By Rev Dr Clive Chin
As we conclude the preaching series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, it is appropriate to reflect on the basic message to us today. A key take-away lesson of Galatians is for Christians to embrace and follow the good news of the crucified Messiah, Jesus Christ. That means we shun all Christ-plus gospels, including the requirement for non-Jewish Christians to become Torah observers and be circumcised or eat kosher. Jesus alone fulfils the laws of the Torah and justifies believers.
When we trust in Jesus and place our faith in him, the saving benefits of his death and resurrection become ours. We are a “new creation,” free from the requirement to follow the laws of the Torah. We have a new identity as God’s people and join a new multi-ethnic covenant family, thus fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham. While the laws of the Torah help people to follow God’s will, Jesus’ transforming presence through the Spirit equips believers to obey Jesus’ command to love God and others. Through the Spirit, all believers may follow Jesus’ way of life and bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
However, there are many ways in which the so-called legalism of Galatians can rear its ugly head in our churches today. First, in applying Galatians, we must identify and reject practices, attitudes, and theological views that add to the gospel in such a manner that the sufficiency of Christ is compromised. A second way in which Galatian legalism is to be avoided, particularly relevant in the Singapore context, is an over-emphasis on performance as the means of acceptance with God and how we maintain our relationship with him.
In essence, Paul is challenging believers to stop allowing controversial issues to divide the church (cf. 5:25-26). Instead, we are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2). All who truly find their identity in Christ must have an accurate assessment of who they are and walk by the Spirit. Keeping in step with the Spirit means to read God’s word and to live it out, so that we may be transformed by its power.