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Liberty not Legalism  

July 26,2020

Galatians 5:1-12

Freedom is only possible by grace through faith in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

By Pastor Josh Munan


Sermon Notes 

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Liberty not Legalism

Galatians 5:1 – 12

Proposition: Freedom is only possible by grace through faith in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

Application:  Receive the salvation God freely offers by grace through faith.  Continue in the salvation we have by grace through faith.


In her song/ Me and Bobby McGee,/ Janis Joplin said that “freedom's just another word/ for nothing left to lose.”  Is that really freedom?  Are we free/ to do whatever we want?  Is freedom/ an excuse to indulge ourselves?  What we will find/ in the passage we are looking at today,/ is that true freedom/ is only possible by grace/ through faith in Christ Jesus.  

  1. Protecting Our Purchased Freedom (5:1 – 4)

Set Free (5:1): According to Scripture/, freedom means that our former master/, whoever or whatever it may be/, no longer has authority over us.  As Christians/, sin, satan and death/ are no longer masters. We are also free/ from the burden of trying to be good enough for God/ through our good works/ and religious customs.

Read John 8:36

Stand Firm in Grace: Freedom has many opponents.  Our freedom in Christ/ is constantly challenged.  Freedom must be protected.  Freedom must be defended.  How do we safeguard freedom?  By standing firm!

Just as a deeply rooted tree/ can stand firm in raging storms,/ we stand secure in our freedom/ by being firmly rooted in the grace of Christ Jesus. 

But if we rely/ on something or someone/ other than grace/ to maintain our freedom,/ we will find ourselves/ enslaved once again,/ by a new master/, called legalism.   

Read Lev 26:13

As we saw/ in a former message in Galatians/, false teachers tried to persuade the Gentile Christians/ that in order to partake of the blessing of Abraham,/ in order to remain in good standing with God,/ they had to believe in Jesus/ and assume Jewish identity/ by yielding to circumcision.  But forcing Gentiles to live as Jews/ does not lead to liberty. 

Stand Firm Against Circumcision (5:2):  Paul is not against Jewish believers being circumcised/ as part of their Jewish identity/ and lifestyle,/ he is against forcing Gentile Christians/ to assume Jewish identity/ as a requirement for staying right with the Lord.  

Receiving circumcision for health reasons/ or for hygienic benefit/ is not the issue. The issue/ is to be circumcised for religious reasons.  Submitting to circumcision in this way/ is to acknowledge that Law keeping/ is necessary to maintain a right standing with the Lord.  Living by this rule/ would negate/ the grace of God.

Slavery of Legalism:  For the Christian/, circumcision is a symbol of legalism/ – a system of earning one’s way into heaven/ by good works/ and religious customs. 

If we accept a Christianity based on our merit/, we are claiming that the finished work of Christ Jesus/ is simply not enough.  We are saying/ that our Christian practices,/ our good deeds,/ completes what Jesus accomplished.   If I follow a system/ based on my merit,/ a religion/ that combines the work of Jesus/ with my good works,/ what I get in the end/ is not a relationship with Jesus/ but a lifeless religion.

If I insist on adding my good works/ to merit God’s righteousness/, Jesus will be of no value to me. Adding our own righteousness to His/ puts a wedge/ between the Lord and us.  Legalism/ makes light of the finished work of Christ Jesus. 

As we trust in the Lord/, we find He supplies all needed resources/ in regard to our salvation/ and service. 

Circumcision Does Not Stand Alone (5:3): The message of the false teachers/ was that by receiving circumcision/, the Galatian believers/ would be more blessed.  But in truth,/ Paul warned that circumcision/ carried the obligation to obey the whole law,/ all 613 commands.  We can’t look at the Law/ and say “I like this law, I will keep it.  But that law, I don’t like so much, so I will ignore it.” The Mosaic Law/ is not like a buffet/ where we pick and choose what we want to eat. 

If we want to live by the law/, if we want to establish personal merit before God/, we can’t choose which laws we want to obey. 

Read James 2:10

Illustration:  If I surpass the speed limit/ and get pulled over by the police/, I don’t say, “Please, give me a break sir.  I have never robbed anyone. I have not murdered anybody. I don’t commit adultery.”  The laws I keep/, do not cover the laws I break.  No amount of obedience/ can make up for an act of disobedience. 

This is why/ we do not want to submit/ to a religious system/ that adds our righteousness/ to the righteousness of Christ Jesus/ as a way to merit God’s favor.  When we submit to such a way of life,/ when we seek to establish personal merit before the Lord/, it is then we cease to be free. 

So why do Christians become legalistic?  Why would we fall into the trap of seeking to establish our own righteousness? Because we believe/ that if we don’t have rules and regulations to keep us in line,/ we will end up as rebels.  But the Bible teaches/ that no person becomes a rebel/ when relying on God’s grace.

Read Titus 2:11, 12

Severed from Christ Jesus (5:4a): The result of defecting from the gospel of grace/ for a system of personal righteousness/ is described in the most alarming way.  If we seek to establish our own righteousness/, we will have cut ourselves off from the Lord Jesus.  His righteousness/ will be of no value to us.  

Transition: By adding our good works/ to merit God’s favour/, we cease to be free/; we sever ourselves from the Lord; we separate ourselves from His grace. 

Serving in our own Strength (5:4b): Christians can fall from grace/, not because of committing some gross immoral sin.  Falling from grace/ means that our trust in Christ Jesus/ is exchanged for a merit-based system. We lose our grip on grace/ for daily living.  Grace no longer operates/ in our salvation reality.

