Have you ever had a moment, when you think of your relationship with God, where you become quite proud of the works that you have done, because they appear to be successful? Put another way, have you had those moments where you come to believe that your salvation is dependent upon what you do? How many of us hold in our minds an image of the final judgment where the angel comes out with a large scale upon which are set our good works on one side and our sinfulness on the other? What happens is that we believe that if our good works weigh more than our sinfulness we will be saved. Such a belief can only be classified as heresy.
It is heresy, because it posits the belief that somehow we can earn our salvation with God. I do not believe it is all that unusual that people start to think this way. I find sometimes in my own life I am looking at the things that I have accomplished as if these things, of their own accord, will allow me to go to heaven. The real important part of our faith is to understand that everything that we do is only possible because of God’s grace. And secondly, even in those things that we do, our salvation remains a free and undeserved gift.
This is the point that Paul is trying to make with the Galatians. Paul was not always a kind and gentle person. Twice in today’s first reading he refers to the Galatians as stupid. I do not know that we could imagine many instances today where we would feel comfortable and referring to someone we care about as stupid. But that is the case with Paul. It is not that he does not care about the Galatians, for in fact he holds deep affection for them. But he is quite frustrated they still have not understood the basic point I just made about God’s salvation being a free and undeserved gift. They still view the following of the Jewish law as the way in which they will earn their salvation.