Friday, June 28, 2013

Legalism--still alive and well?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 4:21-5:6

TO CHEW ON: "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace …. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Galatians 5:4,6

Though the legalism that insists circumcision is mandatory to be 'in'  has never been an issue in my life, there are other legalism manifestations. What about the legalism that insists on a certain mode of baptism, that judges lifestyle liberties (like drinking alcohol), that insists on certain versions of the Bible? What about the legalism that comes in the guise of its symptoms—irrational, unexplainable fears (like the fear of dying because at some level I feel like I haven't measured up to God's standard)?

Paul's theme in this whole letter is to explain and extol how the gospel is not the good news of which laws to keep but the good news of grace that results in spiritual liberty.

A brief overview of that LIBERTY shows its rich dimensions:

  • It frees us from the fear of death - Psalm 107:14; Romans 8:2.
  • It puts us in a servant / master relationship of choice, not coercion - Psalm 116:16; Romans 6:18.
  • It springs us from the prison of spiritual blindness - Isaiah 42:7; John 8:32.
  • It gives us a compelling message - Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18.
  • It impacts all of creation - Romans 8:21.
  • It makes for a liberated life - 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 2:4.

The "Introduction to Galatians "in my Bible sums up the book's message and impact well:
'The same perversion of the gospel that Paul combats in this letter keeps appearing in various forms. Legalism, which teaches that justification or sanctification depends upon a person's own efforts, thus denying the sufficiency of the Cross, is the most persistent enemy of the gospel of grace. Circumcision and other requirements of the Mosaic Law may no longer be issues pertaining to salvation, but oftentimes the observance of certain rules, regulations, or religious rites is made coordinate with faith in Christ as the condition of Christian maturity. Galatians clearly declares the perils of legalism and establishes the essential truth of salvation by faith alone" - Jerry Horner, Introduction to Galatians, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1629.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your gift of salvation. Help me to never make it something I have to earn or expect others to try and earn. Amen.


The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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