“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:20-21).
Do you ever get confused about the proper balance between grace, faith and works? If so, you are not alone. Christians throughout the centuries have struggled with keeping this properly balanced.
Jesus expects us to follow His commands. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Again, Jesus says, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Later, James writes, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Then, James adds, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). There are certainly commands of God which we are to follow.
However, there a difference in following the commands which God has given us, contained within God’s system of grace and faith, and rules which we make up ourselves to follow. This was happening among the churches of Galatia. They were adding to God’s commands and making up their own commands to follow. Paul writes to them, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).
Some among these churches were seeking to bind circumcision (i.e. an Old Testament command; Leviticus 12:3), on Christians who were Gentiles. However, for Christians the Old Testament law had been taken away (cf. Romans 7:1-4; Ephesians 2:14-16). The Old Testament Law was to remain in force until Christ came, but then it was to go away. Paul writes, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:23-27).
As the opening passage above states, trying to justify oneself by following rules which we make up ourselves, sets “aside the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21). Paul reminded these Christians that we are justified by following the faith of Jesus Christ: “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16). In fact, Paul warns them that if they did try to justify themselves by getting circumcised, Christ would profit them nothing and they would fall from grace: “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:2-4).
Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Today, I will not set aside God’s grace by trying to follow rules which I make up, but I will rejoice in God’s grace and walk by faith and submit myself to the commands which He has given me to follow!
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).