Daily Reform, Day 110
Galatians 2:15 & Acts 13:38-41
From the Reformer
Peter and the others lived up to the requirements of the Law. They had circumcision, the covenant, the promises, the apostleship. But because of these advantages they were not to think themselves righteous before God. None of these prerogatives spell faith in Christ, which alone can justify a person. We do not mean to imply that the Law is bad. We do not condemn the Law, circumcision, etc., for their failure to justify us. Paul spoke disparagingly of these ordinances, because the false apostles asserted that mankind is saved by them without faith. Paul could not let this assertion stand, for without faith all things are deadly.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
There is nothing wrong with the Law or with good works. A Christian should do good unto others and should have character that shows God has begun a good work in her. (Phil 1:6) However, a Christian should never believe that she is justified to God by these acts. Luke records Paul stating that it is God who has accomplished what is effective for our justification. (Acts 13:39) One who believes in that redemptive work of Christ on the cross (Rom 3:29) is the one who realized she could never accomplish it with her own works.
So then, do good works and give the glory to God. But do not rely upon your works as any sort of foundation for salvation or righteousness before God, for the Word maintains that one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Romans 3:28) Your good behavior will never free you from the prison of the law.
To give a human example: One may be paroled from prison because of their good behavior whole incarcerated and by agreeing to many conditions once freed. Meeting monthly with a parole officer, gaining employment, and not committing any more crimes are just a few of those conditions.
However, one is paroled from the prison of the Law by their belief in Christ, never by their good behavior. Faith is the single condition of your parole; break that condition by relying on your good behavior and you are automatically imprisoned again by the Law.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers