“I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” ~Galatians 2:21 (NRSV).
What is quite basic to understand is still hard to live. So many of us are still trapped by extrinsic requirements; otherwise, the law—or the legalistic entrapment of doing rather than being.
We know that there is nothing we can add to our salvation; that we received this through no earning of it on our own. Yet, to placate ourselves, and those about us—and perhaps to satisfy some weird understanding of God to the contrary—we do and do and do, and struggle to just be.
There’s nothing wrong with doing if there’s a God-infused purpose about it. We do the doing because we love to do it, we need to do it, because we are compelled to do it from within us.
Paul’s Fight To Get Through To The Galatians
The purpose of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is centralised in bringing them around to the correct understanding of grace (versus the law)—the power of God for the saving of entire humanity, in the name of Christ Jesus, through faith, being that the law requires no faith.
We can only please God by our faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Following the legalistic trail is fraught not only with frustration but it infuriates God; it’s as if we look at the work of the cross and reject it for our own proud strength. It’s the most foolish thing anyone can do, for our proud strength is actually real weakness; an eternal blight against us.
Paul’s biggest hurdle, with the Galatians, and others, was the constant refutation of the gospel of grace for a powerless ‘gospel’ of obedience to the law. But if we follow it through it’s not only the Galatians that have problems with legalism; we, too, struggle with this striving determination which undermines grace, making it inaccessible to us in our moments. It’s our human way.
Paul’s fight is against the human default; that is, our own inadequacies compel us to want to add something to redeem an earned salvation. We find it hard to accept grace.
What Did Christ Die for?
How we interact with life—in grace or via legalistic ways—directly speaks for what we presently believe regarding Christ’s eternal sacrifice.
Did this friend of ours, the Lord Jesus Christ, in fact die for our sins—wholly, comprehensively—or was it insufficient, in our own estimation, for the once-for-all redemption of our lives?
Our actions speak louder than our thoughts or words on the subject.
Our actions are the test. These attest to our belief. We respond, in faith, to the message of the gospel or we continue to please ourselves. For to live in faith is to surrender the flesh to the Spirit, over and over again, every day, growing each day for the rest of our lives into Christ.
It’s over to us. The message to the Galatians is also a message to us. Where, in fact, do we need to reject the legalism in our lives, for the substance of faith which proves grace?
Where do we need to ‘be still and know God’ in place of doing for the sake of doing?
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.