Tuesday, July 24, 2007


At church this Sunday, Todd spoke on Galatians, an overview of the whole book as a topical study on legalism. Or, as he put it, the LAW vs. FAITH. It was such an encouraging and thought-provoking message, and I keep finding myself thinking about it. And yesterday, during the kids' nap time, I read through Galatians again, just to really soak up Paul's message to those people..and to me.

You see, for those of us raised in Christian homes, it is all too tempting to add to the message of the gospel, to embrace that, yes, salvation is by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but....look at all the things I'm doing for Him now. You know? And why isn't everyone else serving the Lord the way I am? etc....the sinfulness of my heart is so obvious when I start thinking that way. That's why I appreciated Todd's message so much.

Todd defined legalism as "in some way trying to earn favor or merit with God by keeping the law, characterized by spiritual pride." Whereas, faith is "simply trusting God to fulfill His promise."

Genesis 3 records God's first promise to send the Seed, and it was always His intent to save us through faith in this promise. Even when He gave us the law, it didn't replace the promise.

"What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made...therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." Galatians 3:19, 24, 25

We were never meant to keep the law, before Christ came or even now, after we've been saved through faith. It was just a tool to show us our deep need for a Savior.

What are the red flags of legalism?
  • Comparison of yourself to others
  • Making biblical mandates where there are none
  • Spiritual pride
For example, Todd said that there are 3 schooling options represented in our group: public school, Christian school, and home school. And while the Word of God encourages us to train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is silent on exactly how we should do that or what methods we should employ. To mandate one type of schooling is to add to the Word of God, living by the law, instead of by faith. And instead of letting others live by faith as well.

Differences in what the law and faith produce
  • Salvation - only obtained by faith
    "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ..." Galatians 2:16 and "For by grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9
  • Sanctification - when someone gets saved, God starts working to change them into the image of His Son
    "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 and ""O foolish Galatians!...This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" Galatians 3:1-3
  • The law brings a curse; faith brings a blessing.
    "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us...that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Galatians 3:13,14
  • The law brings bondage or slavery; faith brings freedom. Under the law, we are required to continue obeying it, although it doesn't give us the power to do so!
    "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain." Galatians 4:8-11
  • The law boasts in the flesh; faith boasts in the cross.
    "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14
What characteristics lead to legalism?
  • Fear of man (see chapter 2 - this happened to Peter!)
  • Pride
How do we avoid legalism?
  • Fear the Lord, not man. Know Him and study Him, and in doing so, obtain the right perspective of who we are.
  • Choose to live by faith.
    "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1
  • Have the mind of Christ through studying the Scriptures. Romans 12:2
  • Walk in the Spirit, in submission to the Word of God.
    "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Galatians 5:16

These are mostly Todd's thoughts, and God's, of course. I love how God's Word is always so applicable to today, so....necessary. I need this message, need to be reminded that the work of my sanctification is God's work, not mine. I can trust Him to do it, regardless of whether or not I work myself to the bone trying to muster it up myself. I love that about the Lord! He is willing to continue working in people who, just like the Galatians, keep turning back to the law. If I can just do one more thing, one more ministry...

Thankfully we have God's Word to remind us to live by faith, to allow God to do His work in us!


Grace Powell said...

Great thoughts. Dad is speaking on Galations right now too at a much slower pace and finished Chapter 1 on Sunday. Thanks for sharing these notes with us, it really helps it all to sink in.

Eryn said...

i love the book of galatians. it is so powerful for believers to realize how easy it is to fall into the sin of pride. thanks for the thoughts.

andyandjenica said...

I like the red flags!
Red flag: comparing yourself to others. It's wrong either way. Whether you think you're better by not being "legalistic" or better by being more "righteous". Both are prideful.
Very good reminders.