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…
This letter from the apostle Paul to the churches in the province of Galatia addresses a grave problem. The persistent tendency to legalism!
Legalism is a religious term used to describe an attempt to be right with God based on how well one keeps His rules.
Of course, students of Jesus desire to refrain from conduct the Teacher has warned against. And they desire to do everything Jesus has taught them to do. But this effort to keep the rules is best understood as a grateful response to God's grace!
Being obedient to the teaching of Jesus sounds like a good thing to do, and it is! However, a person becomes legalistic when they begin to think their attempt to be obedient is what gives them good standing with God.
The problem with this system of religion is that nobody can be perfectly obedient. Everyone sins. And since everyone sins, nobody can claim a relationship with God because of their perfect obedience.
And more importantly, legalism destroys the Good News of Jesus. In fact, legalism is no good news at all. It replaces the free gift of God’s grace with faulty human effort. If our obedience could save us, why did Jesus come to die for us?
The only basis for a peaceful relationship with God is trust in Jesus. For Jesus is the Good News. And it is our faith in His perfect obedience to God and His death on the cross in our place that makes us right before God.
Paul is fighting legalism in this letter, because some false teachers were trying to enforce certain legal requirements of the Law of Moses on the Christians in Galatia.
Legalism is such a serious perversion of the Good News of Jesus Paul writes - …Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!