Galatians Galatians        

A Bible Study

Introduction  11-5
Paul's Calling  111-24
Paul Accepted by the Apostles  21-10
Peter, Paul and Jewish Law  211-21
Foolish Galatians!  31-14
The Covenant and the Law  315-29
Made Sons of God and Heirs with Christ  326 - 47
Paul is Perplexed - and Determined  48-20
Slavery under Law or Freedom in Christ  421 - 515
Be led by the Spirit, not by sinful nature  516-26
Some Practical Instructions  61-10
What Counts is a New Creation  611-18

Introduction  11-5       [Contents]

The precise date and destination of this letter are not known.
Written after Paul's first missionary journey, probably ~ 50 AD,
      to the various churches in Galatia he had begun
      in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.
He was very concerned that some legalistic Jews were insisting the new Gentile
      believers should keep the Jewish law - especially circumcision.

Paul, an apostle - sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead - and all the brothers with me,  11,2

Paul clearly feels he must first assure them of his God-given commission;
      not so much his authority, but the accuracy of his teaching.
He was determined that the truth of the gospel should not be compromised.
His apostleship and teaching were endorsed by the other apostles and brothers.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  13-5

This greeting of Paul is typical of all his letters.  e.g.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Eph 11,2

But his greeting to the Galatians adds the phrase:
      who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.
It emphasises the great truth that Christ is our Redeemer, our rescuer from sin.
      A rescue that no man can achieve for himself, or for anyone else.
      It is the main purpose of this letter, for some were saying that keeping the Law
            can save a man from corruption.
It also emphasises that at that time only a few hundred believed in Christ:
      it was an evil age, deceived and living without salvation.

      Today is also an evil age, even though there are now many thousand believers.
      More than ever we need a Saviour.
      Most of the 'Christian' West have now rejected Christ,
            who gave himself to rescue us from sin.
      They are proud, greedy men who see no need to be forgiven.
      They don't even hope for eternal life by doing what they think is good.
            This is how some of the Galatians were being compromised.

Paul wastes no time in introductory pleasantries.
      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.  16,7a

Some of the Galatians were not just differing on a few minor points;
      they were turning to a different gospel.
      And worse, some were deserting Christ himself.
      Paul, who often taught how important love is  (e.g. 1Co 13)
            Was now writing let him be eternally condemned! 18 and 19
            So it was obviously very serious compromise of the truth.
      He knew he was risking his reputation by speaking so harshly.
            If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.  110
      That was how important he saw the issue to be.
            But he does not tell them what the error was until chapter 3 !
            First he needed to tell them his calling and his experience.

Paul's Calling  111-24       [Contents]

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles, only James, the Lord's brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie. Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: 'The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy'. And they praised God because of me.

The gospel Paul preached was received by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Others have made similar claims.
      e.g. Joseph Smith (Mormons - began 1820) believe KJV Bible, but tellingly say
            it is incomplete and has errors that Book of Mormons corrects.

Paul's claim was justified by:
      True teaching of the OT and personal revelation of Jesus.
      The power of God in transforming men and founding churches.
      The acceptance of his ministry by all the Apostles.
The revelation of God is in a different league to the imaginings of a man's mind.
The erroneous teaching of some Galatians was not based on Jesus Christ,
      but upon their ingrained tradition.
Paul's testimony was thus a vital part of this letter.

Paul then continues to show how he was accepted by the Apostles in Jerusalem.
      He tells of the honest difficulties that inclusion of Gentiles caused -
            and how they were overcome by the grace and revelation of God.

Paul Accepted by the Apostles  21-10       [Contents]

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. ... They saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.  21-9

Full acceptance by the Apostles was a vital part of Paul's authority
      to correct the errors of some Galatian teachers.
      Here he testifies to have received it.
He includes the experience of Titus, who was not compelled to be circumcised.
      This is highly significant.

The purpose of this visit to Jerusalem was a problem with false brothers
      who were obviously restrictive Jewish legalists,
      though he does not name them as such.
Paul then gives us an example of a difficulty that arose with Peter.

