Beloved, you have been called unto liberty..
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage
Paul was deeply concerned that false teachers were leading Christians back from the glorious freedom of the gospel of grace to the shackled bondage of law. Our liberty in Christ, that comes by grace through faith, dominates the pages of Galatians as point-by-point Paul warns of the serious consequences of legalism – of deserting the liberty of the gospel of grace for the shackles of a works based ‘gospel’.
The perfect Law of Moses was nothing more than a tutor teaching us that sinful man could never reach the perfect standard required by a thrice-holy God. It demonstrates the futility of trying to achieve the perfection required by the Law, which would end in despair, were it not for the truth of the glorious gospel of grace, whereby Christ met all the demands of the Law on behalf of all who believed on His sacrificial death and His glorious resurrection. The purpose of the Law is to lead us to Christ, but grace takes us from being children to mature sons.
Galatians tells us we no longer require to be ‘child-minded’. It tells us we are of age because now we are under grace; now we are not under law; now we have unconditional union with Christ – now we are called “sons”. Being under law keeps us as little children but grace takes us from being little children to maturing sons. Under law we are children but under grace we are sons. Under law our rights are limited but under grace our position is one of having reached the age of majority. Under grace we have received unconditional union with Christ and we are called “sons”. Christ has done all for our initial salvation by the “grace-promise-faith” way. As sons and He does all for our ongoing salvation by the same “grace-promise-faith” way.
Once we have been saved by grace we are to be sanctified by grace; to grow in grace and to mature in the faith – to live our lives “grace-promise-faith” way. But if a believer chooses to revert to the “law-merit-works way” we regress to childhood and cannot grow in grace, because when we are under the terms of the law have removed ourselves from the terms of grace. Christ has done all for initial salvation and He will do all for our ongoing sanctification.
We were all made children of God through faith (justification – initial believing in Christ) and we should be living as sons of God through faith (sanctification – growing in grace). Paul is telling the Galatians that they should be growing in the grace of Jesus Christ, but despite their position in Christ and union with Him – they reverted to infancy! Despite coming to Christ by faith – they reverted to the law… eternally saved but under bondage to an impossible way of living. How sad!
Paul explains that because they didn’t continue in the “grace-promise-faith” way, they returned to the old ways rather than remaining in the new way. They went back to living in the flesh rather than remaining in the spirit. They substituted the promise of the Christ-life for a works-orientated life. They replaced the life of faith for one of living by self-merit. They exchanged a spiritual life for a carnal walk. They replaced the new “grace-promise-faith way” for the old “law-merit-works” way.
This is the shocking truth of Galatians and it applies to many Christians today. Despite starting off by faith, believers inevitably return to the old way of the law. Once a man has been saved by grace, why return to the chains of the Law? Why move away from freedom back to bondage? We know that keeping the law will never save us and we should know that living the Christians life under the law will never sanctify us.
The root of all Christian legalism is often trying to live our Christian life to please God. The source of a lot of carnality is generally doing ones best to please God. The wellspring of the flesh frequently seeks to please God through self-effort. Legalism and seeking to merit God’s favour by producing good works in ones own flesh is an impossibility for God is only pleased with one thing – the finished work of Christ, and that is apprehended by believers who live the grace-faith-promise way.
We have to stop trying by self-effort to please God. We have to stop thinking that we can by our own merit get favour from God. We have to rid ourselves of the notion that God blesses us because of who we are or what we have done – or anything connected with me, my works or my life. And Paul’s epistles are full of warnings about not returning to this way of the Law – the “law-merit-works” way, and his letters are dripping with instructions on how to live by grace – how to live the “grace-faith-promise” way .
Never forget that there is now no condemnation to Christians, because Christ took the condemnation that we deserve on the cross. FIRST we were saved from the eternal condemnation when we trust Christ as Saviour – but SECOND as believers we are free from the burden of the condemnation that comes from living our lives the “law-merit-works” way.
Let us not be like the Galatians who deliberately put themselves back under the condemnation, by trying to please God in their own strength instead of resting in the liberty of Christ’s finished work – He fulfilled all the requirements of the Law on our behalf through His sacrifice. So having been saved by grace through faith, let us therefore live our lives by grace through faith.
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