A few years ago it was so exciting to see Bible believing churches celebrate with great enthusiasm 500 years of re-discovering the gospel. But the reformation itself has not ceased because Satan and men’s hearts love to twist either the law or the Gospel. Legalism, which seeks to add good works and faith for a right standing before God is deadly. In many churches, the Gospel is being compromised in various ways; Christ plus baptism, Christ plus church traditions, Christ plus cultural practices, Christ
plus dreams and visions which is depriving people of their freedom in Christ. Even we as believers might be tempted to bring an extra 15minute devotion or extra ministry as an offering for a right standing with God when we have sinned. We all need to uncover that masked enemy in our midst because Legalism can take away many fruitful years of growing in Christ.
It’s so good that the Bible can help unmask legalism for what it is.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he has even gone to the extent of using an allegory (ch 4) to call them back on track to the safety of the true Gospel. It’s in the Gospel of grace, God fulfilled His promise made to Abraham long ago; that the Messiah or greater Isaac would one day bear the curse
of the Law and give us the blessings of righteousness and the Spirit (ch 3). The Good News, that in Christ we are justified which means there’s no addition of traditions, cultural practices, ceremonies,experiences, good works, and even the law to have and maintain a right standing before God. It is the Gospel which says, “for freedom Christ has set you free” (Gal 5:1). Paul was so sure of this divine Gospel and the implications of departing from it that he pursued with all his heart to win the Galatians back.
In chapter 5 and verses 7 to 11, Paul unmasks the dangers of legalism. He compares the Christian life to a race. He describes legalism like somebody entering the arena, pushing the runners off course and hindering them (v7). The truth of the Gospel is what we hear, submit to and boast in and causes
fruitfulness in our lives. Legalism comes in and hinders our race. Paul, in v8, clearly tells the Galatians, “this persuasion is not from the one who calls you”. The source of legalism can never be the God of the Gospel, because He does not change His promises. The God of the Gospel has already decided that He will get the glory through the preaching of the Cross. In v9, Paul compares legalism to yeast which spreads its influence far and wide in a church. In v10, He describes legalism so serious that the person who is misleading the Galatians “will bear the judgement of God”.
In v11, Paul is clearing up something that the Judiazers falsely claimed. They most likely told the Galatians that, Paul too, preached circumcision. However, Paul never identified with this claim.Christ had revealed Himself to him the truth. Paul counted everything as rubbish compared to
knowing Christ. Paul says “if I preach circumcision why am I still persecuted? Why do I suffer at the hands of the Jews?”. The Jews would have gladly embraced faith and ceremonies. The world is always welcoming of such synergistic teachings. Adding faith and good works is contrasted to “the offence of the Cross” in v11.
The Jews loved signs and wonders, and their history was full of extra
ordinary deliverances. Whereas, Paul’s Gospel is that Jesus accomplished the greatest deliverance by becoming a curse on the cross. What a picture of weakness that would have been for them! However, there is another sense in which the Cross is an offense. Paul preached that, “there is none
righteous, not even one”. He preached that Christ alone lived the righteous life God demanded, He alone died and payed our ransom, He alone rose from the dead and has become the only way of Salvation. This is an offence and a stumbling block to the world around us even today. But Paul
boasted in this very Gospel, which is the power of God unto Salvation. Is this true Gospel our glory and boast? Not only when everyone agrees and appreciates it, but when its an offence to the majority of people around us. May God help us to battle Gospel compromise and boast in the glorious Cross.