Peter, Paul and Jewish Law  211-21       [Contents]

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 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. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified. If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a law-breaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"  211-21

Fear can often lead to bad decisions.
Following the Jerusalem Council, Peter rightly ate freely with Gentiles.
But he (and others) stopped when members of the circumcision group arrived.
Paul rightly objected to this inconsistent behaviour,
      and was not afraid to say so.
We are not told how Peter and the others reacted to Paul's correction -
      nor the Circumcision Group!

This experience concerned Jewish dietary laws. It was Jewish circumcision law
      that was being pushed on the largely Gentile Galatian church.
      but the principles are the same.
      I died to the Law so that I might live for God.
      I do not set aside the grace of God,
      for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Foolish Galatians!  31-14       [Contents]

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  31-3

As usual Paul summarises the problem succinctly.
Does God rescue a sinner because of the man's efforts to be holy,
      or by the truth of what Christ has done for him being revealed and believed?
This is the vital question in every generation.
      It is not only the Galatians who were foolish!
Man's religious efforts take many forms:
      from 'Church going' to repeated 'resolutions',
      from a real sacrificial life to doing 'good' if it doesn't cost too much,
      pride in at least being better , more moral than most others,
      taking great pains to appear 'righteous', but inside is a different story,
      having a form of godliness, but denying its power.  2Tim 35
The centre of such effort is Self.  Thus it will inevitably fail.

What did the Spirit of God reveal at the start? (and continues to do so)
      He revealed Jesus as the necessary Saviour,
            not as a good example to try to follow (though he is that too).
      Named as 'The Spirit of Truth'
            'He will teach you all things'.  Jn 1426
            'He will testify about me'.  Jn 1526
            'He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness
                  and judgement'.  Jn 168
            'He will guide you into all truth'.  Jn 1613
            'The Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you'.  Jn 1615

      From the start, the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus and his ministry of
            revelation, regeneration, renewal of our minds, and forgiveness.
How foolish it is for men to think that they can achieve this themselves.
Wisdom requires the continued revelation and power of Jesus to transform us;
      to give us both salvation and sanctification.
The Galatians were by-passing salvation,
      and trying to achieve sanctification by law-keeping.
      The emphasis was therefor being transferred from what Jesus has done,
            to what they themselves were doing - or trying to do.
Consider Abraham:
'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you.' So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Abraham lived some four centuries before Moses and the Law;
      Yet God considered him righteous.  How?  Why?
      Because 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'
      What did he believe? What had God revealed to him?
      Gen 151-6 tells us that Almighty God had taken Abraham outside his tent.
            It was night, the sky was clear and full of stars from horizon to horizon.
            The childless Abraham was told so shall your offspring be.
            He believed God.  And it was so.
            The 100 year old Abraham and his wife Sarah had a child - Isaac.
      1.      Isaac's birth was miraculous. They were both far too old for a natural birth.
            The offspring are also miraculous.
                  Our salvation is a miraculous act of God, not by human effort.
                  No man can just choose to have eternal life;
                        he must first be forgiven by God and be 'born again'.  Jn 31-21

                  Such a birth can only be by the hand of Almighty God - a miracle.
      2.      Abraham only had one miraculous son, but God promised 1000's !
            His offspring from Isaac, Jacob ... became the Hebrew nation, Israel.
            God fulfilled his promise I will make you into a great nation.  Gen 122
            And that's not all.
            He also promised and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
            The coming of Christ the Saviour fulfilled this promise,
                  which Abraham also believed.
            This was the world's greatest miracle and has blessed all nations.
                  The believing Abraham has indeed been given offspring like the stars.
      Paul uses this example to show that salvation is by faith, by believing.
            It always was, and always will be.  Heb 11
            It was by faith that Abel offered a better sacrifice;
                  he believed God's assurance of forgiveness.
            It was by faith that Noah built an Ark;
                  he believed God would destroy the earth and save him and his family.
            It was by faith that Abraham believed God, was made righteous
                  and would bless all nations with his offspring.
      So why did the Jewish Galatians try to win God's approval by keeping the Law?
            It was a foolish and vain hope. It always was and always will be.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'
... Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law ... He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.  310-14

