The Futility of Human Effort

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever: Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Once you become a Christian and now belong to God’s family, how do you continue to please Him? This week, our devotions will focus on the way God has prescribed for us to follow Him. We’ll discover along the way the path forward is the same one that also increases our love for the Lord. 

After the apostle Paul and Barnabas had evangelized Galatia on their first missionary journey, some false teachers, called Judaizers, were teaching a double error. They taught that a person was saved partly by faith and partly by works, and they also taught that a person grew in Christ partly by faith and partly by his own effort. This heresy was a serious attack on Paul’s apostleship, his message, and the gospel of Christ. 

Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to defend his former teaching and refute this false gospel being promoted by the Judaizers. Paul’s message of pure grace taught that a person does not win, earn, or merit salvation. A person is saved (justified) and grows in holiness (sanctified) by the grace of God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Those who were on the side of the Judaizers didn’t understand how such freedom from the law that Paul was preaching could restrain sin and therefore be acceptable to God. They insisted that a person not only had to believe in Christ, but he also had to undergo circumcision, the main ritual of the Jewish religion. And he had to observe all the Jewish ceremonies and rituals. 

In his letter, Paul declares in the most forceful way that the Judaizers’ gospel is no gospel at all and that anyone who preaches it should be eternally condemned. (See Galatians 1:8-9) 

To clarify the gospel of grace, Paul explains that the freedom of grace is not without its logical limits. It is not freedom to sin; it is freedom from sin. It is also not the freedom to abuse others; rather it is the freedom to love others. And it is not the freedom to disobey the law of God; it is the freedom to obey the law of God from the heart. Essentially, it is the freedom to do what is right by the power of internal coercion, not by externally imposed rules or commandments. 

By Jim Connell

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