We gain access into the sphere of God’s grace/ through faith/ in Christ Jesus.

Read Rom 5:2

One who says/, “I was saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, but now my salvation depends on my own efforts,” has fallen out of the sphere of God’s grace/ since they no longer rely on His grace to persevere. Our relationship with the Lord/ is either by divine accomplishment/ or human achievement.  It cannot be both.

Ceased to be Saved?  Does falling from grace/ suggest we lose our salvation?  I don’t believe so.  Paul calls the Galatian believers brothers in 4:12.

Salvation is past, present, and future.  We were justified by grace through faith – that is past.  We are being sanctified by grace through faith – this is in the present.  We will be glorified by grace through faith – that is yet future.

I believe Paul is saying/ we can fall out of the sphere of God’s grace/ for sanctification.  If we seek to establish our own righteousness/, we no longer grow in sanctifying grace.  When we fall from grace/ we are still justified through faith, but we cease to grow in grace.

Read 2 Peter 3:18

Transition:  We continue our Christian life/ the same way we began our Christian life, by grace/ through faith. The Lord lavishes His grace on us/ not because of our feats for Him/ but because of our faith in Him.  Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stand firm in our freedom.  Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stay connected to the Lord. Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we remain within the sphere/ of God’s sanctifying grace.  Because we have the inward power of the Spirit/, we do not need the outward presence of rules and regulations.  The indwelling Spirit/ does a far better job bringing about righteousness/ than our good works/ and religious customs can ever do.  

  1. A Waiting and Working Faith (5:5, 6)

A Waiting Faith (5:5):  Just as a zygote/, embryo/ or fetus is fully human/ though not fully developed/, we are righteous/ but not fully righteous. When we are glorified at the resurrection/, then we receive the full and final measure/ of divine righteousness. 

A Working Faith (5:6): Circumcision/ or uncircumcision/ has no role/ in attaining the hope of righteousness. What is of value/ is faith working through love.  Just as faith waits for the hope of righteousness/, faith also works/ through love.  Here/ we find the hallmarks of a justified believer – faith, hope and love.

The order of faith and love/ is important. Faith is the root. Love is the fruit. Faith produces the work/, but the work/ does not produce faith.  Faith working through love/ fulfills the law far better than self-righteousness. 

Transition: Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stand firm in our freedom; we stay connected to the Lord; we remain within the sphere/ of God’s sanctifying grace.  Through faith in Christ Jesus/ we wait for the hope of righteousness/ as we work out the love of God.

  • Resist and Reject Falsehood (5:7 – 12)

Run the Race (5:7, 8): Scripture likens the Christian life / to a race.  We don’t run the race to be saved/, we run the race/ because we are saved.  But legalism hinders our progress/ in this race.  It obstructs our walk/ with the Lord.  It restricts our status/ as free people. We will always face challenges/ seeking to hinder our progress/ in the Lord.  We will always face obstacles/ trying to turn our race /from a Spirit empowered one/ to one based on our own strength.  

The only lane we are to run in/ is the lane called grace.  The only strength we are to expend/ is the power the Spirit supplies.  Anything that hinders our progress/, anything that obstructs our service/, anything that restricts our freedom/, has nothing to do with God’s will/ and must be rejected.

Reject the Lies (5:9, 10):  Great oaks/ from little acorns/ grow.  A little yeast/ goes a long way.  Yeast/ is a symbol of sin/ and lies. 

Read Matt 16:6

Before the Exodus/, Israel had to bake bread without yeast/ so they would not be delayed/ in leaving a life of slavery/ for freedom.  Leaven delays us/ in the race we are running.  If not dealt with/, false teaching/ which might begin small/ quickly spreads/ and disturbs a local church congregation.

Preach the Cross (5:11, 12): Some people/ walk away from the church/ because they are offended by the exclusive claims/ of the Gospel.  The cross provokes persecution.  It arouses opposition.  Why is the cross/ so offensive?  Because it nullifies any thought of personal merit.  It says/ God will not accept my righteousness/ as the basis for justification. The cross is offensive/ because it says good people/ do not make it to heaven by their good works.  The cross crushes our pride.  It says/ I must die to self. The cross is offensive/ because it is God’s final “no”/ to all human attempts to seek and serve Him.

The cross is offensive/ not because Jesus died for my sins/, but because I must die with Him.

Read: 5:24


The doctrine of grace/ is not a dangerous doctrine.  Religious legalism/ is a dangerous doctrine/ because it is guaranteed/ to fail. Why is legalism so attractive? Because we do not believe God’s grace is enough/, and we add in a few good works/ to be on the safe side.  Why is the cross so offensive? Because it puts an end to my pride. Why is faith so necessary? Because through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stand firm in our freedom; we stay connected to the Lord; we remain within the sphere of God’s sanctifying grace.  Through faith in Christ Jesus/ we wait for the future hope of righteousness/ as we work out/ the love of God. 

Our salvation/ continues in the same way it began – by grace alone/ through faith alone/ in Christ Jesus alone.  

Please do not attempt/ to establish your own righteousness/ and sever yourselves from the Lord Jesus/ and fall from His grace.  Instead/, seek to be established in His righteousness,/ by entering the sphere of God’s grace/, through faith in Christ Jesus

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Liberty Not Legalism
Galatians 5:1-12
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