Nothing in My Hand
As believers in Jesus, we have been delivered from the great curse of sin. The wonder of this deliverance grips us the moment we understand that this curse, which means we are guilty before God and deserve to die, has been lifted from us by Christ.
Having been saved, though, it is easy for the wonder to wear off and the grip to slacken. We can so easily live pleasant, comfortable lives that make it hard to see sin’s hold on us. We are so easily prone to believe that if we only try a little harder at our marriages, our jobs, our relationships, and our achievements, we’ll be good people, deserving of blessing. We want to be achievers, not believers. We’re constantly lured back to the false religion of self-effort.
Such was the temptation for the Galatian church. And so Paul wrote to them and essentially said, That is not the Christian message. In fact, it is its opposite! If the gospel is that Jesus came only to add something to our lives that was lacking, the curse of the law would either be of no concern or be beyond remedy. But the curse is real, and it must be dealt with. Why would we be interested in someone who died to take our place unless we first understand that we deserve the curse He bore?
We need only look at the law of Moses to see the effect of its curse (see, for instance, Exodus 20:1-17). The law reveals how we haven’t loved God with all our heart. We haven’t obeyed Him. We haven’t loved others as ourselves. We haven’t always told the truth. We’re guilty of coveting. The list goes on. When God’s Spirit convicts us and we see our shortcomings, though, we sing with the hymn writer, “Not the labor of my hands can fulfill Thy law’s demands.” We see the weight of the curse that once rested upon us and should still rest on us, and then we are able to see Christ in all His glory as our Savior, who came to lift its burden.
This is the very heart of our faith. When we look upon the cross and see how Jesus hung there, we see what He did as something both necessary and voluntary. He took His place where we ought to be. That’s grace.
If we were able to put ourselves in the right with God by our own endeavors, there would be no wonder in redemption and no beauty in the prospect of adoption. When we are tempted to look to ourselves and our works, we must remember that Christ has broken the curse. And in that wonder, we can glory. No matter how many days or years it is since you were first gripped by grace, sing anew to yourself right now:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Justified by Faith
15We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16yet we know that a person is not justified2 by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness3 were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
By Faith, or by Works of the Law?
1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by1 the flesh? 4Did you suffer2 so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
7Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify3 the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
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