Sunday, December 7, 2008

Scripture for Today

In church we are working through the book of Galatians. Today Pastor Ryan was preaching from Galatians 3.
"You foolish Galatians! ( Paul speaking to the believers in Galatia ) Who has bewitched you?Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit [become filled with God's Holy Spirit as believers] by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit [faith], are you now trying to attain your goal [heaven] by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing - if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law [do all the right things] , or because you believe what you heard [that Jesus Christ was God incarnate and paid the penalty for our sins - once and for all] ?"

There is still a tension in the Christian church today between faith and good works - how much do we ourselves have to add to Christ's sacrifice on the cross in order to attain heaven? Does the cross just get us started in the right direction, and then it is up to us to close the gap the rest of the way with "being good" and doing the "right things"? If so, how much is enough? Can we ever KNOW that we have done enough to enter heaven?

In the book of Galatians, Paul was writing a letter to address some heretical teaching that had crept into the Galatian church - that it was necessary to follow the practices of the Jewish religion as well as believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to be saved from ones' sins. Circumcision, dietary restrictions, Sabbath rituals, etc. were still required, even if you were a non-Jew, according to this teaching. Paul jumped on this with some very strong language. "You FOOLISH Galatians! Who has BEWITCHED you?"

The Jewish law was a protection and guide for God's people, living in the midst of paganism. But it was also meant to show us our weakness. It demonstrates that NO ONE can meet God's standard completely, without ever making an error. And therefore no one can be righteous by their own merit or strength! Only when we realize that our efforts can NEVER be enough to satisfy God can we recognize our need for a Saviour. The Jewish law had no power to remove sin. Even before Christ came to live on earth, salvation came by FAITH.

Galatians 3:6
Consider Abraham:'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' "
Galatians 3:24
"So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ, that we might by justified [to be made righteous or acceptable to God ]
by faith."

Ephesians 2:8-9
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."
Because salvation comes by faith, I CAN know that I will be with my Father in heaven one day. Christ paid the penalty that was required ( because God is holy and just ) for my sins. I don't have to add anything to what Christ has done on the cross. It is finished. It is COMPLETE.

Now, because of what Christ has done for me, I WANT to live in a way that pleases God. Because I understand the sinful state I was in, and the incredible sacrifice that he made on my behalf, I am GRATEFUL. Therefore, I do "good works" because of the overflow of Christ in my life, not in the hopes that I can tip the balance of the scales in my favor.

If you have not ever thought of things this way, I urge you to consider these verses.
Romans 3:23 "
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."Romans 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord."


Renee said...

Thanks for posting this Beth,
I had an interesting conversation with a lady in our class, in class I had made a comment about being concerned about the younger (next) generation being deceived, that they could have Jesus and eternal life but, live like the world, she interpreted it to mean that you could loose your salvation. So, I started digging into His word last week and everywhere I read 1,2 and 3 John, God confirmed what I knew to be true, if we have truly been born again, we will be changed, there will be fruit in our lives. This is just another example of Saved by faith not works...thanks.


Creech Family said...

Interesting how you hit the nail on the head of something we have been conversing with a relative about (and here Renee in her comment says it was in her class recently, too). Thanks for such a clear and great outline of the whole topic. I think I might bookmark this one for when that discussion recurs (which I think will be soon). Have a great week!!