Most of us understand the investment idea of hedging your bets. It’s the old cliché about eggs and baskets. You don’t put all your money in one place. Financial gurus call this “diversification”. You diversify so that if one of your companies or stocks or mutual funds goes belly-up, you don’t lose it all. The importance of this has been sadly demonstrated in a negative way with people who have directed all their investments to the pension fund or stock of the company that employs them. When their company has fallen apart, not only did they lose their job, but because they were not diversified, they literally lost…everything.
But there is one place in life where diversification is actually the worst possible thing you can do, and yet people do it all the time. It’s in the area of the spiritual life. Here’s how it works: People come to understand the gospel, that eternal life comes through trusting in Christ’s work at the cross…but just in case, they make sure they do some other things. This is what the Galatians were doing with circumcision…
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. Galatians 5:1-2 (ESV)
They were taught the gospel, that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but the “circumcision party” or the “Judaizers” came in and taught them that they also needed to be circumcised. And this led to Paul’s stern warning above.
Today, this sort of thinking is one of the main ways people misunderstand the gospel and miss eternal life. For instance, someone says, “Well, I believe in Jesus – that’s the main thing, but I’m hedging my bets. I’m covering all the angles. So I’m going to be sure to get baptized, and I’m going to make sure to have my babies baptized, because some people say you do need that, and maybe they’re right, maybe you do need to be baptized to get into heaven.”
The refrain of these folks is this: “Just in case…”
Now of course, everyone who is a follower of Christ should be baptized and if you claim Christ and you haven’t been baptized, then you should make plans to do so out of loving obedience to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 20), but not because you think that faith alone in Christ just might not be enough.
Many people today also trust in the act of taking communion. “I believe in Jesus,” these people would say, “but I’m also going to take communion because I believe this will ‘help’ me into heaven.” And a huge number of people believe in doing general good works as an aid to merit eternal life.
Now, does God want us to celebrate the saving cross of Christ through the Lord’s Table? Absolutely He does. And does he want us to love others and be “good”. Sure. But if you take communion in order to get into heaven, or if you go to church, or give financially, or help an old widow across the street in order to secure eternal life…then God says that Christ will be of no value to you. Refuting this kind of false thinking is so important to Paul that he says it again even more forcefully and clearly:
I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:3, 4 (ESV)
Here Paul explains why hedging your bets in Christianity is so deadly, because in God’s eyes, you are either trusting in yourself, or trusting in Christ. You cannot do both. If the Galatians were to choose to be circumcised, then they were choosing to trust in themselves, in their own obedience to the law, and by doing so they were rejecting the way of justification and faith in Christ. And they were therefore obligated to keep the whole law.
Every. Last. Command.
So Paul says, put ALL your “stock” in Christ and reject trying to be justified by the law in any way whatsoever.
He is the one “investment” that will never go south.
For Monday, June 22nd: Galatians 6