Paul was so overwhelmed that the Galatians had rejected the grace of Christ for legalism, he was saying that they must be crazy. The Jerusalem Bible says, “Are you people in Galatia mad?” Paul was making no attempt to be polite. He was making it clear that their actions were insane. At best, legalism is stupid, and at worst, it’s crazy.
Paul was saying that the Galatians’ actions defied logic. There had to be demonic deception involved to turn them from the grace of Christ to legalism. The Living Bible says, “What magician has hypnotized you and cast an evil spell upon you?”This was Paul “taking off the gloves.” He was blasting these people with all he had, leaving no room for compromise. He was doing this because he loved them. Many people would not agree with Paul’s harshness, but there’s a time for tough love. Confrontation should never be relished, but it should not always be avoided either. There are some heaven-and-hell issues that need to be pressed, regardless of the outcome. Paul viewed legalism as one of those issues.
Paul had depicted the atonement of Christ so vividly to the Galatians that it was as if they were present at His crucifixion. How could they turn from the message that Christ paid it all to a message that put the burden of salvation on their backs?If we truly understand the message of the cross, then we understand grace. Jesus didn’t just make a token sacrifice for us. He paid it all. There’s no sacrifice that we can make that will add to or replace the sacrifice of Christ. Preaching that our own holiness is required to receive from God is voiding the sacrifice of Christ (Galatians 2:21).
Therefore, Paul was saying that anyone who has had a clear presentation of the Gospel of Christ, as these Galatians had, and then turns away from that grace back to works is foolish and deceived by the devil.He was the one who shared the Gospel with these Galatians. He knew they received the Spirit by grace, because that’s how he ministered it to them. Here, he reminded them of that in chapter 2. The obvious answer to this question is that faith alone produced the dramatic change in them. If they started by faith, how could they be so forgetful to think that they had to earn the favor of God?
Colosians 2:6 says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” That means if you were saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8), then that’s the way you should continue to walk with the Lord. Yet it is a common mistake for people who come to the Lord “Just as I am, without one plea” to fall back into the deception that they have to be holy enough for the Lord to answer their prayers. That’s inconsistent, and it’s what Paul was pointing out here.
We often extend grace to the drunks or prostitutes who are not born again. We tell them of God’s love and how He wants to help them. But let them get born again and then sin again, and the very people who told them how much God loved them before they were saved will now damn them to hell for the slightest infraction. If that was really the way things were, those sinners would be better off to wait until their last breaths to receive salvation so that God would keep loving them. That is not the gospel. We are not saved by grace then maintained by works (see Galatians 2:16).It takes a radical revelation of the Gospel of grace to abandon faith in the works of the Law. God’s standard of righteousness is the righteousness of God alone.
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