…for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (Gal 3:21b)
When a soldier decides to join one of the elite units in the Army, he must go through very tough training. My best friend when I was in the Army did that as a young man. He went to the elite Ranger School.
Almost all the young men entering that training do so with the wrong idea. They are all young, fit, and very confidant. They see the school as a way to show how good they are. Surely, the instructors will be impressed with their abilities.
My friend was like that. He was twenty years old. He was in excellent physical shape. In fact, he ran track for a division one college in Ohio. He had the attitude that he was going to sail through the training and show that he was the best student they had ever seen. When he showed up on the first day, he had even shaved his head except for two arrows on the side of his head. He was saying that he was going to stand out, like the comic book hero the Flash.
But the purpose of the school was not for individuals to show how good they are. In fact, it was the opposite. The school wanted to teach the students that they could not succeed in their own power. They needed others.
My friend learned the lesson. The instructors were all over him and his attitude. Eventually he got to the place where he was in a pit full of mud. He was so weak he couldn’t even get out. All he could do was lift his hand out for help. My friend was a small man, 5 ft. six inches. At that time, one of his fellows students, a very large ex-football player reached down and pulled him out of the pit. It was at that moment that all self-sufficiency left my friend.
My friend had started his training on the wrong road. He didn’t know the purpose of what he was going through. He was doomed to failure unless he saw things for what they were.
When it comes to one’s relationship with God, the majority of people who seek God seek Him on the wrong road. They think the road they need to be on is to impress God with their good works. If they do enough good works, they will be OK with God. That is the way to go to heaven.
Most times, at least in the West, such people think that the way to do that is by keeping the Ten Commandments. There are other things they can do, like go to church and give money in the offering plate. They are confident they can do it. They are better than most people. God must surely have some kind of scales in which He weighs the good versus the bad. Those who are good in this area are good to go. They often enter into the process with this attitude.
But then realities hit. As Paul says in Gal 3:21, this is not the purpose of the Law. The Law, the 10 Commandments and the other commandments of God, were never given in order to give us eternal life.
A person on the wrong road has two options. In Ranger School my friend could have been hard-headed and proud and refused to accept the help of anybody and tried to do it in his own strength. If he had he would have failed the training. This is also an option for a person seeking righteousness and eternal life through the good works of a law. The person who only relies on his own goodness will never receive eternal life.
The other option is what my friend did. It is to understand that in our own strength and goodness we are helpless. It is only when we realize that we receive eternal life by faith alone that we are righteous in God’s eyes (Paul says this in the next verse – Gal 3:22). This is the only way we receive eternal life. It is as if God bends down and with His hand pulls us out of the muddy pit of death we find ourselves in.