Having grown up under legalism, accomplishing works for salvation rather than trusting completely in faith, this chapter is the great chapter of freedom from legalism. Surely enough my former denomination generally steered very clear of this letter from Paul.
While many Christians are willing to say that our Salvation is in Christ alone, it is so easy for legalism, or works, to creep in. This is what happened to the Galatians. This is also what can easily happen to us unless we are prayerfully aware of the snare.
Paul asks the Galatians how it was that they came to salvation. Was it because they had managed to keep some portion of the law that gained them access to God? Or, did they get saved by faith in Jesus Christ, in His perfect sacrifice and shedding of blood on our behalf. The question is rhetorical, there is no salvation if we must attain it through our own works. Isaiah made that clear in the Old Testament.“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;” (Isa 64:6). Our best righteousness is a disgusting thing before God.
That is why God from the very beginning planned to send Jesus to rescue us from our sin. His blood removes our sin forever and we now stand in the perfect sinlessness of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t see our sin, He sees Jesus’ perfection now in us. It is His work that saves us, never ours.
So, Paul asks the Galatians why they are now trying to add failing works to perfect salvation through faith. It cannot be done. Our salvation was begun by God, and it is He who continues the work in us, and it is Him who will finish what he has begun in us. It is all God’s work. We cannot bring glory to God through our attempts at righteousness. Paul says it this way, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Such an absurd concept. And yet… if we are not on guard, we will let it creep in.
The truth is we are not comfortable with relying on faith and grace. How can we do nothing but acknowledge our weakness before God and forever seek to be closer to Him? It doesn’t seem like enough. What we prefer is something more hands-on. We want something that allows us to feel like we are doing more for our salvation. We want a concrete formula that we can follow, rather than an ethereal trust. Faith relies upon the unseen. That is not comfortable ground. So, we slip into that which feels comfortable… some form of works.
We need to come to a full assurance that the work that Jesus did for us is 100% enough. We need to stop striving for perfect of our own, because it is a lie. When we come to that understanding, we will become changed. Our focus can now be taken off of ourselves and spread out to those around us. We become more loving because we accept the love of God and allow it to flow through and be reflected to others through us. Did you notice in the gospels that throngs of people flocked to Jesus. Some came for food, sure. But many came to see Jesus to experience His love. The same people did not throng to the legalistic Pharisees. They didn’t because works creates judgment and condemnation rather than love. Faith in God leads us to grace, and grace does not condemn and judge.
It is faith that saves us, and legalisms and works never will.
“Father, speak to our hearts to understand the beauty of what you have done in Jesus your Son. Give us more of your faith and make us aware of anything that attempts to add to your wonderful gift of salvation. Amen.”