Faith vs Works

One of the things I appreciate about Galatians is that Paul seems to repeat himself in a few places. It is almost as if he knew his readers would need to hear the content more than once. I believe the same is true for us today. We go along and think we have everything figured out, but then we get of track and need to be reminded. This is what I see Paul doing over and over throughout this letter.

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Galatians 5:2-12 Look, I, Paul, am telling you that if you have yourselves circumcised, having Christ won’t help you. Again I swear to every man who has himself circumcised that he is required to do the whole Law. You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit by faith. Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter. You were running well—who stopped you from obeying the truth? This line of reasoning doesn’t come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough. 10 I’m convinced about you in the Lord that you won’t think any other way. But the one who is confusing you will pay the penalty, whoever that may be. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I’m still preaching circumcision, why am I still being harassed? In that case, the offense of the cross would be canceled. 12 I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves! 

So Paul is telling the people who have themselves circumcised (outward works) for the purpose of being accepted, they are missing the point. It is very easy to begin our life in faith strong, but then we encounter people who, we think, we need to be approved by, so we’ll try to copy them in our lives instead of living the life God is calling us to live…in faith.

Paul continually reminds the people in his letters that God’s grace is given to us; but we do not earn it, we just live in it. But then we encounter periods of life where we feel like we want to go deeper in our faith, and so we find people who seem like they have the answers. If we’re not careful, we will pay more attention to the crowds or the flashiness in their appearance or delivery, and we won’t take time to listen to what they’re saying.

We will be drawn to a God who will give us everything materially, if we have faith, or even do everything for us IF we do certain tasks. But this is not the truth of the Gospel. The truth of the Gospel reminds us that God is with us and walks with us in every aspect of our lives. We also have the Holy Spirit residing in us and we do not have to earn it, just accept it.

There is a line in here that can be troubling: “You have fallen away from grace!” I do not believe that we can lose out salvation. I believe God holds on tightly to us and will not let us go. But I do believe we can stop living in grace and knowing that God is with us. The challenge here is to find our way back to being in constant communion with God. God will never stop pursuing us, but we should continually pursue God. God never changes and will never leave us, but we can live our lives as if God does not exist.

Paul desires the people of Galatia to keep living in the grace and truth of God and desires the people who are perverting the Gospel to go away. The punishment he says he wants for them seems harsh; but if you or I spent hard work teaching them and desired for them to live wholeheartedly in Christ, we most likely would have the same anger that Paul has.

It is not by “proving ourselves” that God accepts us. It is because God accepts us that we are accepted. Jesus Christ already did everything for us. We just need to live into the grace that God has given.

Our challenge is to continually live in the freedom the Christ gives.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Published by

Ryan Stratton

Ryan Stratton is a pastor in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He serves with his wife, Amanda, along with their children. He writes about life, faith, and leadership through his blog.

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