My wife and I have an old argument that surfaces when we are traveling by car. If I am driving and she is in charge of directions, we often make a wrong turn and go the wrong way for a while, losing precious time. She never intends on misguiding us—she really thinks she is making the right choice, and works hard to be right. The same thing has happened when she is driving and I am navigating. Patience and grace have grown over the years of our marriage, and we can now laugh when this situation happens, but past experiences caused more grief and frustration than we care to admit!
- When have you wasted precious time and energy on something you thought was right but in the end was wrong?
READ THE WORD: GALATIANS 5:1-15 (ESV)
5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you.9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Today’s questions focus on verses 7-12.)
- Who is “him who calls you” in verse 8? What has he “called” believers to (vs. 13)?
- What was Paul’s tone in verses 7-12? Why did this issue move him so strongly?
- False teachers had spread a twisted truth by saying circumcision was necessary for salvation. Are there practices that unnecessarily add to the gospel in the modern church that might be considered equally dangerous if spread?
- What is the difference between obeying the truth (of the gospel of grace) and being legalistic about following the law? How does legalism remove the offense of the cross?
- How and where are you deflecting from the true course of obedience?
RESPOND TO GOD
Paul’s “running” metaphor takes a serious turn with a warning to those who try to convince believers that they can complete the “race” by legalistic self-effort rather than by faith. He is so concerned for the gospel of freedom and grace because it makes Christ’s death null and void if we attempt to add anything to it in order to gain salvation. He wants us to live by faith, not by the law, because the law leads us to powerlessness. It wastes our time and energy by turning us from expectant faith to hopeless effort. But expectant faith leads us to transformed lives. Legalism has no power to do that.
- Ask the Lord to show you any hindrances that are causing you to stumble in “running” with obedience to the true gospel of the grace of God.