By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
My first pastorate was in a small church in a very rural area in north Florida. We saw God do many incredible things but one will always stand out. Joe was fresh out of prison when he came to us and received Christ. When he got saved he got serious about following Jesus. He wanted to be baptized, join the church and serve God with us. He was set to be the first black church member in our history. I was excited, but also nervous how this might be received in my all white, traditional, Southern congregation.
When the day came to baptize Joe, we had a full house. As Joe went under the water, the baptistry overflowed and soaked the carpet. As Joe walked up the aisle to go change he was dripping wet footprints with every step.
It was about this time one of the deacons stepped out of his seat and met this soaking wet black man face to tattooed face. Joe stopped, I prayed, and the deacon loudly proclaimed, “Welcome to the family, my brother!” while ruining his suit with a sopping wet embrace. I can’t remember what I preached that day but I’ll never forget the sermon on grace that deacon gave.
True grace is no respecter of persons. Paul confronted Peter publicly and powerfully because of his public sin and its powerful impact upon the believers. Peter began shrinking back from the Gentile believers in the sight of these Jewish men of influence. God is the same God to the prince and the pauper, He is not partial (Deuteronomy 10:17). Grace is a great equalizer.
As believers, there is no shortage of things that might divide us but shouldn’t that one thing that unites us (Christ and Him crucified) be greater than everything that divides us? I hope so. True grace teaches us that all of us are equally sinners and equally deserving of God’s wrath but also equally offered the unmerited forgiveness and favor of God in Christ.
No person, no people group and no political party no matter how popular, prominent, or powerful stands any more or less in need of grace. The ground at the foot of the cross is level and we all equally are invited to fall down upon it and cry out to King Jesus.
Paul once again drives the point that we are not justified based upon an adherent to dietary restrictions or moral codes but by grace alone through faith alone. He reminds the Galatians that we are crucified with Christ. Grace not only changes how we see others but also how we see ourselves. Everything that I once lived for is nailed to the cross.
My identity is not found in how successful I am, how skilled I am or how outwardly sanctified I can make people think I am. My identity is found solely in the God who loves me and gave Himself for me. I died with Him and He lives in me.
Paul ends the chapter by reiterating that if our self-righteousness, our race, our riches, or anything else matters then grace doesn’t matter. If anyone could ever keep enough of the law to ever be saved then Jesus died for nothing. The cross not only shows God’s grace to us but proves our desperate, daily need of it.