Isn't this going a bit far, to speak of 'the curse of the Law' ?
      No. It is not the Law that is wrong, but it is our inability to keep it.
      There is nothing wrong in God's law.
      It merely says that the soul that sins shall die;
            and since all have sinned, all shall die. This is the curse.
Is there no escape from this death, this curse?  No!
      Justice requires that all sin shall be punished. This cannot be revoked.
But, and it is a huge 'but', Christ redeemed us from the curse.
      The curse remains, the guilty verdict remains,
            but the sinless Christ put himself under the curse, the just for the unjust.
            He paid the just punishment that the law demands for us.
            Written across the charge sheet against me is written in 'red',
                  "Paid in full by the Son of God!"
      Do I deserve such kindness?  Absolutely not.
      Can I do anything to remove the curse?  Absolutely nothing.
      Do all my efforts to keep the Law count for nothing?  They count for nothing.

Note that we should not therefor give up the Law; the Law remains good.
      But in no way should we rely on observing the Law for our salvation.
      Some Galatians were teaching that Gentiles had to be circumcised.
            Circumcision may well be good, but it is not essential.
            Many of the dietary laws may be good, but they are not essential.
            No one would say that a man who eats with unwashed hands
                  cannot enter the kingdom of heaven! But it remains a good habit.

What was the blessing that God gave to Abraham?
      Revelation of the truth of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.
      Jesus said, Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day;
            he saw it and was glad.  Jn 856
      He believed concerning his offspring,
            and he believed the revelation concerning his redemption through Jesus.
      He thus had faith - he was sure of what he hoped for
            and certain of what he did not yet see with his eyes.  Heb 111
This same blessing Jesus now also gives to us Gentiles.
      We too receive the promised Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ.

The Covenant and the Law  315-29       [Contents]

God established his unconditional, eternal Covenant of blessing with Abraham.

1.   The Covenant was with Abraham and his seed, not 'seeds', i.e. to Christ.
      The promise of God's greatest blessing to Abraham was Jesus.
      The promise of God's blessing to the Jews and all nations was Jesus.
      God promised that his Son, Jesus Christ, would bless this sinful world.

2.   The Law was given to Moses 430 years after the Covenant with Abraham.
      It does not set aside the covenant previously established by God.  317
      Thus the inheritance does not depend on the Law, but upon the Covenant.

What then was the purpose of the Law?
      It was added because of transgressions
      until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.

The Law was not opposed to the Covenant;
      rather it proved the necessity for the Covenant.
If any man can keep the Law he would have righteousness and life.
      But no man has ever been able to keep all the Law (except Christ).
      Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.  322
      The Covenant promises the only means by which a man may escape.
      The Law proves that we are all held captive by our sinful nature.
      It proves the necessity for a mighty Saviour, the promised intervention of God.

The Law Was Our Schoolmaster to Bring Us Unto Christ. 324 (KJV)
This is a mighty truth.
The Law is the most gracious and effective Schoolmaster.
Though the Law must always condemn us, it points us to Christ.
Our failure to keep the Law proves the necessity of a mighty Redeemer;
      one who can change our sinful nature
      one who can satisfy God's demand for justice.
Without the Law would we be aware of our need for forgiveness?
The Holy Spirit uses the Law to awake our guilty conscience.
      He reveals the extent and the consequences of our offence to Almighty God,
      He reveals our complete inability to live a holy life.
This gracious 'Schoolmaster' reveals Christ, who alone bears our punishment,
      brings assurance of forgiveness and gives us a new nature and eternal life.

Made Sons of God and Heirs with Christ  326 - 47       [Contents]

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.  326-29

In the phrase You are all sons of God, 'all' refers to those 'baptised into Christ';
      it does not include the unbelievers of the world.
Note that it is clear that believers are baptised into Christ, not into the church;
      as I heard one bishop claim when a friend was both baptised and confirmed.
Water baptism is a witness to others, of what God has already wrought in us.
Paul describes the regeneration baptism into Christ in his letter to the Romans:
      All of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.  Ro 63-5

Believers are 'all one in Christ Jesus'.
      This remains the good and helpful motto of the Keswick Convention.
      Somehow it is a truth that is often lost sight of in our various denominations.

