A question that is often raised is why it was necessary that Jesus Christ died.
We know and understand that He did die to save us from sin and to set us free from the law, but this last verse of Galatians chapter 3 gives us an amazing insight into why Christ died. It also presents us with the problem of the fallibility of the law and the fact that no person is able to stand righteous before God under law.
So it is worth looking at this in some more detail so that we can understand a little more about why Christ died, because one of the primary things we seek from salvation is the ability to stand righteous before God.
I’m a Good Person
I cannot count the number of times I have heard people make this assertion, especially non-Christians. They believe they will be acceptable to God (where they even believe there is a God), on the basis that they are a “good person.”
Most of the time they don’t even know how they define what a “good person” is. But when pressed they can usually come to a place where they consider themselves good on the basis that are law-abiding citizens and don’t go out of their way to hurt other people.
While these may laudable qualities, depending upon what the standards are they are measuring against, are they sufficient to ensure a person can stand righteous before God?
The answer broadly speaking is … “No.”
And the reason why people who believe they are OK because they are a “good person” is not sufficient to stand before God righteous, is because this belief is based upon self-righteousness. They have some real or imagined set of rules they live by, and provided they do not deviate from those, they consider themselves to be OK, or to be “righteous.” But this righteousness is declared in their own minds. It is self-righteousness, not the righteousness from God.
We see the problem identified by Paul in this statement:
For it is not the man who commends himself that is accepted, but the man whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:18)
Self-righteousness is no righteousness at all because it is only the person commended by God who is righteous.
Keeping the Law
The above refers to people of the world for the most part, but what about the people of the church today. Are they any better off because they keep the law and the Ten Commandments?
Again, the answer is “No,” and it is for much the same reasons.
Many Christians today are taught that they are under the law and the Ten Commandments specifically, (and by the way the Ten Commandments are just part of the Law too). But again we see that by living under the law we are not any better off because they way this is taught is no different to the way it was taught by the Pharisees in the time of Christ, and it is clear Jesus was unimpressed with their usage of the law. Jesus often called the religious people of His day hypocrites because they spoke one thing and did another.
What was the problem then? They used the law as if it were something you had to DO. And when they DID the law, they believed they were righteous, and once again they were living in self-righteousness, not the righteousness of God. Look at this example of a Pharisee and what Jesus thought of this man when he proclaimed how good he was compared to others because he kept the letter of the law.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
The Pharisee was showing himself to be self-righteous, and that was unacceptable to God. Whereas, the other man, the tax collector, was humbling himself before God and recognising God’s authority and judgement, and not considering anything he could do to be worthy before God. Because this second man was humble and contrite, he received what he was asking of God, which was forgiveness.
And this is exactly the point Paul was making in the last verse of Galatians 2.
Trying to stand righteous by attempting to keep the law, will not commend you to God. Keeping the law in the manner this Pharisee did was self-righteousness which tends to pride.
And unfortunately when Christians today seek to show their righteousness by the keeping of the law and good deeds under the law, they fall into the same pitfall and trap.
The only true righteousness is that which comes from God, and He gives it freely to those who believe in Jesus Christ, are baptised and who follow His teachings. There is no other way to stand righteous before God, and this is the point of this verse today and it is the reason why Christ died.
Why Christ Died
Christ died to reconcile man to God so that God would remove man’s sin, (not just forgive but take it completely away), and so that He could prepare man to learn how to BE righteous. In Christ Jesus, God offers man the free gift of righteousness by faith for all who believe.
And there is no mention of law in any of this offer from God. As we see in this scripture in Galatians 2:21,
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose. (Galatians 2:21)
See how important this is? If justification, or the ability to stand righteous before God, were achieved through the keeping of the law, then there was no purpose for Christ dying. In fact the law nullifies the grace of God which we receive only through believing in Jesus Christ. We do NOT receive the grace of God through the law but only through Christ.
Do you need further evidence of how the law stands in the way of God’s grace for those Christians who seek to live under the law? Then consider these words too:
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
Again we see the emphasis here is not on justification by law, but justification, or being righteous, through grace. Seeking to be justified by the law will CUT YOU OFF from the righteousness that comes from God. Those who seek to stand righteous under the law have separated themselves from Christ and severed themselves from the love of God that exists in grace.
And no man can truly stand before God righteous under the law because no man can keep the law. No man is able to prevent himself from falling under the power of sin, and that is why ALL mankind is in need of a saviour to redeem them from sin, redeem them from law and to provide salvation.
This comes by faith alone, not by the words of the law. And this is the reason that Christ died.
Christ died to enable us to receive the righteousness of God through faith, rather than through keeping a set of laws that we could not keep. Christ died to remove the law and so too remove the power of sin, so that we could be declared righteous by faith in the grace of God, and so that God would be willing to help us and restore us to the state of righteousness that God envisioned for man when He created Adam and Eve.
The work of Jesus Christ was a work of restoration. He was once again levelling the playing field for mankind so that those who believed could come to God, justified in His grace and by faith in Jesus Christ, and so be restored to perfection over time by the working of the Holy Spirit.
This is the reason why Christ died.
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