“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Jesus died in vain.” As we had seen previously, Barnabas, and even Peter, had each laid aside the grace of God. The had laid aside the grace of God and had replaced it exclusively with the works of the law. Now, is this to say that we should lay aside the law, disregard it? By no means. However, believing that the law should supercede the grace of God is utter blasphemy. It is fully possible to obey all of the laws of God and still have no faith in Him. If obedience to the law was all that was required, then Christ indeed died in vain.
He goes on to deeply admonish the believers in Galatia. They had previously accepted the teachings and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, only to later reject His teachings. Rather than abiding in Him in the Spirit, they turned to trying to be perfected in the flesh. He even accounts for the suffering that they have encountered and poses the question of if this suffering was indeed in vain, or was it allowed so that their faith in Him woud be even stronger. See, it’s this logic that when everything is going well, it’s so easy to disregard God. When your job is going great and you’ve got a nice home, you’ve got kids and family and everyone is healthy and doing great, it’s so easy to take not only the power of God, but even those things that you have for granted. It’s when suffering comes, when pain, sickness, homelessness are encountered that many people turn to God. Regretfully, it’s so easy for us to buy into this “prosperity gospel” that if you believe in Him, everything will be perfect, and that’s just not the case. We live in a world that utterly reject Him. Consider the apostles, the saints. Consider, if you will, the martyrs who have died in His name. Jesus never promises us that if we follow Him our lives will be without struggle. To the contrary, He promises us disdain, pain, hatred, even death, if we are truly in the faith. Look at our world now. People of faith are the most discriminated against. As our worldly sciences increase, as our healthcare increases, our right to live our faith decreases. See, we tend to have this mindset that we can do whatever we want, and no one can tell us any different. And that is a very worldly mindset. And as that seeps into the Church, we begin to see more and more schisms. More and more arguments amongst Christians about what should and shouldn’t be allowed. And God’s just kind of looking down like, “I told you what you could and couldn’t do, what’s the problem here?” Jesus tells us that in this life, if we are truly His followers, “you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles…brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents…and you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:18-22). See, this prosperity gospel sounds great, but when we look at God’s word, it doesn’t even silhouette the teachings of those who preach it.
Lastly, Paul goes to the heart of the problem. “He who supplies the Spirit to you…does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Are we expected to obey the Law? Of course we are. To live a Christian life is to be in obedience to the Law. However, obedience to the Law must be derived from true faith in God. Consider Abraham. Paul reminds us that it was written that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” When we are living a life of true faith, we will abide by the Law, but it’s far more important that the foundation of that life is faith in God, not the Law itself. Any atheist could abide by most of the laws put forth in Scripture; but that alone could never be enough. Being a “good person” isn’t enough. It is only through faith in God that we could ever be counted righteous.
Is this to say that we will never sin? By no means, it is to say that when we fall, we truly repent and have faith that God will forgive us, so long as the repentance is true. See, it’s never enough to repent of drunkenness while on the way to a bar. To truly repent means to strive not to fall into the same sin, and to pray that it will be enough. And sometimes it isn’t. All of us fall into sin, but that should never be looked at as an excuse to willfully do so.
When I first joined the Church, I found myself repenting for things that I didn’t even know were sin. I was never raised in a religious household, so many things that are sinful, I didn’t realize were sin. I found myself being like a child being told “no” by my Father for the first time. And oftentimes, I would find myself repeating the same things over and over again, each time being told “No” and each time asking for forgiveness. But just like that child, each time it would resound in my head more and more. I had been brought up to believe that I could do whatever I wanted. Once I found out about God, it was even better, because my young inexperienced mind took the few Bible catchphrases that I heard (John 3:16, as an example) to mean that “great, I can do whatever I want and still get into heaven, I don’t even have to believe in God.” But, that’s not what God said, and it was years before I was willing to read and understand that. That was never what God said, that was what Satan the tempter of man said to me through the teachings of the world. I was Mr “if God didn’t want me to do it, He wouldn’t have put me in this situation.” I was reknowned for the catchphrase, “I was born this way, it’s not my fault.” and still convinced that I could attain the Kingdom. “I can be a good person, not waste my time praying or reading the Bible and still get into heaven.” But, that’s not what God says. God says something completely different than what I’d learned from the world. And I didn’t learn that until I truly opened my heart and let Him into my life. When I finally read and actually studied the Scriptures, I learned these things. I learned that everything I’d been taught was not a lie, but a misinterpretation of what was being said. Jeremiah 29:11 was the result of 70 years of prayer and asceticism and was salvation from the retribution taken against the prophets and diviners who had led the people wrong. See, for me, it was the actual reading of Scripture after opening my heart to God, and spending time in the Church, the true Church, that I learned these things. And I am ever thankful to Him that He led me there.
In so doing, I learned what sin truly was, and to call it what it was. To truly repent of it, to confess it, and, by the grace of God, to be forgiven of it. And with each sin I committ, I follow the same path, and I can only bow down before His image and say, “Lord Jesus CHrist, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And I’m sure some of you have, or are currently, going on the same path. May you each find the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t focus on the Law, focus on Him, and you will find the Law manifest in your life. If He can lead me on the right path, I know He can lead each of you as well.
Christ is in our midst.