The words of the song “Not my will but yours be done”, are flowing through my mind. I see a picture of Jesus in the Garden, drops of blood mingling with sweat – that’s what the battle He was fighting looked like, as He came into submission for the most important mission in His life. So the Lord says “In the same way you are battling every day to take up your cross and put your will to death so you can follow My will. Built into you is your desire to do your own will and it constantly comes to the surface. So daily be conscious of this battle – but fight it in My strength – confess when you fail and follow the way of My Spirit – because I don’t want you to be in bondage to your will and the law – I have set you free from that – if I have given you your freedom you shall be free indeed – so live in that freedom, live the life of the Spirit who wants to guide you and empower you every moment of the day.”
Now last time we were looking at the important, basic, central, theological statement of the letter to the Galatians, that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in Me. The life that I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. Now Paul comes to the the reason he is writing the letter. The application of this statement in the light of the behaviour of the Galatians. I have found in the past these verses so important in convicting us and helping us direct our lives into living in the way of the Spirit continually.
Notice the important bridging verse 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing“. So what was the quest of the Galatians? It was to do something to gain extra righteousness in God’s eyes. To be seen by God (and other Christians) as being specially worthy of salvation. Now notice it is not necessarily the specific acts of he law that are the problem. It is the motivation behind doing those acts. “To gain a righteousness…” In their case they were seeking to be obedient to specific parts of the law (in this case circumcision, but later in 4:10 they were observing special days, months and seasons). In our case it can be any act which is designed in our minds to “gain righteousness”. Think what these could be and we will talk more specifically next time.
So understand this, we have been declared completely righteous when we are crucified with Christ. We are completely acceptable to Him. Our sins are washed away by His blood. Nothing we can do can improve on that. If we imagine, even subconsciously that we can make ourselves more acceptable by doing anything, however laudable, we are insulting Christ because we are saying in effect He died for nothing.
So this is what leads Paul to call out “you foolish Galatians!” They had understood the whole process of salvation. They had understood that Christ had been crucified for their sins. They had understood that they received God’s Spirit because of faith and now they were reverting back to trying to gain a righteousness by doing the law.
Now let me come to the application of this principle for us today, which is so appropriate. We are not under the same influence of the law as those Jews were, yet we have a cultural way of understanding Christianity which in many ways is influenced by the understanding of the law of our ancestors. So any act which we may do because we are moved to do it because we think we will be better Christians, with the motive of being more acceptable to God is foolishness, because it denies the work of Christ.
Turn that around to the positive. Once we are saved, our life is transformed and we are henceforth living by the Spirit in a dynamic relationship with God through Jesus. Yes we will often fail or even grow cold, but when we realize that, we turn to Him for forgiveness and our relationship is restored. So the daily practice of our relationship starts with our personal time with the Lord and our life flows from that. .As we shall see later in the letter this is hugely freeing, once you realize it. Unfortunately many find their relationship drifting into a legalistic process of doing certain things which they believe set them right again with God and they lose the joy of that personal relationship which has been won for us by Christ.
The letter will continue to unbundle this principle for us. For me it is a challenge to remind myself to live by the gospel and to teach it continually, so that I am not found among the “foolish”.