Galatians Part 6 – Christ Alone
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, wants to make it perfectly clear that faith is the only way to live. For those who “…rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3: 10). Cursed here is not like ‘The curse of the Mummy’ or some other arbitrary curse—rather it is an observation of a truth—in this case, the way of law is doomed to fail, because you must keep every law, all of the time and perfectly in order to save yourself by the Law. It is all or nothing—break one law and you break it all. No matter how well you keep the Law, if you make the smallest mistake then the entire system falls over. Thus, Paul goes on to say in verve 11, “The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way.” (Message Translation).
So then how are we to ‘sustain’ a right relationship with God. The answer Paul provides is this – faith. He then quotes from Habakkuk, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4, Galatians 3: 11). Or as the Message has it, “The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God does for him.” This is one of the persistent and consistent themes of the entire saga of the biblical narrative. From Cain and Able; to Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac; to Jacob and Esau; and ultimately onto the Church and the religious Jews, there is a constant refrain that points us toward ‘embracing what God does for us’ through faith over and against what we do for God through the Law.
There is nothing wrong with the Law (we will explore what the purpose of the Law later), but we cannot and must not think we can save ourselves. As I have been frequently writing, you cannot get anything from God, you can only receive what he is giving. Faith trusts what God gives and submits to the gracious action of God through Christ to save us. There can be no overlap between what God does to save us and what we do to save ourselves. Either its all Law or its no Law.
For the Jews, who were confronted with the gospel, that was a hard pill to swallow: especially as they had been steeped in Law, just as Paul had been. But Paul came to see—perhaps more clearly than anyone—that Law does not save us. Only Christ can do that. So, if we put a ‘+’ sign after Christ we are actually cancelling out grace and falling back into self-salvation, which is doomed to fail.
That—in essence—is the message of the Galatian letter.