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January 9, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”—Galatians 5:2–4 (ESV)
Legalism cuts us off from the gospel. If you’re walking in legalism, you’ve cut yourself off from the power of the gospel and the freedom you have in Christ. Sound harsh? Paul was even more clear and blunt about it!
He says that Christ will be of no advantage to us. The NIV says it this way: “Christ will be of no value to you at all.” When you mar the purity of God’s grace through Christ, you “cut yourselves off from Christ;” and “have fallen away from grace.”
My friends, if you remember anything, remember this: As far as grace is concerned, if you add anything to it, you invalidate it, and you prevent yourself from walking in it. Why? Because now it’s no longer “Salvation is found in no other Name,” now it’s Jesus + fill in the blank = salvation (the very definition of legalism). Now it’s grace laced with works, which is both futile and fatal.
And so, anyone who puts anything in that blank, whether circumcision or sacraments or social justice, they’re now “obligated to obey the whole law” because you can’t pick and choose which commandments are essential and which are disposable.
By the way, this is something Christians love to do. We have our few commandments and principles we love to focus on—that we elevate and impose on others and basically ignore the rest. But here’s the thing . . . if you rely on just one, you’re a slave to them all!
If circumcision or any other thing aside from faith in Christ is elevated as essential, then you are subject to all 613 commandments in the law, because as Galatians 3:10 (NIV, emphasis added) says, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’”
We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled into accepting any kind of dressed up, watered-down, false version of the gospel of Jesus. Whether it’s legalism, prosperity gospel, or progressive Christianity, it cuts us off from the power of the gospel, from the freedom we have in Christ, from experiencing the fullness of His promises and His presence in our lives, and from walking in victory.
So, what can we do? Refer back to yesterday’s verse and devotional: “Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us” (Galatians 5:1 PHILLIPS).
DIG: Why does legalism cut us off from the power of the gospel?
DISCOVER: What does Paul mean when he says that Christ will be of no value to us?
DO: Search your heart today for any hint of legalism.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.