Paul wrote his letters with lots of love and passion. His letter to the church in Galatia is no exception but it’s especially harsh. False teachers convinced the Galatians they had to be circumcised, which was an outward ceremony of the Mosaic law. Paul chastised the Galatians for their foolishness because they turned away from the Gospel of Christ.
“You people in Galatia were told very clearly about the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. But you were foolish; you let someone trick you. Tell me this one thing: How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you receive the Spirit by following the law? No, you received the Spirit because you heard the Good News and believed it. You began your life in Christ by the Spirit. Now are you trying to make it complete by your own power? That is foolish. Were all your experiences wasted? I hope not! Does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you because you follow the law? No, he does these things because you heard the Good News and believed it.” Galatians 3:1-5 NCV
Paul was astonished. I’m guessing he was heartbroken too.
The Galatians did what we tend to do. We add works to our faith to keep God’s favor. We may begin by trusting Jesus then we add rule-keeping to the mix and eventually we’re just like the white washed tombs Jesus called out in Matthew 23. Outwardly we appear righteous, but inwardly we’re full of hypocrisy and lawlessness and pride because we’re convinced we’re doing all the right things.
It’s called legalism. And it’s dangerous.
Legalism is the belief that we can earn or keep God’s favor by what we do. Legalism demotes Jesus, promotes performance, and keeps us focused on ourselves.
Before we assume our modern day and contemporary churches are immune to this, let’s think again. We may have eliminated the dos and don’ts we or our parents grew up with, but we’ve replaced them with others.
The long list of things we do or don’t do to gain God’s favor and unfortunately, man’s favor. The requirements of a man made system created to force and measure spiritual growth. The kind of work that has nothing to do with following Jesus and making disciples but is really a self-designed salvation.
If we are in Christ, we have his favor, forever! There’s nothing we can ever do to add to what Jesus did on the cross. Nothing.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8
Our checklists don’t require faith, but salvation does. Transformation does. Learning to love God wholeheartedly and love others the way He wants us to does. The kind of work James wrote about in chapter two of his letter does. Those works are fueled by faith in Jesus and a hope anchored to God’s promises.
And so we pursue Jesus and seek to know him better and better. Not to earn God’s favor, but because we live in His favor. Because we know He’s our All in All. We believe Him and we’re overwhelmed by the grace He shows us every day. We know apart from Jesus we can do nothing. He gives us our very breath and sees into the deepest part of our hearts.
Paul ended the letter to the Galatians in a dramatic way. He took the pen into his own hand and wrote with large letters to make his point.
I’ll do the same but not with a pen: IF YOU’RE IN CHRIST, YOU ARE FAVORED FOREVER.
Now get to know him. You can start with the Gospels. For more about what I wrote in this post read Galatians, Colossians, and James.
If you have questions or comments, I’d be happy to hear from you.