The Gospel isn’t just for beginners.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:3 NIV)
We enter into this Christian life by God’s grace through faith. But even with this as a foundation, Christians can then fall back on a works-righteousness that tells them that now that they have started by faith, they must now continue on by their own efforts. The gospel becomes something for beginners—for “sinners”—and then we enter a new phase that we call “discipleship.” This, I am convinced from Scriptures, is a false distinction. We start by faith, and then we live the entire “Christian life” by the same kind of faith. It’s not all about Jesus at the beginning, and then all about me from that point on. It is all about Jesus, from the beginning (justification) all the way through the rest of our lives (sanctification).
Keep it centered on Christ!
Grace and Peace
One thought on “Christ-centered Christianity, from beginning to end (Part 1)”
The trouble with depending heavily on one particular English translation is that you’re subject to the translators’ whims. This is particularly true with the NIV. The word it renders “human effort” in Galatians 3:3 is the Greek sarx, “flesh”, as other translations render it.
Reading sarx as “human effort” may be handy if you’re protesting against Rome, but it does violence to the meaning of Galatians, where Paul is arguing not against works-righteousness vs. faith/grace-righteousness, but against the idea that Christians must all become Jews, becoming circumcised and keeping the various commandments of the Torah. The word “flesh” is meant quite literally; the sign of the old covenant was carved in a quite intimate part of a male’s flesh. You can see this not just in Galatians, but in other parts of the New Testament; it was the very issue the Council of Jerusalem took up in Acts 15.
Galatians 2:20, too, is a beautiful verse, but it needs to be read in context: Paul opposing Peter to his face because Peter was withdrawing and returning to count on his Jewish identity, rather than his in-Christ identity. Paul is saying that even though he still lives *in* the flesh (and is still circumcised), he doesn’t live *of* the flesh (putting stock in his circumcision and Torah-keeping), but he lives by faith in Christ.