Today you should read: Galatians 4:8-20
The theme of the book of Galatians is God’s grace – that unconditional favor that He issues us when we come into a relationship with Him through Jesus. He saves us as we are and begins to make us into a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). He continues this process until we become like Jesus (Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:29).
One of the things God does is to free us from the legalism that the world and religion controls us by. In Paul’s letter, these new believers in Jesus were still holding on to some of the “law” – the requirements the Jews lived by. He reminds us in verse 5 that God sent Jesus to buy our freedom. Those of us who were slaves to the law – He’s freed and adopted us as His very own children.
What are some of those weights of legalism that can control us today? Legalism is when we treat our ideas and convictions the same as God’s laws and requirements.
- God’s Word is the supreme guide for our lives. We believe it and submit to it fully.
- Our convictions are decisions we make on how we live our lives based on principles from God’s Word (about things not directly addressed in Scripture).
- Preferences are simply things we prefer over other things
The danger comes when we treat the second or the third like the first. God’s Word is the standard – everything else submits to it. We can’t try and enforce our convictions, or worse yet our preferences, on others. That’s legalism.
Paul asks these believers a poignant question – Why would you want to go back to being slaves again like you were before you met Jesus (v.9)? They were trying to impress God with their spiritual piety (v.10). We can never do that! Our righteousness is because of Jesus’ merits alone.
False teachers were trying to convince them to turn on Paul (v.13-16) and live in legalism (v.17). Paul pleads with them not to listen to these men! He loves them (v.19)!
- In what ways do you practice legalism? Personally? Trying to control others with your convictions or preferences?
- How are you controlled by others’ legalism?
- God wants you to live in freedom and in holiness. These are not exclusive – they are heads and tails of the same coin.
By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor
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