remind those of you who profess to esteem Christ as all your salvation and all your desire, that although you hold the truth, there is danger, if you watch not, of holding that truth in unrighteousness. The sun, by his bright beams, not only expels the cold, but causes heat and fruitfulness also. So is it in the justification of a sinner. There is not only the pardon of sin, but likewise an infusion of grace and holiness. While, therefore, we pro. less that we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by the faith of Christ, let us also remember to go on "perfecting holiness in the fear of God. The subject, however, supplies us not only with a word of warning, but also with one of-2. Consolation. Blessed be God, "the doctrine that we are justified by faith is," as our article expresses it, "not only a most wholesome doctrine, but also one very full of comfort." And, brethren, it ought to be a source of the highest consolation to you to remember how complete is this gift.
(C. Clayton, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
WEB: yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law.