Paul showed the Galatians from their own experiences that they began by faith and grew spiritually by faith:
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:1-5, NASB).
The words “foolish” can be interpreted as “stupid” and “moron”. Paul reminds them that they didn’t begin by keeping the Law, but that they received salvation by faith only. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NASB). Salvation did not come by anything they could do: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).
Once we are saved by faith, our spirit man is renewed and made perfect. But our soul – our mind, intellect and imagination – has not been made perfect. The only way we can perfect our souls is by studying the Word of God and asking the Holy Spirit to help us. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NASB). There is nothing we can do by human achievement or by religious accomplishment that can make us perfect. To follow religious rules or doctrine is called legalism; it is like following the Jewish Law, which was made up of numerous rules for food, work and morals. Following the law does not make us perfect because it can’t:
“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:3-8, NASB).
After Paul left the Galatians, a group of Jewish Christians, Judaizers, came and taught the Galatians that certain Old Testament laws were still if effect for believers, particularly circumcision. They taught that faith in Jesus Christ was not “enough”; one also had to keep the law. This was not the same “gospel” that Paul preached; Paul wrote the Galatians that anyone who perverts the gospel of Christ should be accursed (Gal 1:7-8). The fear of the Judaizers was that if there were no rules, then the new believers would live immorally and contrary to God’s principles. However, the Holy Spirit guides the new believer into all the truth. The Holy Spirit also provided the Galatians with pastors, teachers, prophets and apostles. And, the Holy Spirit inspired the writings of Paul, so that the Galatians, and Christians of all ages, would have God’s Word to study.
Following rules such as don’t play cards, don’t go to the movies, ladies, don’t wear slacks, makeup, or jewelry, don’t dance and don’t drink, will not perfect your Christian walk. Just following rules takes the joy and love out of your life; it makes you sour and judgmental. Legalism kills miracles, because legalism takes the focus of the believer from the Holy Spirit to themselves. No miracles can be performed without the Holy Spirit! Does that mean that Christians can wear anything they like, get numerous tattoos, dance and drink in nightclubs and bars and gamble regularly in Vegas? No! The Spirit dwells in each believer and guides them into the law of God (see Rom 8:3-8). Jesus fulfilled the law: (1) “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17, NASB); (2) “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’” (Matt 22:36-40, NASB). When the Christian desires the things of the Spirit, the desires for the things of the world fade away.
Paul wrote to the Galatians that the works of the Law bring a curse, while faith fulfills the Law and brings a blessing:
“For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.’ Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.’ However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘He who practices them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3:10-13, NASB). Only be faith can we be justified! Even under the old covenant, it was faith in the grace of the blood sacrifice that atoned for their sins, not their keeping of the Law.
Now that Christ has fulfilled the Law, our faith is in the grace of His perfect life and blood sacrifice. Spend some time thinking about that this week; it is Thanksgiving week and time to honor the Lord for all our Blessings and for everything He has done in our lives.
God is so Good! Let’s have an attitude of thankfulness.