In the month of August, we will be reading through the entire books of 2 Corinthians and Galatians, as well as covering most of Ephesians. Given that we covered the background of the church in Corinth last month, we will turn our attention to Galatians this month.
This book was written because certain Jews were coming to Galatia teaching that belief in the gospel was not enough for salvation. That if people wanted to be saved they had to be circumcised, abstain from certain foods, and observe certain holidays in addition to placing their trust in Jesus Christ. It was a message of “Jesus + something = salvation.”
Sadly, many Galatians were convinced by these Jews and began to practice these things in order to earn salvation. In response, Paul strongly rebukes them for deserting the true message of Christ, that Jesus + nothing = salvation. Paul reminds the Galatians that no one will be saved by their own works, but rather by faith in the works of Jesus (2:16). It is His sinless perfection that we cling to; Jesus lived the righteous life that we as sinners could not.
I often run across people who are believing a “Jesus + something = salvation” gospel. People who believe that they need to trust in Jesus AND be baptized, or trust in Jesus AND give to the church, or trust in Jesus AND do good works. While those are all good things, the and’s are not a part of the true gospel. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone; not by works (see Ephesians 2:8).
In fact, Paul goes on to argue in Galatians chapter 5 that it is only when the Spirit is working in us that we are actually able to do good works that are pleasing to the Lord. We need the Spirit in us to love others well, to give generously, and to be patient, kind, and self-controlled. We cannot do good works without the Spirit working in us, and we do not have the Spirit working in us until we place our trust in Jesus for salvation.
In light of this, my first prayer for our church as we read Galatians would be for us to clearly see and understand the true nature of the gospel, that we are saved only be the grace of Jesus Christ, not by any work of our own. That ultimately, we would come to know and experience the true joy that is found in taking on this lighter yoke of Christ, realizing that we do not have to earn our own salvation, but rather that He has done the work for us.
Secondly, my prayer during our time in Galatians is that we could understand the role of good works in our lives. That they are not a payment of salvation, but rather a product of our salvation. Those who are saved in Christ are those who also do good works. Why? Because the Spirit that is now inside us naturally produces good works. Or as Paul puts it, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (5:22-23).” If we allow the Spirit to work in us as a church, those attributes will be the natural overflow of our lives.
So join me in praying for all of us to understand the true nature of the gospel, as well as how the Spirit works in those who are saved to produce good works. I am looking forward to continuing to read God’s Word with you!