“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”
(Galatians 5:2 ESV)
In the modern evangelical church, we are quick to confess that we are saved by the grace of God alone through faith in Christ alone. And this has also been the position of the historic Lutheran Church. We believe, teach, and confess that we play no role in our salvation. It’s the work of God from first to last.
That being said, although most of us do trust in Christ, we don’t stop there. We continue to believe that something, along with Jesus, works to accomplish our salvation. We don’t truly believe that Jesus is sufficient.
This is also what was going on among the Galatians. False teachers had come into the church claiming that, in addition to Jesus, the people had to be circumcised if they were to be saved. They taught that the people had to follow the Law of Moses if they were to be saved.
Paul stood firmly against this teaching. He told them that, if they accepted circumcision, Christ would be of no advantage to them. He went on to say, in verse 4, that those who sought to be justified by the law are severed from Christ.
Christ alone saves. And we cannot add anything to it. Once we begin thinking that it’s Jesus plus this or Jesus plus that, we are lost.
Circumcision isn’t an issue in our day, at least not in a spiritual sense. However, many other things are. Many of us believe, for example, that Jesus plus abstaining from alcohol saves. Many of us believe that Jesus plus speaking in tongues saves. Many of us believe that Jesus plus a strict ten percent tithe saves. And many of us believe that Jesus plus an hour-long daily devotional time saves.
There are countless examples we could cite, but you get the point. Each of us has to search our own heart to see what we’re depending on in addition to Jesus. However, the point Paul is making remains the same.
If we trust in anything in addition to Christ, we are believing a corrupted version of the gospel. If we trust in anything in addition to Christ, he will be of no advantage to us. If we trust in anything in addition to Jesus, we are severed from Christ.
Yes, many activities flow from our faith in Christ. Many changes in our life result from our faith in Christ. But they are just that…results of our faith. They are the byproduct of our faith. These are not the things that save us. And they are not where justification is found.
May we, then, trust in Christ alone for our salvation. May we look to him, and to nothing else, for the forgiveness we so desperately need. May we truly believe that his sacrifice is sufficient.