Currently, a group of women from Grace Reformed Church is studying Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. Poised in Galatians 4 and 5, I keep thinking my way through the legalism that so easily trips me up. The Pharisees tried diligently to keep the law in the strictest ways. Yet, when they gave 39 lashes instead of the 40 legally prescribed, they actually acknowledged their inability to keep the law flawlessly. Whenever I consider the law of the flesh, I look at things that aren’t hard for me to do. Then I mentally chastise others who can’t keep my self-made laws while excusing myself from areas of my failure. No wonder I find no rest in trying to be legalistic. One minute I can soar on clouds of arrogant superiority and then quickly crash in the ashes of inferiority! What a mess I am when huddled in the mire of trying to keep laws. By that I don’t just mean the Ten Commandments. People who do not prescribe to that biblical code do verbally or tacitly choose some self-imposed standard; any shred of honesty will quickly testify to the fact that we can’t keep our own standards.
If we step aside and look at the law of the spirit we find two facts: it’s even harder to keep than jot and tittle record keeping, and it’s been accomplished for us with perfection.
The spirit of law literally goes to the heart of the matter. Now, not only do my acts condemn me; but my attitudes and thoughts also confirm my guilt. Don’t commit adultery really means don’t even look at a woman with lust in the mind and heart. Who could ever keep such a standard? Martin Luther tried physical pain as he crawled step by step on his knees while he prayed. No relief or eased conscience followed these acts of contrition and penance. However, the perfect law keeper entered this world and, in my place, met the requirements of the law. Unbelievably, He chose to impute His perfection to me. No wonder Issac Watts wrote about amazing grace! Consider Paul’s words from Galatians 4:4-6. “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. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.'” I’ll keep processing the truths of grace as Paul lays them out in Galatians, for I have much to learn before I sleep, much to learn before I sleep.