Legalistic Life of Faith Brings
< Galatians 1:1-24 >
an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the
Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me,
the churches of Galatia:
to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself
for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according
to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace
of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who
trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an
angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached
to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if
anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him
For do I now persuade men, or
God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be
a bondservant of Christ.
I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not
according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but
it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my former conduct
in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy
it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation,
being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
But when it pleased God, who separated
me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son
in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer
with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles
before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him
fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s
brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God,
I do not lie.)
Afterward I went into the regions of
Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which
were in Christ. But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now
preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God in
The number of visitors to our website continues to
increase. On average, we have more than 4,000 visitors a day, and
we expect this number to increase into the near future. Lately,
we have had visitors not just from the English-speaking world, but
people speaking different languages from all over the world, including
Third World countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. So I
am that much more thankful to God. Although there were a few disappointments
from time to time, I am still rejoiced to see how God has born the
fruit of evangelism and blessed us.
Also, new books designed to nurture our fellow believers
continue to be published. Now, the sermon series on Genesis is about
to be updated in its e-book format, but I hope that even more books
will be published soon. I believe that we will then get nearer and
nearer to the day when people all over the world find the gospel
of the water and the Spirit through our website.
The Purpose for Which Paul
Wrote This Epistle
Paul sent his epistle to the saints in the region
of Galatia in order to correct their faith. It this epistle, Paul
wrote about his faith, describing what kind of faith it was.
In Galatians 1:1, he wrote, “Paul, an apostle (not
from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father
who raised Him from the dead),” and down below in verse 12,
he wrote, “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught
it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle to warn against
the teachings of the circumcisionists, who had thrown the churches
of Galatia into confusion at that time. Instead of believing in
the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the gospel preached by the
Apostle Paul, the circumcisionists considered something else—that
is, physical circumcision—to be more important than the real
gospel. In other words, there were some people in the churches of
Galatia teaching that the believers could become God’s people not
by their faith in the baptism of Jesus Christ and His blood on the
Cross, but by keeping the Law of God and receiving physical circumcision.
That is why the Apostle Paul said, “I marvel that
you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace
of Christ, to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). And he then
rebuked the circumcisionists’ schemes, saying, “Which is not
another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert
the gospel of Christ.”
There could be no other gospel in this world other
than the God-given gospel of the water and the Spirit. Yet despite
this, the Galatian Christians preferred physical circumcision and
were more fond of it. It can therefore be concluded that they had
followed the lust of their flesh with their legalistic faith.
The Apostle Paul was so enraged at the legalists that
he said to them, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach
any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him
be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). First of all, we need to realize
here what exactly was the content of the gospel preached by the
legalists that it compelled the Apostle Paul to say that if anyone
preached “any other gospel to you than what we have preached to
you, let him be accursed.”
The most terrifying words to hear in this world is
the damnation to be cursed by God, and it was such damning words
that the Galatian saints heard from Paul. The reason for this is
because they had forsaken the gospel of the water and the Spirit
to lay far greater emphasis on physical circumcision. That is why
Paul’s heart was inevitably aroused to righteous anger.
The “other gospel” here does not mean that there is
another gospel apart from the gospel of the water and the Spirit,
but it refers to a false gospel claiming that we can become God’s
people only if we keep the Law. In other words, the other gospel
was demanding a legalistic faith from the Galatian saints.
What, then, was this legalistic faith before God?
It was one that stressed the importance of the Sabbath and also
demanded physical circumcision. As a result, the saints of the churches
of Galatia came to emphasize their legalistic faith more than their
faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. “If you want to
believe in Jesus and be saved, you must also be circumcised in your
flesh just like any Abraham’s descendants, keep the Sabbath, and
live according to the Law. And you must not eat any animal that
does not have cloven hooves, nor should you eat any animal that
was hung to death, nor can you eat any animal that died of natural
causes, but you must eat every food discriminatingly according to
the statutes of the Law.” It was this kind of useless belief that
they were advocating.
In reality, if you and I were to turn away from the
gospel of the water and the Spirit to live a legalistic life of
faith, then we would also be accursed by God. Can we become God’s
children through our legalistic faith? No, even for us, who believe
in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, if we end up relapsing
back to the legalistic life of faith, then we would also die spiritually.
