Legalism causes many problems in the Body of Christ. As I continue looking at the book of Galatians, Paul has finished with his examples and now begins his teaching in great detail. He starts with the bottom line so that there’s no mistaking what he believes.
We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Paul is making an important point here. But it’s not one that everyone can identify with. In order to explain it, I need to give you a bit of my personal testimony.
Simply put; I am a “Timothy”. My grandparents, on both sides, were godly Christians, baptized in the Spirit. My parents were brought up in the church – as a matter of fact, that’s where they met.
When I came along, I had no choice but to attend church whenever the doors were open. For that, I’ll be eternally grateful.
As wonderful as it was to be brought up in a Christian home with Biblical training, it did present me with a very unique set of challenges. This is because I learned the “rules” of the Christian lifestyle before I learned about grace.
I started out thinking that simply by “being good” I could please God. It wasn’t until I was able to grasp the deeper issues of life that I understood the truth of God’s righteousness. This is what Paul is talking about.
People who are brought up with no Scriptural background – the Gentiles – have lived their whole life by trying to be the best they could. They wanted to be a functioning part of society.
“Be kind to others and continue to better yourself.”
In my growth, I had a different training. I learned what pleases God as well as the things He hates. Let me tell you that I can give a hearty “Amen,” to what Paul is saying. By my experience, I know that following the rules makes absolutely no points with God.
I was brought up in the church. I spent my formative years sheltered from the worldly society. I never fell into any great sin or even hung around with “bad people”. Yet, in spite of all that, I needed a Savior as much as any drug-dealing, murdering, alcoholic.
All of my good works meant nothing in bringing me into God’s kingdom. I had to repent, bow my knees to Christ, and ask Him to place His Spirit within me. Unless and until I did that, I could never be right in the eyes of God.
If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.
What Paul is saying here is that there’s no going back. Now that I’m justified in Christ, trying to live by the Law is a dead-end. I’m back to being a lawbreaker again because I can never live up to God’s standard on my own. I started in grace and I must continue in God’s grace.
For the rest of this letter, Paul is going to explain to the Galatian church why this truth is so important and how to apply it to their lives.
Question: How have you experienced that following a set of rules doesn’t work?
© Nick Zaccardi 2017