Sunday, June 07, 2009

...the insufficiency of works righteousness vs the efficacy of the perfect righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ by faith

The Cross: 
Christ's Righteousness Only Saves Sinners

When we speak of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, 
we are speaking of the entirety of His ministry. 
He is God - perfectly holy, righteous and just from all eternity;
 He was born of a virgin - Immanuel, God with us; 
He came to fulfill the Law and all righteousness; 
He lived a sinless life because He is absolutely holy; 
His perfect righteousness is comprised of His passive 
and active obedience - perfect in life to the standard of the Law, 
perfect in death to the demands of the Law; 
He was our divine substitute, our propitiation, resurrected for our justification, 
our redemption; we are clothed with His perfect righteousness 
by grace through faith; He reigns as the King of Righteousness, 
and one day He will return for His church
that He is purifying to be without spot, or wrinkle or any such thing.

Therefore, it is right to say of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that it 
can be defined as Christ's Righteousness Only Saves Sinners.

May the following exposition of Gal. 2:11-21 be an encouragement to you 
causing you to glory afresh in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ 
to which we have been crucified to this world and this world to us.

Galatians 2:11-21
A Brief Exposition
"Not I, But Christ..."

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

Peter stood blamed and rightly so. It was a just verdict. He had forgotten the great salvation by which he was saved. Not by virtue of poor memory, life, or doctrine, but by virtue of fear and intimidation. The Apostle Paul opposed him to his face and the confrontation was necessary. Peter could not conveniently hide behind Apostolic title or claim immunity by religious rank when the truth of the gospel was being jeopardized. Paul did not take his position or personality into consideration; but was motivated only by the glory and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.

What was the issue Peter was blameworthy that incited this confrontation? That observance of the Jewish rites (the Law) was necessary to salvation.

Peter, out of fear of the Judaizers - the circumcision party, had retreated to teaching or practicing a works righteousness. He was guilty of this. Though Paul approached him out of love here as a fellow Apostle and minister of the gospel, Peter needed to be reprimanded. It is serious to depart from proclaiming the genuine gospel of sola fide to appease ones opponents.

13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. No congregation will ever rise to a level in their commitment to Jesus Christ than what they see in their leadership. As the prophet Hosea says, "like people, like priest." Barnabas was even led astray by their insincere and hypocritical religious acts. That is how profound theological deception can go when sound doctrine and the gospel itself is abandoned.

THE REBUKE (2:14-16)
14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Here is the wheelhouse issue: Peter was forcing Gentiles to live like Jews rather than to freedom in Jesus Christ by faith. Works righteousness is the great Satanic deception within Christian churches. Penance, it will say, is something we must do to be saved - something we must add to the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is hell's addition to the once for all finished work of Jesus on the cross and His bodily resurrection from the grace. But grace is the great conqueror of all such hellish notions. Grace robs man of his self-importance; self-righteousness; and self-reliance. Grace silences Satan's impotent roars against the elect.

But yet the battle rages on; for our flesh craves glory and we are all too quick to think that our own actions, nay our own faith has saved us and not solely Christ alone. From such worm infested thinking we must be cleansed.

Thus Paul's great statement: we are justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law. A sinner may only have a right standing before a holy God because of the finished work of Christ, not because of our performance by works before Him. All of our righteousness are filthy menstrual rags. They stink with the smell of religious pride - the worst of all sins. But they are a stench to His holy nostrils. They are the rot of man's best efforts to achieve heaven apart from faith in Jesus alone.

May I inquire, what are your filthy rags of righteousness that you might be trusting in for your salvation?

Are you trusting in baptism to save you? It is filthy rags. Are you trusting in religious works to save you? It is filthy rags. Are you trusting in your religious heritage to save you? It is filthy rags. Are you trusting in law-keeping, ceremonies, philanthropic kindness and acts of charity to your neighbor to save you? It is all filthy rags. You might even say today, "but Steve, I do trust in Christ Jesus for my salvation. It's just that I trust in Jesus plus those things too." Then may I say to you, it is still filthy rags. I say to you, that if you accept those things as well as necessary for your salvation, then "Christ will be of no advantage to you."
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ -Matthew 7:21-23
Jettison all good works from you as your security and hope and cling to Christ Jesus the Lord! For there is no assurance of eternal life for you except by grace through faith, in Jesus alone.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!

That is, only marked by a life of sin. Not still struggling with sin for in this life we will always wrestle with sin until glorified and home with Christ. But this is more the unbridled practice of sin - sinners by character. If it be seen not only that we are not pardoned and made new creations by the gospel, but are actually made worse and are freed from all moral restraint, then what is the conclusion of such a duplicitous faith?

Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? Is it to be traced to Him? Is it to be charged on Him?

God forbid. For this is not the proper effect of the gospel of Christ, and of the doctrine of justification by faith. Remember beloved, that "a righteous man falls down seven times; but gets up seven times." The new life is not marked by sinlessness or perfectionism, but by daily repentance. We are new creations incarcerated in unredeemed flesh. And there the battle rages on. And it is there that we must by grace-given obedience "present our bodies as living sacrifices; holy, acceptable, pleasing unto God. For this is our just and spiritual worship."

18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

To trust in that which has been destroyed is lunacy. To do so is to prove ourselves as transgressors. IOW, we are not saved and are fallen from grace. Therefore, how utterly foolish for any of us to return again to the ruins of our own religious commendations once they have been torn down instead of trusting fully and wholly in the living God/Man, Jesus Christ our Lord?


19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

The Law was my executioner. It put me to death. I was found guilty for I had broken its commands and am deserving of its penalties for all eternity.

A dead man is incoherent to all around him. He hears nothing; sees nothing; and nothing affects him. So when we are said to be dead to anything, the meaning is, that it does not have an influence over us. In this sense Paul was dead to the law - we are dead.

But what is the blessed result? That we are to live to God! What great joy, freedom, relief, and hope. No longer condemned, guilty before a holy God; but fully forgiven and brought into relationship with Him. "What manner of love has He bestowed on us that we should be called children of God?"

There is no grace or mercy in the law. Only justice. And in that justice it is absolutely holy and good. The law shuts us up into sin; and as a tutor points us to Christ Jesus for our salvation. For in all ways and in all things He fulfilled the Law. In His sinless life Jesus perfectly obeyed all of its commands fulfilling all righteousness; and in His perfect death, He satisfied all its penalty. So in that by faith alone in Christ alone, we are no longer under judgment nor His divine wrath, but sheltered in the grace of His sovereign electing love.

Rejoice in this friend and take great comfort in this hope. You are complete in Him! Perfect love casts out fear. Amen! Dead to sin and alive to Christ so that we might live for God.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Crucified. Paul fully identifies with our Lord. All who know and love Him as their Lord have been crucified with Christ. Not in physical actuality; but with Him by fact that He is our Federal Head in the covenant of grace; our Divine Substitute. We have died with Him. Our old nature has been put to death. The old man has been given a death sentence and it has been carried out. Once dead in trespasses and sin; but now crucified with Christ. And it is I who no longer lives but Christ who lives in me! Blessed resurrection hope. Is there any other cause for eternal rejoicing than this beloved? Christ in you the hope of glory.

"Not I... but Christ." Sing it with praise to the Lord in your heart's voice with me, "not I... but Christ." Is there any sweeter refrain from the hymnbook of heaven? Not I.. but Christ! In those four brief words we see before us the banquet of salvation: the depravity of man, to be certain; but more chiefly the unfathomable sufficiency of Jesus for us. IOW, we are great sinners, but He is a greater Savior.

Not I...
we are dead in sins; by nature children of wrath; sons of disobedience; corrupt from conception and in sin conceived. I needed to die; I needed to be crucified so that I could live.

But Christ... Christ lives in us as His children when we by grace through faith trust in Him alone for our salvation. And even that is the gift of God. There is no room for boasting in any thing we have done; even our faith is a gift. Our repentance from sin is His gift to us. Our regeneration is by the sovereign ministry of the Holy Spirit. We are brought to humility in every aspect of our redemption: chosen by God before the foundation of the world; redeemed by Jesus on the cross and through His resurrection and by imputation of His perfect righteousness; and we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. All to the praise of the riches of the glory of His grace!

Can you say that with me today beloved? Not I, but Christ! Or are you still wed to yourself and the idol of your own heart where your lips can only in true honesty utter: It is and Christ too. Repent from such hellish folly. Deny yourself; come to the end of yourself; take up your cross and follow Him.

Are you crucified with Christ? Then you have no cause for a second of carefree boasting in yourself for your salvation. You will no longer sing "I have decided to follow Jesus." But rather, "He save me!"
"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." -Titus 3:4-7

21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

God's grace was not made of no effect. For it took nothing less than the totality of God's grace exemplified in the sinless life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ to obtain our salvation. Anything less would result in our damnation. Salvation is not a cooperation or joint venture of our works and His grace. If belief for salvation is placed in even one drop of our own works righteousness mixed with an ocean of God's grace, it is a gospel sufficient only to damn and not to save. Therefore, Paul states with absolute authority, if justification could be obtained by the law, then Christ had died in vain. So for Peter to assert, even out of fear, the necessity of the observance of the Jewish rites in salvation was to rather destroy the gospel, and to render it vain and useless.

