Behold the Works!

On Sunday, our pastor was preaching through Galatians 5. Paul is reminding the Galatians about the grace that saved them, and how they have fallen away from it by adding works (of the Law-circumcision). Our pastor spent some time dwelling on this.

Galatians 5:2-6:

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

At one point he was talking of how we must remember how utterly depraved we are in the sight of Jesus. Our sins are dirty, polluted, corrupted and our sins dirty, pollute and corrupt everything and anything we try to do for Jesus, unless we are saved by Grace. Even if we try to preach that salvation is grace PLUS works, it is still a dirty doing. People think they can be saved by works, or add works to grace, because they forget just how holy Jesus is, and how filthy we are. The Galatians certainly did.

Our pastor said it’s like a master artist, who had painted a glorious masterpiece, and someone came along and added to it. Someone thinks, “Let me just add to this…” and wrongly believes that Jesus will accept or even needs our help. How could we even possibly believe that even one atom of our help could be added to a work of Jesus and not immediately pollute it?

When he said that, it reminded me of the very real event that had occurred a few years ago in Spain. What happens when you have an old church, an elderly woman, and a fresco that needs restoring?

An elderly woman has unintentionally destroyed a valuable piece of artwork after she decided to ‘restore’ the painting herself. The painting was a 19th century Spanish fresco titled “Ecce Homo” by painter Elias Garcia Martinez. It was donated to the Centro de Estudios Borjanos in Borja, Spain, by the painter’s granddaughter, according to the Telegraph. The centro reportedly holds an extensive archive of regional religious paintings. The woman, a neighbor of the church reportedly in her 80s, thought she would save the church both time and money by restoring the painting herself. The Telegraph described the restoration as, “a botched repair where the intricate brush strokes of Martinez were replaced with a haphazard splattering of the octogenarian’s paint. Years of carefully calculated depth of expression simply washed out by copious amounts of red and brown.” (source)

Cecilia Ginenez, the octogenarian aforementioned, truly was sincere in her attempts to “help” the painting. She was not out to ruin it. But she thought more highly of her ability and works than she ought. And so, her results made the painting worse for the wear.

Three versions of Ecce Homo: left, the original version;
center, the deteriorated fresco; right, the attempted restoration by Cecilia Giménez

Wikipedia describes the event:

The Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) in the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja, Spain, is a fresco painted circa 1930 by the Spanish painter Elías García Martínez depicting Jesus crowned with thorns. …[I]ts fame derives from a good faith attempt to restore the fresco by Cecilia Giménez, an untrained elderly amateur, in 2012. The intervention reinterpreted the painting and made it look similar to a monkey, and for this reason it is sometimes known as Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey).

No…we are saved by glorious grace alone. We do not add works to our salvation as part of the initial justification event. Afterward, of course, while we are being sanctified, we work for Jesus because we obey Him, we love Him, and we are grateful to Him. But before justification, our works are nothing but filthy rags, rubbish, dung, and counts for nothing toward righteousness. What a relief that Jesus does it ALL. Otherwise, take heed, or you will Behold the Monkey!

Further Reading:

What Role do Works have in Salvation?

Is Salvation by Faith Alone, or faith plus works?

Are we saved by faith alone, or do we need works, too?