It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (NIV)
1. Paul says that Christ set us free for freedom. From what did he set us free? What actually is the freedom we gained? What is the "yoke of slavery" by which Paul is warning the Galatians not to be burdened again? (See John 8:32, Romans 7:25, Romans 8:21)
2. What does Paul mean when he says, "if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all"? He also says that everyone who's circumcised is obligated to obey the whole law, and then he states that if you're trying "to be justified by the law" you've "been alienated from Christ" and "fallen away from grace." Do these declarations mean that you can't keep legal rituals and still be saved? Can you keep the Sabbath or the "clean meat" requirements and still be saved? Can you "cover your bases" by accepting the grace of Jesus and also honoring the law? Why do you think Paul positions law-keeping as opposed to believing in Christ? Why can't the two embrace each other?
3. In verse 5 Paul states, "But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope." What does he mean by this statement? Aren't we already counted righteous? Does this mean, as many of us were taught, that our lives will become more and more perfect until we reach perfection before the second coming? Ephesians 1:13-14 talks about the Holy Spirit "guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession" Does this text shed any light on this comment by Paul?
4. Paul continues by saying, "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Why is the expression of love important in faith? Can you have intellectual faith without expressing love? Can intellectual faith without expressions of love be saving faith?
5. Paul uses the metaphor of someone cutting the Galatians off in a race to describe their being drawn into legalism. He also uses a metaphor of yeast, a traditional symbol of evil, permeating dough. He makes it clear that their pull back toward legalism does not come "from the one who calls you." Who is Paul implying is ultimately responsible for this dangerous seduction?
6. Paul has already spent over five chapters (in Galatians) saying, in many different ways, that going back to legalism is a pull away from grace and is a move motivated by deceit and powers of evil. Legalism can wear many masks. Do you worry compulsively about people you love? Do you unwittingly exert legalistic pressure on family or fellow believers by having strong expectations for their doctrinal purity or behaviors? Whom do you need to release from your worry into the arms of Jesus?
7. When we grow up deceived about truth, our eventual awakening to Truth can be both liberating and alarming. We feel liberated from condemnation, but we feel alarmed about the non-biblical beliefs of those around us. It's easy to become "legalistic" in a new way by feeling compelled to make people understand the biblical truths it seems they reject. While Jesus calls us to speak the truth, he also makes it clear that his overriding command to us is to love. What wrong beliefs in fellow Christians or loved ones do you feel most passionate about correcting? How can you mediate love and grace to people holding onto error? What passionate fear or concern do you have that you need to entrust to the Holy Spirit, allowing him to convict those in error?
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