Saturday, February 14, 2015

Significant Passages #4: Galatians 5:2-4

This one is for all of you out there who believe that God requires you to do good works or obey His law in order for you to earn salvation.  If you trust in the hope that somehow your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds (and also hope that God is satisfied with a record of 51% obedience!), please read this carefully.

In my last post we read that salvation comes by grace through faith--and that even faith itself is a gift from God.  What do we bring to the table as our part of the transaction?  Nothing but sin!

In the passage that I've chosen from Galatians today, the Apostle Paul is admonishing believers who had at first received salvation by grace through faith, but now they were trying to complete that salvation by what they thought were meritorious works of the law.  That is, certain Jews had taught them that they needed to become circumcised in order to remain in God's pleasure.

This "circumcision" was a shorthand way of saying that to continue in God's favor, they must obey the Old Testament law.  We don't stumble over that too much in America today, but we do stumble over other laws, of our own creating.  Our form of legalism takes shape kind of like this: "Don't drink, don't smoke, don't dance, don't chew, and don't hang out with them that do."  A thousand tiny laws to bow the backs of the ones who trust in their own righteousness, instead of that which is freely found in Jesus Christ.

And what's the purpose?  To earn by our own works a righteousness that makes God indebted to us.  This is perhaps a subtle point, but here it is nonetheless: We trust in a righteousness of our own efforts, in order to force the hand of God.  "I have fulfilled Your law; now You must let me enter Heaven."

That's a rather long preamble for this series, but finally we arrive at Galatians 5:

Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.  You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
 In trying to earn their own salvation, the Galatians found themselves in the position not of somebody to whom God owed a debt; instead, they find themselves in debt to a harsher master yet: the whole law!  In trying to earn their own favor before God, they found themselves fallen from the only place of favor that exists before God: His grace.

Please don't make this critical mistake; it's a matter of life and death.  Please don't let Christ "profit you nothing."  Jesus is the way--the only way--to Heaven.  Repent from your sin-stained acts of self-righteousness, and take upon you the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is the clothing of all the saints.  Don't try to hide your sins from the eyes of the Holy One; let Him take them from you and bear them Himself upon His Cross.