Do we “practice religion” or “respond to grace”?

I wasn’t known personally by the Christian churches in Judea. They only heard a report about me: “The man who used to harass us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.” So they were glorifying God because of me. – Galatians 1:22-24

author Derek Maul lives and writes in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Okay, friends, confession time. I’m using this blog post to help myself prep for this evening’s Bible study with my small group.

It makes sense though, because not only is this interesting stuff, but the message from Galatians is stunningly relevant to the particular moment we find ourselves in, here in the summer of 2020.

In summary, Paul (the passionate and erudite Jewish scholar God personally recruited to articulate the groundwork of Christian theology), begins the book of Galatians by doing two specific things.

  1. First, he warns the Galatians that they have missed the essential point of Christianity and need to accept Christ’s gift of Grace.
  2. Then he shares some of his own origin story, reminding his audience that this understanding about Grace is not just a doctrine he was taught in Jerusalem but a transformational revelation from God.

 Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the gospel I preached isn’t human in origin. I didn’t receive it or learn it from a human. It came through a revelation from Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:11-12

My point in posting about this is twofold:

  • From the very beginning, faith in Jesus was in danger of being reduced to legalistic religious rule-following. This remains a problem today.
  • Jesus has always been in the radical transformation business, and he is still capable of turning people around – no matter how lost they appear.

“At one time I was committed to the destruction of Christianity,” Paul told them; “now I preach Jesus and the power of Grace to set me free.”

Here’s my question. Do we believe that we have been set free? Or do we still suspect there are elements of the redemption equation that require correct religious practice in order to avoid condemnation?

Do we believe that this world will be saved from its current insanity by getting everyone to follow the same ideology, or to adopt our religious rules, or to get on the same page politically…? or do we believe we will make more progress by sharing the good news about God’s Grace, and introducing people to the Jesus who has set us free?

Interestingly, Paul may have been all about Grace and freedom from the law, but he also spent a lot of time and energy in his letters teaching those new Christians how they ought to behave!

The bottom line for Paul was “the Grace of the Lord Jesus”, and Paul knew that embracing the transformational love of Christ would lead to love, light, peace, mercy, encouragement, and more grace. Or, as my wife Rebekah puts it, “Living into that Grace we have experienced.”

I will let Paul put his stamp on this discussion: “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:3-4).

Amen, brother Paul – Derek


  1. So true Derek. I am not a fan of legalistic churches who adhere to a strict schedule and don’t allow God to move in the services. I believe when you are passionate about a relationship with someone you not only show it in your emotions and how you live your life, you want to tell others about it. Therefore, if I am passionate about my husband and our marriage and I am, how much more should I be passionate about my relationship with my creator? How did Paul put it? Faith without works is dead, and works without faith is essentially a life of bondage? It is for this reason when my husband and I visit a church we look for three things; a church who allows worship as God would see fit – one that isn’t rigid but allows His spirit to move -, has solid teaching, and flows with grace and love amongst its people. Hope the group went well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s