Coleen’s post on Thursday reminded me of the passage below that I read the same day in Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton.
The proper preaching of the law – God’s holiness, righteousness, glory and justice – will not create an us versus them self-righteousness but will expose the best works, done from the best motives of the best among us, as filthy rags before God’s searching judgment. Bad law-preaching levels some of us; Osteen’s omission of the law levels none of us; biblical preaching of the law levels all of us.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Who are they that are blessed? Those who recognize their spiritual poverty. No one, Jesus says, will enter the kingdom of Heaven who does not recognize their brokenness before Jesus. That they are utterly helpless to get in on their own.
The Apostle Paul was quite adamant about this as well as he wrote in the book of Romans…
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:21-23, ESV).
Why be self-righteous as though you can keep the law? The law doesn’t bring about righteousness. It doesn’t justify. All that it can do is condemn, (Romans 4:15). No one can keep it perfectly, all fall short. And since we fall short of God’s glory, none can do anything to earn His approval. As such even the good that we do is nothing but filthy rags before God, (Isaiah 64:6).
So no one can achieve or earn God’s favor. Fortunately the good news, the Gospel, is seen later in Romans 3 those who sin and “fall short of the glory of God.”
… are justified by the gift of his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, who God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus, (Romans 3:24-26, ESV).
The one who has faith in Jesus is justified. Justified by grace, redeemed through Jesus.