"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?" Galatians 3:1

Paul deals with something we call legalism in the book of Galatians. The Galatians had been wonderfully saved through Paul?s preaching ? and they were so grateful at that time, that he writes the following:

"And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus." Galatians 4:14 (NKJV)

But something happened to the Galatians. In short, they began to bring the old rules and traditions of Judaism into their new faith, and began counting on those rules for part of their salvation. This is why Paul admonishes them by saying:

"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel?" Galatians 1:6.

"Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" Galatians 3:3

The Seriousness of Their Error

Was this then a minor mistake? It could not be minor if Paul says that they were turning to a different gospel. Belief in a different gospel would mean that they were no longer Christians. If we have any doubt about this, Paul also states:

"Have you suffered so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain?" Galatians 3:4

He is essentially saying that the things they had suffered to become Christians would be wasted if they lost their salvation because they turned from the truth. As converted Jews, their suffering for the Gospel had been twofold: First, from their own people for leaving Old Covenant Judaism, and second from the Roman government which was grievously persecuting new believers in "the way." All that they went through would be nullified if they ended up no longer believing the truth that they had once embraced. They had the grace of God ? His salvation through Jesus Christ, but now they were rejecting it. They had to be turning from the faith, because one cannot fall from grace if one has never had it. Paul says in Chapter 5, verse 4: "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."

How were they trying to be justified by the law? We know one of the deceptions was their desire to be circumcised. Today we may be circumcised for reasons of cleanliness ? but not for spiritual reasons. If we, like the Galatians, think that we must be circumcised to be saved, we are in the same deception as they were ? and Paul addresses their plight distinctly in the following Scriptures:

"Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law." Galatians 5:2-3 (NKJV)

We also know that they had made observing a particular times a necessity for salvation, for he goes on to say:

"You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain." Galatians 4:10 (NKJV)

Let us carefully consider Paul?s words in the previous Scripture. He is saying that if we are attempting to keep any part of the law, then we are a debtor to the whole law. However, what does he mean when he talks about the law?

Two Aspects of the Law: Moral and Ceremonial

We must understand the difference between the moral and ceremonial law to understand the sin of the Galatians, and to also avoid their sin in our own lives. They were adding a requirement for salvation that fundamentally repudiated and denied the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross. They were essentially saying that His work was not a finished work.

The high priest that descended from the Aaronic priesthood never sat down in his ministry in the temple. This symbolized that his work was never finished, for sacrifices would have to be made as a temporary covering for sin until the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ was made. Unlike the high priest from Aaron?s line, Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrificial system, and we read clearly that He sat, symbolizing a finished work.

"But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God." Hebrews 10:12 (NKJV)

This is why Paul explained to the Galatians that the ceremonial law was no longer in effect for those who were saved by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Rather, the law was now distilled down to two of the Ten Commandments, which covers the whole moral aspect of a Christian?s life. We read of them in Matthew 22:37-40: "?Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." ?And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." ?On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."?" If a Christian is fulfilling these two commandments, he or she is fulfilling all of the commandments. Paul refers to this in Galatians 5:14: "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.?"

This love of God and man is the quintessence of everything Jesus taught. Loving others as ourselves encompasses every moral legislation that was given to the Jews in the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch). If we treat others this way, we will not steal, or exploit others, covet what others have, etc. And this aspect of the law, the moral aspect, was not done away with by Jesus. Rather, it was enhanced because it is no longer written in stone, but rather written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, it is no longer didactically commanded, but the Holy Spirit woos us to obey it by softening us to have mercy on others and consider them in the light of the Holy Spirit?s revelation. We now know that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but is a spiritual battle against Satan and his forces. We see that he manipulates others, so rather than being angry at them, and attacking them, we seek to fight a spiritual battle by overcoming evil with love ? that is treating them well regardless of their sins against us ? because we understand that love conquers all things.

Jesus was clear that the moral aspect was not voided by His sacrifice, for He tells us in Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."

Paul emphasizes that the moral aspect of the law has not been erased, also, in Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." Sowing and reaping have to do with the way people act morally, not with the ceremonial law. Paul was distinguishing this for the Galatians, because another group, called the Nicolatians, were evidently teaching that since Christ died, Christians could sin with impunity and still go to heaven. This teaching made a mockery of grace, and Paul did not want to be misunderstood regarding his reference to the law. For instance, it is not legalism when a believer admonishes another to cleanse himself or herself from sexual sin, or from stealing or lying. However, telling Christians they are sinning because they are not observing certain ceremonial practices is sin for the person who is accusatory, because the person is denying that Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law.

