Paul must address Christians strongly about the transition between living under the yoke of the Law, and living under the yoke of grace. The Law says that we must not sin, and that the punishment due the sinner is eternal and without remedy. Certainly there remains hope in God’s mercy even under the Law, but one’s life is spent relentlessly attempting to correct one’s behavior so as to maintain some sort of peace of mind that all is not lost. Grace, which we receive by faith in Jesus – His passion, death and resurrection – progressively heals us of our attempts to save ourselves. Sin gradually disappears from our lives by the grace of God and not because we try harder not to sin. Grace is not just the help of salvation, but it is more importantly a growing relationship of intimacy with our Creator and Redeemer. Grace allows us to love and cling to God more than we worry about ourselves and try to stand on our own two feet.
This dissolves the fear, cleverly and shrewdly turning it on its head.… For they said that the one who does not keep the law is cursed, while he shows that the one who strives to keep it is cursed and the one who does not strive to keep it is blessed. They said also that the one who adheres to faith alone is accursed, while he shows, on the contrary, that the one who adheres to faith alone is blessed.1
The law leads to knowledge of sin and at length to the transgression of the law itself. It is thus with the knowledge and increase of sin that grace may be sought through faith.2
Since no one could obey the law, all were convicted by the curse of the law, so that it was right to punish them. But Christ, born as a man and offered for us by his Father, redeemed us from the devil. He was offered for those who were liable to the curse of the law. Jesus was made a curse in the way that under the law a victim offered for sin is said to be sin.… Thus he did not say “cursed for us” but “made a curse.”3
He received the curse instead of being liable to it and through this lifted the curse. Just as, when someone is condemned to death, another innocent person who chooses to die for him releases him from that punishment, so Christ also did.… Just as by dying he snatched from death those who were going to die, so also when he suffered the curse he released them from the curse.4
The unclean spirit dwelt in us before we believed, before we came to Christ when our soul was still committing fornication against God and was with its lovers, the demons. Afterward it said, “I will return to my first husband,” and came to Christ, who “created” it from the beginning “in his image.” Necessarily the adulterous spirit gave up his place when it saw the legitimate husband. Christ received us, and our house has been “cleansed” from its former sins. It has been “furnished” with the furnishing of the sacraments of the faithful that they who have been initiated know. This house does not deserve to have Christ as its resident immediately unless its life and conduct are so holy, pure and incapable of being defiled that it deserves to be the “temple of God.” It should not still be a house, but a temple in which God dwells. If it neglects the grace that was received and entangles itself in secular affairs, immediately that unclean spirit returns and claims the vacant house for itself. “It brings with it seven other spirits more wicked,” so that it may not be able again to be expelled, “and the last state of that kind of person is worse than the first.” It would be more tolerable that the soul would not have returned to its first husband once it became a prostitute than having gone back after confession to her husband, to have become an adulteress again. There is no “fellowship,” as the apostle says, “between the temple of God and idols,” no “agreement between Christ and Belial.”5
- HOMILY ON GALATIANS 3.9–10. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 40). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- AGAINST TWO LETTERS OF PELAGIUS 1.14. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 41). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS 3.13.1–2. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 41). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILY ON GALATIANS 3.13. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 42). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON EXODUS 8.4. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 195). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.