4. Freedom in Faith: Galatians
In our pride, the message of Galatians draws us back to humble and life-giving reliance on Christ.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
The Gospel is offensive. It asserts that there is nothing we can do to earn or add to our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith alone. As time goes on, however, it can be easy to feel less needy; to begin relying on our own efforts; to take pride in our advancement. The message of Galatians draws us back to humble and life-giving reliance on Christ.
Along his missionary journey, the Apostle Paul brought the Gospel to people in the region of Galatia, where many were converted to follow Christ. A few years later, however, Paul learned that religious legalism had infiltrated the church. False teachers were claiming that obedience to Old Testament laws, such as circumcision, was necessary in addition to putting one’s faith in Christ.
Eager to restore the Galatians to the freedom of the Gospel, Paul reminds his readers that salvation is not about rule-keeping but about accepting God’s gift of grace! In our sin, there was nothing we could do to save ourselves, helplessly dependent upon Christ and his sacrifice. And just as the Christian life begins by simply responding to God in faith, so the whole of the Christian life is fueled by faith. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Paul questions (Galatians 3:3). Spiritual growth has nothing to do with self-propelled striving and everything to do with trusting God to work within us.
Paul looks back at the history of God’s salvation to show that God’s purpose has always been to create a family that relates to him on the basis of faith. Paul says Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, was made right with God because of his faith. He trusted in God’s promise to bless the nations through his offspring.
Then, God gave Israel his law. Its teaching instructed people on how to live in a relationship with God and conduct oneself as a member of his family. The law was never meant to communicate that someone could earn salvation with good works; rather, it helped people understand God and his ways and prepared them to receive the promised Savior. A standard of perfection, the law also highlighted humanity’s sin, proving the need for a savior.
When Jesus came, he fulfilled God’s law by perfectly loving God and others. Those who believe in him are clothed with Jesus’s life of perfect obedience to the law and set free to live in grace.
Do you find yourself ever striving to earn the approval of God? Maybe you think you can earn God’s favor with a long track record of quiet-times. Maybe you believe you can merit God’s presence with good behavior. Or maybe you’ve been taught the necessity of certain religious practices that are not actually grounded in scripture.
The Gospel declares that those in Christ are always and forever accepted by God! “For freedom Christ has set us free,” Galatians 5:1 declares, “Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The Gospel urges us to reject the burden of religious legalism and live freely in grace!
In case his reader might mistakenly take God’s grace as a license to sin, Paul emphasizes that Christ has set us free from sin to choose God’s way of life. To revert to our old ways only leads to feeling unfulfilled, lonely, and stagnant. But when we live God’s way, embracing his promises and his work within us, fruit comes into our lives! According to Galatians 5:22-23, this fruit looks like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Are you advancing in life by the power of God within you?
RESPOND: Take a moment to place your dependence on God rather than your own efforts, that you might live in freedom and bear fruit today.