As has been noted in other devotionals that precede this entry, Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians to oppose the way that they were clinging to the old laws of Judaism instead of accepting Christ and the new gospel of love and redemption. In today’s readings, Paul states his point clearly: If you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law because you are living in the freedom given to you through the gospel of Christ. The old laws of Judaism are laws of the flesh and represent enslavement. In fact, in today’s readings, Paul equates people who live by the law, who thought of themselves as righteous, with people who live by the flesh.
This had to be a difficult argument to hear for the Galatians. The laws had been drilled into them and the generations before them as direct instructions from God. If you read the earlier books of the Old Testament there is certainly a litany of laws laid down by God as He led the Israelites to the Promised Land. Why did He do that if He was only going to reverse Himself later?
This is dealt with more in Paul’s letter in Galatians 3, but is worth exploring further here as well. After reading a few studies on this issue, I believe God gave the law to the Israelites to set the stage for the arrival of Christ and the opportunity for conversion. I also believe God continues to do this in our lives as well. Even if we have already experienced conversion, God continually gives us opportunities to stay on course, just as He did to the Israelites throughout the generations leading to Christ’s ministry on earth. But, these opportunities are not the end-all but rather the means to get to the end – which is salvation in Jesus Christ.
The real issue for all of us, just as it was for the Galatians, is to see those opportunities and act upon them. To do this, we must be vigilant and we must be diligent and intentional in our desire to discern God’s will for us. We must live by the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, as Paul explains. This is the only way to live within the freedom given to us through the gospel of Christ.