June 17, 2022
“The Law, then, was our guardian until Messiah, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God...”
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“The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes from the law, then Messiah died for nothing.” Galatians 2:20b-21
I grew up in (what is known as) the “Bible belt.” In the Southern US, a larger-than-average percentage of the population goes to church, hence the name “Bible Belt.” Without going into all the cultural nuances of living in the South, let me describe my church experience there.
Growing up, I remember a lot of preaching about God’s grace. I recall that most sermons pleaded with people to accept Jesus and His free gift of eternal life. I recall hearing how there was no “good work” a person could do to be saved. And, hey, there’s nothing wrong with those messages! They communicate the freedom of the gospel. Maybe, that’s why Jesus is so popular down South.
Sadly, once a person crossed the “line of faith,” they were often inundated with a myriad of rules. It was as if one entered a room of religious bondage through the door of grace. Whether it was an issue of social standing, education, dress code, or Bible translation, it was challenging for new believers to live up to the standards of some churches.
Coming to Jesus was easy, but keeping up your Christian image was almost impossible. As a result, many people walked away from the church, twice confused. They had undergone a religious experience, but under the legalistic burden of others, they could never be sure their faith was the real thing. They definitely couldn’t be honest about their growth process for fear of being exposed as a sinner.
Paul had an issue with that type of church. Just to set the record straight, a follower of Jesus is redeemed by faith in Him alone, apart from the works of the law. As one preacher said, “The mark of a Christian is not their perfection, but rather their direction.” Another added, “We are not saved by faith and works. We are saved by faith that works.”
We are neither saved nor kept by the good things we do for God. We are saved because of Him, set apart for Him, and redeemed and kept by Him. His children should indeed desire to do good works, but their motivation is out of thankfulness and obedience and not to earn or keep their salvation, which is impossible for mankind.
If we could earn our salvation, then we don’t need a Savior. Therefore, Messiah would have died for nothing.
Let’s be thankful that Jesus’ death meant death to sin and that His resurrection is life to all who, by faith, believe.