“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace,” Galatians 5:4
It is no little thing to turn one’s back on the gospel for a law merit system of salvation. The result of this perversion of the free gift of salvation is to be “alienated from Christ,” and to have, “fallen away from grace.” Could there be anything worse, for a Christian, than to be alienated from God and His free gift of salvation?
The debate and arguments, over the years, regarding the law and the gospel has had disastrous consequences for the church. Entire denominations co-mingle grace and law in a witches’ cauldron of deceit, confusion, and error that bubble up into alienation from Christ.
In Galatians when Paul talks about the law, he is referring to the Torah. He doesn’t divide the law into sections such as moral, ceremonial, and civil, but instead understands “nomos” as Torah law. It is everything that is included in the laws of Moses. When Paul makes the statement that anyone trying “to be justified by the law” has been alienated from Christ, he is referring to the entire law used as a method of obtaining merit and adding to the salvation event.
The bottom line is a person cannot believe they are saved by grace alone, through faith alone because of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ at Calvary, and then add any merit based works to that perfect sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. Our salvation is in Jesus, and through Jesus, and is totally devoid of anything we can do or have done that supplements His sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
Paul, makes it abundantly clear that there is no place for the co-mingling of works and grace in the life of a believer in Galatians 2:19-21;
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Paul states that he has died to the law method of trying to earn his salvation through good works, absolute obedience, and striving to prove to God that he is worthy of redemption. Instead he simply states that he had given all that up in order that “I might live for God.” So, what does it mean to “live for God?” He answers that in verse 20 where he states, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul, in a very spiritual sense was crucified with Christ and the result is he no longer lives believing he can do anything to add to his salvation, as he once did as a Pharisee, but now has Christ living in Him.
Every Christian has to come to a place where they die to self and the lies of self-justification and the possibility of perfect obedience that streams out of that self-justification. This can only happen, however, when we surrender self and allow Christ’s love and compassion to dwell within us. It is the time when we say, God I can’t be what I should be, and I can’t live up to perfection and obey all your commands without falling. It is when we give up on our selves and our works method of trying to please God that we come to the foot of the cross and say with Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
The life we now live we live by faith in Jesus Christ who loved us and “gave Himself for me.” It is no wonder Paul says of the Galatians, “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you.” We live our lives by faith in Jesus who loves us and gave Himself for us. How dare we have the nerve and the audacity to believe anything we could do would add one drop of merit to the perfect love of Jesus who gave Himself for us!
To add our works to Jesus’ perfect work, on our behalf, is to belittle the gospel and frankly belittle Jesus. In Galatians 4 Paul writes,
3 “So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.
4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to Son-ship.
6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (3-7).
This post is too short to look at the above verses in depth, but we should notice that at a set time Jesus came to deliver us from the elemental spiritual forces of the world and redeem us from the curse of the law. The result for all who believe and are adopted into Son-ship is the ability and desire to call God, “Abba,” through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We are, therefore, declared heirs.
In Galatians 2 Paul once again makes it clear that works of the law have no place in the life of a Christian when it comes to salvation.
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles
16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal. 2:15-16)
Paul states the Galatians know that a person is not “justified by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Justification, therefore, comes by faith in Jesus Christ and “not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Is it possible for Paul to be any clearer?
I know, some of you reading this post are already saying, if that’s true then I can do anything I want because there is no law. NO! A thousand times, no! Paul is not saying the law is bad or is not important in the life of a Christian. He is saying keeping the law adds no merit to your salvation or earns any brownie points with God. We live moral lives, not in order to be saved, but because we have Jesus living in our hearts through the Spirit. Our desire as Christians is to live in harmony with the love and compassion of Jesus and reflect that love to others. But there is no merit in that—all the merit for our redemption is in Christ.
The law is good—it was given to Moses by God for the people. It was never meant to save us, but instead to point out our failure to live up to its demands so that we would turn to Jesus as the source of our strength and redemption. To believe we can keep these laws, in any way, that makes God mark down merit to our account is to belittle the cross event where Jesus purchased our redemption and set us free from sin, death, and Satan.