Summary: A sermon that describes the religious legalist.
"The Gospel of Legalism"
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Introduction: This morning I may be preaching one of the most important messages I have ever preached anywhere in my ministry. I hope that doesn't sound melodramatic or sensational but I feel very strongly about the subject of today's message. I have several reasons for preaching about "The Gospel of Legalism" I have seen firsthand the effects of legalism in people's lives and in the church. I have seen the struggles as Christians strive to meet a standard that is based in the Law rather than in Grace; on rules not relationship! I've personally been on the receiving end of criticism that I believe was based on legalism. For the legalist "every I has to have a dot and T has to be crossed, or the legalist is not happy and he will let you know it, I might add! It has been my observation that legalism leads to defeat and a joyless Christian experience. There is never, or least very seldom any sense that one has pleased anyone much less his/her heavenly Father. Legalism also leads to hypocrisy because it is artificial and arbitrary; it leads to hyper-criticism of others behavior while one is blind to one's own faults and failings. Jesus spoke specifically about this very thing. Let me read you a quote:
Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
These believers in Galatia had been saved under a gospel of grace but they were in danger of being seduced by "...another gospel..." the gospel of legalism! Let me provide a little background. Even though the Apostle Paul was a Jew his ministry was by and large to the Gentiles. In chapter 2 verse 7 Paul refers to his belief that "...the gospel of the uncircumcision..." (Gentiles) had been committed to him by God. He also mentions a very important event that occurred when he, Barnabas and Titus went up to Jerusalem in chapter 2, verse 4. He says that while they were meeting with the leaders of the church there were those who came in "...to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage..." The bondage he is referring to the insistence that all of Paul's Gentile converts be "circumcised!" Paul's reply to the elders in Jerusalem is recorded in verses 20-21:
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
To put this issue in laymen's language, Paul is declaring the salvation is through grace alone, not grace plus circumcision. Unfortunately these same "brethren" seem to have followed Paul's mission team about and spued this venom of salvation by grace plus circumcision at every opportunity.
Let's look at the text to see what else we can learn about this issue. First, see that Paul sounds a alarm:
I. AN ALARM
a. The danger of legalism
The language of verse 6 is very suggestive. The word marvel in the KJV is used to convey a very strong emotional response to what he perceived was a very dangerous situation. It is a response to something that one would consider to be reprehensible; or in this case, unthinkable! The tense of the word removed is one of continuing action that had not been consummated. They had not yet committed apostasy but they were progressing in that direction in Paul's judgment. Theirs was a case of doctrinal apostasy as they were moving away from the gospel which had been first preached to them.
b. The deceptiveness of legalism
What I'm about to say will make some of you uncomfortable but there are legalists in every congregation and in verse 4 Paul goes so far as to call them "...false brethren..." Now I wouldn't go as far as saying that all legalists are false brethren but I would say that some are, but there are many more like the Galatian believers who had been saved with a gospel of free grace and now were in danger of trusting a system of the Gospel plus something. They come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, male and female, they sit in the pews and stand behind the pulpits. They sing in the choir or serve in the church nursery. They can be anywhere. What I'm saying is that there will always be those who want just do not feel or can't make themselves believe that grace alone is enough to be saved and to stay saved! Then there are those who are perfectly willing to allow Christ to save them by grace through faith but they have difficulty in believing that the same grace that saved them can also sustain them.