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10 commandments, a disciple  in prayer November 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Galatians 1, 2, 3, 4

Christianity- Is it Rules or a Relationship?

From childhood some of us were raised with a bunch of rules. They may have been in our homes, our schools, or our churches. They gave us security and let us know what behavior was to be expected. By conforming to them we sought to please our parents, teachers, or other leaders. But did the keeping of rules and traditions give us joy and a relationship with those in authority or did it just “keep them off our backs,” so to speak?

In Old Testament times, if a Gentile (non-Jew) wanted to become a Jew he had to be circumcised and obey the Law given by Moses. He would then become a Jew in almost every sense. He would keep their traditions, present offerings and bring animals for sacrifice at the tabernacle or temple, attend all the appointed feasts, and keep the Sabbath days holy and set apart to the LORD. Between the writings of the Old and New Testaments, however, a new priestly sect rose up, the Pharisees. They interpreted the Law and wrote out a detailed legalistic system for keeping it. If Jews or converted Gentiles legalistically and faithfully kept the Law “as properly interpreted by the Pharisees,” attended the synagogues regularly, observed all the traditions, and gave their tithes to the temple, they were considered righteous. Are men and women truly righteous by conforming to religious rules and ceremonies?

Christianity was a threat to the whole Jewish religious system. Christians were persecuted because they followed a relationship with Christ and not all the rules. Because of this persecution, many Jewish believers sought compromises. They started teaching the new Christian believers that they must also be circumcised and keep the Law to be made righteous in God’s sight. In Galatians 6:12, the Apostle Paul instructs the Galatian believers, “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ,” (NIV). What is the motivation for keeping rules in today’s religious circles? Is it to appear to be righteous? Is it to avoid persecution or malicious talk by clergy and parishioners? Adding to the grace of God brings no favor with him, however; it was and is a grievous error.

Evidently, it was at this time of controversy that Paul wrote to the Galatians. He said to them,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ, (1:6, NIV).

The Galatian Christians were being pressured to conform to the regulations of the Law of Moses and the Pharisees, from which Christ had freed them. Paul wrote the letter of Galatians to defuse this false teaching.

In a very logical manner Paul presented his argument. “We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ,” (Galatians 2:15-16, NIV). Jewish believers could be sure of this because the promise of being justified by faith came to Abraham before the Law of Moses was even given (Galatians 3:6). The Law did not nullify the promise of faith. The Law was put into effect to restrict sinful behavior and bring order by having a standard of behavior based on God’s righteousness. The Law, however, could not bring righteousness. Much like a stop sign, the Law only pointed out wrong behavior. In obedience to God, by faith the Jews brought sacrifices to atone for their sins of which the Law made them guilty. They did this until Jesus came and was the ultimate sacrifice to take away sins. Now the Apostle Paul tells them (and us), “You are all sons of God [children of God] through faith in Christ Jesus, (Galatians 3:26, NIV). Christ was the ultimate perfect sacrifice to satisfy God’s righteousness. A relationship with Christ, therefore, trumps all religious practices. This does not mean that we no longer obey God's moral laws; they are still God's standards of righteousness. Now, however, we are able to obey them because of the grace and presence of God in our lives. We live in order to please God.

Lessons to live by:

  • Adding to the grace of God is a grievous error. Rules are guides for behavior, but a relationship with Christ is required to give us joy, complete forgiveness of sins, favor, and peace with God (more...).
  • Do not let a religious cult draw you away from Christ.
  • A relationship with Christ trumps all religious practices.
  • Live to please God

Today’s Bible Memory Verse: Galatians 3:26: “You are all sons of God [children of God] through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NIV).

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