In today’s Bible reading, Paul warns the Galatians that if they accept the requirement of circumcision, they are obligated to keep the entire Law. James says something similar, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” James 2:10 (ESV)
But note what else Paul says.
I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:3–4 (ESV)
You may have heard of this term “fall from grace”. Normally the term is used to say that someone has lost their salvation. But in this context — and this is the only place in the Bible that mentions it — it doesn’t mean that. It means that if you choose to fall back to the Law for justifying you before God, you have fallen from grace to legalism.
The Message translation may help us to see this more clearly.
The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. (Galatians 5:3-4 The Message)
Believer, if you’re concerned that you have committed some sin (or a lot of sins) and therefore have fallen from grace and lost your salvation, go back and re-read that!
“Falling from grace” doesn’t mean losing your salvation! It means that you have chosen to use a lower form of justification before God. Don’t do that!
Instead, choose the higher form of justification: grace.
Paul’s whole point of Galatians is that the Law is insufficient to justify us because we could never keep it. The whole point of the Law is to show us that we don’t measure up to God’s standards. And if we could measure up to God’s standards on our own, then Jesus wasted His life and death.
The bottom line is you’re either resting on the finished work of Jesus on the cross, or you’re working to justify yourself. Find your rest in Him. Accept the atoning sacrifice that Jesus already paid for your sin.
In Galatians 4:6–7, Paul brings out the fact that believers are not servants; they are sons. There is a tremendous difference between the responsibilities of a servant and the privileges of a son.
Several years ago, some friends of ours adopted a baby girl from an unwed teen. It was a win-win-win and to this day, the girl’s (or young woman now!) biological mother is still involved in her daughter’s life. But as our friends went through the legal process of adopting their daughter, I learned that US adoption laws are based on Biblical adoption laws. I also learned a mind-blowing fact about adoption: Adoptive parents are legally more responsible for their adoptive children than they are for their biological children. Being an adopted son or daughter brings tremendous benefits, even over being a biological child, including the security of knowing that if you are an adopted child, you can never be disinherited.
Believer, do you see you see yourself as a servant of God? Or do you see yourself as a child of God? How you see your relationship will determine how you feel about God, how you pray to God, how you give to God, and how you talk about God.
If you are an insecure servant of God and get into trouble, you will respond, “I’ve messed up. My Father’s going to kill me.” But if you are a secure child of God, you will respond, “I’ve messed up. I need to call my Dad.” One view brings a response of paralyzing fear, while the other brings a response of feeling lovingly supported.
If you are a child of God, rejoice!
You have a loving Father Who will never disown you.
Note: I originally published this 3/26/19 and every time I see the graphic above, I still tear up. It’s a fantastic picture of the difference between religion and relationship! Which do you have?
In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about rebuking Cephas (Peter) for his hypocrisy. It’s very appropriate for Paul to bring this out in light of the heresy of the Galatians. They had deserted the real Gospel for a false gospel (Galatians 1:6–7) that said if you want to be a good Christian, you have to be a good Jew, submitting to all of the aspects of the Law, particularly circumcision.
As I said yesterday, Paul spent seventeen years digging into his Bible (the Old Testament) reconciling the Jewish faith with the new revelation of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. So when Paul heard Peter — the apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:7) — preaching this false gospel and siding with the legalistic Jewish Christians, he knew that the error must be exposed.
Paul drives home the point that everyone — Jews and Gentiles — is justified the same way: (1) by grace (2) through faith (3) in Jesus Christ alone (Galatians 2:15-21, Ephesians 2:8-9), three of the key doctrines recovered during the Reformation.
The legalism heresy Paul exposes in today’s reading still lives. It didn’t die with the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). It just morphed a little, but it’s still the legalism heresy. It says that Jesus isn’t enough to give us a right standing before God. But Paul concludes chapter two saying emphatically that if we could contribute to our salvation, Jesus wasted his life and death; He died for no reason. (Galatians 2:21)
People today — people in the church — often say that if you want to be a good Christian, “You can’t drink, dance, or chew or go with girls that do”, you have to be in church every time the doors are open, and you have to give 10% of your income (the “whole tithe” Malachi talked about [Malachi 3] was closer to 30% and was a tax to support the Levites and their service in the Temple), among other things. A moralistic life looks really good, but it’s empty transactional religion instead of a relationship with Jesus that Paul spoke so much about.
Yes, Christians’ behavior will reflect a growing faith. yes, church attendance is very important. And yes, giving sacrificially from a grateful heart is very important. But doing these things will not make God think any more of you. Not doing these things will not make God think any less of you.
Those who would add to (or subtract from) the true Gospel demonstrate their ignorance of the true Gospel. Jesus is sufficient to give us a right standing before God. And Jesus is sufficient to keep us in a right standing before God. Let’s keep the horse (grace) before the cart (behavior) and avoid the Galatian heresy.
In today’s Bible reading, the writer of Hebrews says all of the other priests who came before Jesus brought the blood of goats and calves into the holy places to make atonement for the people. Once every year the high priest would bring a sacrifice to atone for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 9:7)
However, he says that when Jesus entered the Most Holy Place, He brought His own blood to atone for the people’s sins once for all time, securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
And as I said two days ago, Jesus didn’t have to bring blood for His own sin since He was without sin.
Never again will anyone need to offer another sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin-debt sufficiently dealt with God’s wrath. Jesus’ sacrifice was so complete that you don’t have to worry about whether or not God will accept you. You are completely acceptable for all time.
Until you cross over to the other side of eternity, you will continue to have to deal with temptation. You will always have to deal with sinful inclinations and sinful behaviors. But if you are one of God’s kids, you can never do anything that will bring His displeasure to throw you out of His presence. You have been forgiven once-for-all. You have been adopted once-for-all. You have been accepted once-for-all.
And that’s good news!
Jesus is a better priest than Melchizedek, the King of Salem, King of Righteousness, King of Peace. In fact, Jesus was from the priestly order of Melchizedek. We read in today’s Bible reading that unlike all the other priests who came before Him, Jesus didn’t have to offer a sacrifice for Himself before offering a sacrifice for the people. Why? Because unlike all priests who came before Him, He didn’t have sin for Himself to have to atone for. Unlike all other priests who came before Him, He was sinless.
So why does the writer of Hebrews make such a big deal of Melchizedek? The Jewish people had always looked up to Melchizedek because he was the one to whom Abraham tithed the spoils after defeating the King of Sodom who had raided Abraham’s nephew Lot. Melchizedek blessed Abraham. He was seen as a messianic figure and precursor of Jesus.
As I said earlier, the main theme throughout the book of Hebrews is the supremacy of Jesus in the New Covenant over the Old Covenant system. As highly as the Jewish people looked up to Melchizedek, the writer of the letter emphasizes Jesus’ supremacy over him.
Jesus isn’t just a little higher. Jesus is supreme over all other priests who came before Him. Including Melchizedek. Jesus’ supreme sacrifice of Himself covered all sin for all time. Never again do God’s people have to find an unblemished lamb to bring to a priest to make a sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient — more than sufficient — to atone for our sins.