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In Galatians 5:1-2, the Apostle Paul sets the foundation for what life apart from the Law should look like for a believer. Put simply, trying to live a life according to the Law ruins grace and its work in our lives.
Drawing on the works of such diverse theologians as Calvin, Luther, Barth, and Kirkegaard, Derek and the panel at Lives Transforming delve into the depths of God’s grace as revealed to us in Scripture. Galatians 5:1-2 serves as a foundational truth in much of Protestant and Evangelical Christianity, and the concept taught (freedom from the Law) is foundational to discovering who we are in Christ and finding freedom from the tyranny of performance based values systems.
Without declaring any one theologian completely correct, Lives Transforming gleans applicable truth from several of history’s greatest theologians and how the freedom from the Law taught in Galatians 5:1-2 was pivotal not only in the Protestant Reformation, but also in our lives today.
The Swiss theologian John Calvin was quick to recognize that Galatians 5:1-2 runs completely contrary to what was being taught in the Roman Catholic Church at the time, namely that our works somehow factor in to our salvation. He points out that the idea that those who are redeemed will automatically use grace as a license to sin is a sly deception designed to keep us from living in the freedom which was intended for us.
Calvin further contends that the Galatian Gentiles, to whom the letter was addressed, had never been under the Jewish Law, suggesting that Paul was telling them to make sure that they didn’t add anything to the requirement for justification, turning to the Law as if they hadn’t already been redeemed. After all, God’s grace extended to us through the work on the cross is sufficient.
Next, another Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, is considered. Karl Barth is arguably the most influential theological thinker of the 20th Century. The influence of his thinking has impacted both Protestant and Evangelical circles. Concerning Galatians 5:1-2, Barth adds that we are not only set free from the requirements of the Law, but we are set free in order that we might experience a revelation of God. There is a distinct connection between the truth of what Jesus did for us on the cross and being free.
As in most Lives Transforming Bible studies, the thoughts of Martin Luther on this passage of Scripture are given a good deal of consideration. Luther, in all his earthiness, had great practical application of Galatians 5:1-2, as he did with Scripture as a whole.
Luther focuses largely on the importance of standing firm in the freedom we have in Christ. After all, if we buy into the lie that anything we do or fail to do can either add to or take away from what God’s grace has accomplished in us, we essentially nullify what Christ has done.
While it may be reasonable to think that we are justified by obeying the Law, God’s way of thinking and operating befuddles reason. It is, according to Luther, impossible for reason to come to grips with what was accomplished on the cross or the wonders of God’s promise to us.
Luther further cautions us that, while we cannot lose God’s grace or justification, the freedom that we are intended to live in is easily sacrificed. The devil is quick to attack when he begins to see us living in any understanding of God’s grace.
After all, grace is not only what gives us free justification with God, but it is also what empowers us to live in the freedom God designed for us. Trying to follow the Law inevitably leads to frustration and tyranny. Even when we succeed in some measure, it leads to the most harmful form of pride and self deception. We can do nothing to add to the salvation God has freely given us, and we can do nothing to take away from it. We are justified by God’s grace.
So, If works can’t save us, nor can they add anything to the salvation which we freely receive, what part do they have to play in our lives? We already know that they play no part in our justification. However, when we live our lives firmly rooted in God’s grace, and our works come forth as an expression of what God has done on the inside of us, rather than as an attempt to earn favor or gain worth, then those works can have a powerful impact on the world around us.