Here in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he has to defend and assert his authority as an apostle because there were those in the church there who questioned it. He said, “Look. James, Peter and John…the pillars of the church in Jerusalem accept the fact that God called me as an apostle” and no one doubted their authority. This was important, because Paul’s entire ministry rested on the authority given to him by the calling Jesus personally gave him.
Not only were there those in the Galatian church who questioned Paul’s authority, but there were some who insisted that the Gentiles (or non-Jews) who had come to believe in Jesus should follow the Mosaic Law. This is something that came up often in the early church. Some insisted that Gentiles needed to be circumcised, that the Sabbath should be followed, etc.
Paul declared that this was completely unnecessary. He told them that the Law was given 430 years *after* Abraham was declared righteous simply on the basis of his belief in the promise given him by God. The Law was given to reveal sin, not to save. The Law cannot save, because we are totally incapable of following it, because breaking it only once is still breaking it. One way to think about it is this. Some types of material can hold together even if part of it is broken, right? Think of a sheet of styrofoam. I can break off a corner of styrofoam and the rest of the sheet is fine. The remaining portion is unaffected by the corner being broken off. But if I have a sheet of tempered glass and try to break off a corner, the entire sheet shatters into little pieces. If you’re not familiar with what tempered glass is, that’s the kind of glass you have in your car’s side and back windows. Have you ever seen what happens when one of those windows is broken? Right. A million little pieces.
That’s what happens when a person breaks even one part of the Law. They have broken it all, and are therefore declared unrighteous. It is impossible to live without breaking the Law.
Paul told the Galatians that the only way to have righteousness is to get it the way Abraham got it: to believe. Abraham believed God’s promise, and we must believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise…that He is the only one through whom our sins are forgiven.
No rule following on our part will save us. No supposed righteousness of ours will save us. There is nothing I can do to *earn* forgiveness. All I can do is accept the *gift* of righteousness Jesus offers because of His sacrifice on the cross. If anybody earned my righteousness, it was Him. He is the only One to live a sin free life. And He became the only sacrifice worthy to pay for our sin.
So Paul told the Galatians to stop trying to put Gentile believers into the bondage of the Law.
My question is: do we put ourselves or others under bondage to some set of rules?