“A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. . . . For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:16,19-21
What makes someone a good Christian? Is it the fact that they are in church almost every single Sunday? Or that they give 10 percent or more of their income to the work of the church? Or that they always seem to be helping a neighbor in need? These certainly are wonderful fruits of the Christian faith, but they do not make someone a good Christian.
In the Apostle Paul’s day there were some who thought being a good Christian meant keeping certain Old Testament laws like eating the right foods, observing the right holidays, and being circumcised. Unfortunately, they began to think that doing such things somehow contributed to their salvation. They believed that their obedience to certain laws played some part in being declared innocent of their sins before God.
Being a good Christian has never been about keeping God’s law, and if it were, none of us would be good Christians. “A man is not justified by observing the law,” the Bible says. That’s because the law demands 100 percent obedience 100 percent of the time. According to God’s law, even one slip-up means total failure. Just one filthy thought, one hurtful word, or one unkind action disqualifies us from being declared not guilty by a holy and perfect God. God’s verdict in his law on mankind is absolutely true: “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). There are no good Christians when it comes to observing the law.
This is why we so desperately need Christ. He is the only one who perfectly observed God’s law, and he did it in our place. As the Bible teaches, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” But Christ didn’t die for nothing. He died for all of our failures to keep God’s law. Through faith in him we are declared not guilty before God. We are connected to Christ in his death and resurrection and set free to live our lives in thankful obedience to God’s law. Not to be good Christians, but because through faith in Jesus we already are.