Of stepping on shore— and finding it heaven,
Of taking hold of a hand —and finding it God’s hand,
Of breathing new air — and finding it celestial air,
Of feeling invigorated — and finding it immortality,
Of passing from storm and tempest — to an unbroken calm,
Of waking up — and finding it home.
As we approach the Epistle to the Galatians, we begin a study of Freedom vs Legalism.
Freedom is perhaps the one over-powering desire above all desires that characterized our founding fathers. It was not security and it was certainly not the desire for the control of big government nor a state religion over us that has drawn us together as immigrants from around the world for the past four centuries; but the burning desire for freedom from governmental and ecclesiastical tyranny to pursue our dreams and happiness.
The Revolutionary War brought an end to British domination and taxation without representation and freed us to set up our own Republic with our own God-inspired Constitution. It is a masterpiece for sinners, complete with all its checks and balances.
It was not long before we awoke to the fact that as long as some of our citizens were slaves, we were not truly a free nation. It took the awful, bloody Civil War of brother fighting against brother to bring an end to slavery. Of course, that did not bring an end to racial intolerance. That has been the battle of the past century. Though the laws are now in place to ban racial discrimination, the only complete and permanent solution to this curse is a heart changed by the power of God. Notice, I did not say religion. Religion is a major cause of bondage and intolerance. However, when one meets Jesus Christ and is overwhelmed by His love for us, it spills out to others in genuine love and acceptance, regardless of whether if it is reciprocated.
Though our Constitution’s Bill of Rights declares our freedoms, the search for true freedom continues. Through the past 150 years, women have sought for and found their freedom to be equal with men, as they should be. In spite of the gains that they made in that struggle, many have lost a freedom and respect and joy that they once had being full-time wives and mothers, the most influential position in all the world.
“Free Love” “Flower Power”
The ’60’s was a decade of tremendous change in America. It was a decade when America was exchanging beauty for ugliness and law and order for anarchy. The Hippie movement clamored for freedom from The Establishment. They sought to change the world with “flower power” and “free love”. The abortionists fought and won their freedom to kill unwanted babies.
At the same time that hippies were seeking their freedom from the establishment, a movement for academic freedom was stirring among teachers. Over the years this so called “academic freedom” has been misused by some to force their far-out liberal agenda on unsuspecting students who want to prepare for life in the real world.
Certainly, as a pastor, I value the freedom to preach whatever I believe God leads me to preach from His Word. I loathe the thought of a preacher giving the people what he believes they want to hear. As an American citizen I value my freedom infinitely more than the financial security government provides me as a senior citizen. Lions and bears are secure in zoos, but they have no freedom to be what God created them to be.
It’s interesting, but sad, that though men boast about their freedom, most have never known nor experienced true freedom. In the articles to follow in this series, we will show from Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians that true freedom is found only in Christ Jesus.
Since the ’60’s man has been talking about the freedom of his “new morality”, but he has no idea that he is under the bondage of sin and Satan. He prides himself on his “free speech”, but unless he is a Spirit controlled Christian, the only freedom he has is to pour forth foolishness. Proverbs 12:23 “The heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” He claims he is for “free love” when actually it is just a cloak for selfishness and lust. As the Israelites were described in Exodus 1:14 and 2:23 living in bitter bondage as slaves down in Egypt, so Jesus describes the lost in John 8:34 as being in bondage to sin.
Man in the depths of his soul, knowing he is created by God and must one day face a holy God and be condemned for his sins, is incurably religious; as through fear of death he attempts to atone for his sins by the legalism of religious ceremony and good works. In Hebrews 2:14-15 we learn that Jesus, the Son of God, became flesh that He might die for our sins and deliver us from a lifetime of the fear of death and the bondage of vain religion.
THE BONDAGE OF THE CEREMONIAL LAW
Though Israel was freed from Egypt, they soon found themselves in bondage to a tedious, difficult to keep, ceremonial law. With its details about Sabbath keeping and animal sacrifices for sin and its many detailed laws and prohibitions, it became a heavy load for Israel to bear. Peter in Acts 15:10 counseled the early church to avoid putting this heavy load upon the gentile converts. “Now therefore, why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples (the gentile converts) which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
Old Testament saints, such as David, did not consider God’s laws as bondage. David said in Psalm 119:97 “Oh, how love I Thy Law. It is my meditation all the day.” What was he meditating on? He was meditating on the promised Messiah and Saviour who would one day come as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The ceremonial Law wonderfully pictured that promised Redeemer. It was David’s faith in that promised Saviour that saved David and other Old Testament saints.
So it is with Christians in this New Testament Church Age. We who have trusted Christ for our righteousness love God’s moral law and desire to keep it, even though sometimes we fail and need to confess our sins and short-comings to God. I John 1 is a wonderful chapter to read and hide in our hearts. It shows us how to live a clean, pure life and what to do when we fail the Lord. Thank God, that according to II Corinthians 5:21 even though we keep God’s Law imperfectly, God sees us clothed in the perfect robe of Christ’s righteousness if we have put our trust in Him.
