I look up the word and then wonder over the phrase. “To do away with . . . to disregard . . . to make void . . . to set aside . . . to frustrate” or, as the ESV translates it, to “nullify.” And I wonder at the possibility of any man or woman being able to “nullify” any of God’s great woks. But such is the nature of grace.
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:19-21. ESV)
The problem with the Galatians was that they were buying into “another gospel” which really wasn’t “good news” at all (Gal. 1:7) . . . “good news” that what had been begun by the Spirit was to be perfected in the flesh. Or to rewrite the hymn, though grace might “save a wretch like me,” it would take something more, like my adherence to law, “to lead me home.”
And, if I’m understanding what Paul’s saying, once I kick into self-propelled mode, I nullify . . . frustrate . . . disregard . . . make void . . . hamstring the grace of God.
Not that I become unsaved . . . not that I diminish the self-sacrificing, unconditional love of God . . . but that I put a stick in the spokes of the wheel of the agency of God’s abundant grace. Relying on my efforts to get this Christianity thing down pat doesn’t undo saving grace . . . but it hamstrings sanctifying grace . . . and erects barriers to sustaining grace.
If the life I now live I live by confidence in my discipline . . . if I think that righteousness can be realized by my efforts . . .if it is still me who lives in me . . . if somehow I think I can take it from here . . . then grace is nullified. The amazing, abundant grace of God can be stymied by puny little me. That’s frightening!
But when I believe that the salvation that begun by faith will mature by faith . . . when I trust that the work that began by the Spirit of God will be completed through the Spirit of God . . . when I count myself as crucified with Christ, that I no longer live, but embrace that He lives in me, and that the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God . . . then watch out! Grace abounds . . . the work of grace is effectual . . . the fruit of grace becomes evident . . . and the glory of grace is directed entirely to Him who is the source of grace.
By faith alone . . . in grace alone.