Being transferred into the kingdom of Christ, we are made Abraham's seed.
      As always Almighty God is fulfilling his covenant with Abraham.
      It is a privilege that we Gentiles should never forget.
      Some mistakenly think that Christians have 'replaced' the Jews
            as God's chosen people, and Israel are now heathens!
      Never forget that God's covenant remains unconditional and eternal.
We are also heirs according to the promise.
      What do we inherit?
            The righteousness of Christ and eternal life with Christ.
            This is his precious gift to us. It can never be earned or deserved.
      How do we inherit?
            As with any inheritance we receive only when the giver has died.
            It is only because Christ died and rose triumphant that he is able to give.
      When do we inherit?
            Now, and later. Now we rejoice in a foretaste.
            We long for the full righteousness of Christ, for sin to have no attraction.
            We eagerly await the day when we shall see him.

As long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees.  41,2

Paul now takes up another example - the coming of age of a child.
      Bar (and Bat) Mitzvah is a great day of change. Children become adults.
      So also the change, the rebirth, when a man hears the revealed truth.

      What does he hear?
            That God sent his Son, born of a woman,
            born under law, to redeem those under law,
            that we might receive the full rights of sons.

      He receives the gift of God:
            God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
            the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

      The conclusion:
            You are no longer a slave, but a son;
            and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Such is the generosity and kindness of Almighty God.
He wants us to inherit:
      his likeness, his character
            his glorious creation, his fulfilment, all he has worked for,
                  and all that he died for!

Paul is Perplexed - and Determined  48-20       [Contents]

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. ... how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  48,9

Paul had told them of Jesus Christ who sets a man free from the slavery of sin.
      Why were they so foolish as to choose to return to a life of slavery?
He gives an example:
      You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  410
      Clearly it is good to celebrate Passover, First fruits (Pentecost), Tabernacles,
            the Jubilee year when slaves are set free and rented land returned.
            But our salvation does not depend upon our keeping such celebrations.
            However some Galatian leaders were insisting that it did.
      The Church of England insists that we face east when reciting the creed;
            I choose not to (when seated in the choir stalls that face north and south).
            But I choose to observe the freedom for the land -
                  Every 7th year my veg garden lies fallow and is kept weed free. Lev 251-7
                  We gladly eat of the fruit trees and bushes, but don't sow any seed.
                  And we don't despise anyone who ignores this free offering to God.
      Are Christians 'bound' (an appropriate word) to keep the dietary laws?
            Are we free to eat pork and bacon? (Pigs do not chew the cud).
            Can we now choose which laws we obey and which we are free to ignore?
            What about the moral laws?  Some wrongly think these are also optional.
      To the Pharisaic Jews whose lives were consumed in 'Law-keeping',
            and to whom any disobedience threatened their salvation because
            they did not know the full forgiveness of Christ,
            these were challenging questions - and they still are.
      Today many are bound by church traditions.
            These are often seen as a security; though others strive to be free of them.

King David knew the gracious forgiveness of God,
      but he also saw the value of the law.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
  Ps 197-11

To David the law was sweet, a delight, a source of wisdom and light.
      It was not a mortal threat, it was not a harsh taskmaster 'Do this or else ...'
      It was not a 'kill-joy' set of rules, a rigid discipline
            to be avoided whenever possible.
      It was the most valuable guide to righteous living and pleasing God.
      It pointed to our need for Christ to both forgive and to change our hearts.
      He rejoiced in the law, he actually wanted to obey it.
Almighty God as Designer must surely know what is best for his creation.
His gift of salvation in Christ that is totally undeserved does not nullify the law,
      his forgiveness and transformation makes the impossible obedience possible.

It was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy?  413-15

Some of the Galatian leaders were teaching the law without Christ.
      No wonder there was no joy.
      Charismatic joy shouldn't be taken as proof positive of the presence of God.
      But where Christ is there is love, forgiveness, gratitude, joy, peace, kindness, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, hope, revelation, faith, security, truth, holiness, life.

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.
Paul was never their enemy; but others were.
      So the question needed to be asked and the true gospel maintained.
Zeal is good, but should never be mistaken for truth.
Their leader's zeal brought division; alienation from the true gospel of Christ.
Their zeal was for the law, rather than that Christ be formed in them.  419
The church has never been immune from those who desire power and influence.
Paul is determined to expose and free the Galatians from men with such motives.

