Monday, December 14, 2009

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Ephesians 2.10)

New Testament Challenge, Day 30 – Galatians and Ephesians
Today’s reading is full of charges by Saint Paul to live a new life in Christ filled with love, unity, integrity and good works for others. While Saint Paul affirms we are saved by Faith in Christ, he does not suggest that we are no longer obligated to works of good. While these works, in themselves do not save us, they are an expression of our living faith in Christ. “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4.22-23)

Saint Paul urges us to “be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Ephesians 5.1-2) But these words cannot be understood to suggest that the death of Christ on the cross was to fulfill the Law, as if God could only forgive our sins if something was sacrificed to appease an angry and vengeful God. If Christ’s crucifixion and death was the fulfill the Law then our hope and faith is in the Law and not in Christ.

To those who keep the Law (which would be implied if Christ’s death was required to keep the Law fulfilled) Paul says, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5.4-6) If we can only be saved by Christ fulfilling required acts of the Law then our faith is in the Law rather than in Christ.

It is faith that Jesus Christ united us to Himself in our Baptism and Chrismation (of Water and of Spirit) that we are saved. In other words, just because Jesus said we are saved if we believe then we are saved. And this faith brings freedom or as Saint Paul says, liberty. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5.13-14)

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