Reading today in Galatians 5. I found some interesting things. Here is the back story in Galatians; There were some Christian leaders teaching new converts that they had to be circumcised as a part of the “salvation” package…in other words, they were required to follow the law along with their faith in Jesus. Paul told them basically (I am paraphrasing) that getting circumcised was an act of legalism and by doing it, they would be required to follow the whole law (chapter 5 vs. 3). Then he uses a phrase that we often use to describe someone who has lost faith in Jesus, their salvation and chosen instead to “follow after the flesh”; in verse 4 he uses the phrase “fallen from grace” (I am reading the NKJV). I find this interesting that “fallen from grace” is used to describe people who put their faith in their actions rather than in the work of Jesus at the cross. They begin believing that their salvation comes through their works rather than what Jesus did. They believe that their actions can lead them to salvation…their “fall from grace” is believing that something they do or do not do can save them. If we could “do” something to be saved (other than simply believing on Jesus Christ and what He did at the cross) then we have fallen into legalism and “fallen from grace”. Then Paul goes on to use the phrase (in vs. 9) “a little leaven leavens the whole loaf”. Paul was saying, “a little legalism causes all of it to become legalistic”. Www, we have been using (for as long as I can remember) this phrase to describe situations of allowing a little sin or a small sin into our lives or our Christian communities. We have really been misusing this phrase. What if we were as serious about eliminating legalism as we are about eliminating “little” sins (or some sinners…by the way, there are no “degrees” of sin. If you allow one sinner “in” you have to allow them all in and by the way, we are all sinners). By the way, legalism is a sin…it is adding to the work of Grace.
Church should enhance our relationship with God; it should NOT be our relationship with God nor should it define our relationship with God.
Paul’s solution to legalism in Galatians is to allow the Spirit to work. If you continue to read through the chapter, verse 16 says, “…Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Verse 18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Today’s churches are not so obvious in their legalism. Most will not require circumcision; we do not really talk about that anymore. The requirements are different. There is an attitude of “blind obedience” to the church. Paul said in I Corinthians 11:1 (KJV), “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” That does not sound like “blind obedience”. If your gospel requires anything other than following Jesus and what the Bible says there is a good chance legalism has crept in.
The gospel is all Jesus.