Compulsory Religion

Painting on the wall of a cave on Davaar Island, Kintyre. Entitled "Christ on the Cross" and painted by Archibald MacKinnon. Photo © Gary Sutherland
Painting on the wall of a cave on Davaar Island, Kintyre.
Entitled “Christ on the Cross” and painted by Archibald MacKinnon.
Photo © Gary Sutherland

Daily Reform, Day 67

Galatians 2:3 & Ephesians 2:8-9

From the Reformer

The word “compelled” acquaints us with the outcome of the conference. It was resolved that the Gentiles should not be compelled to be circumcised.

Paul did not condemn circumcision in itself. Neither by word nor deed did he ever inveigh against circumcision. But he did protest against circumcision being made a condition for salvation. He cited the case of the Fathers. “The fathers were not justified by circumcision. It was to them a sign and seal of righteousness. They looked upon circumcision as a confession of their faith.”

The believing Jews, however, could not get it through their heads that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. They were encouraged in their wrong attitude by the false apostles. The result was that the people were up in arms against Paul and his doctrine.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

What in the world does circumcision or quantity of water or smoking or shouting in church or speaking in tongues have to do with Jesus? We put so many conditions on being a Christian. The false apostles of Paul’s day said that one must be circumcised or he is not a Christian. False apostles today make even more incredible claims. If you are not religiously correct by being baptized in a certain manner, you are not going to heaven. If you are not compliant with local church tradition, since you smoke or drink beer or go to the movies, you are hell-bound. If you fail to provide proper evidence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, like shouting in worship or speaking in tongues, then you are not a Christian. What does this have to do with believing on the name of Jesus for one’s salvation?

Salvation is not a result of evidence. Nor is salvation the result of being compelled to walk an aisle, kneel at a rail, speak in an unknown language, get dunked, or be culturally proper. Salvation comes from God’s action — not yours. Do not let anyone teach you otherwise.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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