When Adding leads to Replacing
For a special trip, a man was given a piece of luggage full of everything he would need for the journey. The luggage had no extra space for anything else. The truth is he needed nothing else that was not already in the luggage. He would not have any lack or leftovers. But, the man decided he wanted to take additional things. These were other things he wanted. Being that he had no space for them, he decided to go through the luggage, see what he could leave behind, to put in what he wanted. So, addition now became a replacement.
Needless to say, though the trip the man regretted taking things out and replacing them. What he left behind was valuable, and he realized he did not have enough. What he replaced them with would not work for replacement. These were inappropriate.
For our journey of faith, Christ has given us a complete package full of what we need. But, some decide they want to add things. They may not think the original package is enough or is fully appropriate. But, soon they realize that the only way they can add things is by leaving things out from the original package. So, what they have left from the original package plus all of the additions, was either not enough or inappropriate. The journey is not completed, seemingly because of lack or wrong supplies. But the truth is they did not trust Jesus, who gave them the original package.
When we believe that salvation is faith plus works, we have to leave elements of grace and faith out; this means God's grace and faith become incomplete and ineffective. And, the works with which we replaced parts of grace and faith is not enough and or inappropriate to do the work. This combination leaves us unprepared; with it, we cannot endure nor overcome. This kind of Gospel is not "complete" good news; it becomes partial good news, which means it is not good news. The implication is that salvation – Christ's work - is not completed. This message leaves us no better off than what we started. We are still completely lost.
This is what happened when the Judaizers and Galatians added circumcision as a means of salvation. It left them no better off than the pagans (Galatians 4: 8 – 9). In fact, many traits that the pagans have had started to show (Galatians 5:15). Paul asserts that salvation in Christ is complete; that it is by grace a gift to man and man receives it by faith. There is nothing to add or change. An idea that Paul echoes when he says that in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything (Galatians 6:15). In other words, circumcision nor uncircumcision are worth anything; they are meaningless. It does not produce anything nor is it a proof of anything. It is nothing for which to boast. In contrast, Paul says,
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Galatians 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Why does Paul say that we should boast on the Cross (Galatians 6:14)? Because through the cross Paul is dead to the world and the world is dead to him; the Cross is what seals our salvation. In the Cross, there is a power that transforms us into new men and woman. It is the Cross that achieves a new creation (Galatians 6:15). So, it is the Cross that should be praised.
Ellen White says of the cross.
"The cross of Calvary challenges, and will finally vanquish every earthly and hellish power. In the cross all influence centers, and from it all influence goes forth. It is the great center of attraction; for on it Christ gave up His life for the human race. This sacrifice was offered for the purpose of restoring man to his original perfection. Yea, more, it was offered to give him an entire transformation of character, making him more than a conqueror.
"Those who in the strength of Christ overcome the great enemy of God and man, will occupy a position in the heavenly courts above angels who have never fallen.
Christ declares, 'I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' If the cross does not find an influence in its favor, it creates an influence. Through generation succeeding generation, the truth for this time is revealed as present truth. Christ on the cross was the medium whereby mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. This is the means that is to move the world (MS 56, 1899)."—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1113.
Going back to our analogy, this implies that what faith plus works leave out of the package is the Cross. This means that the only thing in the package that God gives us for our journey of faith is the Cross; trying to fit anything else in the package requires taking out the cross. But, the Cross is all we need. Anything else will not be enough or inappropriate.