My thoughts (Don Clark):
For Paul’s hearers, there were hundreds of years of tradition piled on the Hebrew Scriptures. This made it hard for the new followers of Jesus to comprehend the shift from a life of obedience and sacrifice under Jewish law to a relationship with God based on grace and faith in Jesus. And now, two thousand years later, we have the same issue with layers and layers of church tradition accumulated.
Fact: Our relationship with God is based on what God has provided for us freely in Jesus Christ, “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV) Paul wrote this to the Ephesian believers and is trying to emphasize it to the Galatian believers as well.
Galatians 3:2 presents it this way: “Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you?” (Message Translation) All we really have to do is respond to God’s love for us in Christ to become children of God. For years I was part of a particularly legalistic part of the Christian church. Many sermons were based on what we needed to do, or better yet refrain from doing, in order to be holy enough for God’s Spirit to be in our hearts. And the list was long. Very long. Unfortunately, there were not enough sermons on God’s grace, mercy, compassion, or even the finished work of Christ on Calvary, to make up for the rules to be followed. We had to refrain from this and that in order to prove our love for God. What? As I matured in my faith and started to understand this thing called grace more, I had to move on spiritually. Paul talks about growing up in our faith journey.
In verse 5, Paul asks, “Does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (NRSV)
It really is simple! Why is it that we keep “trying to do better next time” and feel so guilty and shamed when we feel we fall short of the imaginary expectations that are imposed on us by church tradition and inaccurate understandings of what God wants in our lives?
Hey, if you want “No Pain, No Gain,” go to the gym. Paul tells us that Abraham believed — and it was counted to him as righteousness. Grace, period. Everything Abraham did from that point on was because of his faith. It’s the same for us! We believe, and God’s grace makes us God’s own. Grace, period. “We are all able to receive God’s life and Spirit, in and with us by believing — just the way Abraham received it.” (Gal. 3:14b)
Thought for the day: It can be hard to let go of our traditions and religious upbringing. They can provide comfort and a sense of familiarity. But they also can stand in our way as we pursue a stronger relationship with God. Explore grace!
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.