Gospel Grace

There exists within the human heart the desire to earn approval from others. It makes little  difference whether it’s approval from crowds or from a few, the heart does not like to think of receiving approval by unearned grace. This is the natural and sinful foundation that resists the gospel of Jesus Christ, as no part of the gospel can be earned.

The apostle Paul addresses this issue when writing to the Galatians. He speaks of the way in which deceivers had entered their lives and were trying to lure them into earning God’s favour by works of the law. To a Jew, this was an enticing argument, as it pulled on their national and religious heart strings, which had historic connection to the Old Testament law. Typical to Paul’s style of writing, he confronts this error head on. We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:16).

Here, Paul explains that justification before God, that is, to be approved by God with His declaration of innocence, cannot be earned by obeying the rules of the law. Yet, our arch enemy continues to employ this rule keeping strategy for diverting people away from grace through faith in Jesus. This is true for both the unsaved and believers alike. It’s ironic how often we Christians are enticed onto the treadmill of rule keeping, in the hope of maintaining God’s approval of us.

Obedience of Jesus is our worship of Him, not our means of earning approval or security. Paul speaks to a sensitive area of our heart’s affections, which creates a returning tension in our lives. There can exist a fine line within our motives for obedience, which distinguishes between obedience resulting from faith, and obedience to earn acceptance for a sense of security.

You see, grace produces freedom to obey out of love and praise for Jesus Christ. Whereas law keeping, produces continual dependency on feeding guilt which compels us to more and more rule keeping in the hope of being accepted by God.

Before salvation, Paul was advancing in Judaism… so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers (Galatians 1:14). Yet, his passion for keeping traditions could not save him. Endlessly trying to obey over 900 laws which the pharisees demanded, was impossible. Paul knew the painful reality of being a person who keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10). So, he declares that it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11). Paul’s faith was in the fact that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). Faith in Jesus’ substitutional death on the cross removes the curse created by the law.

For the Christian, obedience and good works are the result of faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection (James 2:17-18). The evidence of genuine faith is a life committed to obedience out of gratitude, and a desire to be like Christ. Dependence upon rule keeping for God’s approval and acceptance is replaced with the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 3:22). May we rest today, in the certainty of acceptance by God, due to faith in Jesus Christ.

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