Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
We know from yesterday’s reading that we are children of freedom. Paul goes on to say that once free, stay free! Don’t go back to bondage! The example of circumcision is a picture of the law. Paul says that the person who goes back to the law nullifies the finished work of Jesus.
Think about how serious that is. Going back to performance-based religion is not a simple game. It’s not a matter of a little law and a little grace and it all balances out. Jesus or nothing is a serious matter. If you want to play with the law, you have to own the whole thing. It’s all or nothing.
Notice in verse four that Paul explains what it means to fall from grace. People who have fallen from grace are not people who have sin in their lives, or who struggle with addiction, or who ran off and got involved in some terrible lifestyle. People who have fallen from grace are those who choose to attempt justification by works. If you prefer performance-based religion over the finished work of Jesus, then you have fallen from grace. I’ll be as blunt as possible – the daughter who ran off and got involved in prostitution hasn’t fallen from grace. The judgmental person who looks down his nose at the daughter and quotes the Ten Commandments at her and expects her to “clean up her act” is in more danger. Jesus brought grace to prostitutes but had little tolerance for self-righteous people.
In Jesus, Paul says, performance doesn’t amount to much. Rather, faith working through love is what matters. Faith doesn’t work by effort; it works by love. Faith doesn’t just believe God exists. Even the demons believe that according to James 2:19. But when we receive God’s love for us, faith comes alive and that faith is what operates God’s Kingdom.
Brave grace by standing fast today. Persevere in grace. Don’t be fooled back into the bondage of self-effort. Let faith and love flow through you as you focus on Jesus and His perfect redemptive work. Only then can we love the way we are loved.