Five hundred years ago, a Catholic monk came across the book of Galatians and took the time to actually really read and study it.
It changed his life. And it changed your life, too. For Martin Luther changed the whole landscape of the Christian Faith.
I’ve been studying this book for the past few weeks and have been stunned at how much I had missed in my former read-throughs. It really isn’t until you study a book that you begin to understand it.
And as we do so, the things that are muddy often grow clear. And the things that didn’t make sense begin to make sense.
While we will never understand everything, of course, we can be sure that our study of the scriptures will lead us to have much greater understanding regarding the hard concepts and puzzles we’ve struggled through.
I’d like to take some time to give an example of this very thing from my study of Galatians. I finally understand why it was Galatians that opened Martin Luther’s eyes. The main theme of this book is: We are justified by faith in Christ alone.
Not by a little faith and a lot of works.
Not by a lot of faith and a few works.
Not by an equal share of faith and works.
NO, NO, NO.
We are saved by faith alone. Paul puts it like this in Galatians 2:16–
yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
As Martin Luther read these words he was steeped in the false religion of Catholicism. A religion that required faith and works in order to be saved. He recognized his own depravity. He knew he was unable to do enough good works to be reconciled to God. He had felt an utter hopelessness about this. Until he read Galatians.
Galatians makes it clear that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. It is all of God’s grace and of no merit of our own.
This goes against the grain for most of us. We want to think there is something we can do to be right with God.
This truth from Galatians makes it clear that any religion (no matter its breakdown of faith and works, it use of biblical names, or its claim to the Bible) is a false religion, ensnaring people in a works-based, pointless religion.
What the culture has made muddy and confusing, the Bible clarifies.
Not only are we not saved by our works, we are not kept by our works. Galatians tells us it is all of grace. As we study the Bible in its entirety and compare passages, we begin to understand that works are evidence of faith. They are never, ever to gain or to keep our salvation.
This is a great relief, is it not? Yes, we want to live lives that please God. But, wow, do we mess up. Well, I’ll speak for myself, anyway. I mess up! (A nice way to say I sin…) Just way too often. I am so grateful that my salvation doesn’t rely on me or I’d be in trouble!
Instead Galatians tells us it is fully based on Christ’s work on the cross. Stop and consider this glorious truth for just a moment. The God of the universe loves us and sent His Son to die for us so that we can be reconciled to Him and spend eternity with Him.
Isn’t that amazing?
So I’m going to get real for a moment. I’ve been struggling through some challenges recently. Nothing major but just feels like too many for one time. And yet, I have been amazed—truly amazed—at God’s loving kindness and faithfulness to me as He stretches and grows me.
You see, once we are God’s own child we are so well-cared for. This is not some “pie in the sky”, imagined notion but a truth that you can’t really understand until you are saved.
Salvation isn’t a prayer. True salvation changes our whole life. We relate to God in a whole new way and experience His personal care for us in ways hard to comprehend. Our purpose, goals, hopes, and even our dreams change to reflect God’s will instead of our own. Everything changes because the Holy Spirit changes us. We don’t mourn that change because our hearts are changed. We are the great winner in this trade-off!
And it’s a free gift!
Galatians can be confusing to study, with some of its strong language and references to the Old Testament. I have much more to study myself and it won’t be exhaustive, for certain. But there is one thing anyone reading it will take away: We are saved by Christ’s work on the cross alone. No works required.
If you don’t know Christ, I’d love to talk to you about this. If you think you know Christ, but aren’t sure, pick up your Bible and start studying it. If you’ve known Christ and His work in your life, I hope you are filled with a passion to spread the Good News of the marvelous Gospel to those who don’t. For this is truly the best news in the world!