Does this then mean that it is wrong to be so zealous
to keep the Law? One should be eager to know the real Truth and
to serve this Truth; if one is devoted to just about anything without
even knowing the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit, then
this itself is practicing even more wickedness.
No legalistic faith can ever be approved by God. Those
who have such faith interpret the Bible literally—for instance,
where the Word commands us not to work on the Sabbath, they believe
this by the letter, and so they don’t even cook from the sunset
on Friday to the sunset on Saturday, eating what they had already
prepared instead. They don’t even travel on the Sabbath, since according
to the Law, they are not supposed to step outside home beyond a
few steps. In doing so, they take their strict obedience to the
Law as their own righteousness. Such an attempt to establish their
own rightfulness by faithfully keeping not only the Law, but even
the traditions passed down orally from their ancestors, is to live
a life of faith that rejects the blessings of the God-given grace,
and instead piles up God’s wrath on their own heads.
A representative gathering that tries to keep the
Law literally is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Adventists
always raise the issue of when the Sabbath is at first. They argue
that the Sabbath is from the sunset on Friday to the sunset on Saturday,
and that one must keep the specific day and hours exactly. Also,
since no one is supposed to work on the Sabbath, it’s said that
they had a big argument amongst themselves over whether or not they
should turn on the light during their worship hour on the Sabbath.
That’s because there were some people who argued that turning on
the light was indirectly responsible for making the power plant’s
employees work, and so they shouldn’t turn on the light during the
worship service. If this is the case, then they would have to use
no electricity whatsoever even at home, and for tap water as well,
they would have to use what they had stored beforehand. It’s completely
Faith in the real Truth is not a legalistic faith,
but is one that believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
Yet many Christian denominations do not realize this. That is why
their followers are so much more zealous to keep the Law. But still,
even now, they must believe with their hearts that the Son of God
has perfectly saved them from their sins through the gospel of the
water and the Spirit. They must believe in God the Father, they
must believe in the salvation of love coming through His Son, and
they must thereby receive God’s blessings and glorify Him.
The Reason Why God Gave Us
the Law of Justice
My fellow believers, why did God give us the Law?
God gave us the Law so that we would realize and know our sins (Romans
3:19-20). For these Galatian saints, however, it wasn’t enough to
just keep the Law in everyday life, but they taught that anyone
who wants to be one of God’s people must be physically circumcised.
When people came to the Galatian churches to believe in Jesus as
the Savior, they were taught that they had to be physically circumcised
These false prophets ruthlessly denounced any
believers who were not physically circumcised, arguing that they
could not become God’s people unless they were physically circumcised.
They rebuked the new believers, saying, “God commanded all the people
of Abraham to be circumcised. So how can you refuse to be circumcised,
just because you believe in Jesus? Are you then greater than Abraham?”
So given this, it was inevitable that the faith of the Galatian
saints would be spiritually corrupted. As a result, they eventually
came to assign more importance to another gospel insisting on the
necessity of circumcision, and so now it became meaningless to believe
in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, even though they had
believed in this true gospel at first.
Is it then really only when we keep the Law of God
that we are saved from all our sins to become God’s people? There
are 613 commandments and statutes in the Law of God. In fact, the
Jewish people have not only these 613 statutes of the Law, but they
also have thousands of traditional commandments passed down from
their ancestors. But can anyone really keep all these statutes?
No, no one can ever live by the Law. Mankind is absolutely incapable
of keeping the Law. That is why the Bible says, “If there had
been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness
would have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21). Therefore, the
fact that the believers of the Galatian churches were quarrelling
over the issue of whether one should be physically circumcised or
not is the very evidence of the fact that they were now no longer
following the Truth. So you can imagine just what was going on in
the churches of Galatia.
The Apostle Paul felt the acute need to reestablish
the faith of the Galatian saints on the Word of Truth. So, to remind
them of his faith he had delivered to them, Paul said, “Paul,
an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ
and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)” (Galatians 1:1).
Paul said here that the gospel he believed in was not from men.
Indeed, this gospel was not through man, but it was the gospel of
the water and the Spirit that came from the Lord.
