What does it mean to be justified? Are good works bad? We think it will be clear once we break it down. Some people want to insist that works are bad because works are done by those who are trying to save themselves. But is it true that works are bad? That depends on whether someone is trying to do good works in their own strength to save themselves or not. Paul doesn't contradict himself here. There's another way that good works can be done – they can be done by the Spirit of God. All this text is saying is that people who try to keep the law and their own strength will not be justified. We believe that since all our righteousnesses are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6 KJV), then the attempt to save oneself by their works is actually sin. This is because those who do this make themselves to be their own god, little “g”. It is God’s job to save us, not ourselves – we have no ability of saving ourselves. For someone to be justified - that's an act of grace by God alone, which is Paul's point. Those who are trying to save themselves cannot have the Holy Spirit, or enjoy what it means to really live – which is to be filled with wonderful peace, great love and joy inexpressible! Nor can they ever be truly righteous – it is a hollow shell. Paul’s point is not that we won't be doing good works, his point is that those who seek to try to work out their own salvation by themselves will not be justified. We think this is clear! Jesus said, “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14 KJV. The danger for those who trust in themselves, the self-righteous, is that they do not see their need clearly and may fail to confess their sins and humble themselves before God before it’s too late, because they may think that they are good and do not need to repent. So those who try to keep the law in their own strength will not be justified, until they ask for mercy, this is what Jesus and Paul taught. If they feel that they are keeping the law, they may have failed to confess the sin of breaking it. Self-righteousness is a form of Spiritual blindness. Therefore Galatians 2:16 does not contradict our passage in Romans 2:13: 'For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.' They are both in perfect harmony with each other, but they're talking about two different things. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 KJV.
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