A lesson from Pelagius
"Are you so foolish? After beginning with The Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"
Galatians 3:3, NIV
Paul did not beat around the bush when he addressed the Galatian believers. They were making a grave mistake. Having started off right by believing in the grace of God they were starting to change their course. They were trying to maintain a good standing with God through their own efforts – an impossibility with God, which Paul called foolish!
The fact is it’s easy for us to repeat their error. It’s so tempting to rely on our own efforts - even if it’s only a little bit- for being right with God! Paul’s warnings are as relevant for us today as they were for the Christians back then. The problem with allowing any room for our own merits is the truth that ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough’ (Galatians 5:9). When we start to rely just a little bit on our own efforts to stay holy or to be righteous, then this will start to work its way through the whole of our lives. The inevitable result is that we end up increasingly losing sight of God’s grace.
Quite recently I realised how easy it is to fall into this trap. I was reading a book which traced the developments of Christian doctrine throughout history. Around the fourth Century a man named Pelagius arose, who opposed Augustine’s teachings on free will and grace. In essence Pelagius laid a strong emphasis on our role as individuals to choose to be saved, whereas Augustine had emphasised God’s grace in choosing us and in giving us the grace to believe in Jesus.
Sadly the teachings of Pelagius gained ground in the western Church and allowed more and more room for human merit. Things got so bad one could even ‘purchase’ one’s way into heaven! But finally the Reformers came along and convinced the Church of the all-important grace of God. John Calvin said “The Gospel rules out any thing that man might add.” How true!
If we have in any way tried to add to Jesus’ work on the cross, by seeking to be righteous through our own efforts, let’s ask God for our own personal reformation! Let’s ask God to bring us back to the freedom and joy of relying only on His grace. For His grace is sufficient!
Prayer: Father, I ask You to forgive me for trying to be righteous in my own strength instead of wholly depending on Jesus. Please help me to be completely dependent on Your grace. I thank You that Your grace is enough for me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Today's Writer : Peter Brokaar Peter Brokaar and his American wife, Liz, left the Netherlands in 2005 to join the team at Ellel Scotland. He is now Assistant Director and House Manager and finds much pleasure in teaching. He has three children, Emma, Samuel and Benjamin, all born on Scottish soil. When there is any free time he enjoys reading, cooking, surfing and hiking.