Today’s reading: Galatians 4
Paul proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Galatian churches early in his ministry. Since his visit, however, false teachers had twisted the gospel claiming Jesus alone was not enough to save. Specifically, they taught that Gentiles had to follow Jewish law in addition to accepting Jesus. Paul was genuinely concerned. Instead of experiencing joy from their freedom in Christ, the Galatians’ were battling with legalism.
Dictionary.com defines legalism as follows:
- Strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
- The doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
- The judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.
Legalism is diametrically opposed to the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. If we could earn God’s favor through traditions, rituals or obeying a set of rules, it would mean Jesus’ death on the cross was meaningless. The Bible is clear, we can’t earn God’s favor, Jesus bought it for us.
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father (Galatians 4:4-6).
Sadly enough, we still struggle with legalism in the 21st century. Not necessarily legalism that aligns to Jewish law like Galatian false teachers were preaching in the 1st century, but the belief that God’s favor is earned. It is focusing on a set of rules over a relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you feel guilty or inadequate? Have lost your joy? May I suggest you check your focus? Legalism can rob you of joy by making you…
- Feel guilty rather than loved.
- Stress about your performance rather than relying on Jesus.
- Focus on your inadequacy rather than how far you’ve come with Jesus by your side.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving us his on as a sacrifice for our sins (Romans 8:1-3).
I pray the truth of Romans 8:1-3 fills your heart with joy today.
Joy – the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright and the determined choice to praise God in every situation. – Rick Warren