If all the requirements of our sin were nailed to the Cross (Colossians 2:14), and it is by Grace (unmerited, unearned) through faith that we are saved, and it is in the depth of our sin (Colossians 2:14, Romans 5:8) that our sins are forgiven, and if we are placed in right standing before God by believing in his Gospel of Grace (Galatians 3:11, 12), why do we then demand sacraments of people in order to say they are saved?
This is all I want to ask of you: did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying [the requirements of] the Law, or was it the result of hearing [the message of salvation and] with faith [believing it]? – Galatians 3:2, AMP
Galatians is a mind-blowing study of the unmerited Grace of God. In reality, all of Paul’s writings are, but Galatians, along with other chapters like Romans 14 really solidify the central theme of Paul’s message. You can’t earn salvation.
You can’t buy it, you can’t dress good enough to get it, or keep it. You can’t pray hard and long enough (even though that is a really good thing to do!), you can’t follow enough rituals or patterns, or formulas, or say all the right words. You simply can’t. Simon the Sorcerer should have taught us this. Jesus tried to teach us this.
“They worship Me in vain [their worship is meaningless and worthless, a pretense],
Teaching the precepts of men as doctrines [giving their traditions equal weight with the Scriptures].“- Mark 7:7, AMP
Galatians 1:6-7 is a highlight of Paul’s attitude as he writes this book.
I am astonished and extremely irritated that you are so quickly shifting your allegiance and deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different [even contrary] gospel; 7 which is really not another [gospel]; but there are [obviously] [b]some [people masquerading as teachers] who are disturbing and confusing you [with a misleading, counterfeit teaching] and want to distort the gospel of Christ [twisting it into something which it absolutely is not]. Galatians 1:6-7, AMP
Paul expresses heavy emotion, that there are Christian teachers who are taking the message of Grace and replacing it with another Gospel, which truly, is NOT the Gospel.
It is here that Paul goes on to give one of the most dire messages he has to offer. “If we or even an angel from heaven comes and preaches to you something we haven’t already told you, let him be accursed…if anyone is preaching a different Gospel, let them be condemned to destruction.” Galatians 1:8-9
The question is this; Are you being taught to obey sacraments, rituals, formulas, dress codes, steps, actions, works, in order to become saved and/or to maintain salvation? How long is the rulebook, and can you find the items in the rule book in Scripture, and correctly interpreted through the New Covenant?
Paul asks, after declaring the Galatians were bewitched (tricked) into following another gospel, in Galatians 3:3;
Are you so foolish and senseless? Having begun [your new life by faith] with the Spirit, are you now being perfected and reaching spiritual maturity by the flesh [that is, by your own works and efforts to keep the Law]?
In Galatians 3:5 Paul asks you, did God give you His Marvelous Spirit by your works and efforts to keep laws and ordinances (traditions), or did He do it because you believed in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and trusted in His Sacrifice?
Were you placed in right standing before God by obeying a dress code, a health code, a prayer length code, a ritual code, a number of services attended a week code or were you justified before God by having Faith that He paid the price for your sin? (Colossians 2:14)
So then those who are people of faith [whether Jew or Gentile] are blessed and favored by God [and declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with Him] along with Abraham, the believer. – Galatians 3:9, AMP
Are we somehow made ‘more right‘ than others by obedience to certain aspects of the Law that we are told we have to hold on to? Just today I saw a social media post where a person claimed to be the “True Church”, referencing their denomination, which by the statement says that all other Christians are not True Christians because they don’t hold to the same rituals and standards as that denomination.
That particular denomination claims to have the only revealed Truth – all others are sincere, but sincerely lost. That 2,000 years of Bible Study was all wrong, and since 1945, they got it right. But this same group holds so desperately to the ordinances of the law. That you must perform in ritual fashion, that you can only be baptized one way, in one order, with certain words being said, and if words are missed, skipped or out of order, your baptism is of no effect.
They cling to the ceremonial law, like Deuteronomy 22:5 (saying women in pants are harlots and lost) while at the same time saying only the Moral law (There are Ceremonial, Civil and Moral Mosaic laws) stays in the New Testament, but ignore the moral laws surround that very chapter.
That isn’t a criticism, but it exaggerates an out of balance message. And Paul nailed the coffin to this way of thinking, that we can cling to the law for justification. That somehow holding on to certain practices makes us ‘more holy’ than people who do not. (Read Romans 14 to understand the difference between personal conviction and global Christian requirements.)
