I. The Basis For Holiness Vs. 1-6

A. Stand Firm In Liberty V. 1

1. V. 1- The Galatians needed to maintain their position of freedom from the law.
2. Life under the law- 613 commandments for the Jews. Impossible to remember.

a. Living Like A Child-Paul compares that to a child under the oversight of a guardian. The child has no ability to make his own decisions; he is only told what to do and not to do. The child isn’t expected or allowed to reason through life; they are taught to simply respond to commands.
b. Living Like A Slave- In a way similar to the child, the slave had no right of self-determination. He lived under the commands of another. His relationship to his master was conditional upon his obedience and performance.

3. What liberty doesn’t mean- This does not mean a Christian is free to do whatever they want.
4. What liberty does mean- This speaks to the method that a Christian follows in seeking to live for God, and be approved of by God.

a. The Christian has been set free from having to approach God by obeying the Law.
b. They had been set free to be thinking through life with God, and responding in love to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as opposed to life under the law.

5. 1Stand fast therefore- Their current condition was that they were living in the liberty that comes through a grace based relationship through faith in what Jesus had done.

a. They were saved the grace of God. They were living in the grace of God.
b. They were saved by and living in the unmerited favor of God.
c. They wanted to go back to trying to relate to God through their good works.
d. This would have been to regress, to go backwards, and to forsake grace.
e. It takes effort to fight our own bent towards legalism, or pressure from others.
f. We all obey God’s word, but not one another’s convictions.

B. What is Lost When One Returns To The Law Vs. 2-4

1. V. 2- They had not yet become circumcised, but they had begun practicing legalism.

a. Circumcision would follow. It was the sign of being related to God through the Law.
b. If they became circumcised, they would not lose their salvation.
c. It is that they would seek to live their Christian life under their own power, as opposed to the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

2. V. 3- Additionally, circumcision was not just the next step.

a. It was a commitment to obeying the entire law as a way to please God.
b. The Galatians had already adopted the idea of certain holy days as something that would increase their godliness.
c. Apparently, these Legalists had not informed the Galatians that circumcision obligated them to obey the entire law.
d. The Galatians were about to jump into the deep end of the pool without a lifeguard.
e. Dietary restrictions, Temple sacrifices, observation of holy days, strict tithing, etc.

3. V. 4- The context determines the topic. I do not believe that Paul is saying that if a Christian goes back to the law, that they have forfeited their salvation.

a. Fallen from (out of) grace- I believe that the context teaches that if one tries to live a holy life by obeying rules, then we have moved our hearts away from the grace of God which exists to empower us to live holy lives.
b. Justified- to make righteous or exhibit righteousness.

i. This can speak of the act of justification, or the process of sanctification.
ii. 2 Timothy 2:1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
iii. Contrary to this, the Galatians were seeking to strengthen themselves by obeying laws and regulations.

C. Desire For Holiness Can Misdirect Into Legalism Vs. 5, 6

1. V. 5- hope of righteousness- “hoped-for righteousness”.

a. It is right for a Christian to expect that his life will become more holy.
b. The issue at hand is how that comes to pass.
c. Legalists might suggest that you are progressing fast enough or far enough

2. V. 5-Wait- an attitude of intense yearning & eager waiting for holiness within one’s life.

a. That is a good and proper desire for every Christian to have.
b. But we cannot not gain holiness through legalism and self-effort.
c. We gain holiness by obeying the Holy Spirit as He prompts us and illuminates truth.

3. V. 6- Regarding holiness: Avails- to have power; to exert or wield power.

a. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has power to bring holiness.
b. Neither abstinence from alcohol nor responsible drinking can bring holiness.
c. Neither promises to God or no promises; neither dating or not dating; neither church membership or no church membership; neither accountability or no accountability; neither speaking in tongues or not speaking in tongues…
d. Neither reading your Bible and praying or not reading and praying…
e. Faith working (expressing itself) through love is the evidence of holiness.

II. Those Who Hinder Holiness Vs. 7-15

V. 7- The Legalists hindered the spiritual progress of those they were supposedly helping.
V. 8- The persuasion of the Legalists was not from God. They actually opposed God.
V. 9- Like leaven, a bit of legalism would permeate the churches.
V. 10- Paul had confidence in the Galatians, and knew that God would judge these Legalists.
a. The Legalists were troubling the Galatian Christians.
V. 11– They accused Paul of preaching circumcision, which was false. It was the preaching of the cross that brought persecution against Paul, for the cross nullifies legalism.
V. 12- If circumcision promotes holiness, then why not go further and becomes castrated so as to take away sexual desire. Paul’s possible sarcastic statement has a valid logic behind it.
David Guzik– With such a dramatic conclusion to this point, Paul has made one thing clear: legalism is no little thing. It takes away our liberty and puts us into bondage. It makes Jesus and His work of no profit to us. It puts us under obligation to the whole law. It violates the work of the Spirit of God. It makes us focus on things that are irrelevant. It keeps us from running the race Jesus set before us. It isn’t from Jesus. A little bit will infect an entire church. Those who promote it will face certain judgment, no matter who they are. Legalism tries to take away some of the glory of the cross. In light of how serious all this is, it is no wonder that Paul says he wishes they would even cut themselves off!