Old Testament Israel was promised God’s blessing in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 if they would keep God’s Law. They were also warned in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 and chapter 30 of God’s curse if they failed to keep it. That bondage of the Mosaic Law continued until Jesus died on the cross and the veil in the Temple was supernaturally torn in two from top to bottom, signaling the end of the Old Testament ceremonial system. Christ is now the fulfillment of God’s Law of Righteousness and all who put their trust in Him are declared righteous through God’s act of justification fully explained in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
For unbelieving Israel, as well as for every gentile who rejects Christ as Messiah and Saviour, the bondage of legalism continues, as Jesus explained in John 8:32-36. Those unbelieving Jews in Paul’s day were the Judaizers who followed him wherever he preached the Gospel. They insisted that the new converts needed to continue living under the Law of Moses, thus confusing the young Christians. These were the enemies of the Gospel and the enemies of Paul who tried to destroy him and his influence over the people wherever he went. You will read of Paul’s struggle with them, especially in Galatians and I and II Corinthians. They did everything they could to try to destroy Paul’s reputation and influence over the early Church. They even stoned him on one occasion, leaving him for dead; but he recovered and continued his difficult ministry plagued by their opposition.
THE BONDAGE OF CARNALITY
To be carnal is to be controlled by our sinful flesh nature rather than by the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer. It is to quench and reject the conviction of the Spirit when we do wrong. It is to say yes to Satan and no to God. It is an extremely dangerous position for the Christian and he is subject to serious consequences in this life. To be controlled by the flesh and Satan is to be in bondage to the world system, our flesh nature and Satan himself. In Galatians 1:4 Paul declares that he is writing his Epistle to deliver us from the oppression, domination and power of this present evil world system.
The carnal Christian, though bought with the price of Christ’s blood, continues to live his life as though Christ did not matter. He boasts of “his freedom in Christ to do whatever he pleases” but he is actually attempting to live his life in freedom from Christ and from His Word, the Bible. He wants nothing to do with Bible preaching that cuts against his grain and he seeks preachers who give him what he wants to hear. He hasn’t the foggiest idea of Christ’s deliverance from sin. Preachers who preach this diluted, weak gospel are described in II Peter 2.
Is a carnal Christian saved? No one but God knows for sure. Titus 1:16. It is our responsiblity to so live for Christ that we give no one any reason for questioning our salvation. Read II Peter 1:1-11 on this.
Recorded in John 8:32 and 36 Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees and to us says, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free… If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Jesus is declaring that true freedom is only found in knowing Him through His Word, the Bible. To ignore and reject Jesus and His truth, is to remain in bondage to sin and Satan.
What prompted the Apostle Paul to write to the Galatians about freedom? In Acts 13 and 14 we learn that Paul and his missionary partner Barnabas had evangelized the Galatian area, establishing churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia. On their return trip to Jerusalem, they returned to these churches, spending more time strengthening each of them.
Judaizers, who followed Paul wherever he went, were misleading the people; insisting that these young gentile Christians needed to be circumcised and keep the Jewish ceremonial law, including observance of the Sabbath.
This problem came to a head and forced the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem to settle this issue once and for all. That summit meeting is recorded in Acts 15. After listening to all sides, James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, concluded that these gentile believers in Christ did not have to observe the Jewish ceremonial law, including circumcision and the Sabbath observance. This did not stop the Judaizers who continued their vicious attacks against Paul throughout his life.
Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to deal with three things. In chapter 1 and 2 he established his credentials as a true Apostle of Christ. In chapters 3 and 4 he established grace alone as the only way of salvation. In chapters 5 and 6 he makes it clear that Christians saved by grace are not only delivered from this present evil world system; but because we have Christ, we no longer need the ceremonial law. It was our school master to bring us to Christ. Now that we are Christians, the school master is no longer needed.
I challenge you to trust Christ and cling to Him and reject anyone who would attempt to teach you any further requirements to be a true Christians. Jesus and His Word is all you need. If you are trusting Christ alone for salvation, His Holy Spirit lives in your heart. You need not seek for Him, nor for any experience with the Holy Spirit. If you are surrendered to Christ, His Spirit will fill (control) you. If you will feed on His Word, the Bible; His Spirit will affirm when you are hearing truth and will warn you when you are hearing error.
The Truth of God’s Word will bring you freedom. The error of Satan will bring you into bondage. My prayer is that this web site will help you recognize truth from error so that you can experience the full freedom Christ offers you. For more on The Sabbath, go to my SABBATH link on this site.
A man was working in his garage. He was the kind of person who did not like to be interrupted while working on a project. Knowing this, his wife walked into the garage and stood quietly at his side for several minutes, waiting for the proper time to speak.
At last her husband looked up, the signal that she was now free to say what was on her mind. Very calmly, without a trace of panic, she said, “The house is on fire.”
There definitely is a time to ignore the customary polite social graces and bluntly sound the alarm in an emergency.
This was one of those crisis times for Paul. False teachers were constantly confusing and corrupting the young converts in the Galatian region whom Paul had won to Christ. So Paul begins his Epistle to the Galatians by getting right to the point. Listen to him as we read Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him who called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel: which is not another; but there are some who would trouble you and pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel unto you other than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. We’ve warned you before. Let me warn you again. If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which you received from us, let him be accursed.”
The Apostle Paul was constantly being hounded by the Judaizers from Jerusalem who were trying to bring his converts back into the legalism of Judaism. They tried to kill Paul by stoning him at Lystra, but God strengthened him to escape and recover.
The major approach the Judaizers used was to try to discredit Paul by claiming he was not a true Apostle of Christ. After all, Paul was not one of the twelve Apostles that had walked with Christ and learned from Him before His crucifixion and resurrection.
