People sometimes ask me why I write so much about law and grace? Well the major reason is that to confuse the two of them leads to serious theological problems and those problems can lead to losing out on the Kingdom of God. Paul makes it clear in Galatians that to rely upon “works of the law,” for salvation is to “make God of no account,” and to “be alienated from God.” (Galatians 5:2, 4)
It is a serious problem to confuse the free gift of the gospel with works of the law. I should say at this point that faith doesn’t save us; it is faith in the completed work of Jesus at Calvary that saves us. And even faith is a gift that is given to us by a loving God.
In Galatians Paul gives us a wonderful insight into the blessings and joys of faith. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (3:26) It is not by striving or working hard or doing that makes us children of God but faith in Christ as our Lord and Savior.
“Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law because, by the works of the law, no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:16
Three times in this one verse Paul makes it crystal clear “works of the law” do not justify us, but instead “faith in Jesus Christ”, “put our faith in Christ Jesus”, “we may be justified by faith in Christ”, tell us clearly faith in Christ Jesus is the foundation of our justification.
Remember, the law has no life – it cannot save us. It has no power to enforce obedience; it simply points out our failures to live perfect lives that are pleasing to God. In fact, the law adds to sin because without it we wouldn’t know what sin is. The law in Galatians is the Torah, all the law of the Pentateuch. The law cries out “you are a sinner,” but grace reminds us “we are forgiven sinners.”
Galatians 2:20 states, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Wow! If we only had this one verse we could rejoice and dance forever. Our union with Christ is by faith and it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. And He isn’t a houseguest—He has moved in to stay.
The end of this verse literally gives me goose bumps when I read it and really contemplate it. He “loved me and gave Himself for me.” When I grasp that and accept the truth of that statement, by faith I die to life, being crucified with Him and Christ now dwells within me. Does anyone honestly think they can work themselves into that relationship? We have nothing to offer God to make Him accept us or impress Him or overwhelm Him with our accomplishments. Instead we are beggars who dance in the grace of Jesus Christ.
And that’s not all, “So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Galatians 3:9 OK, through faith we are blessed “along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Go back to Genesis 12, 15, 17 and read about the blessings promised to Abraham. Those are now our promises and as the everlasting covenant they cannot be ratified or changed or annulled. By faith you are part of the descendants of Abraham, heirs of the promise, blessed above all people and adopted into the true family of God. And the greatest blessing is you have been given Christ (the Messiah) as your Lord and Savior.
But God’s blessings poured out to us through faith are not finished. “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3:14
There is so much in this verse we could write a couple of posts on it, but it is the last part of the verse I want to focus on, “by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” When we accept Christ we receive the Spirit and throughout our walk with Christ it is the Holy Spirit who guides and directs. Also it is the Holy Spirit who brings us to Christ.
By faith we receive the Spirit and this is the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34. With the coming of Jesus the “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) was overthrown and the “new era” (the Kingdom of God) had broken into the world. The Old Covenant with its law-centered rule came to an end and the New Covenant was written in our hearts with the new law of Christ as the rule of faith. How do we know we are God’s people and that we are living in the Kingdom era? The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us.
We can never be “in Christ” “adopted into the family of Abraham”, “adopted into the family of God”, “receive the outpouring of the Spirit”, “be justified”, or “receive the blessings of Abraham” by works of the law. All these blessings are by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, I am adamant about exposing law-centered Christianity because I have seen so many wonderful people confused and harmed by it. This was the problem in Galatia. The agitators were saying “oh yes the Gospel is nice but there is so much more to it than just believing.” When it comes to salvation—no, no, no, there is not so much more to it. Our walk with Christ, of course, is based upon the “law of Christ”, which is love for our neighbor that expresses itself through the fruit of the Spirit and the carrying of each other’s burdens. These are two different things and we cannot get them mixed up.
Salvation, as Luther says, “is by faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone.” And to add sanctification to the salvation process is to completely side with the agitators in Galatia and oppose Paul. And if that happened I think Paul would write you a long letter.