Editor’s Note: The AMI Devotional QT from June 6-12 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor intern at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
Galatians 3:1-9 (ESV)
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
If I were to give you a cup of water with a drop of poison into it, would you drink it? I certainly hope not. That one drop of poison has contaminated the rest of the water and it is no longer fit to drink. In this passage, Paul is vigorously defending the fact that salvation is purely by grace, not by human effort, which is a bizarre idea for those who grew up in the Jewish faith. In fact, there is a passage in the Mishnah—a collection of Jewish customs and traditions—that says, “Heedfulness leads to cleanliness, and cleanliness leads to purity, and… saintliness leads to the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps that is why the Judaizers were so intent on trying to convince the new believers in Galatia that belief in Jesus was not enough, but that they needed to observe the Mosaic Law as well.
For Paul, it doesn’t matter if you inject 1% or 90% of human effort into the gospel message—salvation is no longer by grace if tainted with human effort. Ephesians 2:8 says, “By grace we have been saved through faith.” And it is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. If Jesus, the perfect, sinless, spotless Lamb has declared that our sins are washed away because of His works, then we are arrogant to think that our works—as flawed, sinful people—are needed to complete the process.
How does this apply to us? One common thing we do that is actually a reflection of a misguided belief of a merit-based salvation is the way we approach God when we have sinned. When we are faced with our sin, we tend to hide or run away. Some of us find ways to punish ourselves or make things better before coming to God. Other times, we are so hard on ourselves that we cannot forgive ourselves for our mistakes. Some of us even believe that though God started the salvation process, we need to take over in the sanctification process. Perhaps we do this because deep down, we feel that we need to earn the right to stand before God. But today, remember to run to Him and His perfect grace, for He is the One who has saved us and is continuing to save us.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for your perfect grace. I pray that today, You would remind me of Your extravagant grace that You have extended to me, and that the affections of my heart would be a response to that grace, rather than an effort to earn it.
Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 65
Lunch Break Study
Read Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV): For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Question to Consider
- How does Paul define grace? How would you define grace?
- What are ways that we rely on our works?
- What should we do with the grace that has been given to us?
- Grace is merely a gift; it’s not a result of what we have done to earn it.
- It could be about the degrees we have, our career, our good works, or even the people we know. Paul, in Philippians 3, lists off a number of personal accomplishments that he could boast in, but he finds all of that as contributing nothing to his salvation, because it is only by grace that he is saved.
- We were created for good works – our good works is not a requirement for salvation, but it is not optional. It is not a contribution to our salvation, but a fruit of our salvation.
We are not very different from the Galatians. We have seen and experienced God’s grace in our lives, but somehow, we find ourselves slowly shifting towards a performance-driven faith. Perhaps it has to do with living in a performance-driven world, but we must remember that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation; it is purely by His grace—in the past, present, and future. Have you shifted to a performance-driven faith? Ask God to remind you once again of His wonderful grace.