Nevertheless, Paul was a special called Apostle of Christ. He had met the risen Christ who confronted him on the road to Damascus. The story of his conversion is found in Acts 9 and it is exciting to say the least. The Lord Jesus gave him three years of intensive training in the deserts of Arabia concerning the Gospel of the grace of God and personally called and commissioned him to be His Apostle to the Gentiles. He had just as much authority as Peter or any of the other Apostles. Furthermore, his Gospel of Grace, inspired of God, fit in perfectly into the inspired Scriptures. So when you read Paul’s writings you are reading Scripture that has just as much authority as anything that Jesus taught in the Gospels. Why? Because Paul received his Gospel directly from Jesus.
Those false teachers who despise Paul’s Gospel of grace today, are as dangerous as the Judaizers who tried to discredit Paul and his inspired writings.
The Roman Catholic view is that The Church wrote the Bible and these apostles who wrote were servants of The Church. Therefore, they reason, anything that The Church taught in the past or is teaching today has as much weight and authority as the Bible itself. That includes the traditions passed down through the centuries.
However, Paul was not an apostle of the Church. He was an Apostle of the risen Lord Jesus Christ TO the Church. So when Paul wrote by inspiration of God, the Gospel of Grace in Romans and Galatians and other Epistles, he was teaching the Gospel of Christ.
Paul taught in Galatians 1:3-4 that the Gospel is found in Christ and with that Gospel is found true freedom from sin and from the corruption of this present evil world system.
In that Gospel is found freedom from the curse of the Mosaic Law according to Galatians 3:13. Jesus took that curse for us by hanging on “the tree” (the cross).
In that Gospel is found freedom from the power of our sinful self nature, we learn in Galatians 5:13. The fifth chapter goes on to teach how Christians can walk under the control of Christ’s Spirit and thus find deliverance from the power of the flesh nature.
Of course, no Christian lives the Christian life perfectly, I John 1 teaches us. However, as we confess our sins to God, He forgives us and cleanses us, restoring the fellowship that was broken by sin, and enables us to walk in obedience to Him.
God help us to be grounded in the doctrine of salvation so that we bring glory to God by our lives. May God protect us from ever being led astray by a false teacher or even by an angel who would appear to us and pervert the Gospel of Christ. May we be anchored firmly in the Gospel of God’s grace that delivers from the power and the consequences of sin.
The problem of false doctrine creeping into the church will always continue to require constant vigilance and exposure to the end of the Church Age. Because such preaching is considered unloving and judgmental, it is rare today. Hence, false teachers continue to proliferate in these last days, just as Paul warned in many of his epistles, including II Timothy 3:13 and 4:1-5.
Paul had a deep jealousy and fear for the Church. II Corinthians 11:1-15. He was also amazed and shocked how quickly the Galatian Church was abandoning his Gospel of Grace by being drawn into the confusion of trusting law and grace for salvation. Such a gospel is no gospel at all. Instead it is deadly poison. Take a glass of pure water and add only one drop of deadly poison and the entire glass of water becomes deadly poison. It is perverted and kills. That was the problem in the Galatian church.
Satan, our chief enemy, is behind all this false doctrine. His methods of working in the church are exposed in II Corinthians 11:3, 13-15. He was at work in Old Testament times as Jeremiah 5:30-31 describes. Jesus predicted false teachers during His ministry on earth as mentioned in Matthew 24:24. The spirit of Anti-Christ has been at work in this world for 2000 years. This arch enemy of Christ will one day be revealed and rule on this earth. See II Thessalonians 2:9-12 Revelation 12:9 and 13:4 to learn what lies ahead for this earth.
Though there are false prophets and false religions on this earth, our enemy is not man; but Satan himself. Nothing less than the whole armour of God as listed in Ephesians 6 can equip us for battle with Satan.
Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18 that as the Church moves forward, nothing, not even Satan himself, can stop the church in its forward advance. We are promised that Satan will be destroyed under our feet shortly. Genesis 3:15 and Romans 16:20
The primary target of all false teaching is the person of Jesus Himself. To deny His deity as the second person of the Godhead, or to deny his humanity when He walked on this earth, or to deny the value of His shed blood as the full atonement for our sins, or to deny His bodily resurrection from the dead, is a denial of Christ and is the most dangerous of all doctrinal perversions. We can be wrong about many doctrines of the Bible and still be saved and go to Heaven; but one who denies the doctrine of Christ is lost and hell bound. Read the vital importance of the doctrine of Christ in the short, one chapter Epistle at the end of the New Testament just before The Revelation. Read II John 7-11 Read it and obey it!
Read Galatians 1:6-9 and you will see that any gospel that perverts the Gospel of Christ is no gospel at all. False teachers don’t modify the Gospel. They nullify and destroy it.
Don’t be deceived by miracle workers. Though miracles were signs of the authenticity of the Apostles in the first century, they are all gone now. Miracles today do not prove that a preacher is of God. Satan and his false teachers will be working miracles and deceiving people in the end times. See Revelation 20:2-3 21:8 and 22:15.
The only test of the genuine is the Word of God. Test everything you read or hear by the Word of God. Be like the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11. Do not accept a false teacher as a brother in Christ, no matter how sweet his smile and how warm his personality. They are cursed of God. Christians are to have no fellowship with those who are accursed of God. Read Galatians 1:6-9 again.
