The Danger of Exchanging Grace for Law

What’s it all about? If the Galatians turn from God’s grace to legalism (i.e., trying to approach God through strict observance of the Law) or moralism (i.e., trying to approach God through good works), then Paul’s ministry among them would have been a waste of time.

The Galatians had professed faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation (i.e., justification by faith alone). However, certain false teachers began to spread a diabolical teaching; namely, that in addition to faith in Christ, Christians had to submit themselves to the regulations and practices prescribed in the Mosaic Law. In response to such claims, Paul clarifies what is and is not the gospel.    

So what? Why would anyone who has been set free from captivity willingly return to slavery? Before we became followers of Christ, we were enslaved to our false religions and flawed ideologies (e.g., secularism, humanism, legalism, or moralism). After our conversion to Christ, however, we were granted a full pardon and given a new perspective on both the character and work of God. Thus, relying on the law for salvation would reveal that we never understood the gospel (i.e., salvation by grace through faith) and demonstrate that we’ve rejected God’s grace.

We must resist the temptation to exchange God’s freeing and amazing grace for damning legalistic requirements.       

Questions from the Text:

1. What does Paul mean by “were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (4:8)?

2. How can a person turn his or her back on God (4:9)?

3. Can a person be saved (justified) by observance of holy days (4:10)?

4. Why is it important to clearly and repeatedly explain the gospel (4:11)?

The Text: Galatians 4:8-11 (ESV) [8] Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. [9] But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? [10] You observe days and months and seasons and years! [11] I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

the gospel danger of exchanging grace for lawNow what? As Christians, we must reject additions to or substitutes for the gospel.  When we are tempted to trust in our own abilities or when we find ourselves being drawn back to our former way of living, we must look to the cross as both the place of our salvation and the source of our assurance.

We must continuously reject the false idols of secularism, humanism, legalism, moralism, and false religion and completely trust in the power of the gospel.

Small-Group Questions – Read Exodus 32: 1-35

1. What and who had God delivered Israel from?

2. To whom do the Israelites dedicate the golden calf?

3. Why did God reject their worship?

4. How does Moses respond when he discovers what the people had been doing when he was on the mountain?

5. How does Aaron’s response resemble that of Adam in the Garden?

6. What are the dangers of turning away from God’s grace and back to our former idols?

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