While riding down a fairly big highway in West Columbia, SC, I saw a sign out front of a church and it read, “Grace Only Comes by Obedience Gal 5:4”. I put it in quotes because that is exactly what it said –I wrote it down. I’ve read Galatians. I’ve read and made notes on Galatians 5. I’ve studied and taught parts of it at various times. To my knowledge, nowhere in Galatians –or the Bible as a whole—does it say, “Grace comes by Obedience.” I’ll put the verse, and the surrounding verses, –for context— below. Read them….then re-read them.
1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Unless I’m missing something, the two verses following Galatians 5:4 actually give the answer to the question of how we get anything at all…….FAITH.
And to further make the point, Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9,
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.
Abraham was credited righteousness even though there wasn’t even a law to follow yet. How? Faith. Read Hebrews or Genesis, it’s all there.
For some reason this has really bothered me. I saw the sign about 4 1/2 hours ago and I can’t get it out of my head. I think the reason is because of what that first verse up there says (Galatians 5:1). “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…” He did not set us free to go back into a different kind of slavery. We are not to trade one type for another, which is what some churches try to do to people. Read the second half of verse 1, “…and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Paul was writing this letter to the believers in Galatia because “Christian” leaders were trying to attach all kinds of rules and regulations to the people’s salvation: Faith + ______.
Paul wrote Galatians to put the kibosh on this teaching. That is deceitful and manipulative teaching, and churches have been using that tactic for thousands of years. I pray that we as believers can truly live in freedom. God did not just save us from something bad. He saved us to something better. God did not just deliver the Israelites and leave them in the desert to rot. He delivered them from slavery to the promise land. Please don’t let anyone put a yoke of slavery back on you. Or, like Paul fears in Galatians 4:11, someone wasted time in preaching salvation to you to begin with.
Back to the church sign. Maybe the church sign was simply a conversation starter: put there to get the drivers-by to ask questions. Somehow I doubt it. I pray that it will change here soon back to something less controversial…..to me at least.
Please comment on what you’ve read here. If you agree or disagree, let me know why. I’d love the feedback.