Summary: Since that time of Cain and Abel there has been two distinct lines of works and faith in man’s religious life. Whosoever follows the way of man (like Cain), whatever it is, follows Satan’s lie. The person who follows God’s way follows the way of Abel, t
Justification by Faith Alone
Guilt is a universal plague of sinful mankind. Every person feels guilty. Consequently every person tries in some way to alleviate their guilt. Primitive tribesmen sought to ease their guilt by appeasing the imagined gods who were supposedly angry with them. Cultured, sophisticated people may take the escape route of psycho analysis or some other form of human counseling. Some people try to salve their guilt by positive thinking and self confident, self indulgent living. Well others try to escape it through sex, alcohol, or drugs.
Even before Jesus Christ cam to earth and died for man’s sin, God foreshadowed His perfect sacrifice through the offering of slain animals. Such sacrifices were only outward, symbolic acts of obedience that, unless accompanied by a humble an contrite heart, were not acceptable to God.
Back in the book of Genesis, when Cain offered his sacrifice of grain to the Lord, he sinned both by disobediently bring the wrong kind of offering and by offering it in the wrong spirit. Rather than bring the animal sacrifice that God had commanded, he brought the fruit of his own labor, proudly supposing that his offering of disobedience would be acceptable to God. By rejecting God’s prescribed animal sacrifice, Cain rejected God’s provision of substitutionary salvation in His Son toward which that blood offering pointed.
Abel on the other hand, by obediently offering the blood sacrifice God required, in faith leaped forward in history and touched the cross of Christ. God accepted his offering not because it had any spiritual benefit in itself but because it was presented in faith and obedience.
Since that time of Cain and Abel there has been two distinct lines of works and faith in man’s religious life. Whosoever follows the way of man (like Cain), whatever it is, follows Satan’s lie. The person who follows God’s way follows the way of Abel, the way of grace and forgiveness.
At the time of Jesus birth the vast majority of Israelites, whether in Palestine or other parts of the Roman Empire, continued to pervert and to Old Testament revelation and to put their trust in themselves, looking to their own goodness and accomplishments to make them acceptable to God. The great body of rabbinic traditions was grounded in works righteousness, in the idea of attaining merit before God through strict observance of an almost endless list of man-made regulations and ceremonies.
It is from among that vast group of legalistic Jews that the Judaizers arose, claiming to follow Christ but teaching that a Gentile had to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law before he could be saved and that all believers, Jew and Gentile alike had to continue observance of that law in order to maintain their relation to God.
The Judaizers were therefore not teaching Old Testament doctrine but the cardinal doctrine of Satan, that a person can by his own goodness and works gain favor with God. Paul reminds us though in Romans 2:28-29 that the circumcision of the flesh is outward in the flesh. But the true believer is one who is circumcised inwardly, by the circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit. In Phil. 3:3, “Paul explained that we are the true circumcision to the Philippian believers, ‘who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh’”.