Back to the Basics: Justification by Faith

That is a sea squirt. In my opinion its bright colors make it a delight to the eye, but more than its aesthetic appeal it carries an interesting characteristic—the sea squirt upon reaching adulthood will eat its own brain. The matured sea squirt has literally lost its mind.

Why talk about the sea squirt? Why talk about a mindless creature? Well, because the Bible says that there are times when a Christian can be behaving like a sea squirt—mindless. Paul called the Galatians, “foolish” (Gal 3:1), basically stating that they’ve lost their minds (the REB translates this, “You stupid Galatians”). What would drive a Christian to call another Christian mindless? The context of Galatians points out that it’s due to their consideration of abandoning the faith.

The Galatians were being tempted to leave the Christian faith to go to the Old Testament Law. They were being seduced by false teachers who have distorted and perverted the gospel (1:7), who are false brethren who have the intentions of enslaving believers to unbiblical standards of salvation (2:4). Paul reminds the Galatians of the beautiful doctrine of justification by faith (2:15-21), which is the biblical teaching that salvation is not by works, but by faith in Christ alone.

Any alternative to justification by faith could not reconcile God to man. The Bible provides the universal truth that no one can be justified by works (2:16). Why then would someone want to leave the God ordained means by which we are saved? How can someone cease from depending on Christ and return to confidence in their flesh? That person would have to be mindless.

That is why Galatians 3:1 begins, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” In other words, the only possible reason you could be tempted to abandon the faith is as if you have been hypnotized to do so! It cannot be due to an unclear gospel presentation, after all Jesus was clearly proclaimed as the substitution for our sin as he hung on the cross!

Now, let’s be honest. I know we’re not first century Jews struggling to return to the Temple, but some of us may have a lot of commonality with depending on the flesh. Our pride can often persuade and convince us that our salvation is a result of our good works or practice of spiritual disciplines (i.e., Bible intake, prayer, etc.). Beloved, any confidence in yourself is an abandonment to the precious doctrine of justification by faith. Remember to cherish the Savior and thank God for His Spirit that has graciously applied salvation!

Don’t be a sea squirt Christian. Don’t be a mindless Christian.

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