Threats To Christian Freedom: Legalistic Teachers, Part 10

November 20, 2011 Pastor: John Fonville Series: Galatians

Scripture: Galatians 5:7–5:12

Threats To Christian Freedom: Legalism

Part 10


Text: Galatians 5:2-12




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


II. Paul exposes the depraved disposition of legalistic teachers (vv. 7-12).


A.    Hinder obedience, v. 7


“By undermining their confidence in sound doctrine, satan seduced them into loose living” (Timothy George, Galatians, p. 364).




B. Not from God, v. 8


“Circumcision stands for a religion of human achievement, of what man can do by his own good works; Christ stands for a religion of divine achievement, of what God has done through the finished work of Christ. Circucmcision means law, works and bondage; Christ means grace, faith and freedom. Every man must choose. The one impossibility is what the Galatians were attempting, namely to add circumcision to Christ and have both. No. Circumcision and Christ are mutually exclusive” (John Stott, Galatians, p. 138).


“For the devil is a highly skilled persuader; he knows how to inflate a minute and almost ridiculous peccadillo (a minor/slight offense/slip-J.F.) until the one who has been tempted supposes it to be the most heinous offense, worthy of eternal punishment. Here the troubled mind should be encouraged in the manner in which Paul encouraged the Galatians, namely, by being told that this thought or persuasion does not come from Christ; for it conflicts with the Word of the Gospel, which portrays Christ, not as an accuser or a harsh taskmaster but as ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt. 11:29), as merciful Savior and Comforter” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 27, pp. 33-34).


“Believers obey Christ as the one by whom our obedience is accepted by God. Believers know all their duties are weak, imperfect and unable to abide in God’s presence. Therefore they look to Christ as the one who bears the iniquity of their holy things, who adds incense to their prayers, gathers out all the weeds from their duties and makes them acceptable to God” (John Owen, Communion with God, p. 117).


“The purpose of God in salvation is to ‘show the exceeding riches of His grace’ through your salvation (Ephesians 2:7). God’s grace is most glorified when He pardons the worst sinners” (Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 156).


C. Corrupt the church, v. 9


“satan’s strategem is, that he does not attempt an avowed destruction of the whole gospel, but he taints its purity by introducing false and corrupt opinions. Many persons are thus led to overlook the seriousness of the injury done, and therefore make a less determined resistance” (John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 21, p. 154).


“False doctrine usually does not sound all that false at the beginning. ‘Justified by faith’ or ‘justified by faith alone,’ people say, ‘Who cares?’” (Philip Ryken, Galatians, p. 209).


“We must pay great attention to these things. For, with good reason, we can say that ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principle sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity” (Theodore Beza, The Christian Faith, p. 41).




1.    The Holy Spirit leads us to obedience by love not law, grace not guilt.


“It is the work of the Holy Spirit to be your guide and your comforter. He is not a spirit of bondage, but He is the Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8:15). Peace and joy are plentiful on this path of holiness (Philippians 4:4-6). God does not drive you along with whips and terrors, or by the rod of the schoolmaster, the law. Rather, He leads you and draws you to walk in His ways by pleasant attractions (2 Corinthians 5:15; Romans 12:1) (Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 236).


2. You can discern whether or not a teacher is sent by God by this simple test: Does what I hear persuade my heart to obey or disobey?



© John Fonville

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