It’s All About Grace!
Grace is a tough subject because we expect it, or maybe even demand it, ourselves. But we’re far less 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 when we just have to bite the bullet and pay the court. Instead of recognizing the concept of grace, we’re deeply offended that someone else would receive mercy, especially if we haven’t received the same consideration.
We feel that, somehow, we’ve been on the receiving end of an injustice, even though we’ve 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 our point. We just resent grace when other people get it!
The Corinthians understood the true meaning of grace: unmerited forgiveness offered freely as a gift. But they abused it. They thought that, since they were under grace, they could do anything they wanted. NO MORE LAW! The apostle Paul rebuked them for abandoning the commandments of God and becoming just as corrupt as the pagans they lived among.
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” and 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 the schoolmaster to drive people to Christ. Its purpose is to show us our shortcomings and sins. And by showing us our sin, to show us our need for a Savior.
As we focus on Christ, and His holiness our unworthiness is cast into even greater relief. The problem for most of us, though, is we like to evaluate 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 this anniversary of the Reformation, it’s good to remember that, through his word and Sacrament, grace is exactly what God offers us today. That’s what Martin Luther understood centuries years ago. And that’s what started a revolution of faith that continues even today. It’s all about grace.
It’s All About Grace!