GALATIANS 2:19-21: “When I tried to obey the laws in the Scriptures, those laws killed me. As a result, I live in a relationship with God. I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live I live by believing in God’s Son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins. I don’t reject God’s kindness. If we receive God’s approval by obeying the laws in the Scriptures, then Christ’s death was pointless.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: Am I saved by what I do, or by what Jesus did on the cross? If salvation is by grace through faith, do I have to obey the law? Is what some are calling “Hyper Grace” really what Paul was alluding to in these verses? These are all important questions, and to be honest, books could and have been written to address them. However, in a simple devotional thought, what can we glean from what Paul says in the closing verses of Galatians 2.
To answer this question we must refer to another book written by Paul. The book of Romans is Paul’s great treatise on the subjects of law, grace, salvation, faith, the Spirit, and the believer’s life of victory. Paul was misunderstood many times. He was accused of lawlessness and a disregard for his Jewish heritage. There were those who also accused him of completely dismissing the law of God in his emphasis of salvation by grace through faith. In answer to these critics Paul writes,
- “Are we abolishing the laws in the Scriptures by this faith? That’s unthinkable! Rather, we are supporting these laws.” (Romans 3:31 GW)
Paul never dismissed God’s law in the Scriptures. He never diminished the holiness of the words written by the finger of God on the tablets of stone given to Moses. What Paul did dismiss was man’s ability to earn his own righteousness and acceptance from God through following these laws. This was impossible because – “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!” In man’s best attempt to uphold God’s righteous law, he always falls miserably short. It is not how short he actually falls, but the fact that he does fall short of God’s standard of perfection (holiness). In man’s attempt to try and find approval from God through his own works, he finds himself standing condemned before God as a sinner.
- “Not one person can have God’s approval by any effort to follow the laws in the Scriptures. These laws show what sin is.” (Romans 3:20 GW)
So what is it – the law or grace? In all honesty it is both. The law brings us to the realization that we are sinners in need of a Savior. It is our tutor to bring us to Christ. We then cry out to the Lord for mercy, and believe in Jesus Christ, we are saved by grace through faith, and it is not because of our works or effort. Our salvation, our approval from God, is based solely upon the completed work of the cross, Jesus’ sacrifice, death, and resurrection. This is the righteousness that comes by faith. Yet, it does not stop there.
When we are “saved by grace through faith”, we begin to live a new life that is marked by a new power which, or more correctly, “whom” resides within. It is the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that is manifested in our lives through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit!
- “However, if Christ lives in you, your bodies are dead because of sin, but your spirits are alive because you have God’s approval. Does the Spirit of the one who brought Jesus back to life live in you? Then the one who brought Christ back to life will also make your mortal bodies alive by his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10-11 GW)
This is what Paul is talking about when he says – “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live I live by believing in God’s Son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins.” And if we are now to live through the power of the resurrection, if we have been crucified with Christ and raised to newness of life with Him, how then do we respond to the law?
- “It is impossible to do what God’s standards demand because of the weakness our human nature has. But God sent his Son to have a human nature as sinners have and to pay for sin. That way God condemned sin in our corrupt nature. Therefore, we, who do not live by our corrupt nature but by our spiritual nature, (and by doing so) are able to meet God’s standards in Moses’ Teachings.” (Romans 8:3-4 GW)
Did you hear that? “…by our spiritual nature (the resurrection power of Christ through the Holy Spirit), (we) are able to meet God’s standards in Moses’ Teachings.” And how do we do this? We do this by living and abiding in the Love of God through the Spirit. And living and abiding in love is living and abiding in God’s Word (read John 15 in its entirety!). As we abide in the Word of God, what we could not do through the weakness of our sinful flesh, the Lord begins to work in and through us – through the power of the Holy Spirit! We are no longer struggling to make it in our own power and strength, we are cooperating with the power of God within!
- “My dear friends, you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I’m absent. In the same way continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him.” (Philippians 2:12-13 GW)
So what should we do? We have the choice to live life like a sparrow or like an eagle. A sparrow has to flap its wings and work very hard to fly anywhere, and it cannot fly long distances because of that. An eagle on the other hand, rises above its surroundings, lifted by the current of the wind. Rather than self effort, the eagle soars by simply extending his wings and following the current. We too can soar when we stop trying to follow God in our own strength and surrender our lives to the indwelling and transforming power of the Holy Spirit. As we do, we will rise up on wings like eagles, and find ourselves walking according to God’s Law in His Power, in His Strength, and through His Love! The work of the cross and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is where law and grace meet and find harmony!
Lord, help me to mount up with wings of faith like an eagle. Help me in the “…life I now live (to)…live by believing in God’s Son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins.” Help me not to “…reject God’s kindness. (For) If…(I) receive God’s approval by obeying the laws in the Scriptures, then Christ’s death was pointless.” However, let me “…live in a relationship with God. (For) I have been crucified with Christ. (And it is) no longer I who live, but Christ (Who) lives in me.”
I can feel the wind of His Spirit!
Lord – help me to soar!
In Jesus Name!