According to a 2015 survey by Barna, 57 percent of American adults said, “knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience.” Ninety- one percent agreed, “The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself.” Seventy-nine percent agreed, “People can believe whatever they want, as long as those beliefs don’t affect society.”
What Barna called “America’s new moral code” is at odds with biblical truth. This was Paul’s problem with the Judaizers as well. They had added works to the gospel, which made it no gospel at all. The good news is that salvation comes by God’s grace plus nothing (vv. 15–16).
Paul wanted to make the doctrinal issues crystal clear to the Galatians. These are not abstract philosophical theories. This was an essential theological and practical question that affected people’s daily lives: what from the Mosaic Law should be required of Gentiles who came to faith in Christ? The unequivocal answer: Nothing.
Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. This doesn’t mean at all that “Christ promotes sin” (vv. 17–18; see Rom. 6:1–2). It does mean that one cannot mix salvation by faith and salvation by works (vv. 19–21). In fact, to live to one is to die to the other!
We cannot say both that Christ saved us and that our good works play a part in making us right with God. These are mutually exclusive options. To try to attain salvation through our good works is to “set aside” or “nullify” the grace of God (v. 21). This is a strong term, meaning to “reject” or “despise.” But God’s grace in Christ is the only basis for our righteous standing before God and the only basis for our righteous living in the present.
Apply the Word
A fitting response to today’s devotion would be to sing the classic hymn, “The Solid Rock.” “My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; / No merit of my own I claim [or, I dare not trust the sweetest frame] / But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. / On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; / All other ground is sinking sand.”