Living By Law Never Makes You Mature

Galatians 5:1-12

Jerry A Collins




v     Does law keeping have any place for me spiritually?

v     Why are all forms of legalism off limits for us?

v     What is the means by which I am saved and sanctified?


When my children were very young I told them they could not cross the street without holding dad or mom’s hand. So whenever the ball dribbled across the street one of the kids would open the door and call for us. So this rule was a way to keep them safe when they could not be trusted to cross the street without being distracted and endangering themselves. When my children are 23 they will apply safely walking across the street not by opening the front door and hollering for mom or dad—but by stopping, looking both ways and crossing safely being trusted that they know how not to endanger themselves. So the law that protected them when they were 3 is applied in an appropriate way at 23 to keep them safe. Legalism would tell you that you still live under the same rule at 23 as 3. I suggest that you will never mature under legalism. Law-based living cannot produce godliness.


1 Christ is the great liberator. He has set us free—(from what)—from the hopeless pursuit of trying to free ourselves. This goes to the heart of the gospel. Entangled and enslaved we were in complete bondage to sin. Jesus cut us loose from that entanglement. And all of it was for our freedom vs 1. So we must ‘stand firm’ in this incredible liberation we now have in Christ. Implies the need to be diligent and committed—it requires effort to do so because there is an ever-present danger. Namely, that we could become enslaved again! Going back to law based living would do that. It would be like being ruled by Hitler only to be liberated by communist Russia. A different bondage but bondage nonetheless. So we will have to be diligently pursuing our freedom in Christ. It will become burdensome—like a yoke—if we believe that our spiritual status can be increased thru legalism—man-made rule-keeping! And we can make man-made rule keeping seem like something God wants us to do! 2 Judaizers were pulling something out of the OT hat to legitimize their form of law-keeping legalism—circumcision. We can make our form of rule-keeping sound so significant. However,--a strong warning here—you will have no contact with God because of it. It will not bring your more status with God! You cannot become sanctified by legalism. It is only a man-made way to please God and is ineffective.


3 First, it makes you a debtor. Law keeping creates an entirely new obligation for you. You become a debtor to all of the law—that is OT in this case—because the law is seen as a whole unit—an entire system. You become a debtor to all of it. Just like legaizers who devise a whole strategy of rules you must comply with. It is tiring and exhausting and ineffective.

4 Then you fall away from grace. Pressing for circumcision—prime example here—trying to be righteous that way alienates you from Christ. You have abandoned the grace system of living for a law based one. Your life will be taken over by pride, control, authority, and fear. There will be no grace in your marriage; in your home; in your pursuits; in your spiritual life; in your ministry. For these Judaizers, justification and sanctification were the same and both had to be sought after now—you must keep seeking after it all the way to the end of your life. This is the fallen from grace system.

5 Yet, there is an alternative. It is faith that works by means of the Spirit. It is an inwardly engineered not conformed too outwardly. It is a whole new kind of existence. It is a faith in an ultimate and final righteousness not one attained now.

6 It is faith working through love. Neither circumcision or lack of it  carries any weight in Christ. You cannot manufacture your holiness, godliness or sanctification. No law-keeping can produce that. It is only something the Spirit of God produces in us through love—again  an inward motivation here not outward conformity. Faith, love, and the Spirit is the grace life. This grace system is the only means we have of contact with God!


7 We have the metaphor of running that is used often by Paul. Our spiritual life is a run—a marathon. It is for the long haul. It is a way of life. We have in view our ultimate justification before God vs 5 while we run the race of spiritual maturity today. Keep running well so that noone will cut in on you as they did here. Someone cut in on them while they were in stride and were causing them to stumble. The emphasis    here is upon one person--the ringleader--persuading them from following the grace based system of living that Christ secured for them. Persuasion is a key component of false teachers while they attempt to influence you.

8 This false teaching did not originate with God by the way. He had called them by His grace in the first place. God also persuades. So there are competing persuasions each attempting to influence us—one law based the other grace based.

9 The law based system introduces seemingly small deviations but may destroy the whole grace system of living. This is the effect of false legalistic teaching—it eventually spreads and permeates. It is like a seduction that eventually replaces grace.

10 However, we can be optimistic about the outcome because of the Holy Spirit. Here Paul is now persuaded that the race system of living will not be replaced. We can carry on in our ministry or in our obedience to God’s Word because we know that the Spirit of God is at work. Because we know that God will be just. This ringleader will pay the penalty for stirring up this trouble. God will see to it that justice is served. We can confidently go on in service and obedience even when we cannot know the source or origin of the opposition. God knows and we can be confident and not defeated because of that kind of knowledge.


11 If Paul still teaches things like circumcision—law based living—why is he still being persecuted by his opponents who insist Gentile converts must observe law of Moses? If he were doing that, then the offense to Jews caused by preaching Christ crucified would not exist! No Jew wanted to hear that a cursed man on a cross was the only means of salvation. So their rigid stance on circumcision (as prime example of need to keep Mosaic Law) is a way to minimize offense of the cross. In other words, there is still something  I can do to increase my status with God. Noone wants to hear that there is nothing they can do-we can always do something! Again goes to heart of gospel—Christ died for you.

12 So if circumcision necessary for spiritual status then have these agitators go all the way—castrate themselves and get maximum favor with God! This sign has no more spiritual meaning than any other cutting or marking pagan rituals do.

1. We do not live under the OT even tho we must apply it to our lives. Like 23 yr old we learn God’s heart from it and then apply that.

2. You cannot upgrade your spiritual status by baptism, 2nd blessing or other man made rules outside of the Bible.

3. Our freedom to grow in grace must be diligently maintained so that we never buy into a law based way of life.