As Andrew Farley would say, we are suckers for religion. We like the predictable confinement of rules over being governed by the Spirit and living by faith.
When Paul was telling the Galatian church about “another gospel” (Gal.1:6-9), he was addressing sincere Jesus-loving Christians who were trying to mix the Law with grace. And this bewitchment was so serious in his mind that he later said they had become estranged from Christ and had fallen from grace (Gal.5:4).
Paul often quoted the Old Testament. However, he would put a “but” after the quote, meaning something changed under the New Covenant.
For instance, in 1 Cor.2:9-10, he quotes the Old Testament by saying, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him,” then follows this with a “BUT” in verse 10, saying that the Spirit IS revealing these things to us now. Yet, how often do we hear Christians quoting verse 9 without the modifying verse 10? This is precisely how we live in a confusing mixture that only produces religious bondage.
Jesus came to accomplish two things. First, to bury us under the Law (“be perfect, cut of your hand, pluck out your eye, sell all you have”), so that He could establish us under the New Covenant (“crucified with Christ, dead to sin, new creation, seated in heavenly places, righteousness of God, adopted sons“). The second reason He came was to show us the Father and be our only standard for living a normal Christian life.
But when we try to live by what Jesus was trying to bury us under, we become foolish Galatians. We identify ourselves by our bondage instead of our freedom in Christ.
I lived like a foolish Galatian Christian for over twenty years, following what I was taught by my foolish Galatian teachers in my foolish Galatian church. I can tell you it never produced the life and freedom that Jesus paid for, or what God promises in His Word. Something was seriously wrong with what I thought I was supposed to believe.
The answer was simple but hard to embrace in my religious pride. I had to repent and believe the GOOD news. And it REALLY is good news!
So how do we know when we’re living like “foolish Galatians?” I’m glad you asked! Here is a very partial list of indicators that I have uncovered since my reformation.
You know you’re a foolish Galatian…
When you think God is still dealing with your sin instead of forming His Son in you (Gal.4:19-20)
When you think salvation can ever be obtained by anything other than grace through faith
When you think salvation can ever be lost by anything other than unbelief
When you think that the Holy Spirit would ever leave you (quoting Ps.51:11) instead of believing God when He said He would never leave you nor forsake you (Heb.13:5).
When you think you have to “get right” before you can come to God (Ps.24:3-4) instead of coming confidently to God to get right (Heb.4:16)
When you relate to God as a dutiful slave rather than as a beloved son
When your Christianity is based on sin-management and behavior modification instead of growing in grace and receiving and giving away God’s love
When you try to live by the Ten Commandments instead of by the Great Commandment (Mt.22:37-39; Mk.12:30-31)
When you prefer rules and outward controls over manifesting the fruit of the Spirit
When you don’t interpret the Old Testament through the lens of what changed with Christ’s finished work on the Cross
When Job, Elijah, Moses or any Old Covenant saints are your examples instead of Christ
When you think it’s okay to judge sinners instead of yourself (Mt.7:1-5; 1 Cor.5:12)
When you see God as being up in heaven instead of in you
When your prayers are more about begging God instead of believing God
When you act like a victim of your circumstances like the rest of the world rather than as an overcomer in Christ
When you are struggling for victory instead of living from victory
When your Christian experience is more like bondage than freedom.
I will end with Paul’s statement to his foolish Galatians. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal.5:1)