On Legalism and Fundamentalism

Preached from Galatians 3:15-29 on Sunday (yesterday). I continue to be amazed at what a damning indictment of religious fundamentalism and legalism Galatians is. Paul was being attacked by fundamentalist Jewish Christians from the Jerusalem church. They were undermining his ministry among the churches of the Roman province of Galatia. They questioned whether he was really an Apostle, and they even went so far as to question his patriotism, as if Paul wasn’t Jewish enough.

Basically, in order to be a TRUE Christian, you had to keep the Law of Moses and be more Jewish, even if you were a Gentile. The litmus test standard that they were obsessing about was circumcision. They went so far as to spy on Titus during Paul’s second trip to Jerusalem when he was either bathing or using the toilet in order to confirm <GASP> that he, being Greek, was not circumcised. Get this, these fundamentalists had zero problem spying on somebody in the privacy of their own rooms, but he’s a compromiser and an evil person because he remains uncircumcised. Madness.

Once you defy the plain teachings of Jesus Christ and the New Testament, and craft a bunch of extra-Biblical standards/laws that are necessary for salvation and spiritual living, what you get is a very carnal Christianity. Paul defines carnality not as compromising or becoming “liberal” or “worldly”, but as the effort of humans to gain favor with God through their flesh – rituals, talismans, and general “religiosity”. It produces a pseudo-Christian religion that is far removed from the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles, one that is based on human will and ritual purification. No more is our salvation simply a matter of believing the Gospel in faith and it is counted to us for righteousness, but now our faith is a weak and ineffective thing that must be maintained through the things we do or do not do.

The ritual maintenance of a religious legal code is considered by Paul to be slavery, an unnecessary return to a religious prison of our own construction. In contrast, he says, we are the children of God, liberated through faith, and made forever free from sin and the law through the finished work of Christ, who also keeps and maintains our salvation throughout eternity.

“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:21-29

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