Salvation is not of the law

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by Kevin Cauley

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Galatians 3:10-12).

This past Tuesday I went to the Post Office to deliver the House to House and Heart to Heart publication for mailing.

I was directed to drive around to the back of the building and chat with the bulk mail specialist who then proceeded to examine the paper work, weigh the mailing, and enter all of the relevant data into the computer.

While processing the information it was discovered that our paperwork was slightly off resulting in our owing the Post Office an additional sixteen cents. I joked that it probably cost us more in time and effort.

The Post Office employee commented to me that she once found a half a cent error that cost ten cents to resolve, but, because of the law, she could not just dismiss this half-cent error, but had to spend the other ten cents to fix it. Such is the way of bureaucracy.

This pharisaical government obsession with minutia reminded me of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:24, “Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel!”

It is a picture of a person who can’t see the forest for the pine-tree needles. Such thinking is part and parcel with a misplaced confidence in humanly administered law. This brings us back to Paul’s words in Galatians 3:10-12.

The Pharisees had made the keeping of the law the end-all and be-all of Judaism. This system of law was their salvation. Through the keeping of this law, they were certain that they would land themselves in the bosom of Abraham.

The troublers in Galatia were using the same system. Paul’s response to this was clear: if you can’t keep the whole law, then you’re cursed, and no one can be justified by such law. Why?

Law is inherently limited; it can only condemn, and it cannot save. Salvation can only come through a system of faith, and specifically, through faith in Christ Jesus.

Like my friend at the Post Office, some today believe that law can save us. Their thinking is that if we just put enough laws on the books, the wicked will be thwarted, and the righteous, triumphant; the sick will be healthy, and the healthy will live forever; the poor will be rich, and the rich, humbled; and just about every other societal ill will be cured by adding just one more law.

These fail to realize that law can only condemn; it cannot save, and in the end, salvation is individual, personal, and each one responsible.

Paul says that salvation comes through a system of faith because it requires each individual’s personal belief in the gospel and the power of Christ to save. Putting our trust in bureaucracy will destroy us because no personal responsibility is involved.

However, when we trust in Christ and his word to save, we are taking responsibility by deciding to follow Christ at his word. So writes James when he says, “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet.

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