by Shawn Brasseaux
When the Lord Jesus Christ sent the Apostle Paul into the pagan world with the Gospel of Grace, the devil fought it with everything he had. In addition to intense persecution and martyrdom, these early Gentile churches were bombarded with legalism. “Judaizers” were coming in and trying to force the Mosaic Law and circumcision on Paul’s Gentile converts; the resulting confusion was the devil’s method of hindering God’s work.
Circa A.D. 51, Paul and Barnabas met with James, Peter, and John in Jerusalem to discuss the matter (Luke’s account is Acts chapter 15; Paul’s account, Galatians chapter 2). It was agreed that Paul and Barnabas would continue with the Gentiles in grace, apart from the Law; Peter, James, and John would continue with Israel on the basis of the Mosaic Law (Galatians 2:9). Eventually, that Jewish economy faded away, and today, God is dealing with the world in grace (through the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon).
Religious people are being burdened with Law-keeping today. They are forced to tithe, get water baptized, keep the Sabbath, and so on. Today, Christendom as a whole is still struggling with legalism, “Do this, do that, and God will accept you.” On the contrary, grace is the opposite: “You have God’s grace and acceptance in Christ.”
As Paul wrote, the Galatian believers were “bewitched” (devilishly tricked) into following legalism (Galatians 3:1-3). In all the confusion, these poor believers forgot their identity in Christ. These Gentile believers did not need Israel’s physical circumcision, or Law-keeping to have God’s favor. If you are a believer in Christ today, you are not Israel, and God has already (past tense) accepted you “in the beloved,” in Christ (Ephesians 1:6).
God does not expect you to follow some rigid set of rules to be accepted. He merely asks for your faith, your trust. He has done everything for you to be forgiven and justified. We cannot justify ourselves; we are filthy sinners. However, the perfect sacrifice, Christ Jesus, was offered on our behalf, being raised from the dead. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).