O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?
—Galatians 3:1-5, (ESV)
In these verses, Paul addresses problems caused by Judaizers (those who follow Jewish religious practices and live by the Jewish law). The Judaizers came into the picture after the Galatians had accepted the Gospel of Christ that Paul preached. They claimed that Paul’s Gospel message was not enough for the Galatians to receive salvation. Before someone could become a true follower of Christ, the Judaizers claimed that a person had to first become a Jew and then submit to the Old Testament law the same way as any devout Jew.
The Judaizers were redefining salvation. How does Paul respond to re-emphasize his message of salvation by faith? Paul reminds the Galatians that he preached Christ crucified to them and that those advocating that the Galatians must follow Jewish law before being saved were actually misinterpreting the Old Testament law. Pushing the requirement of Jewish law and tradition revealed that the Judaizers believed someone received salvation by being obedient to the law rather than being obedient to God who gave the law. Instead of being obedient because of a heart change, they tried to be obedient by their works and their deeds.
What about us? Are we like the Galatians that Paul addresses? Do we try to receive salvation through works or by faith in the finished work of Jesus? Christ being crucified was His achievement—not our earned reward. Our heart change comes through belief in Christ—not from what we try to do.
God’s covenant with Abraham had circumcision as a sign. Four hundred years later circumcision became a personal sign that someone participated in the covenant of law given to Moses. What sign accompanied the New Covenant Grace of Jesus that Paul preached? What sign did the Galatians receive that proved they had received salvation? Their proof was that they had received the Holy Spirit.
Because of the false teaching of the Judaizers, the Galatians questioned their salvation. Paul wants them to be sure they know that proof of their salvation was not in what they do in obedience to Jewish law. They received the Holy Spirit as evidence of their salvation.
After having received Christ, do you believe that proof of your salvation is in what you do? Do you believe that if you don’t work hard enough you will lose what you have received by faith?
— In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
— Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)
Proof of your salvation is not in anything you do. Your proof comes from what you have believed and received by faith. When you heard the Words of truth and believed them, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit. And not only that, He guarantees what you have received. After receiving Christ “by hearing with faith,” it doesn’t make any sense that you would need to do anything to be saved. It makes no sense that you would need additional work like the Judaizers were telling the Galatians.
“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” Paul asks (Galatians 1:5, ESV). Not only was the Holy Spirit evidence of their salvation, but miracles happened among them. Where the Word is preached is, there will be miracles (Mark 16:15-18). Miracles are never by works of the flesh or the additional requirements of men. They come with hearing the Word and the Holy Spirit.
There are Christians who know intellectually that salvation is a gift of Grace, but
they struggle daily in their own strength to prove right standing with God. They do not understand that God’s truth they have heard and received has already proved their salvation.
Paul personally argues that salvation is by Grace through faith and separate from the works of the law. How does this argument play out in your own life? When you were saved, did you believe you had to do something to earn it? And do you realize that the salvation you received by faith needs to daily continue in faith?
Believe in the miracle of Grace that is yours. Don’t allow anyone to add requirements as proof of your salvation. Just as Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness, you believe in Christ and His righteousness is credited to you (Ephesians 3:8). Nothing you did gave you Christ’s righteousness, and you cannot rely on what you do to prove to yourself and to God that you belong to Him (Galatians 3:10). You belong to Him just because you have believed. Those who have the righteousness of Christ have been made right with God by faith in Christ.
Believe in what is yours. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you. Live by faith in the Grace you have received.
© 2021 Lynn Lacher