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Forgetting the Gospel and Nullifying the Grace of God

December 9, 2009

Paul writes in Galatians 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”   This verse is in the larger context of an argument on justification in chapter 2 and into chapter 3.  Yet, Paul’s application of the doctrine of justification to his own life and daily choices should cause us to reflect a moment.  Certainly, Paul is immediately talking about Old Covenant customs that separate Jews and Gentiles in Galatians 2, but he expands it to the cosmic effects of the cross on humanity’s standing before God.  Whatever Paul does, he desires to live in light of forgiven sins through the accomplished work of Christ.  Notice what he says immediately before, “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God , who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

So then, when Paul speaks about the dangers of nullifying the grace of God, he is speaking of any action we might be compelled to do in order to justify ourselves before God over and against Christ work on our behalf.  All of us have impulses that we desire to act upon that we think will give us a good standing before God.  Whether it be good parenting, consistent devotions, faithful tithing, or good church attendance, we, as sinners, work to build significance in ourselves before God apart from trusting in Christ for our righteous standing.  Here are few areas that I often, sinfully, strive in to justify myself before God:

  1. Good behavior in my children. I must admit that I begin to swell with pride when people remark on the good behavior of our children and I often feel overly embarrassed when they publicly misbehave.  I worry about people’s perceptions of me and my parenting skills.  My heart condition can produce sinful attitudes towards my children when my own “righteous standing” has become a ramshackle.
  2. Books. Reading has done immeasurable wonders for my sanctification and fight against sin.  Yet, at some significant level, it has also fueled pride.  I often, sinfully, identify myself in what I have read, rather than in what Christ has done on my behalf.
  3. Having it all together. There is a sort of mistaken peace that I feel when everything is together in our family – when all the children are catechized and behaving well, when all the bills are paid, when Jena (my wife) and I are getting along great, and it seems as though everything is together before the eyes of the world.  I say mistaken peace, because my sinful impulse is to feel as if “togetherness” is the peace that reconciles me to God.  Yet, often times, I cry peace when there is no peace, because my heart can react in turmoil when my “togetherness” is threatened.  I replace God work on my behalf with my own self-worth, and forget the Gospel.

What are some areas where you justify yourself?

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