Focal Passage: Galatians 3:1-3, 10-14, 19-26
A young serviceman suffered through his chaplain’s sermon on
the Ten Commandments. Later, as he reviewed the list, his face brightened. He
murmured, “Well, at least I’ve never carved a graven image!”
Everyone composes lists — for errands, shopping,
appointments, and so forth.
Unfortunately, many adults approach their relationship with
God the same way. Remember when offering envelopes included a checklist for
present, studied lesson, brought Bible, made offering, and attended church?
Checking those items suggested that we were winning God’s approval.
Now that we’re more spiritually mature, we make fewer lists.
We’ve discovered that Christianity is a relationship with Christ, not a
In conversation with a friend recently, I asked where he
planned to spend eternity. He said, “I believe I’ll go to heaven; I’m working
on it.” He then recited an impressive list of his good works. I sensed he had
fallen into the trap of legalism alongside some Galatian Christians who
believed that Christ’s sacrifice alone did not provide sufficient basis for
salvation; to become justified, they must add obedience to the laws of Moses.
In Galatians 3:10-14, Paul explained that justification by
the law would require keeping the laws perfectly, and no one has ever done
that. We are justified by God’s grace through our faith, plus nothing. Grace is
a favor freely given without expectation of return. I like this acronym for
grace: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
We might ask, “What then was the purpose of the law?” Paul
answered that until Jesus came, the law guarded us like a schoolmaster, showing
us right from wrong.
Then Christ came and took our sins upon Himself on the
cross. Now we live in the freedom of the Spirit-controlled life (v. 23-26).
We approach the cross by faith alone, and depart to live
lives that issue into good works.
Isn’t it wonderful that in heaven we won’t have to listen as
people recite how they worked to get there? We will all have arrived the same way
— by the unmerited favor of God.
This lesson inspired me to make a list of my favorite
scriptures, beginning with Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you are saved through
faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so
that no one can boast.” To Paul’s words I add one line from an old hymn:
“Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”