One of the interesting things about this passage is its insistence that our personal experience conform to the teaching of Scripture.
It begins with six questions (verses 1-4) designed to cause the Galatians to reflect on their personal experience with Christ. Paul is reminding them that they need to trust Jesus, not the Law. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “… only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.”
Then, in verses 6-15, Paul uses six Old Testament quotes to show that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and not through observing the works of the law. The point is that we don’t judge Scripture by our experience, but that we must test our experience against the word of God.
It’s quite a simple principle, really, but it has such huge ramifications. For instance, if I’m married, I never have to wonder if God is leading me into an intimate relationship with someone else. Scripture, in a number of places including the 10 Commandments, makes that very clear: He is not.
We never have to worry about whether we are supposed to cheat, even if it seems like the ends justify the means, or if everybody else is doing it. As Christ followers, our lives are meant to be marked by the kind of integrity that only comes when people unreservedly embrace truth. We never have to give that a second thought.
We never have to deliberate with ourselves about whether or not God wants us to forgive somebody else. The clear teaching of Scripture is that no one is perfect (save Jesus), and that we better forgive others if we expect to be forgiven ourselves.
The list goes on and on, but I trust you get my point. Of course, the assumption here is that we know Scripture well enough to conform our lives to it. Paul, in the Jewish culture of his day, could safely make that assumption.
But I wonder…even within the church…can we?