Today’s Reading: Galatians 1 & 2
Is it true that we are saved by the work accomplished by Jesus when He died on the cross, or is there something more we need to do to earn our salvation?
This was a question in the churches spread across the Roman province of Galatia and it is a question we often hear among today’s churches. Paul had visited this area during his first missionary trip (Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe), and now he is addressing this question that keeps coming up – this insecurity that I must somehow earn the salvation provided for me when Jesus died on the cross.
We hear in Paul’s letter to the Galatians the same message we hear over and over again in Paul’s writings – we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works. YET, if we believe in Christ, works are to be a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This trips us up if we are not careful because it is easy to slip into a works mentality. We begin to see our salvation as a result of our works, that we are earning our eternal life, that we are good enough for God’s favor. But God’s plan is that works are a result of our growing relationship with Him – that He is able to accomplish His will and further His Kingdom through us.
Let’s hear what Paul had to say to the Galatians:
Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. – Galatians 2:16
We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works – no amount of good deeds can earn us heaven, no degree of self-righteousness can make us good enough. There is only one way we are made right with God and that is by faith in Jesus.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. – Galatians 2:20-21
Okay, so this is not a new message. We have heard this over and over again, yet we still find ourselves falling into a works mentality. Why is that? Paul asks the same question of the Galatians.
Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses?…After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? – Galatians 3:2b,3
So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” – Galatians 3:11
Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. – Galatians 3:24-26
Oh, I like that analogy! When we are united with Christ in baptism, we have put Christ on – just like putting on new clothes. It is not about us “putting on” or pretending to be something we are not. It is not about creating our own new wardrobe of righteousness we produce of our own strength. There is nothing beautiful about that. It is about wearing Christ and letting His presence bring about a change in our lives; allowing His Spirit to come in and begin producing His fruit through us.
You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. I fear for you – Galatians 4:10-11a
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. – Galatians 5:1
What a great reminder this morning of something we know to be true. What a great warning to stay out of the trap of an earned salvation or a deserved gift from God. I think Galatians 2:20-21 says it all. Let’s pray this verse together:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminder this morning that my old self has been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. I commit this morning to live in this earthly body by trusting in your Son, the One who loves me and gave himself for me. I never want to treat your grace as meaningless. For if simply obeying a set of rules or living a good life could make me right with you, then there would have been no need for Christ to die. Lord, forgive me for all the times I have forgotten this. I give you this day and I give you my heart. Amen.