A Revolution of Faith
Grace is a tough subject because we expect it, or even demand it. But we’re not very gracious when other people get it instead of us. Speeding tickets are a great example. An overwhelming majority of us are upset when someone else manages to get out of a well-deserved ticket. Instead of recognizing the concept of grace, we’re deeply offended that someone else would receive mercy, especially if we haven’t received it ourselves in a similar situation.
Somehow, we always think we’ve been on the receiving end of an injustice if we’ve simply been treated in accordance with the law. “It’s not fair,” we whine. Cops should either let everyone off, or not let anyone off at all!” But equal application of the law isn’t really the point. We just resent grace when other people get it!
The Corinthians understood grace. They saw the freely offered and unearned forgiveness offered by God was a gift. But unfortunately, they abused it. They thought that since they were under grace, they could do anything they wanted. NO MORE LAW! Paul even condemned them for abandoning God’s commandments and becoming just as corrupt as the pagans they lived with.
The Galatians, on the other hand, believed in salvation through works. But like the older brother in the Prodigal Son Parable, they resented grace as “getting off easy”. They demanded obedience to the law while they worked for their heavenly inheritance.
So, in Galatians 3:19 when Paul asks the rhetorical question about what purpose the law serves, he answers it by saying that in terms of the history of redemption, the law was intended to be a schoolmaster to drive people to Christ. Its purpose is to show us our shortcomings and sins. And by showing us our sin, it shows us our need for a Savior.
When we focus on Christ and his holiness, our unworthiness becomes even more obvious. The problem for most of us, though, is we like to rate our performance by looking at those around us. “I’m better than that guy,” or “I’m not as nasty as she is.” But we’re just fooling ourselves. That’s why God gives us the Law as an absolute standard. Not because we can fulfill it on our own (WE CAN’T!). But to help us to understand just how far short we really fall and to make us truly thankful for God’s gift of grace.
As we celebrate the 505th anniversary of the Reformation, it’s good to remember that through Word and Sacrament, grace is exactly what God offers us today. That’s what Martin Luther understood over 500 years ago. And that’s what started a revolution of faith that continues even today.
A Revolution of Faith