Oh foolish Galatians…after starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
Scripture contrasts two ‘ways’ a believer seeks to live the Christian life. Paul outlines both options in his epistle to the Galatians: 1) the grace-promise-faith way and 2) the works-merit-law way. The grace-promise-faith way is 100% achievable and done by God for man. The works-merit-law way is 100% unachievable and done by man for God. There is probably no more important message to the church today than this, for most believers having started their Christian life by grace through faith, revert from grace back to the law, by trying to live their life for God. Blessings abound for those humble enough and courageous enough to seek to live their life the grace-promise-faith way.
Paul challenges those given initial salvation by grace through faith with these words: are ye so foolish, having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? He is saying, having begun ‘the grace-promise-faith way’ are ye now made perfect by ‘the works-merit-law way?’ Many believers aren’t properly schooled in these two contrasting ways of living the Christian life and fall into the works-merit–law trap.
The grace way is sanctification God’s way. The works' way is sanctification man’s way. The grace-promise-faith way is the ‘spiritual’ route. The works-merit -law way is called ‘carnal’, ‘the flesh’ ‘being under law’ etc. Carnality and legalism are often connected with worldly sins, pride, and unbelief, but are also produced by a believer trying hard to please God, but in the wrong way.
In reality, carnality and legalism often describe believers who deeply desire to be spiritual, but are trying to please God the ‘works-merit -law’ way. Remember, the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. Within the inner ‘being’ of man are two continuously conflicting camps:- the old sin nature (the flesh or self-ego) is gained from the old birth in Adam, while the new life in Christ (the spirit of life in Christ Jesus) comes from our new birth.
Often the inner old sin nature (the flesh) shows itself through the physical body, but can also be manifested through religious works. The sin nature often displays itself the ‘works-merit-law way’, by Christians trying to live a good life the wrong way. All believers are born-again the ‘grace-promise-faith’ way, for salvation is simply: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – by grace thru faith, which is a done deed. It is a finished work of Christ.
Believers make a choice to either live God’s way, which is the ‘grace-promise-faith’ way, or man’s way, the ‘works-merit -law’ way. The old sin nature opposes the new life in Christ, but the inner ‘flesh’ often manifests itself through good deeds, which are carried out in our physical body, by trying to do God’s will the wrong way. But, however commendable works of the flesh may be, they will never please God, for we are to live our lives by faith and not by works of the law.
Believers will not grow spiritually or mature in their Christian life, the ‘works-merit-law’ way, but will have stunted Christian lives and interrupted and unsatisfactory fellowship with God. To grow spiritually is the responsibility of each believer, but like justification can only be achieved the ‘grace-promise-faith’ way. Living the ‘works-merit -law’ way is not living under grace, but rather falling from grace. It is living under a pot-pourri of legalism, carnality, and dead ‘fleshly’ works.
Grace abounds to those that are both humble and courageous enough to walk the grace-promise-faith route. There is so much more to explore about living by grace in the book of Galatians, which step by step brings us from persistent failure and self-effort, into a victorious Christian life, which is only possible by God’s grace – through faith.
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