Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Our position in the sight of God, and our relation to His government, are of supreme importance to us.
1. We are just what God sees us to be. We are not necessarily what we think ourselves to be, because our judgment may be erroneous. We may be ignorant of what constitutes a true Christian. Or, knowing what a true Christian is, we may look too favourably upon certain false signs of religious life, and may thus, in either case, decide that we are Christians when we are not. In like manner our fellow men may be mistaken about us. But God makes no errors.
2. And we shall be just what God's dealings with us tend to make us. Our future will be the fruit and the effect of God's dealings with us here. And yet we often think more of being justified by man than by God. The reason of this is that we are unduly influenced by the present. The insignificant face of a man within a few feet of you will hide the face of the infinite and eternal God. But as we read the Scriptures, and as we open our hearts to the Spirit of God, our attention is called away from men to God, and from man's judgment to God the Judge of all.
3. The words before us are a conclusion derived from two propositions.
(1) The universal unrighteousness of man, as seen in the Gentiles, as exhibited by the Jews, as declared by God's Word, and as made manifest by God's law.
(2) The provision which God has made for free justification. If it be true that all men are unrighteous; that "God hath set forth Christ a propitiation," etc., it is not possible that a man can be justified by the deeds of the law. Look —
I. AT THE MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION HERE REJECTED. "The deeds of the law."
1. The deeds of the law are the natural means of justification. Angels are justified by them, and so was Adam. Righteous means too are these and necessary. Why do men in their attempts to magnify the gospel denounce the law? Is not the Lawgiver the redeeming God, and the redeeming God the Lawgiver? And if the gospel be the glorious gospel, the commandment is holy and just and good.
2. But we are in such a position that we cannot use these means for justification. And why not? Because by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, and because individually we have followed our first father.
II. THE MEANS ACKNOWLEDGED AND EXHIBITED. What would be our position if we had simply a revelation telling us that we cannot be justified by the deeds of the law? By imagination place yourselves in this position. It is sometimes necessary for the rich to put themselves by thought in the position of the poor in order to awaken thankfulness for their mercies, Now do this with regard to the grace of God. Just think of yourselves as before Sinai; think as though you had never seen Calvary, and then you will be better able to appreciate all the blessedness involved in the words, "A man is justified by faith," etc.
1. By faith in what? Not faith in anything. You may have faith in God and in many of God's words, and yet not be justified. The faith to which Paul directs your attention here is faith in the manifestation of the righteousness of God without the law.
2. Faith in what sense and to what extent? Not the belief that such a manifestation has been made, but such a belief as leads to the use of it. "Faith without works is dead." The faith to which Paul here points is faith that does work, that is work. It is the sort of faith which a starving man will have in the supply of food that you bring him.Conclusion: Now, supposing this to be the doctrine of the text, what do we learn?
1. Guilt does not of itself prevent justification. Your sins will not ruin you, but your unbelief.
2. No circumstances of any kind in the case of those who hear the gospel constitute an exception to the mode of justification. Say that you are the children of godly parents, that you have always been remarkable for morality, you must still be justified by faith without the deeds of the law. But justification is within reach of all who can believe. It is present privilege.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.