Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
For a book that centers on freedom from the law, Paul sure does have a lot to say about the destruction that awaits our poor behaviors.
In his commentary on Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary), New Testament scholar Scot McKnight answers a good question: Why does Paul sum up a letter on salvation apart from the law with a strong message on good works? How do we receive salvation in freedom if we are to reap life or destruction based on our long-term works?
The answer lies in Paul’s warning: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Certainly, we cannot earn our salvation, or merit God’s love and presence—anymore than we could have convinced Him to create us from the dust and give us life in the first place. But we can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes, either. Do we belong to Him, or to ourselves?
The answer to our true identity is in the fruit.
Paul reminds us that God’s gift comes with His Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You’ve seen this harvest in others, haven’t you? It looks quite different than the harvest of self-indulgence. And rather than a long list of rules to memorize, it is easily summarized: Do good to all people. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Without a doubt, we are set free from sin by God’s grace and mercy. The proof of this is not in laziness (God’s got this! I can just sit by and wait!) but in not becoming weary in doing good.
We have such a struggle grasping this, don’t we?
So, do we work to earn God’s favor? I can hear Paul’s frustration when we miss his point again and again (as his readers often did as well). No! Impossible! Never!
So then, do we sin more that grace can abound (Romans 6:1)? No! Never!
Rather, in accepting God’s gift we accept the Spirit. And in doing so the Spirit begins to produce His fruit in us and we begin to work for the Kingdom—doing good to all people.
My radishes will never, ever turn into watermelon. I recognize what they are by their fruit. And by God’s grace and His Spirit, He will know us by our fruit, too.
Questions for reflection and discussion: Do you struggle with the relationship between grace and works in God’s Kingdom? In which direction do you tend to fall out of balance? What would our country and world look like if all those calling themselves Christians did not grow weary in doing good to all people?
This week's devotions were written by Catherine McNiel. Catherine and her family have been part of WBC since 2008. Her husband, Matthew, is the director of Puente del Pueblo, our church’s ministry that serves residents of the Timber Lake Apartments and several other areas of West Chicago.