Sermon Archive

Legalism shorts out the power for spiritual transformation.

A few weeks ago I was informed the toaster wasn’t working. Mom (and Willie, the dog) have toast every morning for breakfast. Not simple, straight ahead wheat toast but sweet, gooey cinnamon toast. This was a mini crisis. I took the toaster apart and found icing on the magnetic switches. The contacts couldn’t close because of the icing. In other words, the icing was cutting off the flow of power!

This is exactly what Paul addresses in Galatians 5:1-12 – not the toaster, but cutting the flow of power. Paul warns that if the Galatians give in to legalism they will cut the flow of power for spiritual transformation; they will not go on to become like Christ (4:19). Paul’s concern was their lack of sanctification, not loss of salvation.


In the latter half of Galatians 3, the Apostle Paul explained that one of the reasons the Law of Moses was given was to chase us to Christ in the sense that the Law of Moses makes it abundantly clear that we are transgressors, we cannot live up to God’s perfect and holy standard nor can we make up for all the ways we violate God’s holiness and transgress His law. The purpose of the Law of Moses is to bring us to the end of ourselves; to open us up to put our faith, not in ourselves, but in Jesus Who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our transgressions and rose again to give us eternal life. When we turn from ourselves to Jesus to make us right with God we are justified, that is, God the Father declares all our sin forgiven, paid as they are by the sacrifice of Jesus. God the Father declares that we are in a right standing with Him; He accepts us and is at peace with us. All of this is what is meant by the phrase justified by faith. In addition, He adopts us as His sons and daughters making us rightful heirs to His inheritance. This is what the Apostle Paul celebrates at the close of Galatians 3.


In our study of Galatians so far we have clearly seen that there is no way for the law to bring about justification. The only way to be justified and have a right relationship with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. This has always been the way, and will always be the way! The sign that we are justified and part of God’s family, is that the personal Spirit of God comes to live in our mortal bodies! These churches in the region of Galatia had experienced justification through faith, followed by the gift of the Spirit and the resulting fellowship with other believers, both Jew and Gentile alike. These legalistic false teachers had come in and claimed that when the law was given, it set up a NEW way to be justified and part of God’s family, and it replaced the old promises given to Abraham. In this section of Galatians, Paul clears up just what purpose the law does serve, and he shows us that it is a powerful one!


Paul gets straight to the problem as he addresses these churches in the region of Galatia. These Judaizers had come into these churches teaching that the Gentiles must come under the law of Moses and be circumcised in order to be Justified, aka. made right with God. It was a mixture of faith in Jesus AND following the law that would set people free, and make them part of God's family. As this teaching quickly took root in the lives of the believers, it drove a wedge between the Jews and Gentiles, and ripped at the foundation of the gospel. Paul's command is to get these false teachers out of their churches immediately!


As Paul shares the story of Peter's hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14) to the Galatian believers, it seems like Paul is making a big deal out of something that isn't that important. Why would he oppose Peter "to his face"? Peter just made a small mistake right? It wasn’t as though he actually believed that the Law could justify, he just had a moment of cowardice and made a mistake. To Paul, this is no small mistake, it was giving approval to a message that was a direct assault on Jesus. When Peter and Barnabas broke table fellowship with the gentiles, they were giving approval to these Judaizers who were teaching that if the gentiles wanted to become part of God's family, they must come under the authority of the Law of Moses. Paul recognized this teaching was a direct attack on the authority of Christ, as it was an attempt to add the law to the gospel, so Paul puts Peter's actions on display to reveal these three implications from his false behavior.


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