Tuesday, September 8, 2009


(Thanks to Bill D. for help on this one)

"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" (Galatians 3:1).

The Galatians believers were being tempted by false teachers to add legalistic practice and ritual to their experience of grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul references this in terms of "bewitching," that is, of a malevolent attack by spiritual influences.

We may not consider legalism in such terms because the concept implies very earthly realities. Legalism, by definition, is an attempt to create or further spiritual experience by our own human efforts, as opposed to the working of the Holy Spirit within us. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:2-3). Paul reveals such a notion to be devilish deception, and thus calls us to view the matter in far more serious terms than we may sometimes consider.

A good friend often says that there are two ditches on the side of the path of righteousness. One is the ditch of licentiousness, or the frivolous disregard for the godliness of faith and obedience to which we are called. The other is the legalism that seeks to add flesh-originated works to our walk with God. Both ditches are to be avoided, and the Bible never qualitatively declares one to be worse than the other. However, legalism bears a particular danger because of its subtle implication that we are actually doing good things in the particular works and rituals we are adding to God's grace and truth in Christ. We are far more likely to know that something is amiss when we fall into licentiousness, while legalism tempts us to believe that we are actually progressing down the path of righteousness.

Again, legalism not merely a human or earthly misunderstanding, but a devilish attempt to deceive us. The ultimate fruits of legalism are frustration, condemnation, arrogance and harshness toward others, a distorted view of God, and often a resignation to a status-quo Christian experience that is far from the life of transcendent godliness to which we are called. Who but Satan and his minions could be behind such a spiritual tragedy and disaster? We do well, therefore, to pray much and expose ourselves much to the light of God's Word in order to avoid the deluded attempt to make perfect by the flesh that which can only be begun and continued by the Holy Spirit. Many works will result when we walk in God's grace and truth, but they will be the fruits of our Lord working in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" rather than unbiblical practices and rituals that deceive us, and ultimately damage authentic godliness in us (Philippians 2:13).

"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
(Ephesians 6:11-12)

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