The Danger of Lapsing Back Into Legalism
or Sanctification by Grace Through Faith
THEME: “The Danger of Lapsing Back into Legalism”
Judaisers were teaching that after salvation was obtained through Christ, it must be maintained by works.
This equation helps keep it simple
JESUS + NOTHING = HEAVEN JESUS + ANYTHING = HELL
KEY WORD: LAW – 32 x FAITH – 21 x FREE – 7 x
DATE: 51 A.D.
INTRODUCTION: The church at Galatia was composed of born-again people, people who had received Christ as personal Saviour, people who knew what it was to be regenerated, but they had become infatuated with the Old Testament legalism and had tried to add legalism to grace. In other words, they were saved, but they did not want to give up the old legalism; they wanted to lapse back into the observing of days, seasons, times, ritual, etc.
The Galatian church has been called “the church of the repaired veil.” Remember, the temple veil was torn from top to bottom by a miraculous unseen Hand when Jesus was crucified. This means that now all of us can have access to God without the legalism, without the temple worship, without the sacrifices, without the holy days, without the holy seasons, without the sacred occasions, etc. The Galatian people, however, wanted to repair the veil. They were saved, but they wanted to go back to the old worship. (Note to teacher: Bring to class a handkerchief or, better still, a piece of colored fabric. Let it represent the veil. The veil was made of three colors–purple, blue and red–because it represented the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. The red represents the fact that Jesus is man. The word “Adam” means “red,” so the red represents His humanity. The blue represents the fact that He is heavenly; He is God. Purple is a combination of blue and red, which means that Jesus was not only God and man, but He was also the God-man. Now, teacher, take this piece of material and tear it from top to bottom to show how the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom when Jesus was crucified. Then get some thread and sew it back up. This is what the Galatian people were trying to do.)
Let us notice some of the sins of the Galatians.
THEY HAD FALLEN FROM GRACE. Galatians 5:4, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Many people misunderstand the words, “fallen from grace.” They think that a person loses his salvation. Bear in mind, this book was not written to individuals; it was written to a church that had “fallen from grace.” What it means is this: The church had been preaching the doctrine of grace. They had fallen from that message to the doctrine of legalism. They were now preaching legalism. They had fallen from preaching grace. (Note to teacher: Use the example here of a person climbing some stairs. He goes up some stairs and then he falls down to the bottom. That is exactly what this church had done. They had started at the bottom where legalism was and they had gone up step-by-step until they had gotten to the top and were preaching grace. They fell to the bottom and were no longer preaching grace.)
THEY OBSERVED SPECIAL DAYS AND SEASONS.
Galatians 4:10-11, Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Their special days were done away with when the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom when Jesus was crucified.
Colossians 2:14‑17 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
We are told that all of this was nailed to the cross and was taken out of the way. (Note to teacher: You might build a little cross about the size of a person ‘s hand or bigger. You might take a piece of paper and write each one of these things on it: holy days, holy seasons, new moons, sabbath days, observance of meat, customs, etc. Then you might take a pin or a tack and “nail” those to the cross. All of those were nailed to the cross according to Colossians 2:14-17, and no longer were they to be observed. However, the Galatian people had gone back to observing these special days.)
III. THEY HAD GONE BACK TO GIVING SPECIAL TITHES, CALLING PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS, BY THE NAMES, “MASTER,” “RABBI,” “FATHER,” ETC.
Matthew 23:6‑11 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
Jesus condemns such practices in this passage. There was a day when the High Priest was above the people and the priests were above the common people. When Jesus died on the cross, He became our High Priest, and each Christian is now a priest. Each Christian can come to God for himself. There was a day when the High Priest alone could enter into the Holy of Holies. However, since the veil in the temple was rent in twain, we can all come boldly to the throne of grace. See Hebrews 4:16. No more do we call people by special titles, such as “Rabbi,” “Father,” Master,” etc. (Teacher, ask the class to tell you instances where a human is called “Rabbi,” “Father,” “Worshipful Master,” etc. All of these titles are unscriptural since Calvary.)