God’s people do not touch nor have fellowship with that which is accursed of God. Read the story of the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6:17-19 After the supernatural fall of Jericho, God warned Israel to stay away from it and not touch anything in the city. Achan, chose to disobey God and hid some valuable things from the city in the floor of his tent. In Joshua 7:1, 10-26 we learn of the consequences of Achan’s disobedience. He and his family were stoned to death for that sin.
Pastors and elders are warned in Acts 20:17, 28-31 and Romans 16:17-18 to fulfill two major responsibilities in a church.
1. Feed the flock God’s Word
2. Expose doctrinal error and false teachers.
Everything else that goes on in a church is subordinate to these primary responsibilities.
How is your church doing in these two areas?
Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, an enemy of Christ to the extreme. Though highly educated and intelligent, he was like a madman in his hatred of Christ and Christians. If you and I had lived back then, we would have considered him the chief enemy of the Church, hopelessly lost with no possibility of ever being saved. Like a mad dog, he was rabid with rage against Christians, seeking them out and imprisoning them. No human being could have ever reached him. The risen Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, had to personally confront him and knock him out. That He did as Paul was traveling to Damascus to seek out more Christians to persecute.
A blinding light like a bolt of lightning hit him and knocked him to the ground. He was temporarily blinded and could not stand up. Acts 9 describes this event.
The Risen Christ spoke, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”
Saul, recognizing that whoever this was, He was LORD. replied, “Who art Thou, Lord?”
The voice identified Himself, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (or the ox goading). Jesus was referring to the conviction of the Holy Spirit he felt ever since he witnessed the death of the martyr, Stephen. This is described in Acts 7.
Saul not only received Christ as His Saviour, but He immediately surrendered to Christ as his Lord and began to live for Christ and serve Him with the same intensity with which he had hated Him and persecuted Christians before his conversion. His conversion is recorded in several other places, including Acts 22:1-15, 26:9-23, Galatians 1:11-24 and Philippians 3:1-14.
Acts 9:10-31 describes some other interesting details that followed his conversion, including his introduction to the Christians he had been persecuting. I encourage you to read those. Try to put yourself in Ananias’ shoes. Would you have been willing to do what he did?
Saul, who almost immediately became known as Paul, (Acts 13:9) was led by Christ into Arabia where the risen Saviour personally gave him three years of concentrated teaching of Himself and His wonderful salvation. When Christ was finished with him, Paul had a clear, logical, organized understanding of the Christian Faith and was later able to write his Epistle to the Romans with its masterful, organized explanation of what it means to be a Christian.
Because the risen, glorified Christ had personally taught Paul, Christ appointed him to be His Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was just as qualified to be an Apostle as Christ’s twelve with whom He had spent three years prior to His crucifixion.
Now that Paul was saved and on fire for Christ, he was no longer an ally of Satan, but now he was a chief enemy of Satan. From now on he would feel the fury of Satan.
The Judaizing teachers followed Paul wherever he preached and attempted to undermine his ministry by defaming him and corrupting his message of salvation through the grace of God, apart from works.
Paul countered their attacks by defending his Apostleship in Galatians chapters 1-2. After all, if Paul was not a true Apostle, as his enemies charged, then they were right in warning young Christians to reject Paul’s teaching.
Paul also countered their attacks by defending his message of salvation through the grace of God in chapters 3-4. The Judaizers were insisting that Christians must continue to observe the Old Testament ceremonial system taught to Israel. All of that, of course, was a picture of Christ, who was the fulfillment of the ceremonial system.
Paul also countered their false teaching by explaining that the Christian life is lived through the control of the Spirit of God and not through the works of the flesh nature. This is taught in Galatians chapters 5-6.
Note, that ultimately it was not Paul who changed his mind about Christ and finally decided to follow Him. According to Galatians 1:15-16 God chose Paul while he was yet in his mother’s womb. God, knowing the end from the beginning, reached down to Paul and conquered him. He who had been the chief enemy of the Church now became a most ardent missionary evangelist and church builder.
God has always called His servants from birth. Not only Saul of Tarsus, as we saw in Galatians 1:15, but John the Baptist was also called from his mother’s womb according to Luke 1:15. We learn in Isaiah 49:5 that Isaiah was called from birth; as was the prophet Jeremiah, as we see in Jeremiah 1:5.
The purpose of God’s election and calling according to Galatians 1:24 is always that God; not His servants, may be glorified.
The Judaizers dogged Paul’s footsteps wherever he went. No sooner did Paul win people to Christ, when they were right behind him, poisoning his converts with their legalism, insisting that the young Christians needed to be circumcised and follow all the ceremonial law, including the observance of the Feast Days and Sabbaths; otherwise, they could not be good Christians. These false teachers attempted to discredit Paul’s apostleship. If they could discredit his apostleship, then they could discredit his message.
Liberals today still use that approach. They tell us that only the teachings of Jesus matter; that Paul’s Epistles were just his own opinions and that he was somewhat extreme and out of sync with Christ. If that is so, then the whole Bible is not inspired; only that which the reader considers inspired. If Paul’s writings are not inspired, then His Gospel of grace is not to be trusted. Paul’s Epistles are just as inspired of God as the four Gospels. In fact, the plan of salvation, including the doctrine of justification and sanctification, is most clearly taught in his epistles, especially Romans. If we cannot trust Paul’s Epistles as inspired of God, then we have no salvation and we are of all men most miserable.
