Thursday, July 3, 2014

Saving Grace

One of our many beautiful sunsets.
I'm reading Frank J. Matera's God's Saving Grace: A Pauline Theology.  By a nice coincidence the passage that I read today was the follow up to St. Paul's rebuke of St. Peter that I referred to in my last entry.  James  and many of the Jews in Jerusalem who had become Christians still insisted that they had to obey many of the requirements of the Jewish Law.  One that they insisted on was that they could not eat with non-Jews.  When Peter was with Paul in Antioch he ate with non-Jewish Christians, just as Paul did .  But when some of James' followers came to Antioch, Peter stopped eating with non-Jews.  Paul says he rebuked Peter for this.
In Galatians 2:15-21 Paul explains why,  "We know that a person is justified not by works of the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ....I died to the Law so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me....for if justification comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing."
Paul was convinced in faith, and he returns to this again and again in his Letters, that nothing we do earns God's love and forgiveness.  Obeying the Law does not win God's favor.  The saving grace of Jesus Christ is free.  That's what "grace" means.
Paul believes that Christ lives in him and that any good that Paul does comes from the goodness of Jesus Christ within him.  By not obeying the Law Paul isn't trying to give us an excuse for being bad.  He is simply saying that just obeying a law does not make us good.  Only God's saving grace can do that.  To absorb this attitude and make it part of the way we live, we must spend time in prayer and meditation surrendering to Jesus and to his saving grace within us.

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