The gospel believed and preached by the Apostle Paul
was not learnt from man. John 1:17 says, “For the law was given
through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Through whom was the Law given to us? God spoke it to Moses and
Moses relayed it to the people of Israel. This Law of God was given
so that people would realize and know their sins (Romans 3:19-20).
Grace and truth, on the other hand, came through Jesus
Christ. The grace of God here means His gift, indicating that the
Truth of real salvation was given to us as a gift through Jesus
Christ. That is why the Apostle Paul said, “The gospel which
I preached to you was not learnt from man, nor did it come through
man, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul
made it clear here that it was because Jesus had shown it to him
and spoke it to him that he knew and believed in this gospel. In
other words, Paul received the remission of all his sins by believing
that Jesus Christ had saved him by being baptized for him, dying
on the Cross, and rising from the dead again.
Paul therefore admonished the Galatian saints earnestly,
saying, “That is why I preach the gospel Word of the water and the
Spirit to people. Why, then, are you preaching a gospel different
from the gospel of the water and the Spirit preached by me? Do you
realize what a fallacious teaching it is to say that one is saved
from sin only if he both believes in Jesus and keeps the Law as
well? Why are you preaching a different gospel other than the gospel
of the water and the Spirit? You will then be cursed by God. You
should never preach any other gospel.” Paul said this because he
had so much pity for the Galatian believers, as they were heading
straight to hell by themselves.
Even for those who believe in the gospel of the water
and the Spirit, if they fall into a legalistic faith, then they
will also perish away spiritually. There is no exception here. Do
you think there is any other cause for the spiritual death of a
Christian? One will perish for sure when he tries to be saved by
believing in another teaching apart from the gospel of the water
and the Spirit. Nothing is complicated here. If one emphasizes the
Law and leans toward legalism, then this itself is to believe in
another gospel, and its end is death.
There is no other gospel in this world. The true gospel
is the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and there cannot be any
other gospel. All other gospels other than the gospel of the water
and the Spirit, on the other hand, are teachings that invariably
require the acts of mankind as a condition of salvation. Is this
how you believe: “Although I have received the remission of my sins
by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, I still
have to keep the Law, and I also have to try hard not to commit
sin. If I sin by any chance, then I have to wash it away through
my prayers of repentance”? None other than this belief is to believe
in another gospel. Everyone who believes like this will face his
spiritual death without exception.
If indeed we have to keep all the Law, then we would
also have to practice Passover rituals. Once every year, we would
have to kill a lamb and put its blood on the lintel of the door.
And every time we sin, we would have to give sin offerings, and
we would also have to eat only what is allowed by the statutes of
the Law. Yet these are only the tip of the iceberg; there are far
many more statues that we would have to keep. So given this, how
could we possibly keep all these requirements? It’s impossible,
and that is precisely why the Lord said, “For the law was given
through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John
The Apostle Paul said that his gospel was “not from
men nor through man.” In other words, Paul was saying: “My gospel
is neither from men nor through man. It is not by keeping the Law
given by Moses that I have been saved. If I could have attained
my salvation just by keeping this Law, then I would have achieved
it all long ago. My forefathers received the Law given by Moses,
and I myself was originally a legalist. And I was thoroughly trained
under Gamaliel, a great scholar of the Law. So judged on this merit
alone, would your knowledge of the Law be even comparable to mine?
Yet it is not by keeping the Law that I have become a righteous
man. It is by meeting Jesus Christ, and by believing that He has
saved me through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, that I
have reached my salvation. And I have preached this to you. So you
must not fall into a legalistic life of faith, or otherwise you
will be cursed by God.” This is what the Apostle Paul was saying.
The gospel of the water and the Spirit is the gospel
that Paul believed in. Paul confessed his faith by saying, “I
have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but
Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). How was he able to be
crucified with Christ? He could be crucified with Jesus because
he had united with Him by believing in His baptism. As such, the
death of Jesus on the Cross essentially means the death of your
sinful selves and my sinful self.
By being baptized, Jesus shouldered your sins and
mine; by being crucified and shedding His blood to death, He bore
all the condemnation of our sins; and by rising from the dead again,
He has given us new life. Then how fallacious is it to say that
despite all this, it’s not enough to believe in Jesus Christ who
has saved us through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, but
we have to keep the Law, receive physical circumcision, and faithfully
keep the Sabbath? We would end up becoming just like the Christians
of Galatian churches, who had thrown away the gospel of the water
and the Spirit and tried to be perfect before God on their own.
