Recently I haven’t been able to get enough of the book of Galatians. It’s like, every time I read in Galatians, God hits me upside the head with some major truth I have either never seen or have forgotten. That’s what happened tonight.
So, I’m reading the third chapter when I come across verses 8 through 12. They read:
Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”
The phrase that stuck out to me the most is the very last one. “The person who does these things will live by them.” When Paul uses that he is trying to show that if you live by the law you have to stick to it. There is no other way to salvation than by works. We know Paul does not actually think that, but rather knows there is no way to salvation that by faith.
If I chose to try to earn my way into heaven I am going to have to work really hard. Not just that, but no matter the effort I put in I still won’t be good enough. I would have to literally live by every single rule, and even then my sinful nature would totally ruin any chance I have of salvation. If you have a cake, but one of the eggs that went into that cake was spoiled, the whole cake is spoiled. It’s not like you can seek out and destroy the particular germs to save the rest of the cake. It may be beautiful on the outside, but it is literally rotten at its core. That is the human condition.
Now, the opposite is true as well. Previous to these verses Paul reprimands the Galatians for forgetting the Gospel they had once heard and believed. He says, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you no trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3) What is started by God can only be finished by God. We kid ourselves when we act as though anything other than that is true. It’s just foolishness.