What do you need to do to get right with God? Be a relatively good person? Grow up in a Christian family? Attend church?
The gospel is about getting right with God. Though sin and evil separate us from God, he has taken the initiative to make us right with him. There is no human effort that can obtain this righteous standing before our Maker.
The Galatian Christians had heard the gospel that “Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Galatians 1:3-4).” They had received the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:3)? They had experienced miracles (Galatians 3:5)? But, now, certain Jewish Christians from Jerusalem were telling them they needed to follow the Jewish laws and customs to remain in righteous standing before God.
The Apostle Paul was deeply distressed that the Galatians were adopting this teaching. The gospel was being flipped upside down. What God had freely granted was now, according to these agitators, something that needed to be obtain through human effort.
Paul needed to demonstrate that God’s righteousness was not obtained through our efforts, but graciously given to those who believe. To do this he went back to the key human figure in Judaism: Father Abraham.
God had promised to bless Abraham, make him into a great nation, give him land, and bless all nations on earth through his offspring (Genesis 12). However, Abraham was missing one key ingredient for this grand promise to come to fruition: a son. God appeared to Abraham and reassured him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him a righteousness (Genesis 15:6; cp. Galatians 3:6).” That was it: he trusted what he heard from God. Before the Jewish rite of circumcision was established, before the law was given at Sinai, Abraham, by faith, was made right with God. The same is true for us. We are made right by believing that Christ died for our sins; “So then those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (Galatians 3:9).”
Are you striving to earn God’s favor through your own efforts? Are you using achievement, relationships, moral performance to earn God’s favor? We do not change our lives to receive the good news; our lives are changed by our believing the good news.
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