Salvation for All
Again, we are hearing the debate over what must be done to inherit eternal life. This time Paul was writing to the community of the Galatians who were trying to force the Gentiles to live as Jews, or treating as inferior the Gentiles that were not behaving according to the laws of the Jews. Once again, Paul squashes the notion that people are saved by what they have done; instead, people are saved by what Jesus has done.
The debate continues today. Are we saved because we are Christian? Or did Jesus save the entire world from sin and death, regardless of faith. It’s a question that comes up often for our kids, who are becoming fast friends with Jews, Muslims, atheists, and more. Are we teaching them that their friends will not be saved simply because they were not born into Christian households? Or is it possible that the world is saved by Jesus (the death and resurrection of Christ), and not by us (our believing in the death and resurrection of Christ)? Maybe Jesus changed creation at its core when he died and was raised. Maybe we are saved because of his works, not because of ours. Maybe all are saved because there is faith still alive and active in the world (faith in Christ, faith in God, faith in spirituality, faith as expressed by other religions). If we are to take seriously Paul’s conviction that we are “one in Christ Jesus,” perhaps we need to expand our understanding of what it means that Christ Jesus has saved the world.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The 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? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing? —if it really was for nothing. Well 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?
Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And 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.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.