Summary: As Christians we consider ourselves to be free - but in fact we fall into slavery very easily - slavery to legalism. What is legalism and its corallary labelism?
Do you feel free? Free in Christ? Did you know that you although you may feel free you may have enslaved yourself - to what you ask? To legalism. Not possible. Yes - it’s a lot easier than you think.
Winning freedom over legalism is what Galatians is all about. We’re going to learn what legalism really is, and its corollary: labelism - and how to fight it.
Here are some examples of how Christians fall into legalism:
1. Imposing extra rules of conduct.
2. Specifying the only authorized version of the English Bible.
3. Forbidding certain kinds of entertainment.
4. Keeping the Sabbath.
5. Adhering slavishly to the opinions of a certain teacher or sect.
6. Having to give a certain percentage of money at church to be deemed spiritual.
7. Outlawing certain musical instruments.
8. Setting down particular clothing and/or grooming requirements.
9. Embracing certain political views.
10. Demanding one method of schooling over another.
Later on in our study we’ll look at how to evaluate behavior to avoid legalism. For now, let’s get to know the object of our study: Galatians.
Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch are the cities making up ancient Galatia - modern day Turkey (in the area of Ankara in central Turkey now a major city). Paul and Barnabas traveled there, 1st going to the Jewish synagogues, then offering salvation to the Gentiles. This is what got them in trouble with the Jews and Jewish Christians, who felt Paul was betraying the Jewish faith.
After Paul left the area, these came in to tell the Galatian (for Gaul - Gailic people who conquered the area 3,000 years ago) churches that they hadn’t done enough - that they needed to be Jewish first, then Christian.
Legalism and Labelism
Legalism is the idea of winning God’s favor by strict adherence to a set of rules
Labelism is the pride of ownership for having the "right" religion
It was rampant in Paul’s day, but still exists today.
Jerry Moore’s aunt, upon hearing of his conversion said "that’s great that you have become a believer in Jesus, but know this, that if you go to church on Sunday you will be sent to hell." Jerry’s aunt is a Seventh Day Adventist - modern day Judaizers.
It even affects us Christians: We create special rules to follow - formulas for the amount of Bible study, the right clothes and appearance, the right things to watch and say. And we take great pride in certain churches or pastors or movements and look down our noses at others.
In fact, we fall into legalism anytime we substitute reliance on a behavior, for reliance on the Spirit - and its more insidious than you might think.
We can learn a lot from Paul here that applies to us today.
Verses 1 - 2
Paul got his marching orders directly from the risen Savior Himself - it wasn’t conferred upon him by others, nor did he earn it himself.
It was from more than just him too - not alone in his concern for them.
Verses 3 - 5
"gave" it was a gift, not earned
"for our sins" that’s the point - not legalistic righteousness
"rescue" is a verb that means "to pluck out" - middle voice: to select - God selected us to be plucked out from an evil age.
Verses 6 - 7
Usually Paul talks about the good things happening in the church - but here he says "I can’t believe you guys!"
The Galatians did not think they had abandoned Christ. That’s why its so important that we stick to the gospel, not our or anyone’s idea of the gospel.
"Deserting" is really "to transfer" or "change sides" - think of it as a deserter in a war. Does this mean they are no longer Christians? Probably not, but Paul is warning they are going down a path of destruction.
We’re not talking about disagreements over interpretation - we’re talking about truth and lies!
What is the gospel? It is the good news of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Legalism is not another gospel, it is NOT a gospel.
A tactic of the enemy - confusion and perversion. Throw in doubts about God’s Word, or doubts about the apostles - followed by at first subtle departures from the pure gospel.
Verses 8 - 9
Don’t know how much stronger you can get. Gospel handed directly from Jesus to Paul, who wrote it down. Even Paul himself couldn’t contradict it from there.
The Judaizers taught faith in Christ plus following the Jewish laws and customs - especially circumcision. There is no "plus" after Christ.
Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
"The fatal flaw in every different gospel lies in ignoring or trying to bypass grace. These gospels develop their "hope" from the wisdom of humans (technology, education, science). They assign divine value to ideas and principles limited to this present physical world (humanism, materialism, determinism, scientism and philosophy), and they glorify self-effort (design-your-own-spirituality, moral progress, self-perfection through some program, or even reincarnation)." (Life Application Bible Commentary)