Thoughts on Galatians, part 3
Galatians 3: 15 "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that 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."
The spiritual crisis that faces every man is his separation from God. Because of his sin, he is separated from a holy God, who cannot tolerate sin and won't allow sin in His presence. When we die, we would be eternally separated from God because of our sin. Jesus Christ came to reconcile man to God, by taking our sin onto himself, so that we could be without sin, or "justified." When I was a kid, we learned a little trick to understand justification -- "just-as-if-I'd never sinned." To be made "just" in the eyes of God means that we are made pure, sinless and we can spend eternity in heaven with the Lord. Simply by accepting the gift that Jesus took my place, I am able to be set free from my sin and be justified in the eyes of God.
I believe as an evangelical Christian that I was created with a nature that was already sinful. No one taught me to sin; it is part of my DNA, passed on to me from my father and his father, all the way back to Adam. Man is naturally sinful. However, Muslims believe that man is born pure, and he is then corrupted by the world around him, which teaches him to sin. While we differ on the origins of our personal sin, the end result is the same: a sinful man, separated from God.
The question that separates most world religions is what we must do to regain a relationship with God. Far too often in history, man has created systems of religion, trying to bridge that gap. Religious law was given first to Moses for the people of Israel, but over centuries, men added laws to the original God-given set. Various world religions attempt to bypass Jesus Christ, the savior we needed to justify us, by propagating their own means to be justified. Islam is a religion that depends on law, similar to ancient Judaism that Paul was speaking of in this passage.
Like Judiasm, Islamic law is based both on the written word (the Koran) and the traditions that become minor laws. The Hadith is a collection of traditions passed down about the life of Mohammed. Over time, righteous Muslims took to following the example of Mohammed in many aspects of their lives, figuring that he must have been pretty holy to be used as a messenger of God. These traditions became part of the law base, as well.
In Islam, one's good and bad deeds are both counted. On the day of judgment, one hopes to be "justified" to God by the weight of one's good deeds. Being law-abiding will make a Muslim just in God's eyes. But Paul makes it clear in this verse (and the rest of the chapter) that law cannot justify anyone. In fact, laws merely prove our guilt, since all of us have broken laws (both God-given and man-made) in our lives. The law is not meant to justify us, but to show us how badly we need the Savior who can!
When I read this verse and the rest of the chapter, I see how simple the gospel is, but it is also very profound. Most people like to have power over their own lives. We want our destiny in our own hands, so having a long list of laws, while they may be difficult to follow, still puts my religious control in my own hands. One can do more good deeds, fast more, work harder and get myself out of the doghouse. It is much harder to give all control to an invisible Savior, accepting by faith that I am now forgiven and cleansed by His blood, rather than by my efforts, which can be measured and seen.