The same principle applies to our faith today. We,
too, are remitted from all our sins and reach our salvation by believing
in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. There is nothing else
for us to do but only believe in this gospel of Truth and be grateful
for it. And once we receive the remission of our sins, we are to
carry out all our tasks by faith as God’s instruments to preach
this gospel that He has given us thankfully. In other words, we
do not try to keep the Law to attain our salvation any more. Rather,
we are now leading our lives of faith united with the Church to
defend this gospel Word of Truth and preach it to others by faith,
since we have already been saved by believing in the gospel of the
water and the Spirit. Is the gospel of the water and the Spirit
somehow imperfect that you would seek to compliment it by keeping
the Law? No, anyone who tries to be more perfect superficially is
clearly someone who has not been born again yet, and who is still
under the curse.
How about today’s Christians then? Even though they
believe that Jesus has saved them through His blood on the Cross,
they still claim that they have to give their prayers of repentance
diligently to be sanctified. This very notion that one has to be
diligent with something on his own in order to be saved is nothing
else but a legalistic faith. They say that one has to stay up all
night praying, offer prayers in some remote mountains, and fast
But does God not answer us unless we fast and pray?
Does He not hear us unless we stay up all night praying? If indeed
one is saved from sin only by keeping all the Law and living a holy
life, who could possibly be saved from his sins? No one, not even
a single person, can ever be saved in this way. The only way to
reach salvation is to believe in the gospel of the water and the
Spirit; there is absolutely no other way. Grace and Truth came from
Jesus Christ. That is why our lives of faith must also be led by
trusting in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We must lead
our lives of faith by believing in the gospel of the water and the
Spirit, by our faith in God’s Word of Truth.
The churches in Galatia were spiritually confused,
plagued by spiritual scoundrels gathered there. Do you think that
God’s Church is completely devoid of any spiritual swindlers? No,
even God’s Church has rascals. Mistakenly thinking that salvation
was attained by keeping the Law, the scoundrels at the Galatian
churches came to teach that one must be physically circumcised in
addition to his faith in the gospel. The Apostle Paul had gone through
great sufferings to preach the gospel to them, and yet even after
they accepted the gospel of the water and the Spirit, they betrayed
him treacherously by accepting and preaching a different gospel,
arguing that they must keep the Law.
Grace and Truth Came through
Jesus has saved you and me from sin through the gospel
of the water and the Spirit. He has blotted out our sins and given
us the gift of salvation. That He has saved us by coming to this
earth, being baptized, dying on the Cross, and rising from the dead
is the indisputable Truth. It is absolutely not a lie. There is
not other law of salvation but this law, that Jesus Christ has saved
us through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
No human being can ever save another human being from
his sins. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and God Himself. Because
it is God Himself who has saved us by becoming a creature for a
while, all the works He fulfilled is perfect. To dismiss today the
divinity of Jesus and say that He is just a Son of Man is a claim
espoused by spiritual scoundrels. That’s because no man can save
another man from all his sins.
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Through this Word of Galatians, we should know what
the true gospel is, and we should live according to it. Only the
gospel of the water and the Spirit is the real Truth, and apart
from following it by faith, anything else that emphasizes one’s
own good deeds or the Law is lawlessness. To believe in the gospel
of the water and the Spirit, serve the gospel, and live for this
gospel is to do what is right. Unless we live for the gospel of
the water and the Spirit, our lives would be meaningless and worthless.
Only when we believe in and follow the gospel of the
water and the Spirit with our hearts can we continue to receive
God’s love and blessings. No matter how virtuous we might be in
our deeds, if our hearts have no faith in the gospel of the water
and the Spirit, then it is all over for us. God loves those who
believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit with their hearts,
and who live their lives according to it. Through Galatians chapter
one, we were able to see just how precious the gospel is, and how
accursed legalistic faith is.
Many people fall into legalistic faith precisely because
they do not believe in the true gospel with their hearts, but unlike
them, you have to set your hearts’ determination steadfast by placing
your faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. You must believe
that legalistic faith will ultimately bring only curses.
I thank the Lord for His grace that has allowed us
to live blessed lives, with our hearts immersed in God’s true gospel.