“We …know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Gal. 2:15-16)(NIV)
“Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” (Gal. 3:23-25)(NIV)
“The Magna Charta and Other Mysteries.”
If ever there were a blueprint for freedom in Christ, Galatians is it. The book has been called the “Magna Charta of Christian liberties” and its core message is one of emancipation from the constraints of the law, written by one of the biggest (former) legalists who ever lived. In this book, Paul reminds the churches in Galatia that he was “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” until he was set apart by God and called by grace to preach the message of salvation (Gal. 1:14-15). Paul, a former Pharisee who once tortured Christians for breaking with Jewish law, makes clear that Christ came to break down walls – not to erect them. He writes that God gives us His Spirit and works miracles among us not because we observe the law, but because we believe what we have heard about its Author (Gal. 3:5). It is here that the message of salvation takes on its greatest air of mystery and wonder: faith in Christ alone, not anyone’s set of laws (Gal. 2:16) opens the door to acceptance by God.
I feel a strong connection to the book of Galatians. Perhaps because I spent my formative years in ecclesiastical and educational environments that put undue emphasis on the “legalities” of the Christian faith. There were the tee-totalers and the caffeine-eschewers, the don’t dancers and the holy (not rock-n) rollers. This heavy-handed law-keeping made for a lot of grace-less living. Now, I am not advocating an amoral free-for-all. After all, the Gospel is not something that “man made up” (Gal. 1:11), and there are consequences for sin. But if righteousness can be gained through the law alone, then Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2:21)! For what precious mystery is there in keeping fast to a dusty set of edicts? When God transcends space and time to inhabit our plane and give His life for ours, asking only that we accept His sacrifice, there is wonder indeed.
Heavenly Father, I need to ask myself: am I trying to win the approval of men, or of God? (Gal. 1:10) Is my faithful law-keeping an effort to show you my commitment to your commandments, or an effort to keep up with my neighbors in the pew? I must remember that you do not judge by external appearance (Gal. 2:6); your interest is in the condition of our hearts – and our devotion to You. Remind me often of the freedom I have in Christ your Son (Gal. 2:4), and make my life a testament to the wonderful, mysterious liberty of living as one of Your own. Amen.
From the archives. Originally published December 1, 2009.