The people of Galatia were much like our Christian culture today. They were influenced far more by the culture than by the words and teachings of Jesus. They had heard the truth and gave a superficial nod to Christ, but when left alone to live out their faith, they fell back to what was familiar to them rather than the truth. Paul had been there to disciple them in the truth of the gospel, what it meant and how to live it out. Then he left town, and within a short period of time, they reverted from faith in Christ to following old Jewish law. Legalism and grace are like oil and water; they do not mix. One leads to eternal life and the other to eternal damnation. Needless to say, Paul was ticked-off.
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain— if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 1:1-6)
When we live by the law, we live in the power of the flesh, which will never produce the righteousness we need to have fellowship with God. The fruit that we do produce would be for our glory and not that of God. It is short-lived.
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” It is by faith, apart from the law, that the Christ-follower lives to God’s glory and not our own” (Galatians 3:3).
There is a price to pay for distorting the gospel. God paid the ultimate price for us to be free from condemnation. He gave up his sinless Son to die a dreadful death so we could be with Him forever. Paul says in Galatians 1:9, “if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, ‘let him be accursed’” Accursed means to suffer God’s punishment in hell.
“To tamper with the gospel is always to trouble the church. You cannot touch the gospel and leave the church untouched, because the church is created and lives by the gospel. Indeed, the church’s greatest troublemakers (now and then) are not those outside who oppose, ridicule, and persecute it, but those inside who try to change the gospel.” ~ John Stott
When we hear the truth and believe the true gospel, we have the freedom and power to live life in a way that pleases God. With the Holy Spirit residing in all believers, we will be used by God to live and do things we never thought we could do.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-15).
As a child of God, we have a direct line of communication with God the Father. We can go to him at any time because God, through the Holy Spirit, lives in us. He comforts us in a way that the world cannot. He knows that we will struggle in this world. Jesus understands and promises us hope in the midst of all of our struggles. He teaches us how to suffer well, for His glory. He loves it when we pray and when we are so overwhelmed with pain and suffering that we have no words, the Holy Spirit prays for us.
Christians should be the most thankful people in the entire world for the blessings God has given us. Those who do not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus will never be able to experience true hope, true joy, and true love that goes beyond human understanding. As Christians, we are called to go to all the world and let our lights shine as we proclaim the Good News of Jesus. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mathew 5:14-16).