Since Paul was not one of the original twelve Apostles, his enemies were claiming he was not a true apostle. The false teachers were claiming they alone from the mother church in Jerusalem were the true servants of God. They claimed Paul went to Jerusalem to be corrected by the Apostles. Galatians 2:2 declares that he went to Jerusalem by revelation of God.
Who sent Paul out in the first place? Acts 13:1-4 tells us the Church of Antioch, led by the Holy Spirit, commissioned Paul as a missionary to the Gentiles. Here in Galatians, as well as throughout his Epistles, Paul defended his apostleship.
In Galatians 1:10-25 Paul recalled the events immediately following his conversion, emphasizing that he did not secure his information and understanding of salvation from the Apostles. He received his spiritual training from the risen Christ Himself out in the Arabian desert for three years.
In Galatians 2:1-10 Paul describes the events that took place as recorded in Acts 15 when he joined the Apostles in Jerusalem to settle some important matters concerning what it meant for a gentile to be a Christian. Notice that in Gal. 2:2 Paul communicated to the Apostles the Gospel that he preached and in verse 9 the Apostles, including Peter, James and John, gave him their blessing. In Acts 15:12 Paul rehearsed the miracles and wonders that confirmed his ministry as an Apostle.
To further strengthen his position before the Jewish leaders of the Church in Jerusalem, and to show that gentiles no longer needed to be circumcised to be good Christians, Paul mentions in Galatians 2:3 that he took Titus with him to the council meeting. Titus, a gentile Christian and a future pastor, was not circumcised; nor was he compelled by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to be circumcised. What a powerful victory this was for Paul as he opposed the Judaizers in Galatia and other gentle areas. The Judaizers in Galatia had insisted that circumcision was necessary to be a Christian. The Jewish leaders of the Church in Jerusalem decided it was not necessary. What a victory that was for Paul against his enemies.
Read in Acts 15:7-11 what Peter said at that Council meeting concerning Cornelius, Peter’s first gentile convert to Christianity. These are lessons the risen Saviour had personally taught Peter in the events of Acts 10.
Notice also in Galatians 2:4-5 that these false teachers were also at the Council in Jerusalem. The passive voice is used. They were smuggled in to that council meeting by Satan himself to do whatever damage they could for the cause of Christ. Read in Acts 20:29-30 and II Corinthians 11:13-15 how false teachers operate.
Read in Acts 15:7-11 Peter’s conclusions concerning the true Gospel that needed to be preached to the gentiles. Read in verse 12-21 the conclusion of James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Read in verse 22 the unanimity of the entire council concerning this matter.
The conclusion for us today is that anyone who is trusting in any good works or any church ceremony to be saved is not saved. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in what Jesus accomplished by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead. He paid the penalty for our sins in full. If you are trusting in Him alone, you are saved. If you are trusting in Him plus trusting in the observances of some or all of the ceremonial law of God, you are still lost in your sins. Anyone who insists that other things; such as Sabbath observance, observance of Old Testament feasts, or the rite of circumcision is necessary to be a true Christians, is a false teacher to be avoided.
Since the beginning of time there have always been only two religions: God’s truth as given to us in the Bible and Satan’s lie. False religion is man’s self-effort to try to be worthy of Heaven through religious ceremony, or through efforts to be righteous by following the example of Christ or some other religious leader. True religion teaches the righteousness that is imputed to sinners by God’s grace through faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on Calvary‘s cross. Only one who has come as a sinner to Christ and put His faith in Him for salvation can begin the journey of becoming Christ-like.
These two religions are first contrasted for us in Genesis 4 where we read the story of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s first two sons. As you read the story you will see Cain, a farmer, bringing an offering of his produce to God. Abel, a shepherd, brings a lamb. God rejects Cain’s offering and accepts Abel’s sacrifice. Why?
The need for the blood sacrifice of an innocent lamb to atone for our sins is taught throughout the Old Testament. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God slew animals, possibly lambs, as a sacrifice for their sins and clothed them with the skins of the animals. Read this account in Genesis 3. The truth of the necessity of a blood sacrifice of an innocent lamb was no doubt taught to their children.
Cain in his pride and self-righteousness, saw no need for a lamb. Abel saw that need and made the sacrifice. Cain could have traded produce for a lamb from Abel and made the required sacrifice, but he refused. His evil heart led to the murder of his brother, as we learn in Genesis 4 and I John 3:12.
False religion fosters pride of attainment. True religion fosters humility and poverty of spirit and a hunger for God’s righteousness, according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5
According to Hebrews 10:1-10, the Old Testament animal sacrifices in themselves did not take away sin. They only pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ who would one day come into the world as the Lamb of God who would die for our sins. So it wasn’t faith in the animal sacrifices themselves, but faith in the coming Saviour, pictured by the animal sacrifices that made people right with God.
The Old Testament heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 are a representation of the minority of those Old Testament saints who looked forward to the coming Saviour. To offer animal sacrifices without faith in the coming Saviour was vain and hypocritical, as God explained through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 29:13. Malachi also wrote about the hypocrisy of religious people who went through the motions of the Old Testament ceremonial system with no love for God.
When we get into the New Testament we see the same majority of Israelites following the leadership of the Pharisees who led the people in empty, vain hypocritical religion that rejected Christ.
