“As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!”
~Galatians 1:9 (NRSV).
Strong words. Necessarily though the message had to be plain for the Galatians who’d rapidly slidden into a legalistic grace (nullifying it). I wonder if we’ll readily see the same signs in ourselves if that’s the propensity. That’s the problem. Legalism blinds.
The Apostle Paul is forceful in rebuking the Galatians right here and throughout, exhorting them to turn from “adding” their legal nuances to an eternal and already-perfect grace.
Some of our common “adding” behaviours are to ‘pray more’ or ‘read our Bibles more,’ not that either of those is bad. Indeed, they’re wholly good. But if the motive is to pray more or read more to appease God or conscience then we’re barking up the wrong tree! Grace is about love, or wanting to do what we do, not sacrifice because we feel we have to.
What’s Wrong with This Message?
Christ died for all, and since this happened all have died so that they might live (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Likewise, it attends that any message of ‘grace’ without Christ central to it—however dollied up it might be—is a false and insufficient gospel; one with much room for heresy, allowances of apostasy and movements of legalism to shift right in.
If Christ is somehow held high, yet the Saviour’s crucifixion and resurrection are forgotten, it’s an anachronism of the true gospel of grace. It’s wrong to forget the motif of suffering central to the Gospel so as to chase the life of unremitting joy. One does not exist without the other. Grace came at a rich price. We suffer well.
Further, whilst all the right things are said and borne in mind, if there is lived an idolatrous life, the Gospel is not yet real in that life. This is our common problem. Whilst we may’ve accepted the offer of grace—and salvation is a real concept before God, meaning we’re destined for heaven—none of us is saved so much that we’re protected from temptations to idolatry. But if life is lived with accord to the Gospel, there is a surrendering of that which hinders. It’s an honest, courageous life.
No Splitting Hairs – Reconciliation is Complete
It is human nature to look the gift horse in the mouth.
We don’t accept gifts well as a norm. In terms of grace, our human nature wants to thank God in tangible ways to earn the gift. It’s like any motive we have to repay favours. If we want to find out someone’s real motivation for gifting something to us, we don’t return the favour; but we pass it on to someone else.
Should we want to re-gift the grace that others (or God) issue(s) us from love? That would cheapen the deal. For their love we’d offer in return a guilt-laden, conditional love—that which can only ever be an insult, rightly construed.
This item of Spiritual reconciliation is complete. There’s nothing to prove; nothing to earn.
Enjoy peace with God in clear conscience, but stay penitent. The Lord is closer than you think.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.