Faith or works, grace or righteousness
Galatians 3:23-4:20 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
4 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia has been focused on the idea of faith in Christ verses works according to the law. Again as with all of Paul’s letters it is important to remember that they are written to believers, to the churches. Faith in Christ was new, so there was a significant need to overturn religious traditions and ways of thinking in the early church. Many wanted to hold to or return to the religious ways of the past. Paul says: But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. This idea of faith verses works and the law was an internal debate in the early church. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says: By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Faith and grace are in separable to those who believe. Grace comes as a result of faith in Christ. This philosophy, the debate between faith and works, was not promoted by unbelievers or the world. The world rejected and rejects both faith in Christ and the law, which Paul says, leads us to Christ.
The debate that is prevalent in the church today is not as much focused on faith or works as it is on grace verses righteousness. There are several differences between these two debates. While it is similar to what Paul speaks about, faith vs works, in this present internal debate, in the church, the world does take a side. In fact it is world philosophies of humanism and inclusion which have been mixed with the true and pure grace of God, which fuels the debate. The true grace of God is inseparable from faith in Christ. God’s grace is that Christ died for our sins so that we who were unrighteous could be accepted as righteous in Christ. The world still rejects both faith and the law. The world also rejects the “concept” of sin or unrighteousness. So the grace the world promotes and the idea of grace that has made its way into the church today is that rather than grace being that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, it is that because God is a God of love, sin doesn’t matter. The world still rejects both faith and the law so it twists the true grace of God based on faith in Christ to replace faith, works and righteousness. The world tries to interchange love and grace.
The grace that has permeated the church through world philosophies seeks to do away with the law and so what it is that teaches us and leads us to Christ. Because the world rejects Christ, faith is no longer part of the grace it promotes. The world tries to substitute love for grace. The world says because God loves there is no need for the law or faith. Within the church, many point to the way Jesus lived, that He associated with sinners and outcasts. They say that Jesus life is the revelation of the love of God. The truth is they are only partly right. Jesus life does reveal the heart of God toward sinners, but it is Jesus death which reveals God’s love and grace. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love of God does not overlook sin, the love of God and the grace of God paid the price for sin. John 3:16 says: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s love, His grace and faith in Christ are inseparable. The philosophies of tolerance and inclusion lead to a belief that there are many ways to God, ways that are not based on faith or grace. Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) The world and many in the church would say that the law is outdated and no longer relevant today. Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)
Righteousness is still relevant to God. The only way our righteousness can exceed the scribes and the Pharisees, who held fast to the law, is through faith in Christ. Faith and grace are inseparable. We cannot know God’s grace without faith. God’s love and grace are not interchangeable. It is because of His love that He offers us grace. The demonstration of His love is seen and revealed in Jesus death on the cross. The cross of Christ, Him dying for our sin is God’s grace. It is through grace, through faith that we receive the righteousness of Christ and the free gift of salvation from God. Faith, grace, love and righteousness are inseparable. They are all in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the revelation of Your heart toward sinners in the life of Jesus. Thank You even more for the demonstration of Your love, Jesus death on the cross for our sin. Thank You that because of Your grace I have Christ’s righteousness, I am no longer dependant on the law or works but rather in faith. Thank You for Your inseparable faith, grace and love revealed and received through Christ. Amen.