Have you ever felt like you worked hard for something, or worked to help someone but it wasn’t appreciated? What about working hard for a promotion, going through the process of making sacrifices trying to show your boss that you are worthy of that promotion, only to not get the promotion? In those times it can feel like you did all of that for nothing. We know it wasn’t for nothing, but in that moment, that is how it feels. I imagine that is how a lot of people feel who are trying to work their way to heaven. They try and try to live a “good” life, and to do the right things. For a while, they are successful, but it seems like somewhere along the way they fall back into those old sinful patterns. The apostle Paul, in writing to the churches in Galatia, has some words for you if you are feeling this way today. Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died in vain.”
The churches in Galatia started off strong, but some false teachers had moved in and were causing havoc in the churches. These false teachers, like Satan in the Garden of Eden, perverted the Gospel and caused many to suffer for it. Just like Satan, these false teachers didn’t outright deny what God had taught, they simply “tweaked” it. The problem is, a half truth is a still a full lie. The false teachers in Galatia had come in and they were teaching that you needed faith in Jesus, but that you also had to keep the Law in order to be saved. This is a faith+ belief. Unfortunately, this false teaching is alive and well in the American church today just as it was in Paul’s day in Galatia. Why is a works-based salvation so appealing to many? Because it makes sense to us, it lines up with what we are taught from a very young age. We are taught to depend on no one but ourselves, to pull ourselves up by the boot straps, or if you want it to go get it. All of these things make sense to us, because this is what we are taught in society, and unfortunately many times in our homes as well. Paul’s point in our text is that if we could save ourselves by what we do, then Jesus died for nothing. If salvation is by our works, then there was no purpose in Jesus coming to the earth, and there would be no purpose in God putting His Son through the agony of the crucifixion. However, God doesn’t do something for no reason. Even though we may not always see it or understand it, there is a plan and a purpose behind everything. Jesus had to come to the earth and lay His life down at the cross, because there was no other way that sinful man could be made right with God without that sacrifice. Yes, we are to do good works. However, we do good works because God created us and called us to do them (see Eph. 2:10), but also as a way to show our gratefulness for God saving us. Put another way, we don’t do good works in order to be saved; instead, we do good works because we have been saved. Are you living in such a way that devalues Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? Are you trying to work your way to heaven? Just remember this, Jesus didn’t die for no reason. He died because there is no other way for us to go to heaven. Therefore, surrender your heart and life to Him, trusting in the finished sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to save us. Then, go out and do good works to glorify God and as a way to say “thank you” for saving a sinner like me.
By His grace and for His glory,