A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – “Both/And”


Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, services, articles, essays, and announcements on The Cove Community blog.

Galatians 3:1-9

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing? — if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

Through out the history of the church, Christians have struggled over the relative importance of faith and works. During some periods, those who favor works have had the upper hand, but at other times, the scale tilted toward faith. And when it has, the faith folks have quoted passages like the one we read from Galatians to support their position, while the workers have pointed at James 2.26: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” Of course, this disagreement has become intense, with Christians doing battle with one another intellectually, spiritually and physically. As a matter of fact, the Body of Christ has splintered over what should receive the accent: faith or works.

And personally, I think this is real shame, because I don’t think Paul, James or any other Biblical writer believed that faith and works were an “either/or” proposition. Rather, it’s always been and is now a “both/and.” As a matter of fact, when the pendulum swings too far in one direction or the other, Christianity loses something essential: either we become so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good or we become so focused on response that we forget the reason. But when our perspective is in balance, I think we’re in a much better position to love both God and neighbor.