THEY ABSTAINED FROM MEATS. The Galatian people had gotten to the place where they would not eat certain meats. Notice I Timothy 4:1-3. In our generation there is no need for this. All of this was also nailed to the cross.
THEY RETURNED TO THE PRIESTHOOD. They looked up to the priests. They wanted the priests to wear royal garments again and to perform their early functions again. This also was unnecessary.
Hebrews 10:10‑14 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
CONCLUSION: This dispensation is the dispensation of the grace and love of God. No longer are we under the bondage of legalism! We have been freed from that, and now we have the joy of being bondservants. The word “bondservant” is a wonderful word. It is one who had served as a slave, whose servitude has ended, and now has volunteered to be a slave because of a love for the master. This is the kind of servant that God wants us to be! We are not under the old legalism; we are not slaves; we have been set free by the penalty Jesus paid on the cross. On the other hand, we do have the right to turn around and say, “Lord, I’ll serve You; I’ll be Your slave!”
Once there was a Negro girl on a slave block in the South. She was bitter because she did not want to serve as a slave. An old man kept bidding higher and higher for her services, and she became more bitter the higher he bid because she did not want to be a slave. Finally, he won the bidding and bought her to be his slave. She came to him, cursed, swore and said, “I hate to be your slave.” He looked at her and said, “Young lady, you don’t understand. I did not purchase you to make you my slave. I saw something in your face that made me want to set you free. You may go free. I bought you in order that you might.” The young lady began to weep. She looked up at the man and said, “Oh, sir, then I will be your slave forever!” This is what Christianity is all about in our dispensation. Let us not fall from grace or lapse into legality. Let us enjoy the grace of God and be His slave!
AN OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
PERSONAL CH. 1-2
DOCTRINAL CH. 3-4
PRACTICAL CH. 5-6
Chapter 1 – The Cross and DELIVERANCE from an evil world
Chapter 2 – The Cross and CRUCIFIXION.
Chapter 3 – The Cross and REDEMPTION from curse
Chapter 4 – The Cross and ADOPTION into Sonship
Chapter 5 – The Cross and it’s CONTINUED OFFENSE
Chapter 6 – The Cross and it’s PERSECUTIONS.
Paul, more than any other N.T. writer, sets forth the necessary role of every Christian as being a fighter.
As we approach this letter to the Galatians, we approach a letter of warfare. Paul was the founder of this church but was now witnessing the people slipping back into the same ceremonies and laws out of which they had gotten saved. In order to correct the problems of legalism and the perversion of the doctrine of salvation, Paul declares war on the legalists and begins to attack the heresies being embraced by misguided Christians.
Notice in this battle, the 3 major areas which Paul must defend in order to achieve a victory.
Paul’s ministry was constantly attacked and undermined by a group of Jewish legalists who believed and taught that there was more to salvation than just faith. To faith must be added the keeping of the law.
In the first two chapters, Paul offers 5 different proofs of his authority as an apostle.
His divine calling.
Gal 1:1‑2 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
Paul here plainly states two important facts: #1, he was an apostle. His enemies could easily say otherwise because an apostle was to have been a personal eyewitness of Christ and to have been personally chosen. So, he flirther adds fact #2; he was made an apostle, not by men but by Christ.
His divine instruction.
Gal 1:10‑12 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul here alludes to the fact that he was personally taught, not by man’ but by the resurrected Jesus Christ. He did not go to the other apostles and learn from them, but following his conversion, he spent 3 years of solitude in the Arabian desert when he was instructed by Christ. Gal 1:17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
His independence from the other apostles.
Gal 1:17‑18 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
His enemies accused him of riding on the coat tails of the apostles and changing their doctrines, but he plainly asserts that his doctrine came not from those apostles, but from God Himself.
His endorsement by the church.
