What’s your Gospel problem? That place where you know stress. That area to which you’re most inclined to respond with sleeplessness, sleeping too late, working too much, irritability.
That could be your Gospel problem.
By the time the Apostle Paul comes to Galatians 5:1-12, he’s made his case in the letter: we enter the Christian life by grace through faith in Christ, and we go on the Christian life by grace through faith in Christ. It’s the “going on” part his Galatian readers struggled with. Taking on the mark of circumcision indicated a half-hearted, fire insurance, “Jesus-and” kind of dependence on Christ. Paul’s bad news: “… Christ will be of no advantage to you (verse 2) … You are severed from Christ (verse 4).” Might as well try to keep the whole Law while you’re at it, Paul chided (verse 3). Might as well finish the circumcision job like a pagan idol worshipper, for all the good circumcision will do you (verse 12; Deut 23.1) … Owiee!
Jesus, plus nothing, equals everything, he’d have them know.
Like the Galatians, freedom from law, for us, means relying on the work of Jesus and refusing to return to self-effort. Far from demanding more of us, Christ asks us to “stand firm” (verse 1) in His work, His righteousness, His relationship with us. We’re sons and heirs, after all. Then, we’re not to “submit again” to that drive to please Him through self-effort (verse 1b). Freedom results, to which we’re helped by the hope of salvation at Christ’s return and the continuing guidance of His Spirit, reminding us that it’s all true (verses 2-6). And then, when we fail (and we will sometimes, like the yeast works its way through all the dough), we return again to the work of Jesus (verses 7-12) … freedom!
All this is why Galatians is such a fantastic book for growing Christians, and why our Bibles should fall open to its well-worn pages. Trusting Christ isn’t a “one-and-done”. We all have our Gospel problems where we need to return to the work of Christ, again.
Find a group and discuss these questions as they relate to the passage and your life:
Why is it significant that the believer must only “stand firm” in her position in Christ? (Why do you think that it is that Paul doesn’t ask us to do something to experience freedom?
Why is it so easy to return to self-effort and rule-keeping? What does Jesus offer in exchange for our best results? (Consider Matt 11.29-30)
Give your own paraphrase of Gal 5.2. How does the work of Christ prove to be of no benefit to the one who insists on coming to God through his own self-effort?
What do verses 5-6 tell us about the normal Christian life? Whom do we rely on while we wait for that moment when in Christ’s presence we will be acknowledged as RIGHTEOUS!
What are some ways that we lose our freedom in Christ? What are your own personal indicators that you are trusting in someone or something other than Christ?