But alas my friends, His death was not in vain. It was perfectly efficacious in every way for the redemption of the elect. And this realized in full for all who believe by faith in Jesus alone.

John 6:35-44:
"Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

this has been an encore presentation


The Heretic said...

Steve, you said, But yet the battle rages on; for our flesh craves glory and we are all too quick to think that our own actions, nay our own faith has saved us and not solely Christ alone. From such worm infested thinking we must be cleansed.

How we all struggle with this! Even when we KNOW it is all Christ and none of us, our rotten flesh still tries to find boast. I thank God my eternity has been determined from the foundation of the world. It took a long time for me to realize that truth. God bless you. Wonderful words of encouragement to me this evening.

By the way, this is timely for me. I started my own personal study in Galatians about two weeks ago. I'm still in chapter 1, but after reading this post I know I have some deep things to look forward to. Thanks again.

gigantor1231 said...


There is nothing more clear to me than I deserve nothing but death. All that is of any profit, any value, all that is good is of Him and nothing is of me.
I know why the patriarchs cast their crowns on the glassy sea, Rev. 4: 10-11;

10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11  “ Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Re 4:10-11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

it is because it is all of Him and He is valued far beyond what we can offer! He is worthy!

One characteristic that I see in churches that hold to a works plus grace is that instead of confessing Christ as who He really is, they see Him as a man of high character that they seek to attain to in their purpose in life. In other words, as many in the emergent hold to, it does not matter that one confesses Christ, it is not important that one recognize Him as God, rather it is the way one chooses to live life, it is in the relationships that they have and in the good works that reconcile those relationships. This is why Schuller and Graham have come to the conclusion that one need not necessarily be a confessed Christian in order to be saved, one could be Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim, it is in the choice of living life as Christ lived and walked! This is a egregious lie and a dangerous trap! It is all of Him and none of us. The good works that we produce is a fulfillment and a fruit of the faith that He has implanted in us. Just as a seed bares fruit after it has gone into the ground and died, so we bare fruit after we have died to ourselves and his seed of faith bares fruit in us! So, just as John the Baptist said in John 3: 30;

He must increase but I must decrease.

may it be so for all of us.

Rick Frueh said...

There is nothing benign about the works of man. They are the enemy of grace and carry with them the stench of Cain. Almost all cults have a works based salvation, but only the grace of God by grace through faith can save.

And this is His glory, that salvation comes only through His work and none of ours.

PuritanReformed said...


Amen, brother. Our works are indeed a stench before God when we think they contribute in part or the whole to our standing before God.

I had been conversing with some people (whom I dubbed the New Jews or Neo-Ebionites) who are forcefully insisting that all Christians are to obey the Law including observing the Sabbath on Saturday. It is sad that such people are so deluded that they insist on continuing to place themselves under the yoke of the Law which will condemn them and not under the easy yoke of Christ.

Carla said...

I love posts like this, and often wonder how many new believers come across such rich teaching. I only wish I had discovered such things early in my walk with the Lord, as they would have answered so many questions I had.

Excellent post Steve - THIS is Christian blogging that matters. (in my opinion anyway, for whatever that's worth).

theoldadam said...

Luther's commentary on Galatians is an awesome work and of ALL his writing, I believe it to be his best.

I think every Christian worth his or her salt ought look it over at least once in their life.

Rick Frueh said...

theoldadam - Yes and amen. And the preacher who takes Luther's baton and, in my opinion, articulates the "works vs. faith" gospel better than almost anyone is C.H. Spurgeon. He combines the doctrinal theology of the gospel with the spiritual devotion and delivers the message in the unmistakeable power of the Spirit.

DAO said...

the Old Adam is in good company with John Bunyan who said of Luther's Commentary of Galatians:
“I do prefer this book…excepting the whole Bible, before all books I have seen.”
At stake is the meaning and nature of faith.
have a taste of the Declaration. Bon Apetite'


dustinc said...

All of our righteousness are filthy menstrual rags. I think it would be fair then to say all of our righteousness are filthy s---. Can't we use filthy language to describe filthy things?

I couldn't resist in light of the piper/driscoll conference on language...