Devotional Thoughts from Galatians – part 2

(6)  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-  (7)  which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Here, Paul introduces the reason and the theme for his letter.  The gospel that Paul had preached to them was the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.  It’s the gospel that he preached to the Ephesians as well, when he said “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no man can boast.” This is the gospel of grace.  Gospel means “good news”, and it is good news that we don’t have to try to earn our way to heaven, or earn our way to acceptance by God.  The gospel of grace is about forgiveness and eternal life purchased by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross for those who would trust in Him alone for salvation.

The Galatians had heard this gospel of grace, and had accepted it….but now, for some reason, they were turning away from it.  What happened?

Well, these folks called Judaizers (pronounced Judy-izers), had visited these churches in Galatia after Paul had left.  The Judaizers were Jewish Christians who still held on to their Jewish customs and practices.  They still followed the Law of Moses and all the regulations that went along with that.  These Jewish Christians were coming along behind Paul and telling these new believers that in order for them to be a Christian, they first had to become a Jew.  They had to be circumcised, and they had to eat only kosher foods, and they had to observe certain festivals and feasts, and most importantly they had to follow the Law of Moses.  They told these new Christians in Galatia that in order for them to be saved and be real Christians, they first had to be a Jew, and follow all of these laws.

Now that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it!?  But, they fell for it.  Why did they fall for it?

Verse 7 says that the Judaizers threw them into confusion.  Apparently something about what the Judaizers were saying made sense to them, and they got confused about the truth.  So, why did they fall for what these Judaizers were saying?

Well, for one thing, Christianity came from Jewish roots.  In fact, Jesus Himself was a Jew.  That makes sense, right?  If I want to follow Jesus, and He was a Jew, then I should follow the law of the Jews as well….the Law of Moses.  It makes sense…until you realize that it was Jesus who said that He came to fulfill the Law.

See, when Jesus was crucified, died, and rose again, He fulfilled all of the requirements of the Law.  He was the perfect and spotless sacrificial lamb, who was slain for the sins of the world, once and for all.  Now there is no need for the Law of Moses.  What the law never could do, Jesus has done.

But still, there was something appealing to what the Judaizers were saying.  And I think it was this….

It logically made sense. The Judaizers were telling them, “listen, if you want to be acceptable to God (if you want God to give you eternal life), then you gotta do this and this and this.”

And folks, let’s face it….the “give and take” logic makes sense.  Why in the world would God offer salvation to us for free….with no amount of “works” required on our part…and with no strings attached?  THAT makes no sense to human logic!

But what we’re talking about here is the difference between human-economics and God-economics.  Human economics says “I do for God and He does for me”.  I do good things, good works, etc., and then He does for me.  The more I do for Him, the more He does for me.  That’s human-economics, but no matter how much that might make sense to our human logic, God says that won’t cut it.  God-economics (on the other hand) says that man can do absolutely nothing for God.  The Bible says that our righteousness is like filthy rags before Him.  We have nothing to offer God.  The “give and take” logic won’t work, because we’ve already messed things up so much with our sin, that there is no amount of “giving” or “working” that we can do to make up the difference.

It would be like trying to wipe up Lake Lanier with a roll of paper towels.  Its no use!  It’ll never happen.  We’ll never earn our way to God.  We’ll never earn God’s acceptance.  God knows that, so He offers a different economic plan.  Instead of us doing and doing and doing in order to earn His favor, He just says “done”.  Done.  That’s God’s economics.  Done.

God says, “Hey, there is no way for you to wipe up the stain of your own sin.  So I’ll send My Son, and have Him do it for you”.  And when He did it….then it was DONE.  The debt was paid, once and for all.  And that is the gospel of grace.  A free and un-earnable gift.

Paul says I can’t believe you would desert that, and go back to the old economics.  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

But, don’t we do the same thing?  When some Christians say that you can’t be “saved” if you drink, or smoke, or go out with women who do….when Christians say things like that, then aren’t they doing the same thing?  When we say that in order to please God you’ve got to have a 30 minute quiet time every day, go to church atleast twice a week, and give to the operating budget, the building campaign and the missions fund…when we say that, then aren’t we constructing our own set of laws, just like the Pharisees?

Legalism is devastatingly destructive to our joy in the grace of God.  We will either accept the gospel of grace….or we will accept the bars of prison.  That’s really what we’re talking about here…the Gospel of grace vs. prison bars.  The gospel of the Grace of Jesus Christ results in our freedom in Christ, whereas the “gospel” of the Law of Moses/legalism/works results in bondage.  And Paul says in verse 7 that this other “gospel” is not really a gospel at all.  Remember, gospel means good news, and bondage is not good news….so this isn’t really a gospel at all.  If anything, this is bad news.

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4 thoughts on “Devotional Thoughts from Galatians – part 2

  1. Ken, you are correct of course, but I feel we should be very specific when we say we don’t need the law of Moses. Does that mean we do not need the 10 Commandments? Of course we do not need them for salvation, but we need them to know what sin is.

    Not only do we need the ten commandments to understand what sin is, we need them for obedience to God. What shall we say then, that we can murder, that we can worship other Gods? May it never be.

    We need the law, as Paul wrote, to show us what is sin. Do we need the ceremonial law, obviously not, the very ceremony that law celebrates has been fulfilled.

    Not sure if I have made my argument clearly, but at least I understand me. LOL

    • Andy – Excellent clarification. Typically when the New Testament uses the word “law” it can refer to one of three different things, and it is easy to confuse the issue if we’re not clear which meaning is intended. The word “law” can refer to either:

      1. the entire Old Testament
      (Rom 3:19 “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”)

      2. part of the Old Testament, usually the writings of Moses
      (Rom 3:31 “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”)

      3. the legalistic twistings of the law of Moses by the “religious” elite into a job description for salvation
      (Gal 2:16 “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.”)

      It is this third category that Paul is referring to most often in the book of Galatians. This does not mean that we shouldn’t follow the Law, but it does mean that we cannot be justified by following the Law.

      Still, there is the “ceremonial” aspect of the Law (the festivals and feasts and regulations having to do with worship) that are so fulfilled in Christ that they are not for us today as NT Christians. Nonetheless, the moral aspect of the law (the code of standard conduct that God sets in the Law) is certainly still valid (this would include the 10 commandments) in so far as we must still obey that part of the Law – but this “obeying” should be done not as our effort to earn salvation, but as one depending on the grace of Christ to bring about this kind of God-glorifying obedience in our lives.

      Thanks for helping to clarify that…and thanks for joining the discussion!

  2. Good stuff!

    It made me think of when Peter was eating with the Gentiles and pulled back when the Jews came in.

    A quick comment on the law. I learned a lot from reading “True Bounds of Christian Freedom” by the Puritan Samuel Bolton. In it he lays out our liberties in Christ. The thing that many modern Christians (myself included) struggle with is the fact that we don’t want to be legalists, but we also don’t want to be anitinomians. We want to be free, but we also want to agree with the Psalm 1 and say “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night”. The term “Gospel obedience” has fallen away. We are to obey everything that is commanded. To not obey is to sin. The difference is that if our hearts are changed, we will want to obey. We will still sin, but our hearts desire is obedience, not to earn anything, but to please the one who saved us.

    • So it sounds like our focus needs to be on our heart, rather than on our actions. If our heart is right, our actions will follow. But if our actions are right…our heart may or may not be right.

      I know for me, my focus can much too easily be on right actions, regardless of whether or not my heart is right. I think part of the reason is because it’s much easier to modify my actions, than to re-orient my heart. Any surgeon will tell you that heart surgery is more difficult and more traumatic for the body than re-setting a broken bone.

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