7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
A popular belief in America is that if you "are a good person" you'll "get into heaven." Just be kind. Love others. (sidenote: wonder where they got those ideals?) And you will get into heaven. Let your good outweigh your bad (sidenote: that sounds like another religion I know of!) and you'll be fine.
Paul, in these few sentences, shows that from God's perspective, this is faulty reasoning. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 which basically says if you break one part of the law, you break the whole law. "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in everything written." The key word there is everything. You can't pick and choose. You can't be really good at keeping 90% of it. That won't cut it.
He then quotes Leviticus 18:5 and makes the argument that you can't just try to do good, or have good intentions, you have to actually do them. So the bar is high: In order to "live by the law" you have to do everything in the law perfectly, all the time, for your whole life.
Paul is making the clear argument that no matter how good we think we are, we aren't good enough. Even the kindest, nicest, most generous person, isn't keeping the whole law all the time. We know this to be true don't we? Because, well, we live with ourselves! You are probably a really good person. But are you perfect in all ways, all the time? Are you never selfish? Never lazy? Never greedy? Never lustful? Never prideful? Never mean? Never overly angry?
The only way to claim "I am good enough to get to heaven" is to actually be good enough. And good enough equals perfect.
Even Abraham wasn't good enough. Even in the Old Testament it wasn't about obeying the law, it was about faith. Faith led to obedience. Those who thought they could doggedly obey every command and find favor with God were wrong. Why? Here's the key: that made salvation about them and not about God. It made righteousness something about their effort and goodness, and not about God. It made it about pride, human effort, ability, and ego instead of about humility, trust, and.....here's the payoff word: FAITH.
For those who choose to give up trying to do it all on their own, to be their own boss, to run their own life, to be "good enough" in their own eyes, there is another option: Faith. Faith that God can make you righteous, even when your best efforts cannot. We fall on the mercy of the only one who was truly perfect and sinless. He redeems us (buys us back from the grave) with his work on the cross. And by faith in him we are made righteous. We are made worthy of relationship with Jesus now and forever.
THAT, my friends, is the GOOD NEWS. Praise God you don't have to do this all on your own. He did it for you. Now we get to live by faith, trusting him in all things, and letting him lead us to life and true righteousness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. God I am so grateful for all you have done for me. Thank you for your work on the cross, and your free gift of salvation.