“O foolish Galatians,” Paul lamented. “Who has bewitched you?”
Through Christ, all 613 Levitcal laws given to Israel were fulfilled. Yet Satan – and our human nature – still tell us, “The only way to please God is through human effort.” i.e. living a “good” life, making sure that – at the end of the day – my “good” deeds outweigh my “bad” deeds so that the proverbial scale tips in my favor.
There’s only one problem with this school of thought: it’s completely unbiblical and diametrically opposite of the gospel.
The whole reason Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians was to counter the lies of the false teachers who had slithered into the Galatians’ midst and began filling their heads with works-based righteousness. In other words, the false teachers were preaching, “To be loved and accepted by God, you must keep a list of good deeds and check it off as you go. If you finish the list, you’re good to go – until tomorrow; and then you get to start over. If you fail, just keep on trying. For all your life.” (By the way, righteousness = right standing before a holy God).
Paul’s frustration was that the Galatian believers so quickly bought into the lies of the false teachers. But modern culture isn’t any different. Our default is to swallow the same lies the Galatians entertained 20 centuries ago. (Satan is consistent in his strategies – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.)
As usual, Paul pulls no punches. He writes, “If righteousness could be obtained by the law (human effort), Christ died for no purpose.” (cf. Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10)
Wow. Put it in park and think about that for a minute.
“Wait,” you counter. “You’re telling me that Jesus loves me regardless of how much I fail and mess up? I don’t have to keep score of my good vs. bad actions or thoughts??”
If you’ve placed your faith in what Christ has done for you on the cross, the Bible’s answer to that question is an emphatic: “yes.”
From his throne, Christ proclaims,
“I have purchased you with an everlasting love, with my very own blood. I have washed you clean! You are 100% holy and righteous! When you stand before God for judgment, you will receive the verdict: Not guilty! This has absolutely nothing to do with your good deeds and human effort. You have zero capacity to be good enough to stand innocent of sin in my Father’s presence. I was good enough on your behalf. I absorbed God’s wrath – the wrath you deserved – when I was brutally and publicly executed outside of Jerusalem. Your salvation has nothing to do with your feeble attempts to earn salvation. Rather, it has everything to do with my accomplishing that for you, culminating with the Cross and the Empty Tomb, my resurrection.”
“If this is true, Jesus, why would you do such a thing?”
And the King tenderly replies, “Because I love you.”
Are you, as Paul describes, “held captive” and “imprisoned” by the lie that you must somehow be “good enough” for God to love and accept you?
Lay down your burden. Put your faith in Christ today. And come home. Peace awaits.
In the Roman Catholic medieval church, Satan had spread this same lie (if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.) People we’re spending their whole lives trying to be good enough for God to love and accept them, all the while never knowing if what they had done was good enough. This is an exhausting and frightening existence i.e. “What if I die and I haven’t finished checking off the list??”
In response, the Reformers (Martin Luther, John Knox, etc.), on a mission (a “mission from God” – Blues Brothers 🙂) to counter this false teaching, began proclaiming and circulating phrases that summed up the true and eternal gospel. Among those phrases (the Five Solas) were:
Sola Gratia; Sola Fide, Solus Christus.
“By grace alone; through faith alone; in Christ alone.”
As my friend, Micah Wilder, says, “Jesus is enough.”
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick