“The righteous will live by faith.” It would not be an overstatement to say that this verse is foundational to the whole Bible. Stating the purpose of God’s interaction with humanity since the Fall, it reminds us that the Living God would have us live. It was originally recorded in Habakkuk 2:4, as part of God’s response to the prophet. The apostle Paul quotes it both here in Galatians 3:11 and in his magnum opus Romans 1:17. The writer to the Hebrews uses it in 10:38. Sheer frequency alone might point us to its importance. Most obviously, dwelling for a moment on its meaning turns us to awe of what God is doing for us – in Jesus we live and move and have our being, we live by his righteousness, give us through faith.
As if we needed one more thing to prove that God’s ways and the ways of the world are at odds, we have the words of Paul in Galatians 3:26-29. The world is all about stratification. Who is the leader? Who is the best? Who has the upper hand? Who is the strongest? Who has the most money? You get it. You live in this world. Some of the stratification is necessary, it is not all evil. However, often it is used to decide who has the most worth as a person. Not net worth, worth as a person. If you are superlative, the richest, the strongest, etc., then you are perceived to have more worth as a person. (Hopefully the problem with this is fairly obvious.) God’s ways are very different. Through Paul, the Holy Spirit tells us that there is no difference between human beings. In Galatians, this takes the form of reminding us that faith is the great equalizer. We who are common in sin (Romans 3:10 – There is no one righteous, not even one), can also be common in redemption. It doesn’t take more grace to redeem a Jew or a Gentile. It isn’t a matter of the ransom being higher or lower for a woman or a man. There is no gradient scale even between those who are “greater” sinners and those who are “lesser” sinners. The same grace, earned by the one Jesus, is freely given by the one Holy Spirit to all who would believe. As we sometimes say, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” In our interactions with others, especially those who are not of the family of faith, we must be careful never to assume a posture of superiority. We are called to follow the ways of God, not the ways of the world. If anything, being a child of God through faith reminds us that the only difference between us and anyone else is whether we have received the mercy that God freely gives. In other words, we have acknowledged that we have fallen short of God’s glory, but through Jesus have been blessed with a gift that we did not earn and is available to all. Praise God for his free gifts!