Gal 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Paul is quick to bring up the fact that although he was handpicked by Christ, he was not placed above the local church! He made a trip to Jerusalem and stated several facts.
Nothing was added to his gospel by any of the men. Gal 2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
Also, the church recognized the fact of his apostleship to the Gentiles.
Gal 2:11‑12 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
Paul is not trying to belittle the apostle Peter, but is simply indicating the authority that had been entrusted to him by Christ. Peter had come to Antioch and was confusing many Christians by fellowshipping with the Gentiles until the Jews began to arrive and take notice. Then he separated himself from the Gentiles as if they were unclean and fellowshipped with the Jews. For this, Paul publicly rebuked Peter, whose rebuke Peter accepted.
Some may feel that Paul is wrong in defending himself, but please remember – he was an apostle. He wrote more of the New Testament than any other man. To reject the calling of Paul was to reject much of the New Testament. He fought, therefore, not for himself but for the vessel of the Holy Spirit.
HE DEFENDED HIS MESSAGE. (Gal. 3, 4)
The greatest argument of the Jewish legalists concerned circumcision. They stated that, since it was necessary for one to become a full-fledged Jew, it must also be necessary to become a child of God.
In chapters 3 and 4, Paul offers 4 convincing arguments against this false notion.
Gal 3:2‑3 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
He told them to think back to the time when they heard the gospel and got saved. Did they really get saved? Of course! And if they got saved by simple faith in Christ, how can they get more saved by getting circumcised, or less saved by refusing to do so?
Gal 3:6‑7 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Since Abraham was the father of the Jewish faith, Paul reminded these Galatians that Abraham had been accepted by God according to his faith BEFORE he was ever circumcised.
Paul is trying to teach them a fundamental truth about the Christian faith and dead religion – Circumcision was a ceremony necessary for a Gentile to become a Jew but not for a Gentile to become a Christian!
Baptism may be necessary to join some churches, or perhaps attending catechism or membership classes. Those things will make one a church member.
But salvation is the only thing that will get those church members to heaven!
Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Paul here reminds these people that if they were desiring to place themselves under the law, then they were also placing themselves under 100% obedience to the law, which was impossible! If they believed they were gaining spirituality by adding the law to their faith, what about the parts that they couldn’t obey? Did those violations subtract from their salvation? The answer is YES! Ifa person bases their salvation on the law, they will always fail to achieve salvation since the law demands perfection!
Gal 3:11‑14 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Paul finds it incredible that after Christ had delivered us from the curse or condemnation of the law, that anyone would want to place themselves back under that curse.
To better help these people understand the law, Paul then told them why the law existed. It did not exist as a means of providing salvation.
Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Gal 3:23‑25 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Paul describes the law as being our schoolmaster or tutor. In Roman society, a tutor was usually an educated slave who was given the responsibility for teaching, disciplining and protecting a child. The tutor was therefore, responsible for bringing the child to the state of being an adult.
Paul declares that the law was our tutor and was responsible for teaching us until we were adopted and declared adult sons.
Gal 4:4‑5 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Therefore, the law was simply a temporary protector and instructor until Christ came.
III. HE DEFENDED HIS LIBERTY. (Gal. 5-6)
He reminds them of their calling to be free.
Gal. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
This freedom, however, is not to do as we please and to become a slave to our flesh, but rather we have been freed from our flesh to be servants of Christ.
He reminds them of the danger of this liberty.
Gal. 5:4 – Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
This verse does not say that these Galatians would lose their salvation if they return to the law. It simply says that they would be removing themselves from God’s grace and would therefore stop growing in their Christian lives. You can’t please God by keeping the law because NO ONE can keep it. If you are disobedient in 1 part of the law – you are guilty of all!
He reminds them of the struggle for this liberty. There is a spiritual battle raging in the breast of every believer – the struggle between the flesh and the Holy Spirit. Gal. 5:17 – For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
He reminds them of the results of this liberty.
Gal. 6:1 – Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Gal. 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Gal. 6:10 – As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.