“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:5)
The church in Galatia had a problem. At some point in the past, Paul had shared the Gospel with them, and they had accepted it eagerly, running well in the race of faith. But as time went on, they fell prey to the ideas of false teachers. Especially appealing were the teachings of the Judaizers, a group of Jews who insisted that in order to be truly saved, one must adhere to the Law of Moses. Accepting this philosophy, the Galatian Christians bound themselves to the law, following it as rigorously as any Jew. When Paul heard of this, however, he was far from pleased at their spirituality; he was furious that they had abandoned the grace of God and were instead attempting to save themselves. The entire book of Galatians is a lecture against this dangerous legalism.
There’s something incredibly attractive about the idea of earning our own salvation. We like to think that if we just follow God’s law well enough, we’ll have a better standing with Him. Surely we’ll get more rewards out of it. But as Paul informed the Galatians, this kind of thinking is in direct contrast to the Gospel. Salvation is by grace alone. When we try to earn it by our works, we’re basically telling God that His gift of grace isn’t good enough. We’re telling Him we don’t need Him, that we can do this on our own. But Paul argued, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21) We cannot save ourselves. No matter how good we think we are, we’ll never be able to reach God’s perfect standard. We failed at that from the moment we were conceived. God is holy, and His holiness demands that we be equally holy. Yet this is impossible. The absolutely only way we can be saved is by the grace of God.
And the good news is, that grace is enough! When we believe in Jesus and accept what He has done for us, His grace covers everything. Every little thing we have ever done or will ever do is overshadowed in the light of His grace. We don’t have to earn this grace; when we do, we’re just enslaving ourselves to a tyrannical, insatiable master. Jesus has set us free for freedom’s sake; He has never expected us to go back to working for our salvation. Yes, He wants us to do good. He wants us to obey Him and submit ourselves to His will. But He also wants us to know that when we fail, His grace has already covered it. Nothing we do will make Him remove that grace. He loves us, He wants us, He died for us. We are no longer slaves but His beloved children. Jesus offers grace. What an incredible gift!