In Part 5 of our study, we focused on what it meant to be a child of God. We learned that the foundation for being a child of God is coming to know God and being known by Him. We found that relationship with God is what distinguishes the Christian faith.
Before we continue, there is a need for a brief summary.
In chapter one, the Galatians are caught up in a false gospel. This false gospel is causing the Galatians to question their salvation and faith (see Gal. 1.6-24). Paul reminds them they are justified by faith in Jesus (see Gal. 2.11-21). Then Paul instructs the Galatians about the implications of their faith in Jesus and how it is to be lived out (see Gal. 3.1-14). In chapter three, Paul demonstrates to the Galatians that through their faith, they have become children of God and heirs to God’s promise to Abraham (see Gal. 3.15-29). The false gospel caused the Galatians to forget their status as children of God and caused them to turn back from God’s grace. They returned to the things they once sought before they believed, which was obeying the law to perfection (see Gal. 4.1-20). As children of God, the Galatians were to rely upon God’s grace given to them through their faith. They were to no longer be enslaved to obeying the law; they were to live by faith relying upon God’s grace (see Gal. 4.21-31).
Paul’s argument comes to a climax here. We ended Part 5 with a question: what are the implications for being a child of G0d? Paul’s answer: freedom.
In verse one, Paul explains that as children of God through faith, they can live in the freedom of God’s grace. Paul encourages the Galatians to stand firm in their faith and not submit to the power the law once had over them.
The Galatian church was facing a struggle because of the false gospel they were beginning to believe. The following verses (verses 2 through 12) cause me to think that this false gospel had to do with circumcision. Why else would Paul make his argument against circumcision here?
At that time, the thought was that circumcision is what showed a man to be righteous, but Paul sees this action as a man-based work, not faith. This is the reasoning for Paul’s whole argument throughout his letter. He is reminding the Galatians that they are to live by faith, not by works. Consequently, if they live by faith, they will be counted as righteous just like their father, Abraham back in Genesis 15.
In verses two through four, Paul demonstrates that if the Galatians chose to obey the law by the act of circumcision, they are obligated to obey the whole law. As we’ve mentioned previously, it was impossible for one to obey the whole law perfectly. The Galatians who chose circumcision were essentially throwing away the righteousness that God had given them through faith.
Paul commands the Galatians to stop trying to obey the law and to seek to live by faith through the Spirit of God. The Galatians had received the Spirit by faith. In verse five, Paul is encouraging them to wait for that day when they will be counted as righteous before their Maker. He concludes his argument in verse six by leveling the playing field. The thing that counted the most was not circumcision or uncircumcision but “only faith working through love.”
Verses seven through twelve, consist of Paul’s dislike toward the ones who brought in the false gospel of circumcision. Paul encourages the Galatians in verse seven. He tells them that they were running their race well. Then he asks them why they had stopped and started going the wrong way. He brings a challenge to the Galatians to forget obeying the law to perfection and to seek to live in God’s grace through faith. Paul wants them to stop living under the burden of perfection and to start living in the freedom of God’s grace.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Paul challenges the Galatians to live by faith, meaning to live in the freedom of God’s grace.
As a perfectionist, this is so freeing and challenging. I spent my first year as a new Christian in the perfection mode. I tried to do all the things I knew I was supposed to do. I had heard that “my chains were gone, and I’d been set free.” The more I tried to find that freedom, the more weighed down I became. Then I learned that Christianity wasn’t focused on rules; it was focused on a relationship. A relationship with God. I didn’t have to earn my way to meet Him. Jesus earned my way for me.
I had fallen into a false gospel. I thought that the common expectations of a Christian were what distinguished them apart from the world, but it was a relationship with God that made them different. It wasn’t my actions that made me good; it was coming to know a God who slowly changed my heart and brought forth good actions. It wasn’t my efforts; it was God working in me.
This makes me question: are there works that we commonly pursue that we think add to our righteousness? Like going to Sunday school AND big church. Like going to church on Wednesdays. Being extra generous in our tithing for the month. All these examples and probably other examples are good things. They are good actions, but if we are basing them toward our righteousness, then we should evaluate our motives. It has to do with the motives of our hearts. Are we doing this because it is good and glorifying to God? Or are we doing this because it looks good and adds to our reputation?
Lastly, there is a concept of love that I don’t want to miss pointing out. In verse six, Paul says that faith working through love is what matters. Later in verses thirteen and fourteen, he commands the Galatians to serve one another through love for loving their neighbor as themselves fulfilled the whole law.
How should one live in the freedom offered by Christ? They should live by love. Is it that our faith is truly working if we are seeking to genuinely love? If you look at Jesus and His ministry, the answer to this question seems to be “yes.” He showed love to the poor, to children, to women, to the sick, and to His disciples.
If we are to live by love, it looks like serve one another and counting others as more important than ourselves (see Philippians 2.3-4). When asked, Jesus stated that the two greatest commandments were (1.) to love God and (2.) to love your neighbor (Matthew 22.34-40).
The challenge this week is to learn to live out your faith by living a life of love. Of course this can take different forms, but the point is to learn to demonstrate the love to others that God has demonstrated to you. He offers us grace; we are to give that grace to others.
Photo Credit: Mikhail Pavstyuk