Grace to you and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ…
With this refreshing greeting Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia and in effect, to me! Grace and Peace are two things I often feel a little short on. Peace with God is contingent on experiencing grace. Grace is pure gift for the sin-weary. But there’s this part of me that is bent on deserving it, doing my conscientious best, making the most of my time, meeting goals, over-thinking choices, avoiding blame…It’s rather exhausting and ultimately disappointing and definitely not restful. So a greeting like ‘grace to you and peace’ is like a breath of fresh air to stop and inhale.
I come often to Galatians to be reminded of the essence of this Gospel by which I am being saved from my wrong perceptions of God and my stubborn endeavors at self-righteousness. This time around I’m reading along with Martin Luther whose 1538 commentary shows me I’m in good company. His commentary on Galatians was to him some of his most important writing. Grace and peace, he says, constitute the Christian faith. For it’s grace that takes care of the problem of sin and it’s peace that calms our consciences. God has provided for both through our Lord Jesus Christ ‘who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age.’ (Gal.1:3-4)
Speaking from personal experience Luther declares sin and conscience to be torturers that are overcome only in Christ. He boldly reiterates the truths that brought about the Great Reformation: ‘sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God.’ *
But he too obviously struggled with living from these truths: “In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God….[But] we find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.”*
And so I keep circling back to the Gospel with its tantalizing freedom in Christ–a freedom from the law’s condemnation, from sin’s dominion, and from my own compulsions to achieve in order to be accepted. And I keep meditating on truths that counteract old thought patterns: “Therefore since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Rom. 5:1
And I wait in eager expectation for life-long habits of the heart to be vanquished by the hope of the Gospel once and for all. “For through the Spirit by faith we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness…what matters is faith working through love.” Gal.5:5,6
For “this is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” I John 5:4
Have you struggled to let go of self-righteous inclinations and to embrace grace? What has helped you? I’d love to know your thoughts.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Heb.12:28,29 HCSB
*Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians–Martin Luther, 1558