Threats to Christian Freedom: Legalism, Part 8

November 6, 2011 Pastor: John Fonville Series: Galatians

Scripture: Galatians 5:2–5:12

Threats To Christian Freedom: Legalism

Part 8


Text: Galatians 5:2-12




What is a Christian?


“So are Mormons Christians? For me, that’s a complicated question… While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior” (Richard J. Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary, op-ed for CNN’s Belief Blog entitled, “My Take: This Evangelical Says that Mormonism Is Not a Cult.”).


“I believe that [Mormons] are Christians,” Mr. Osteen said. “I don’t know if it’s the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with. But you know what, I know Mormons. I hear Mitt Romney — and I’ve never met him — but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God,’ ‘I believe he’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues. “I’m sure there are other issues that we don’t agree on. But you know, I can say that the Baptists and the Methodists and the Catholics don’t all agree on everything. So that would be my take on it” (Joel Osteen, interview in The Washington Times, Monday, October 24, 2011


I. Paul warns against the destructive consequences of Legalistic doctrine (vv. 2- 6).

A.       Christ will be of no benefit in the final judgment. v. 2


B.       Become a debtor to God’s Law. v. 3


C.       severed from Christ, v. 4


1.       A true Christian lives by the Spirit. v. 5a


2.       A true Christian lives by faith. v. 5b


3.       A true Christian lives with hope. v. 5c




4.       A true Christian is marked by love.  v. 6


“…the faith by which believers are justified is the faith which operates through love…” (F.F. Bruce, Galatians, p. 233).


“Justification” by the merit of works is legalism.

“justification” apart from the existence of works is license.


“…Paul is describing the whole of the Christian life in this passage: inwardly it is faith toward God, and outwardly it is love or works toward one’s neighbor. Thus a man is a Christian in a total sense: inwardly through faith in the sight of God, who does not need our works; outwardly in the sight of men, who do not derive any benefit from faith but do derive benefit from works or from our love” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 27, p. 30).




“At the center of God’s word is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, which is to make us glad. God gives us that good word not just to convert us and make us Christians to start with, but to strengthen us all along the way to eternal life, giving us what we need for the whole journey. The gospel is meant to make us cheerful, because the Christian life is a life of love, which gets us involved in a great deal of hard work and heartache, as we share the sufferings and sorrows of our neighbors and even our enemies. So our obedience to God’s commandments would be a crushing burden if it were not supported by the love of Christ—by which I mean our Lord Jesus’ love for us, including all that He has done for us and for our salvation, as announced and revealed in the gospel. When we believe that good news, we have strength for the journey” (Philip Cary, Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do, p. xviii).


 “…people who really try to do everything out of love are driven by guilt, not love. Think about it: a sermon on how you have to do everything out of love doesn’t really leave you much choice. Either you believe you’re rising to the challenge and doing everything out of love, which makes you obnoxiously self-righteous and deeply deceived, or else you realize you’re not doing everything out of love, and therefore you try really hard to be more loving—and in that case your fundamental motivation is to avoid feeling like you’re being unloving. And that’s why I say you’re driven by guilt” (Phillip Cary, Good News For Anxious Christians, p. 86).


“It [the ministry of the church-J.F.] transforms people, not by giving them life-changing experiences but by repetition, continually telling the story of Christ so that people may hear and take hold of Him by faith. For we do not just receive Christ by faith once at the beginning of our Christian lives and then go on to do the real work of transformation through our good works. We keep needing Christ the way hungry people need bread, and we keep receiving Him whenever we hear the gospel preached and believe it. So what transforms us over the long haul is not one or two great life-changing sermons (although these can be helpful from time to time) but the repeated teaching and preaching of Christ, Sunday after Sunday, so that we never cease receiving Him into our hearts” (Cary, Good News For Anxious Christians, p. 133).


© John Fonville

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