But always, down through history in both Old Testament times as well as New Testament times. there has always been a minority remnant of Israelites who trusted and worshipped God. See I Kings 19:1-18 and Romans 11:1-5 concerning this remnant. Other Old Testament references to this remnant include: Isaiah 1:1-9, Jeremiah 23:3-6, Ezekiel 6:7-8, Amos 5:15, Micah 2:12, Haggai 1:12-14, Zechariah 8:9-13, and Malachi 3:16-18.
As we open the New Testament we find a samplings of God’s faithful remnant; including Joseph and Mary, Zacharias and Elizabeth and their son, John the Baptist. There is Simeon and Anna in the temple, eleven of Jesus’ disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus and other true followers of Christ. Then there is the Apostle Paul and the church continuing down to the present. Always through history Christ has had His faithful remnant, a small minority of those who trust in Christ alone for salvation, in contrast to the masses who go down Satan’s broad religious road towards destruction. Read Jesus’ warning of this in Matthew 7.
The title of this article is “The Error of the Judaizers”. What’s this about? The name, Judaizers, is not even found in the Bible. However, we see them as the chief enemies of the Apostle Paul as he evangelizes and builds churches throughout the known world.
Though you do not read the word Judaizers, you see them described as Paul’s enemies in Galatians 1:6-7, 2:4 3:1 5:1,12 as well as in II Corinthians 11:12-23 and Acts 20:28-31. In Philippians 3:2 they are designated as “the concision”; that is, those who cut or circumcise, but without faith in Christ. The Judaizers were those who tried to bring the early Christians back under the bondage of the Old Testament Ceremonial Law.
Prior to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Paul), was the chief Judaizer. He hated Christ and Christians and was the chief persecutor of the early church. After his conversion to Christ, those same people came after Paul to try to kill him. They did all they could to try to destroy his credibility and influence, and corrupt the doctrine that he taught, doctrine that he had been given directly by the risen Christ.
Throughout Galatians, as well as in some of Paul’s other Epistles, he dealt with the Judaizers and their false gospel, which was no gospel at all. They and their kin have corrupted God’s message and have persecuted God’s messengers since the beginning of time and under different names and they will continue to perpetrate their evil work until the end of time.
True religion that saves from the penalty and power of sin comes only through faith in the shed blood of Christ on the cross. This true religion was carried out in the Old Testament through the shedding of the blood of animal sacrifices, a type of the blood that would be shed by Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Those sacrifices were made by true Old Testament believers who looked for the coming Saviour. You can read about their faith in the promised Saviour in Hebrews 11.
False religion, on the other hand, went through the motions of offering animal sacrifices, but there was no faith in the coming Saviour, nor was there any desire for Him nor concern for their sins. To offer those sacrifices and observe all the ceremonial law with no concern about sin and no desire to be right with God, was sheer hypocrisy.
Paul shares his testimony in many places in Scripture, but perhaps the passage that shows the greatest contrast is in Philippians 3. In the first six verses Paul describes his heart as a Judaizer before he met Christ and contrasts the difference that Christ made when he became a Christian in verses 7-14.
Paul’s ministry was that of evangelizing and teaching God’s Word to the converts and warning them of the dangers of the Judaizers; those going through the formality of Judaism and rejecting faith in Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians in response to the attacks of the Judaizers as they attempted to destroy his influence, corrupt the doctrine he preached, and bring his converts under the bondage of having to observe the ceremonial law of the Old Testament.
So today a Bible preacher’s responsibility, as found in II Timothy 4:1-5, is to preach the Word, evangelize the lost, build up saints in the Word and warn them of false teachers and their false doctrine.
About five hundred years ago, Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses against the error of the Roman Catholic Church and nailed them to the door of the WittenbergChurch. When Luther was called before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms (pronounced Vorms) he hoped to defend his position. Charles insisted that he recant. Instead, the story goes that Luther spoke his famous words, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.” Luther asserted that his conscience was captive to the Word of God and that he could not go against conscience. Already excommunicated by Rome, Luther stood for the Word of God. He continued, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason, for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves; I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.
Since the beginning of the Fundamentalist Movement over a century ago, the phrase,”Taking a stand” has been used to describe one who courageously stands on a Biblical doctrine which is under attack by the Liberals. It is a Biblical term. In Ephesians 6:11-13 twice Paul urges Christians to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Again in II Thessalonians 2:15 Christians are urged to stand fast by the traditions Paul had taught or written to them. This is not a command to follow church traditions. Rather, Paul, an Apostle personally taught by Christ, wrote and spoke by inspiration of God. We are to follow the infallible Word of God as taught by the Apostle Paul as well as the other Apostles.
The doctrines designated as the Fundamentals of the Faith include:
The verbal, plenary (meaning entire and complete) inspiration of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation
By that we mean that God breathed His very words into the minds of the human authors of the biblical manuscripts so that, using their own vocabularies and styles of writing, they wrote without error: including doctrine, history, science or wisdom for life. The Bible is absolutely pure and trustworthy as the very Word of God.
The deity and trinity of God. God is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The accuracy and veracity of all the miracles listed in the Bible including:
the creation of the world in six twenty-four hour days,
the world wide flood in Noah’s day that covered the entire earth and drowned every air breathing person and animal, except for the survivors on Noah’s ark and
the resurrection of Christ’s body from the dead after three days and three nights in the tomb. For a solution to that supposed “three day, three night” problem, go to the article on “Jesus, Our Passover”, under the RESURRECTION category.
the virgin birth of Christ, which made possible Jesus’ deity as well as His full humanity.
