I. Understanding Two Approaches To God 4:21-31

A. Understanding What Legalism Means 4:21

1. The Galatians had been born again by believing the Gospel.
2. They had been saved out of some form of legalism: man made religion with its rules.
3. But they had been deceived by legalists, and were returning to legalism.
4. http://carm.org/what-is-legalism- In Christianity, legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc). This legalism can take different forms.

a. The first is where a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation.
b. The second is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation.
c. The third is when a Christian judges other Christians for not keeping certain codes of conduct that he thinks need to be observed.

5. Paul appeals to them to reconsider what they are getting back into.
6. Paul refers to Old Testament passages to make his point.
7. NOTE- When speaking to the issues of legalism, the discussion must be Biblical.

B. Legalism Originates With Man & Is Enslaving 4:22-28

1. These legalists were specifically of Jewish origin, and loved to trace their ancestral roots back to Abraham as their spiritual father.

a. They loved seeing themselves as “sons of Abraham”.
John 8:37-39 37“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.
38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”
39They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”
b. They forgot that Abraham had two sons.
c. One was rejected regarded the eternal plans of God, the other was accepted.

2. Vs. 22, 23– In Genesis 12, 13, and 15, God had promised Abraham a child.
3. After waiting many years for his wife to become pregnant, Abraham and Sarah followed a cultural practice, and he fathered a child by Hagar, their Egyptian slave.
4. Abraham sought God to allow his son Ishamel to be accepted as the son who would continue the family lineage, and who would eventually bring forth Jesus, but God refused to accept Ishmael in this way.
5. Genesis 17:15-19 15Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
16And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”
17Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
18And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”
19Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.
6. Years later, when Abraham and Sarah were both beyond child bearing years, God miraculously grace them a son, named Isaac.
7. Ishamel was considered the son of the flesh, the efforts of man.
8. Isaac was the son of the promise, miraculously born, with God getting the glory.
9. Illustration / Application

a. Legalism finds its origins in conditions of slavery (Hagar)
b. Christianity finds its origins in conditions of freedom (Sarah)
c. Legalism is the work of man in man to try to produce acceptable spiritual results.
d. Christianity is the work of God in man to produce acceptable spiritual results.

10. V. 24-28 Paul says that he is using illustration and symbolism to bring forth truth.
11. Paul refers to two locations and what those locations illustrate.

a. Mt. Sinai, (and Jerusalem of Paul’s day) where God gave the Law to Moses.

i. The Law is one way of trying to approach God. It requires performance.
ii. Mt Sinai and Jerusalem both represented the efforts of man to reach God.
iii. Hagar birthed Ishmael through the efforts of man.
iv. Approaching God through the law requires the efforts of man.
v. The law is good, but it condemns us when we fail, and we are enslaved to it.

b. The New Jerusalem: represents the work of God in man to produce spiritual birth.

12. Paul uses all this to illustrate that Christians are born again through faith in the work of
God (the cross of Jesus), and not through the efforts of man.
13. If you are a Christian, you are a child of promise, not a child of works.
14. EXAMPLE- An adopted child doesn’t earn his way into a family; he is accepted by the family. How sad if he thinks his secure place in the family depends on his performance.
15. APPLICATION- What does this look like today?

a. A Christians starts to focus more on rule keeping than on God’s grace and mercy.
b. They develop a damaging lifestyle of extreme condemnation as opposed to healthy conviction and repentance.
c. They believe they have to earn God’s forgiveness through good works and change.

C. Legalism Persecutes The Work Of The Spirit 4:29-31

1. Ishmael mocked and persecuted Isaac, his younger brother.
2. Ishmael had been born through the efforts of man, but Isaac through the power of God.
3. V. 30- Ishamel would not inherit the blessings promised to Isaac.

a. Religious/Legalist Ishmaels try to earn blessings, Isaacs inherit them through faith.

4. APPLICATION- Paul gives us a general distinguishing mark of legalism: persecution

a. Persecution- to harass, trouble, or molest.
b. Legalism hates the freedom of the Spirit led life.
c. Legalism seeks to restrict, confine, and control those born of and led by the Spirit.
d. Legalism tends towards being very critical of those who live by the Spirit.

5. Paul says that as Hagar and Ishmael be to be removed, so ought legalism be removed.
6. The Christian is not to live under both law and grace, but only under grace.
7. NOTE- The Ishmaels of this world are found in both Christian and non-Christian churches and societies.

a. Ishmaels- attempt to seek God, spirituality, etc., solely on their own efforts.
b. Isaacs- received from God by faith, and respond to God’s prompting, and recognize no ability within themselves to be made acceptable before God.

II. Don’t Return To Legalism 5:1

1. Being saved meant that they were free from having to approach God by rules, but were in relationship with Him by faith, being led by the Holy Spirit.
2. By looking back to legalism and law keeping, they were becoming entangled in bondage.
3. Entangled- to held within, to be ensnared (to a mindset of rule keeping as opposed to a mindset of walking with God)
4. Legalism is…

a. Mannish: It originates with man. It asks and expects God to accept it.
b. Slavish: It puts people under man made or man interpreted rules.
c. Persecuting: Legalism persecutes and oppresses others.

5. Christian: That is not who you are. Don’t revert back to legalism.