I wrote yesterday that freedom is difficult for us human beings, well actually impossible for the lost, but even difficult for the redeemed. True freedom requires growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, a constant and steady walk in the Spirit. We grow in our freedom as we slough off besetting sins. Sanctification is a lifelong process and it requires work; we shall not be completely free from sin in this life, and we sometimes become discouraged with our progress.
Well, the answer to this struggle is to pray for more grace, more of the Holy Spirit, expecting the Lord to give to those who ask (Luke 11:13). It is not to manufacture other means as if our Lord and his word were not enough. But sometimes we think that we just need something more to hang on to, something more than grace or the Holy Spirit, though we would never say that. And this is where the problem for the Galatians became so glaring to Paul, though they themselves were somewhat oblivious to it. And that problem is this: substituting something in place of the Holy Spirit and the grace he imparts to make us feel more secure. Sure we have grace, but we have this, too—whatever “this” might be.
So in the case of the Galatians, the “this” that the false teachers were telling them that they needed was the Mosaic Law, specifically, circumcision. “You must do this, too,” the Judaizers told them. “And why not? It will give you another nail to hang your salvation on. And if you ever doubt, you have no further to look than, ur…well, at your own body.”
Paul’s response is uncompromising: “If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you…Every man who accepts circumcision…is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” Now understand, the issue was and is not circumcision per se (Paul himself was circumcised as was our Lord), but seeking salvation through observance of the law—Mosaic or otherwise. And it is this “extra something” that Christians are often seeking, choosing anything but grace, be it a code or perhaps a “second act of grace” like what often goes by the name of “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Any and all of these represent a return to slavery. Now, Paul is not speaking here of losing one’s salvation but of staying the course with the gospel of grace and seeking nothing else in addition. We all slip from time to time. Shun the extra “whatever is it is” and stick with grace.