For all who depend on the Law [seeking justification and salvation by obedience to the Law and the observance of rituals] are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed (condemned to destruction) is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, so as to practice them.” 11 Now it is clear that no one is justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing] before God by the Law, for “The righteous (the just, the upright) shall live by faith.” 12 But the Law does not rest on or require faith [it has nothing to do with faith], but [instead, the Law] says, “He who practices them [the things prescribed by the Law] shall live by them [instead of faith].” 13 Christ purchased our freedom and redeemed us from the curse of the Law and its condemnation by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs [crucified] on a tree (cross)”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might also come to the Gentiles, so that we would all receive [the realization of] the promise of the [Holy] Spirit through faith. – Galatians 3:10-14, AMP
Paul said in Galatians 2:21 that he does not frustrate, or ignore the grace of God, because if he became righteous through obedience and observance of rituals and ordinances (law) then Christ’ death would have been in vain, for nothing and of no use.
If Paul said that we are under a curse for attempting to seek righteousness by the law, then legalism is a curse! Thinking sacraments instead of Christ’ sacrifice will save you is condemnation, in that you are not having FAITH in the works of Christ, but of yourself.
For it is bygrace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. – Ephesians 2:8-9 AMP
Brothers, sisters, there are so many places in Scripture that teach obeying rituals and sacraments is antithetical to the message of Christ! It always creates self-righteousness (Matthew 23) and an attitude that you can be rude, mean, spiteful, aggressive and harsh to those who do not measure up to your standards.
You must rest in Faith, and when you have that faith, and the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, then obedience to certain things comes easy, and your testimony to those around you will shine out to them. What you have will be wasted and you won’t have to demand it of people. (Legalism)
If you have stuck with me this long, I want to say there are absolutely things we MUST do for Jesus. We must be a witness to His grace, and we must be obedient to His Word, and His Commandments, we must SHARE His Word.
But those are the fruits of His Spirit, an outflow of having His Grace, not the way in which you GET His Spirit or His Grace. There are some who have crept in among the Faith, who would spy out your freedom and then attempt to drag you back into bondage to rules and ordinances. (Galatians 2:4)
Flee from them every bit as much as you flee from ‘anything goes’ preachers. Jesus gave us commandments to follow, and we must. But to follow other men and their rules is equally tragic to your faith!
I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. – John 13:34, AMP
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. – John 15:12
If you love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15
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How do you find the balance? Knowing that your works don’t save you, but also knowing a certain amount of works is required to show you’re saved. It becomes difficult not to feel that it’s performance based. Lifelong struggle here!
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LaTisha – this is definitely a struggle for many, me as well. There is a balance though, both in mentality and practice.
First, are you doing ‘works’ to measure up? Does your involvement in church depend on you performing certain ways? In my old church, if they didn’t see you running around and worshipping hard enough, obeying the dress standards and logging your prayers (sign in book at the church where you were supposed to sign in for prayer every day) then you wouldn’t be used in singing, etc.
If your works are to measure up, to earn grace, to please the pastor, then it is legalism and out of balance.
I’m a parent, and one great example is gifts I give my children. I would never stop giving the gift of my love to my children because on a given day they didn’t ‘perform’ well enough. My daughter will feel no less love from me on a day she did poorly in school. Her performance doesn’t change my love.
On the other hand, if you rest assured in faith, that Jesus Christ gives you that same love regardless of your performance, and you then, in honor of His love go on to do ‘works’ such as serving others, loving others, holding standards or convictions for yourself, not in self-righteousness but quietly and humbly, you are in balance with what He wants from us.
Jesus didn’t demand anything of you. He came to set an example that we would follow. Paul did the same thing when he said Imitate Me as I Imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1) That ‘as I’ is a stipulation that means, while I’m following Christ, imitate my example. He didn’t demand obedience to sacraments and works.
James said in James 2:18, “I’ll show you the evidence of my faith by my works.” Works are an outflow and outcome of your faith. Works are not what proves your worth to other people, nor is it a measuring stick of your spirituality, nor do you ‘get saved’ or ‘get faith’ by works.
Bottom line for me is this: If I accept that Christ died for my sins, and he took all the punishment away from me for my sins, then I better go do my part in loving people the way He did. Not because I’ll be lost His love if I don’t, but because I HAVE His love I do those works.
It makes living for God so refreshing!
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Hey dividinghisword, I enjoyed your introduction to Galatians. I am also walking through Galatians, please check it out. If you enjoy it, then please share it. http://www.beardedtheology.wordpress.com
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Hey there! Thank you stopping by and commenting. I’m.looking forward to reading your posts.
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