Slavery under Law or Freedom in Christ  421 - 515       [Contents]

An example from Jewish history:

Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves. ... But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. ... Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.  422-28

To try to gain salvation by keeping the Law is slavery.
      It will lead to pride, pretence and disaster.
To be granted salvation by Christ our Redeemer is freedom.
      Freedom and forgiveness promised by covenant.

What was the relationship of the two sons Ishmael and Isaac,
            (and repeated in the next generation with Esau and Jacob?)
      1.      The first persecuted the child of promise.
            At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born
            by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.  429
      2.      The first will experience disaster and eternal separation.
            The slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance
            with the free woman's son.

The children of promise, those who believe in Christ are saved, rescued by him.
      We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.  431
The Law could never free a man because no man can keep it.
Jesus the Redeemer sets a man free from sin.
      And our freedom makes the Law a delight instead of impossible drudgery.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then,
      and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Paul now considers the law which the Circumcision Party were trying to enforce.
If you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is required to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 52-6

They were teaching that to be justified, a man had to circumcised.
Paul insisted that it is by grace, by faith in Christ that we are justified.
Keeping the Law may be good, but it does not contribute to our salvation.
      Not in any way. 
If the leaders had encouraged baby boys, or even men, to be circumcised
      for medical reasons, that would not have been a problem.
      But they insisted that all men must be circumcised because the Law said so.
      This seemingly small extra step nullified the gospel of Christ.
      Their minds were set upon keeping the Law,
            instead of on the sacrifice of Christ that sets us free.

Such a great infringement had to be 'nipped in the bud'.

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.  513-15

Notice that Paul does not discard the Law.
Our freedom in Christ is never intended to mean we can behave just as we want.
      Jesus quoted the OT when he summarised the law: Math 2237-40
            "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
                  and with all your mind."  Deut 65
            This is the first and greatest commandment.
            And the second is like it: "Love your neighbour as yourself." Lev 1918
            All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
We are set free from sin and given freedom to enable us to obey the Law.
      The call to love is high and demanding; it is an ongoing challenge.
      Without Christ it is utterly impossible to fulfill this command.

Be led by the Spirit, not by sinful nature  516-26       [Contents]

Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The conflict between the flesh and the Spirit continues.
Every conscious moment of our lives we make choices, and thereby form habits.
Without Christ we cannot crucify our sinful nature; only he can do that.
Only with Christ can we live by the Spirit.
Let us always be honest with God, especially when our choices are poor.

Some Practical Instructions  61-10       [Contents]

Beware of pride, thinking I am better, more godly than others.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.  61-5

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.  66
Church leaders need and deserve our support.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  67,8

A man reaps what he sows.
The seed sown may be good or bad.
The harvest may be immediate, or many years later.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  69,10

Weariness can be physical.
      It may also be due to a lack of tenacity and being impatient for results.
Some insist on a life of continuous excitement.

What Counts is a New Creation  611-18       [Contents]

Throughout this letter Paul has been laying the foundation of salvation as being
      by grace, by believing in the effective sufficiency of Christ's redemption.
      He has repeatedly emphasised that it cannot be gained by keeping the Law,
            for the simple reason that no man has yet been able to keep all the Law.
      If the Law was sufficient, then:
            there would have been no need for Christ to come to earth.
            the crucifixion of the Son of God would have been unnecessary
            all the prophets, the sacrifices, the feasts and even the Law itself
                  that each point to the Saviour, would be a pointless pack of lies!
Paul now applies the truth of his writing to circumcision.

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. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 612-15

The circumcision party had some undeclared reasons for their insistence:
      1.      To make a good impression, to try to appear holy.
            Jesus had some strong words about such men.  See 8 Woes in Math 23
      2.      To avoid persecution by the Jewish religious leaders.
            This emphasis of Law-keeping would have pleased them;
            but it was at the cost of diminishing Christ.
      3.      To boast about winning converts to their corruption of the gospel!

The Cross of Christ must remain our only plea for mercy,
      the only basis by which any man, Jew or Gentile, can enter heaven.

Paul was determined that this truth should never be compromised.
May we be so too.