After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Galatians 3:3
Back in my sermon-making days I approached some Sunday mornings feeling like a lowly worm. During the week before, I had not been the best husband, father, or friend. I felt that before God could use me again I had to establish a track record of right living. So I vowed to get through the sermon as best I could and try to live better the coming week.
That was not the right approach. In Galatians 3 it’s said that God continually supplies us with His Spirit and works powerfully through us as a free gift—not because we’ve done anything or deserve it.
Abraham’s life demonstrates this. At times he failed as a husband. For example, he twice put Sarah’s life in jeopardy by lying to save his own skin (Genesis 12:10–20; 20:1–18). Yet his faith “was credited to him as righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Abraham put himself in God’s hands despite his failures, and God used him to bring salvation to the world through his lineage.
There’s no justification for behaving badly. Jesus has asked us to follow Him in obedience, and He supplies the means to do so. A hard, unrepentant heart will always hinder His purposes for us, but His ability to use us doesn’t depend on a lengthy pattern of good behavior. It’s based solely on God’s willingness to work through us as we are: saved and growing by grace. You don’t have to work for His grace—it’s free.
Think of those situations in which you’ve felt disqualified. How does God look at those occasions? How do you?
I’m thankful, God, that You bless me and use me in spite of my failures. Your grace is amazing!
Writing to the believers in Galatia, a Roman province located in the western half of what is now modern-day Turkey, Paul confronted the teachings of a group known as the Judaizers. They were Jews who embraced Jesus as the Messiah but also required adherence to certain Jewish religious customs in order to be saved. This meant they pushed gentiles (non-Jewish people) to become Jews in order to follow Jesus. Chief among the requirements was circumcision.
At the Council at Jerusalem, the church leaders discussed the issue of which Jewish practices to require of gentile believers (Acts 15). By saying that “unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved” (v. 1), the Judaizers were teaching a gospel of works instead of grace (Galatians 2–3; 6:15).