Christ’s blood atonement There is no salvation from sin apart from faith in His shed blood.
Christ bodily resurrection from the dead and His ascension back to Heaven.
Salvation by the grace of God, apart from our works, through faith in Jesus shed blood alone
His bodily return to this earth in power and great glory to set up His kingdom and judge the world
Heaven and Hell, the eternal abode of the saved and the lost
There is no salvation except in the God of the Bible. The one who claims to be saved, but denies the truth of God’s Word is not saved. If he denies these truths as a Bible teacher, he is a false teacher under the condemnation of God. On the Fundamentals of the Faith there is no room for compromise. We must take a stand for these.
On everything in the Bible, but the fundamentals of the faith, there is room for differences of interpretation and opinion. On such issues we may remain seated. We may discuss and debate them; but we must not divide the church over them.
Those who hold to the Fundamentals of the Faith are commanded to have no fellowship nor attempt to serve God in cooperation with those who deny these Fundamentals. See my series on SEPARATION for more on this topic.
However, we are encouraged to have fellowship with those with whom we differ with doctrinally, as long as those differences do not extend to the Fundamentals of the Faith.
Years ago, our oldest son, who had graduated from BobJonesUniversity, wrote his younger brother who was still a student there. In his letter he counseled him to “know when to stand up and when to sit down” on issues. That is, know what is worth fighting for and know the areas that are not worth a fight.
This brings us to Galatians 2:11-21 and a doctrinal conflict where the Apostle Paul had to stand up to the Apostle Peter over a major Fundamental of the Faith. Peter, one of the leading apostles, went to Troas where he met Paul and some of his gentile converts. There he enjoyed fellowship with these converts by sharing a meal with them.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door and who should appear but some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem. Peter was embarrassed and chagrined to be caught eating and enjoying fellowship with these gentile Christians.
He did a shameful, cowardly thing. He withdrew himself from the gentiles, not wanting the Jewish leaders to see him enjoying fellowship with gentiles. He feared what those Jewish leaders would think of him. Peter’s example caused other Jews: including Paul’s missionary friend Barnabas, as well as some others to join with Peter in this shameful, cowardly act.
Paul, in righteous indignation, immediately confronted Peter publicly and said in my paraphrased words of Galatians 2:14 “Peter, if you being a Jew are now living as a Christian Gentile in freedom from the Jewish ceremonial laws, why are you compelling the Gentiles by your example to live their lives as Jews under the ceremonial laws?
How did the Apostle Peter take this rebuke from the Apostle Paul? Evidently he was humbled and repented of his duplicity. Evidently there was no broken fellowship with Paul. Later on Peter referred to the Apostle Paul in II Peter 3:15 as “our beloved brother Paul” and referred to the wisdom God had given him in the writing of his epistles.
May God help us to know when to stand for a doctrinal issue and when to sit and avoid conflict over lesser issues that are not worth a fight.
As we focus our attention on Galatians 2:14-21 in this article, we can see the Christian life can be summarized in two verses in this passage. Galatians 2:16 teaches us that we are justified by faith in Christ. That is, we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and made fit for Heaven through His blood sacrifice on the cross and by His resurrection. The second major truth is found in verse 20. We are sanctified or enabled to live a holy life through surrender of our bodies to Christ. He lives His life in us through His indwelling Holy Spirit.
Satan hates that message
He fights it wherever he can. Satan used the Judaizers to fight Paul wherever he went as they attempted to corrupt his message and confuse his converts. They denied Paul’s authority as an Apostle, replacing his authority with their own authority. They denied his message of salvation by grace alone apart from works and they replaced it with a false message of salvation by works. They denied his message of liberty in the Holy Spirit and replaced it with their message of legalism.
Previously we dealt with Peter’s duplicity at Antioch when he, who knew and preached the Gospel of the grace of God, just as Paul and the other Apostles did, frustrated that Gospel by caving in to the pressures of some of the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem. You remember that Paul confronted him about it and rebuked him publicly before the others. Peter’s life was contradicting the message that he preached.
Paul’s gracious, straight forward correction of Peter
Now here beginning in verse 16 of Galatians 2 Paul summarizes the Gospel of Grace and further shows Peter how inconsistent he is being. Notice in verse 17 that Paul uses the pronoun “we” to refer to Peter and himself. Both of them were Jewish Christians who had been justified by faith in Christ. He was recognizing Peter as a true preacher of the Gospel along with himself. But in verse 21 he was reminding Peter that to put himself back under the Jewish ceremonial laws of the Old Testament as a New Testament Christian was to frustrate the gospel he was preaching.
Jesus, a Minister of Sin?
In verse 17 he shows Peter that by his duplicity he is implying that the Judaizers are correct in insisting on the observance of the ceremonial laws and those who do not keep those laws are sinners and false teachers. Worse yet, if the observance of the ceremonial laws is necessary to be a good Christian, then JESUS is a minister of sin for teaching that Jews and Gentiles are one body in Christ and that the ceremonial observances of the Sabbaths and the Jewish feast days and the abstaining from certain meats are no longer necessary for Jews and Gentiles whose faith is in Christ. Can you imagine how Peter must have been feeling by this time?
