64. “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” -Galatians 3:1-3
Paul here reminds the Galatians that true believers begin their Christian journey by the work of the Holy Spirit, and are to continue on in their Christian life by relying on the Spirit. Instead of that, the Galatians were starting to listen to false teachers who said they needed to do other things to get or keep their salvation. The result was that they were preoccupied not in living by faith, loving and following Jesus, but they were preoccupied with meeting the demands imposed on them by various false teachers. Sadly, the same thing happens today – some preachers have their followers so in dread of losing their salvation that they stop living by faith, hope, love, and joy. Instead, they set up impossible standards that steal the joy of believers.
65. Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? – just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. -Galatians 3:5-6
Again we see it – salvation is by faith, and daily living is by faith. It is God who supplies the Spirit to us, and when He does, the recipients receive the Spirit by faith, not by things they do. All around us are people who teach that if you apply their teachings, God will bless you and you will do nothing but walk in victory. In their eyes any sinful setbacks believers have mean they might have lost their salvation. But in the Bible we read of men like Abraham, who believed God, and then did both good and stupid things after he believed. His life decisions, both good and bad, had consequences that he had to live with. But we are told here and elsewhere that Abraham never lost the ACCOUNTED righteousness that came when he believed God. This doesn’t mean we are excused to sin. We definitely need to apply our faith to every area of our lives, seeking to make godly decisions. We definitely need to repent and return when we make sinful decisions. But true believers never lose their ACCOUNTED righteousness!
66. Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the disciples which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” -Acts 15:6-11
In this critical chapter in the life of the early church we see Peter standing up for the message of grace. The people around the apostles were demanding that more conditions to salvation be added to the Gentiles. Peter first defends the way the Gentiles received salvation – by God’s grace through their faith, which God acknowledged by giving them the Holy Spirit and purified hearts. Note that their hearts were purified by God through faith, not self-effort. Then at the end Peter stunned the religious leaders by saying they can be saved like the Gentiles have been if they’ll rely solely on God’s grace also and not their own efforts to keep the law. In the middle Peter resists putting on the Gentiles a burden of self-effort which none of them had ever been able to pull off! I need to say here that I have seen so many people who say you can lose your salvation try so hard to live lives that please the Lord. Many times they try so hard and see such little results that they burn out. I’ve seen many chuck their faith for months and even years at a time. Self-effort is a cruel master. So many that think this way live under the lower motivations to serve God in a “fog” of fear, obligation, and guilt. Jesus intended us to serve Him out of the kind of gratitude that comes from knowing that “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” That gratitude leads us to serve God primarily out of the higher motivations of faith, hope, and love!