Faith That Saves
"Watch out for those dogs, those wicked men and their evil deeds, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us." - Philippians 3:2-3, New Living Translation Is Paul really warning us about dogs? He is – but not your cute, furry pets. He is issuing a strong warning about evil and dangerous doctrines that promote a legalistic faith.
In the Bible dogs represent unclean animals. They roamed in packs, ripping, tearing, and devouring. God’s people are like sheep and dogs bark at and bite sheep.
Paul taught the grace of God with passion and unwavering faith. He had lived under the law most of his life until grace burst into his life in a flash of light and revolutionized everything—his concept of God, his relationship with God, and his own personal identity and faith.
He hated watching his fellow believers fall prey to legalistic predators who use the law to control and manipulate. Over and over Paul warns us about false teachers, undermining and perverting what he taught about grace.
A true work of God often attracts a crowd—and where the sheep are gathered, dogs and wolves come to prey.
“You foolish Galatians!” he cried in frustration to the church in Galatia. “Who has bewitched you? ...Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3:1-3).
Physical rites have no value unless there is a corresponding spiritual experience. The circumcision of the flesh means nothing if there is no circumcision of the heart. Baptism is an important ritual, sanctioned by the Lord. But you can get dunked or sprinkled and have it mean nothing unless your HEART is immersed into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
It is your belief, your faith that saves, not the ritual or the good deeds.
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). And the truth is NOT our good deeds, though they can be a reflection of our love for God. The law is a teacher, showing us right and wrong. But it is also a stern taskmaster whose standards we cannot achieve. That is why we need Jesus. That is the truth, which Jesus said “shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Our Christian lives are based on what God did and continues to do for us—His completed work on the cross, where He gave the ultimate in loving sacrifice.
Watch out for anyone who tells you otherwise!
[Photo: Chrisna wijaya, Creation Swap]