If the Apostle Paul were living in our day, I’m pretty sure he could have his own reality show if he wanted. Paul is a terribly interesting man. His adventures are legendary in church circles. One of the most interesting things about Paul is his piercing intellect and flawless rhetoric. Today’s New Testament lesson has Paul taking on a Galatian heresy. Maybe we could call it “Law and Grace: SFU (Special Faith Unit).”
The folks who were holding to the law were reminded by Paul that the promise to Abraham was a contract or covenant made by God that was binding, permanent, and divinely ratified. The law, on the other hand, was not – it was designed to be in effect for a specific amount of time, temporary, and only bound the people of God until the promise was fulfilled in Christ.
So, why in the world was there a law to begin with if it is no longer in effect? Paul said, “It was added because of transgressions.” So there we have it. It was as if the Israelites were precocious and disobedient little children who needed some firm boundaries and rules in order to keep them safe and lead them to the time when they would grow to maturity. Once adulthood arrived there was no longer any need for the law.
The law was never designed to be permanent. So, when Christians cling to a rules-based faith they are showing their gross immaturity and need to grow up and embrace the permanent reality of living in the Spirit. Grace is the permanent and pervasive reality that governs everything Christians are to do and say. It cannot be earned, only accepted, not achieved, but only given by God. Until we can grasp this fundamental truth of Christianity, the Christian life will never make sense. Only until we release our expectations of rules and let go of our orienting around law will we discover the liberation of a grace-filled existence.
Gracious God, you saved me through Christ alone by faith alone. Now help me to live by grace alone as the highest and greatest truth operative in the universe and in the kingdom of God. Amen.