As I study through Galatians I can’t help but think of what Paul is trying so arduosly to explain: Grace.
All the time in church you hear about it. You may even have the basic understanding of it that it is a free gift that you do not deserve. But there is so much more to grace than it’s definiton. People say that God’s grace is radical! That it is extreme! I would beg to differ. I believe God’s grace is the only grace. Why do we say that it is so extreme? It is because we do not have to work for it. If we did it would no longer be grace and it would be unobtainable. More so, when we receive it we do not have to pay it back. Even more God’s grace is unconditional. He offers it to everyone, all there is is simply just to receive it. That sounds amazing right! That sounds so easy! Wrong! Why is grace so hard to obtain if it is free? All we have to do is receive it right? The problem lies with our hearts. Our downfall is our pride. In Galatians 1:6-9 Paul states to the Galatians who are currently struggling with this:
“6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”
He writes this to the Galatians when Judaisers came to the church to teach that Paul’s was message to them was, well.. “Kinda right”. They said it is true that you must pray to receive Christ as your savior and to receive his grace, BUT you also must get circumcised, follow the Jewish law, and it’s customs (festivals, etc.)
When Paul is writing this letter to the Galatians he is FUMING, and that is putting it lightly. He had told them that God’s grace is received simply by accepting his death to count for our sins, there isnt anything that should be added to it AT ALL.
If you read verse 6 and 7 again he makes it clear the gospel or grace they are clinging on to isnt grace, nor a gospel! Why? Because the message the judaizers states in simplicity is grace+works= grace. Is that even rational, is that even good news? How can it be good news if God says here is the free gift of eternal life, here is the free gift of being able to come into my presence, but if you don’t follow the law that grace becomes null and void? We would be put right in the same boat! That would be a nightmare!
Paul offers them hope later on though in chapter 3:10-14:
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.”[a] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[b] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[c] 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.”[d] 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.
PRAISE GOD that we do not any longer have to live to the standard of the law.
While studying this i did some reflection of this in my own life. The ways that I had struggled with adding works to the grace that God has given me in my life. It first has started with when I received Christ, even though I had this overwhelming feeling of joy that I could spend eternity with God, and that he would be there when I was going through life, and that he would empower me to do his will and that I could live a life of purpose, another thing crept up over time. It was this growing need to feel like I owed God and that I needed to pay him back. Whenever I would be given opportunities by him I was happy, sometimes not because he graced me with being apart of his will, but more so because I could pay him back, and when he didn’t give me fruit, or more opportunities I would begin to become depressed. How can I work to pay him back now.
Going through Galatians showed me that all this time God was heart broken watching me try to attempt something that was futile. For sure because I never need to but EVEN MORE the debt had already been paid off. This weight that I was putting on my shoulders was for nothing and also blocking me from being able to see the grace he had been giving me and blocking me as well from the joy that comes with that grace.
There is one last point that i feel is important to make. If you are reading this and are a BIG FAN of James 2, or even know what it is about you may be thinking, “Trey, there is nothing wrong with doing works for God, we are encouraged to do so actually”!
You may even quote to me verses 14-26 with “Special emphasis” on verse 17.
I would agree with you! I would say that is absolutely correct, for me and I do not know if there is other people who feel this, but the issue lies with the fact that my works were not based on faith, but on my pride. My blindness to God’s grace.
I would say faith+works= advancing God’s kingdom, I would say that faith+works= receiving God’s grace, but I would also say grace+works= works and grace+works=pride.
My point that I want to leave off with is if you have been feeling that heavy burden of needing to pay God back, I would encourage you to give up on that battle. I will repeat, give up on that battle so Jesus doesn’t have to weep when he sees you trying to pay back the debt of your sins, and what you owe God when Jesus did it for you.
That is why we can have hope in God. He did it for us, paid off our debt and when we mess up, that is paid off too. He wont condemn you as Paul says in Romans 8:1. He will meet your mess up with only more grace if you are willing to receive it. That is the cool thing about grace. The only thing you can add to so that it remains grace is more grace.
Obviously there is more to say, but I didnt want to make this too long and I hope to keep it going as I read more in Galatians, but I hope this might bring some hope to someone.