The Essence of Legalism
John Piper gives an excellent illustration of the purpose of God’s laws. Picture the Old Testament Law of God as a railroad track with its two rails and cross ties upon which the nation Israel was to travel, led by the engine of God’s grace and coupled to the engine by faith.
Even today, Christians in this Age of Grace are saved to live in obedience to God. So, as Christians, we also travel down that track of God’s moral law, pulled by the engine of God’s grace and coupled to Him by faith. Of course, this way of salvation by the grace of God apart from our works is not a popular message and the natural man rejects it. So did the Judaizers of Paul’s day reject it. Instead, they took that railroad track, so to speak, and lifted up one end and leaned it against the door of Heaven as a ladder. The railroad ties became the steps in the ladder for us to climb our way into Heaven by attempting to keep God’s Law. That is the very essence of Legalism! Legalism is making God’s Law a long list of steps which we must climb to demonstrate our moral fitness to attain Heaven.
That was Peter’s duplicity. He preached salvation by grace as Paul did, but he contradicted what he preached by the way he lived and so frustrated the grace of God. Peter by his actions was building that ladder again that had been torn down. He was guilty of what verse 18 says, “Building again the things which the Gospel of Grace had destroyed.”
To attempt to justify myself before God and make myself fit for Heaven through my feeble attempts to keep the Law of God is to reject Jesus as my Saviour who has already kept it perfectly and paid the penalty for my failure to measure up to its high standards. It is to frustrate the Gospel of God’s grace.
The doctrinal explanation of Galatians 2:20 is found in Romans chapters 6-8 where Paul explains sanctification.
Romans starts out with the bad news that I, along with every member of the human race, am a sinner; condemned and under the wrath of God. As Romans 5:12-18 explains, we inherited our sinful nature from our first father, Adam.
As sinners, we have broken God’s Laws and must pay the penalty of eternal death in hell. See Romans 3:10, 23, and 6:23 Revelation 20:11-15
Since I am a helpless sinner, I can do absolutely nothing to save myself.
Since God is loving and gracious, He has devised His own plan of salvation, by coming down to earth in the person of Jesus. Through faith in the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the tomb for my sins, He has declared me perfectly righteous and fit for Heaven. This is all explained in Romans 3-5, and summarized in II Corinthians 5:21. It is also stated in our text, Galatians 2:20
In Romans 3-5 the truth of Justification is explained and the key word is SUBSTITUTION. As lambs in Old Testament times were offered as substitutes for payment for sin, so in the fullness of time God sent His Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, to pay the full payment for the sins of the world. Those who receive Him as Saviour are given the Gift of Eternal Life. Those who reject Him as Saviour turn their back on eternal life and choose damnation. Read Romans 3-5 carefully and then see this truth summarized in II Corinthians 5:21 and in Galatians 2:20.
L.E. Maxwell, in his book Born Crucified illustrates the concept of Substitution.
“During the Civil War a man by the name of George Wyatt was drawn by lot to go to the front. He had a wife and six children.
A young man by the name of Richard Pratt offered to go in his stead. He was accepted and joined the ranks, bearing the name and number of George Wyatt. Before long Pratt was killed in action.
The authorities later sought to draft George Wyatt into service. He protested, entering a plea that he had died in the person of Pratt. He insisted that the authorities consult their own records as to the fact of his having died in identification with Pratt, his substitute. Wyatt was thereby exempted as beyond the claim of the law and further service. He died in the person of his representative. “
But there is more to Paul’s wonderful testimony of salvation if Galatians 2:20.
Christ not only died in my place to take the condemnation and punishment for my sins;
but His death and resurrection also delivers me from the power of sin as a Christian.
As substitution is the key word to understand the doctrine of Justification; so Identification is the key word that helps me understand the doctrine of Sanctification. Note the second part of Galatians 2:20 “nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in my fleshly body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
God doesn’t stop with Justification. With those He justified, Romans 8:29 explains that He begins a life long process of conforming us to the very image of His Son, Jesus. Romans 8:30 tells us that the process will be completed and perfected when we stand before God in Heaven glorified as perfect as His Son, the Lord Jesus.
THE MECHANICS OF SANCTIFICATION
The how to of sanctification is explained in three steps found in Romans 6.
KNOW this fact in Romans 6:1-10
I was crucified in the person of Christ.
I was buried in the person of Christ.
I arose from the dead in the person of Christ.
RECKON this fact to be true. Romans 6:11-12
That is, count this fact to be true, especially in moments of temptation.
YIELD to Christ. Romans 6:13-16
Yield to Christ’s Lordship in every decision of life and every time I am tempted to sin.
When I yield to Him, His Holy Spirit, who lives in my heart, takes over in my life and I begin to live the life I could never live by my own effort. Christ lives in me!
That’s the wonderful secret
THE TWIN TRUTHS OF JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION MUST NEVER BE SEPARATED
These two truths, though separate truths, must be accepted together if we are to grow to spiritual maturity. I encourage you to read through the following passages and see how both truths always go together.
Ephesians 1:4, and 12,
Ephesians 2:8-10, 4:11-13, 5:5-6, 5:25-27
Philippians 1:6, 3:10-15
In Justification I am judicially declared a Christian, Through faith in Christ’s shed blood for my sins, God counts me as righteous as His own dear Son, the Lord Jesus.
But the purpose of salvation is not to simply give me a free ticket to Heaven, but to bring me into a life of victory over sin through my identification with Christ as a believer.