The Galatians made a good start. They had been properly taught and rightly believed that they were saved, forgiven, justified, only for Christ’s sake. And yet with the infiltration of false teachers and the arrogant nagging of the old Adam, they wavered. Yes, surely they were saved by grace and through faith in Christ, but they could play some part, even a small one, in that process, right?
That was their deluded thinking. And we know how easily such thoughts spring up. How often haven’t we too allowed ourselves some credit, however so slight, for our Christianity and status as children of God? We certainly are different in some important ways from the unbelievers around us, aren’t we? We go to church. We read the Bible. We pray. And yet St. Paul would remind us that all of these things are fruits of the Spirit and of faith, not causes of our regeneration. We were just as dead in our trespasses and sins and hostile to God as any unbeliever. Dead is dead. There is no such thing as more or less dead. God alone, by His Spirit, and for Christ’s sake, made us alive again through Baptism and the preaching of the Word. And even now, even as we cooperate in our sanctification—going to church, studying the Word—we still do not do so like two oxen, the Christian and the Spirit, pulling a cart. No, we are like a child helping his father push the lawnmower. The child might think he is doing a lot of work, but in reality, he is hardly pushing and, to be honest, often makes the task even more difficult.
And so Paul uses Abraham, the patriarch, as a prime example. Yes, Abraham has some tremendous fruits of faith recorded in Scripture (as well as some pretty shocking sins), but Abraham, like us, was saved long before he produced a single fruit and apart from any fruit. Abraham was justified through faith, faith in Christ, the Savior to come, and so were we, and are we. The work of our salvation rests, not before us, for us to do, but behind us, done, accomplished, to be believed and not supplemented. And take heart for that reason, for that means that it is certain, reliable, untethered to our ebbing and flowing emotions and inconsistent works. As surely as Christ was crucified, so surely have our sins been paid for, atonement made. That is what the faith that God grants us believes and receives, and it is only through that reality that we live and move and have our being as children of God. So live in, through, and for Christ, not because you have somehow deserved to be His own, but because He has done everything necessary to make you such. Live, not to be certain of your salvation, but because you are certain and grateful to have been bought at such an inestimable price.
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