Sometimes Paul makes intellectual, even obtuse, arguments to try to convince his friends (and readers) of a particular point. Other times he speaks directly. Today’s verse is direct.
We can be divided from our faith. Whether we believe in Jesus or not, He did everything to save us. We are saved because of Him, and all we need to do to claim that salvation is have faith that He did it. We choose to believe faith He has brought us to, yet we can be divided from that faith, from believing what He said and did was all true.
That’s the devil’s only mission: to divide us from God. He does it because he wants to be God, even as he knows that’s impossible. Since he can’t have that, then the devil works constantly to pull us away from believing in Christ so as to hurt the Lord. When we willfully give in to Satan, we repudiate our faith in Christ. In that, damnation becomes our choice.
Paul is saying that people who put their faith in things other than Jesus – things like rituals, traditions, processes, and such – have fallen prey to the devil’s divisions. They believe or think or work to be justified by these things they accept, perhaps not realizing that this is little more than petty idolatry, exchanging worship of God for adoration of something else. People who do that pull themselves away from Christ. It isn’t Christ who pulls away: it’s His followers who can. When they do, they fall away from Jesus’ grace, which justifies us by faith in Him. And Satan laughs.
We are talking about fundamentally believing, not rhetorical banter or discussion or intellectual pursuit. We’re talking about things we believe inside, things we accept as true. If we accept the belief that something other than Jesus can justify, sanctify, or save us, we’re fundamentally believing that. When we turn away from that belief, we repudiate it. We forsake it. We deny and reject it. When we turn away from faith in Jesus, we embrace damnation. Satan laughs again.
In Romans 3, Paul points out that “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” That’s the simplest explanation of how faith works, of how it benefits us. Jesus and Jesus alone sanctifies us, justifying us before God, and imparting saving life into our sinful ones. The only thing we do in that process is believe; follow, have faith, accept, call it what you want. Jesus does all the work. We simply benefit from it, and Satan cringes in fear.
Let’s choose wisely.
For further reading: Romans 3:28, Hebrews 12:15, 2 Peter 3:17, Galatians 5:5
Lord, I believe only in You to save me.
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