If you’re a Christian, chances are you’ve heard John 3.16 or Psalm 23. The other day I asked myself, “If I could choose 5 passages that would instantly cement themselves in the mind of my church members which ones would I choose?” For the next 5 Fridays I’m going to share one a week. I’m sure that if I created this list 5 years from now I’d likely choose 5 different passages, so in a sense, these are 5 passages that have meant more to me in the past few years than any others. Here’s week one:
2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. – Galatians 3.2-7 (ESV)
Now, before I comment, read it again from The Message:
2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!
5-6 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.
7-8 Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith? – Galatians 3.2-7 (The Message)
No other Scripture passage has spoken into and rocked my life like those six verses. For close to 25 years I lived as if my justification was by the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus, yet my sanctification could only come through what Peterson calls “strenuous moral striving.” If I ever get a tattoo (which is highly unlikely) it will be Galatians 3.3: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” That’s exactly what I had been doing. Having gladly received free salvation with tears, I moved on to pursuing holiness as something in addition to justification; only earned, never a gift. This verse spoke so deeply to my heart, and the spiritual life it gave me felt stronger than that at my first profession of faith.
Dear Christian, you are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. You are daily sanctified by grace through faith in Christ alone. You don’t save yourself. You don’t purify yourself. All is gift. You and I never sanctify ourselves through moral striving. We are sanctified as we constantly go back over, relive, re-die, remember our justification in Christ. This is not the outward work of our hands, but the inward work of the Spirit in our hearts.
I wish ever Christian knew these verses.