Paul’s epistle to the churches of Galatia is the classic argument against works-based religion. Although Judaism is in view, all false religions can be set against the Gospel of grace, in order to be found deficient. No one’s efforts to keep any set of rules will win favor with God. Salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, was what Paul delivered to these churches in Asia Minor. They were recipients of God’s grace, but false brethren arrived from Jerusalem with a different gospel that was no gospel at all. Paul’s letter was to persuade the Galatians to reject the teaching of the Judaizers.
The false gospel promoted by the party of the circumcision was: God’s grace to save…plus one’s works to keep the Law of God given through Moses. Stated another way, Christians needed to become Jews in order to be truly saved. Religious performance is a product of sinful flesh that pleases men but does not please God because it is not from God. The philosophies of men produce religions. Each one has people working to be justified before God by their works. Of course, every religion has different rules and different works to be done. In the end, no one knows whether they have done the right things or enough of the (presumably) right things.
The universal problem of humanity is sin. Sin is lawless rebellion against God, our Creator and Law-Giver. It is God’s Law that assures us that God in holy; and man is utterly corrupt. The Law even intensifies sinful flesh in its propensity to sin more. The Law of God was not given to Israel as a means of salvation nor as an attainable standard to work toward with efforts of compliance.
The Law of God was given to show the predicament that all sinners, Jew and Gentile, are in from conception in the womb. The right response to the reality of slavery to sin is, “Who then can be saved?” Paul wrote to show the successful means God employs to save His people from their sins. He also wrote to refute the claims of the Judaizers, while rebuking them for leading the Galatian church members astray.
The sinner walks by the flesh, thinking his works of the Law mean something to God. Even the born again need to be taught that their good works are produced by the Spirit of God, who is willing and doing His good pleasure from within the heart of the believer, whom He indwells. Thus, the catalyst in Paul’s argument to the Galatians is the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.
By sending the Spirit of Christ into the hearts of the elect redeemed, God produces a new creation. This happens when the sinner hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to him and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ so as to be saved. The saved sinner is justified by the merits of Christ, who shed His precious blood on the cross to redeem God’s chosen people. He receives justification before God by God’s grace, as manifest by the gift of faith granted to him.
Freed from the yoke of slavery, the new creature in Christ now walks in newness of life. This is the abundant life where grace abounds. It is the Holy Spirit-led life of faith. The indwelling Spirit guides the adopted child of God in the ways of God, as revealed in the Word of God. All the promises of God, for an imperishable inheritance reserved for the heirs of God, are “yes” and “amen” today in Christ Jesus.
Grace is not a license to sin. It is God’s work to employ His holy nation of royal priests to serve Him and one another in love. As the Christian grows in grace, he also grows up into spiritual maturity. It is the Spirit of truth employing the Word of truth that sanctifies the one being prepared for glory. As a vessel of God’s mercy, being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, our heavenly father disciplines His beloved children with a motive of love (Heb 12:4–11).
Man is ruined by sin. He is left with no will or ability to please God in his sinful flesh. The intention of his heart is only evil all the time; therefore, man is not good, nor is he righteous, nor does he seek after God. Rather, apart from Christ he hates God, being at enmity with God as he travels the wide way leading him to destruction.
In summary, we have two ways presented to us in Paul’s epistle to the churches of Galatia. One way is man’s speculation of how he might have right standing before a Holy God. The other way is God’s revelation of how God has done everything required by God to appease the wrath of God directed against the chosen people of God. One way is announced as good news. The other way is a lie from the father of lies who sends the children of the devil with the doctrine of demons to deceive God’s beloved.
In conclusion, Paul’s rebuke to the Galatians serves as a warning for Christians in every generation and all around the world to be sober and alert from the intrusion of those who sneak into the church to introduce destructive heresies. Christians must learn the Word; and hold fast to sound doctrine handed down to us by faithful brethren and our fathers in the faith who served God in their generation.
My dear reader, it is impossible for you to please God with your works originating in sinful flesh. One breach of the Law and you are guilty of the whole Law. You must not trust in yourself, nor your performance in the flesh to achieve anything with God….now or ever. He alone has done great things for us, in us, and through us. Our boast is in Jesus Christ alone because in Him alone do we have permanent access to the throne of grace. Let us draw near to receive mercy and grace in our time of need, which He alone can meet. The Galatians needed to hear this message from God through Paul and so do we…to the praise of His glorious grace.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 25, 2023