The New Testament church experienced this problem, and Peter addressed those who were perpetrating it in this manner:

“Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Acts 15:10-11 (NKJV)

Let us now consider the practical application of Paul and Peter?s advice for our contemporary church.

Saturday or Sunday or Does it Matter?

I was once in a discussion with a pastor who was adamant that the day on which we must go to church is Saturday and not Sunday. He based everything in his Christian walk on this premise. I asked the man, who by the way was quite a gentleman to talk with, where in the Bible it says that the Sabbath is Saturday. I challenged him on this point, and explained to him that nowhere in the Bible does it say the Sabbath is Saturday.

The word for Sabbath in Hebrew is shabbath, and it simply means "seventh." God ordered Israel to work six days and rest the seventh, as we read in Exodus 31:15 "Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord." Now let us clearly understand that the day in question was later called Saturday (the name may be inconsequential since most of our names for days come from pagan sources), but the Scripture teaching to work six and rest the seventh does not indicate a specific day. Most of Christendom worships on Sunday because the apostles did so. The reason was that Jesus rose on the day after the normal Sabbath of that time. We know that Jesus rose on Sunday, which was the day after the Sabbath, because it is clearly shown from Scripture:

"Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb." Matthew 28:1 (NKJV)

A hint of this change can be seen throughout the Old Testament, also. This is a bit complex and takes time to explain, but suffice to say that there is understanding that the day after the Sabbath held significance as emblematic of the resurrection, for the eighth day (the day after the Sabbath) was also a Sabbath in some of the feasts of Israel:

"Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest." Leviticus 23:39

We also know that the apostles worshipped on Sunday from Scriptures, as follows:

"Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." Acts 20:7

"On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come." 1Corinthians 16:2

"Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19 (NKJV)

Here we see that Jesus actually appeared to the first church, assembled on the day after the Sabbath, and instead of rebuking them, he blesses them with peace. Nevertheless, whether one is convinced that the day is Saturday or Sunday, we have clear evidence that God is telling us that it does not matter. This is further corroborated in Romans 14:5: "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind."

Just what can this mean but what it says? How can one insist on a particular day when the Bible tells us clearly what the situation is? When we make worshipping on Saturday so important, the next thing we will do is make it a requirement for salvation, which some have already done. This is sheer nonsense, and it is what led Paul to ask, "Who has bewitched you?"

Again, we are not talking here about what one can do and cannot do on the Sabbath; we are simply talking about what day we should set aside for it. The pastor I spoke with was convinced that if someone had been told that Saturday was the day, and they failed to worship on that day, they were doomed. I reasoned with him as much as possible, and then as we were running out of time, I looked at him for a moment, and asked, "Pastor, do you really think that God is that hard on us? Would he forgive a man from the vilest crimes, from murder or rape or drug-dealing, and then not allow him into heaven because he worshipped on Sunday instead of Saturday? Certainly you can see yourself that it is a debatable issue. Would our loving God say, ?I can forgive all this other sin, but not your failure to worship on the correct day??"

The pastor looked at me and replied in a low voice, "I believe there may be some people in heaven who worshipped on Sunday."

If a person thinks that not worshipping on Saturday can doom a man, a question arises as to whether or not that person is actually saved, because this is a complete misunderstanding of the Gospel. We must not add anything to the Gospel, or we become guilty of deception. We read in Ephesians 2:8 what is required for salvation, and it does not include the day we choose to worship: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."

Are You Bewitched?

"Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" Galatians 4:16

Paul understood that spiritual blindness had fallen on the Galatians. They were angry at him for what he preached, just as there are those reading this that have become angry. Nevertheless, this has not been written to anger or to alienate anyone, but rather to expose incorrect doctrines that have the power to destroy Christians. There is a tendency of some to follow rigid rules that have no specific moral significance to justify themselves. But these rules have no power to keep us from sin; and they are, in fact, the same problem that the Pharisees had, to which Jesus said: in Matthew 23:24 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" Our understanding is also enlightened regarding this from Colossians 2:21-23 "?Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,? which all concern things which perish with the using–according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."

Let us rejoice in our freedom from the ceremonial law, but also remember that we are not "free" from moral law. No matter how common sin becomes in society, the gravity of it has not diminished one scintilla in God?s judgment. Nevertheless, binding ourselves with useless regulations makes no atonement for sin ? that is Christ?s domain, alone. In fact, we see from the following conversation that even a scribe who spoke to Jesus grasped this truth:

"So the scribe said to Him, ?Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.?" Mark 12:32-33

Let us then:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1