Whose Justification are You Relying On?


Justification

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?' - Luke 10:25-29

We have an expert in the law who's asking Jesus an interesting question.  What is at the heart of this question?  The expert in the law is not an expert in the law like a lawyer, but he is an expert in the Hebrew Scriptures.  He is extremely familiar with the scriptures and the Torah - books like Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  And so, this expert in the law, who's an expert in the Hebrew Scriptures, asks Jesus a question about these scriptures.  And he does it not because he wants to know Jesus' opinion, but because he wants to test Jesus.

This is why he asks, "Well, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus, as he so often does, turns the question back around and asks the man to answer his own question.  In essence, Jesus says, "Well, you tell me; you're the expert.  How do you read it?"  And so the expert in the law answers the question by quoting to important Hebrew passages.  He quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind."  And he also quotes Leviticus 19:18 and says, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Jesus when asked a similar question actually gives the same answer.

Jesus responds, "You have answered correctly.  Do this and you will live."  But then the expert in the law is faced with a dilemma.  Because when the Scriptures command, "Love God" and "Love your neighbor as yourself," he is not sure he does it.  He's faced with a problem.  "Do I really love my neighbor as myself?”  This is the reality of the law.  God make demands like love him and love our neighbor.  He commands us to "go and do likewise" and we are faced with the problem that we cannot on our own do this.

The expert's response often reflects our own response - he tries to justify himself.  He tries to explain away the word “neighbor” and says, “Well, neighbor doesn’t actually mean neighbor, does it?” This is what leads him to ask the question, “Well, who is my neighbor?”

When faced with our inability to meet God’s demands, we either justify ourself or look for help.

When faced with the fact that we cannot meet the demands that God has for us, as laid out in the Scriptures; when we are faced with the fact that God says, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect"; we either try to justify ourselves, or we look for help.  The law will either cause us to fall to our knees and cry out to God in repentance.  Or we will rely on self-justification instead of the justification that comes by grace through faith.

This is what the apostle Paul says:

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."  - Romans 3:19-20

We will eventually have to come to terms that we cannot keep the law.  That God's demands and our obedience do not match.  And when this happens we either will fall on our knees in repentance begging someone to rescue us or we will relying on our own self-justification.

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