Reading through the Bible together
If you think about it, insisting that we have to do anything outside of trusting in Christ for our salvation is rather foolish. As Paul reminds the Galatians, all we really need do is look at our own experience (vv. 1-5). When humanity was lost and bound for eternal oblivion, God took the initiative in orchestrating the plan of salvation and sending Jesus as our Savior—all when we were ungodly, weak, and opposed to Him (Rom 5:6-10). God even brings people into our lives to share the gospel with us—just as He sent Paul to bring the gospel to the Galatians. Why should we think that our salvation somehow depends upon our efforts?
In addition to the testimony of their experience, Paul reminds the Galatians that the Old Testament also reveals that salvation has always been based on a response of faith in God and His promises, not our works (cf. Gal 2:16; Rom 3:28). Paul first reasons from the experience of Abraham. When God made his covenantal promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, He did not ask Abraham to do anything to earn it (Gen. 12:1-3). He only needed to accept what God promised to do for him. All this happened twenty-five years before Abraham was circumcised. Why should we think, therefore, that circumcision or anything else was a prerequisite for salvation?
But why then did God give the law to Moses 430 years later? It was given, Paul says, to point out sin (cf. 3:19; Rom. 5:20; 7:13) and its remedy foreshadowed in the sacrificial system. The role of the law is like that of a guardian appointed to protect, guide, and discipline a child (vv. 24-25). As important as that role continues to be, the law was never intended to be the ultimate reality—that role belongs to Christ alone, the one who has freed us from the stranglehold of sin and the condemnation of the law, and who has made us all part of God’s eternal family (cf. 3:26-29; 4:5). May our hearts be filled with gratitude as we recognize all that Christ is for us today.
Carl P. Cosaert
Walla Walla University