Verses 21-23 contain in condensed form all that is treated of in the remaining verses of the chapter. The remainder of the chapter is an amplification of that which has gone before. In this chapter also occurs the climax of the thought of the epistle. In the first part of this chapter is emphasized the fact that God makes no distinction of persons; works alone are taken into account in the judgement. But while it is true that a tree is known by its fruits, it is also true that it is not within the province of men to judge of those fruits. God alone is judge. He looks upon the heart while man can judge only from appearances; therefore, while the works of men may seem good to their fellows, to God, who sees what man cannot see, they are known to be corrupt.
Again, the just shall live by faith. How much of a man's life must be just? All, every moment, for the just shall live by faith. But by the deeds of the law shall no act be just. This is a hard saying, but one that must be believed, for it is what the Bible says.
No deed that we can do can be just by the law only. By faith alone can a man or any act of his be just. The law judges a man by his works, and the law is so inconceivably great that no human act can rise to its height. There must therefore be a Mediator through whom justification shall come. And that justification properly belongs to him to whom it is granted by reason of his faith.
The heart unrenewed is desperately wicked. Only evil can come from a wicked heart. To bring forth good deeds there must be a good heart, and only a good man can have a good heart. But, as all have sinned and come short, therefore all the deeds of humanity are vitiated.
The law itself is the standard of perfect righteousness, but Christ is the truth, the way, and the life. In Christ is the perfect righteousness of the law, and the grace to bestow the gift of His righteousness through faith. And of this the prophets themselves are witnesses, for they preached justification through Christ, by faith.
When a man seeks to justify himself by his deeds, he only heaps imperfection upon imperfection, until, like Paul, he counts them all as loss, knowing that there is no righteousness but that which is of Christ by faith.
There is but one thing in this world that a man needs and that is justification--and justification is a fact, not a theory. It is the gospel. That which does not tend to righteousness is of no avail, and not worthy to be preached. Righteousness can only be attained through faith; consequently all things worthy to be preached must tend to justification by faith.
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." It is well understood that no act of ours can make right that which is past, but it is just as true that we cannot be justified in any present act any more than we can render the past perfect. We need the righteousness of Christ to justify the present just as much as to make perfect the imperfect deeds of the past.
In the case of the publican and the Pharisee, the one who put no trust in his own works went down to his own house justified, but he who desired to assume righteousness in himself failed of justification. Every one can have it who will ask for it, but each must come to the level of all other sinners and there receive it with the rest, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." What is "redemption"? It is repurchasing. Righteousness is an infinite gift and bought with an infinite price. It is a free gift to us, but it has been paid for. The blood of Christ has paid for it. We are exhorted to consider His greatness that we may know that although the thing to be done is beyond our comprehension, the power which is to accomplish it is also beyond our knowledge.
"To declare His righteousness" for the putting away of our sins. It is He that puts away our sins and if we but yield ourselves to Him, they will be remitted utterly. Christ grants no indulgences, but His righteousness remits the sins that are past, keeps the heart free from sin in the present so long as His righteousness fills that heart.
Faith is the beginning of all wisdom; it lies at the foundation of all knowledge. The child would never learn anything, if it did not believe what it is told. Now, that being so in physical things, why can we not be as reasonable in spiritual things?
Redemption comes through the creative power of Christ, and that is why I love to think that he is the Creator of all things, for He who created the worlds out of nothing and who upholds all things by the word of His power can by that same word create in me a clean heart and preserve that which He has created. To Him is all power and also all glory.
It is God that worketh in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure.
Do we then make
void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law."