1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4Did you experience so much for nothing? — if it really was for nothing. 5Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
6Just as Abraham "believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," 7so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you." 9For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
10For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." 12But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them." 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" — 14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
I haven’t seen that many episodes of the television show “NCIS,” but I’ve seen enough to know that the main character, Jethro Gibbs, the leader of the group, has rules. I understand that there are approximately 50 rules that he follows. Those around him must follow them too.
Jewish tradition teaches that there are 613 rules. Over time, God’s people of old came to believe that the law would save them. In today’s passage, St. Paul writes to some early Christians who have begun to think the same thing. These foolish, bewitched Christians have seemingly forgotten the cross of Christ, and are demanding that new Christians must follow the Jewish law.
Paul explains, not very patiently, that keeping the law does not save anyone. He reminds them of Abraham, who “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (1:6.) It wasn’t because of anything Abraham thought or did. It was because of what God thought and did. Of course, we too try to keep God’s law, to follow the example of Jesus, but not to earn God’s favor. Our good works are a response to what God has already granted us – grace and salvation, giving us the righteousness we haven’t earned.
The NCIS rules usually have something to do with the spy business. Here’s Rule 27:
There are two ways to follow someone.
First way, they never notice you.
Second way, they only notice you.
There are days when I realize that I have been following Jesus the first way – maybe a quick prayer that morning and flying from task to task, from activity to activity, not really noticing his presence or guidance the rest of the day. But what a blessing to realize at the end of some days, that at least for a while, the Holy Spirit helped me follow the second way – only noticing Jesus.
O Jesus, how undeserving, and yet how blessed I am to be covered by your righteousness. Guide my footsteps as I follow you, so that I can pay attention to you in the midst of what is going on around me. O Jesus, in your holy and precious name I pray. Amen.
Written by Pastor Pam Mitcham
Pastor of Community Care