Think of all these blessed things: intimate prayer with the Lord; reading His wondrous Word; sharing His gospel joyfully. They are all wonderful practices that make for a joyful, fulfilling life. Yet we often make merit-based works out of them—arduous, duty-bound labors. By doing so, we neglect “so great a salvation”—a saving grace that does not fail. You see, even when we fail, the New Covenant does not. According to Paul, that truth should set us free, not enslave us.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, ESV). Throughout this epistle Paul asks believers, “Why would you ever go back to an Old Covenant of works? That system will only re-enslave you. You’ve been given the New Covenant, which sets you free to love and serve God in perfect liberty.”
Paul hammered this home to the Galatians, saying the gospel empowers us in the Spirit through grace. But the Galatians kept trying to live out the gospel through a lens of works. They were convinced, “If I do this, I’ll get a blessing. If I don’t, I’ll get a curse.”
We may not see this in ourselves, but we tend to do something similar today. Our attitude is, “I’ll do my best to obey God’s commands and then He’ll have to bless me.” But God says differently through the New Covenant: “I have blessed you already, before you even attempt to obey My commands. I also know you can’t keep my Word perfectly, so I will empower you to keep it through My Spirit. My grace will be the power behind your works, not your own strength.”
This is the core of the gospel: God does it all! Therefore, when we are told to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1), it doesn’t mean we’re to pay greater attention to rule-keeping. Instead, we are to pay attention to the gospel of grace that has set us free.