“We are Jewish by birth, not sinners from other nations. Yet, we know that people don’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards, but only by believing in Jesus Christ. So we also believed in Jesus Christ in order to receive God’s approval by faith in Christ and not because of our own efforts. People won’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards” (Galatians 2:15-16 GW).
Galatians 2:15-16 emphasizes an important truth for those who seek to approach God on the basis of their works: “…people don’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards, but only by believing in Jesus Christ.”
You see, some believe we can establish a right relationship with God by following a religious ritual or observance. Others believe that charitable giving and good deeds will make them acceptable to God. Then there are those who feel that the “good” things they’ve done in life will outweigh the “bad” things they’ve done and permit them entry into heaven.
One commentator addresses the futility of those beliefs…
“Many people assume that by trying to live a good life, they have done all that is necessary to get to heaven. They rest their confidence on the good works they have performed to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. This is a futile hope. God’s law requires perfection. Since we are not perfect, we lack the necessary goodness to enter heaven. Thus goodness can never be achieved by living a good life. We can only receive it by trusting in the righteousness of Christ. His merit is perfect and is made available to us through faith.” (1)
The Apostle Paul also expanded on this idea in the Biblical book of Romans…
“…No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law commands. For the more we know of God’s laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them; his laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners. But now God has shown us a different way to heaven– not by ‘being good enough’ and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago).
Now God says he will accept and acquit us– declare us ‘not guilty’– if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like” (Romans 3:20-21 TLB).
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2231). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.