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Who Accepts Whom

by Danny Mihailovic last modified Feb 23, 2014 12:54 AM
Historically speaking, the Galatian Christians were not the only ones to have been fooled with regard to “works” doctrines.

Many branches of Christianity, so called, have capitulated to false teaching in relation to this simply because they have never understood the extent of the efficacy of the cross. The problem of existing sin in the believer, after regeneration by the Holy Spirit, proved to be a stumbling block to following generations. In the eyes of those who saw the practical nature of the Law in its ceremony and sacrificial system, sin was atoned for visibly but now, under the new regime of Justification by Faith, all that was gone. How were they to deal with ongoing sin? How did the believer remain holy in God’s eyes? This was the question. Even more fundamental at this point in Paul’s defence of the gospel, what was missed was the “efficacy” of the cross. i.e. to say, the effectiveness of what Christ achieved in His death. Paul stated in 3:1, that Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed before them as crucified. Why would Paul state the obvious? Surely Christ crucified was being preached consistently among the gentiles! Well, maybe not. It was quite possible that Christ was being portrayed as a spirit, or and angel who had come in some form of human form and then after the crucifixion, simply dematerialised into spirit again. This teaching is now embraced by sects today — nothing new under the sun said Solomon. And he was right!

But the point is this, Christ was crucified, that is He died. In the previous chapter, Paul made the point that Jesus died to satisfy the demands of the Law of God, and that if the works of the law still applied as was the teaching of the false sects of the day, then Christ died in vain…meaning if the law was still applicable, then God did nothing through His Son on the cross; that the whole thing was just a political nightmare for the Romans and the Jews. However, that was not the case for the Apostle. For him, and for us now, it was vital that Christ was crucified for the very purpose of becoming the Passover lamb; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as testified by all of Scripture. The proof of the atonement having been affected for those who believed “on” Christ, i.e. resting their hope on His atoning work for them, and not on their hopeless works, was that believers had received the Holy Spirit by grace. Faith was not an effective work in itself, earning grace, but the other way around. Grace working effectively in us produces fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is faith…being born again, faith springs into action and is driven to the cross, as Luther said, “Grasping it with both hands”, not letting go for there is nowhere else to go to be saved. Paul argued… “Did we receive the Holy Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the Hearing of faith?” Those who are dead in works cannot receive anything because they shun the gift of God and take pride in their works…this was the problem faced by the church then and even today. We still get it all mixed up…how often have you heard… “I was saved because I believed!” Or “I was saved because I accepted Christ”. The sentiment is obvious but the logic is totally unbiblical. The hearing of Faith is the evidence of grace at work.

Many Christians believe that God has saved them on the basis of a decision they have made. If that was the case, then God is not consistent with what he has revealed about the human heart — dead in sin, incapable of resurrecting itself and already condemned by its own corruption. Why do genuinely saved people think this way? Because it is what they have been taught by others who have studied in the University of parrot-ology, and it overcomes the difficulty of telling people the truth, that without grace their natural condition condemns them as they are.

There needs to be a resurrection before any decision can be made. This was Paul’s argument. The works of the law supports the parrot-ological deduction idea that we need to do something before we can be saved. However, the issue is always about Grace. When Peter thought about how the gospel would affect the Gentiles, he spoke about repentance as a work of grace, not a work of the law, or basically a human initiative to be saved. Acts 11:18… “Then also God has granted to the Gentiles, repentance to Life.” This was certainly Paul’s own personal experience. He also wanted the Galatians to understand this for themselves. How did they get saved? None other than by grace! Christ is preached as a testimony to the Father’s love to save helpless sinners, and those who are saved by His grace, respond with repentance and sorrow for their sin. That grace is then the ground of their assurance for when future sins engulf them — the need for sanctification is also a work of grace; more of which Paul speaks about further in the letter. How foolish were these Galatians to abandon so quickly, the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross for the age-old lie that man has retained enough goodness as to be able to affect his salvation by pleasing God through a system of works or religious observances. The question is, “Who accepts who in such an unbalanced equation?”

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