Pastor Mark Driscoll is a Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor. With a skillful mix of bold presentation, accessible teaching, and unrelenting compassion for those who are hurting the most particularly women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse and assault.
Galatians 5:11 – But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.
Crucifixion was invented by the Persians around 500 B.C., perfected by the Romans in the days of Jesus, and not outlawed until the time of Emperor Constantine, who ruled Rome in the fourth century A.D. In the days of Jesus, crucifixion was reserved for the most horrendous criminals. Even the worst Romans were beheaded rather than crucified. The Jews also considered crucifixion the most horrific mode of death, as Deuteronomy 21:22–23 says: “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.”
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus called crucifixion “the most wretched of deaths.”1 The ancient Roman philosopher Cicero asked that decent Roman citizens not even speak of the cross because it was too disgraceful a subject for the ears of decent people.
Under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, German soldiers crucified Jews at Dachau by running bayonets and knives through their legs, shoulders, throats, and testicles. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge performed crucifixions in Cambodia. Today, crucifixion continues in Sudan and other places to treat Christians like Christ was treated.
The pain of crucifixion is so horrendous that a word was invented to explain it: excruciating literally means “from the cross”. A crucified person could hang on the cross for days, passing in and out of consciousness as their lungs struggled to breathe while laboring under the weight of their body. It was not uncommon for those being crucified to slump on the cross in an effort to empty their lungs of air and thereby hasten their death.
At this point during a crucifixion, the victims labored to breathe as their body went into shock. Naked and embarrassed, the victims would often use their remaining strength to seek revenge on the crowd of mockers who had gathered to jeer at them. They would curse at their tormentors while urinating on them and spitting on them. Some victims would become so overwhelmed with pain that they would become incontinent and a pool of sweat, blood, urine, and feces would gather at the base of their cross. Simply put, the cross was offensive.
Today, the cross remains offensive. In every generation, there is a parade of false teachers who don’t like to teach that Jesus died only to be an example for us when facing injustice, and not as our substitute in our place for our sins.
In Paul’s day, and every day since, the cross remains offensive for one simple reason. The cross of Jesus Christ is the utter repudiation of human potential. If we were good people, had good hearts, and were evolving to fix our lives and right our wrongs, then Jesus’ death was a complete waste of time.
At the cross we see the heart of all humanity as we murdered God. At the cross we also see the heart of God as He died to give us grace.
Do you find the cross, and its’ repudiation of human potential, as an offense?
1Wilbur M. Smith, The Incomparable Book (Minneapolis, Minn.: Beacon, 1961), 9–10.
Galatians 5:7-10 – You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.
Our world of tolerance and pride in all things has caused many people to forget the simple principle that to receive something means you must also reject something else. For example, for a marriage to receive fidelity it must reject adultery. Or, to receive Jesus you must reject trusting in anyone or anything else for your salvation.
Paul uses two analogies to illustrate this point.
First, Christianity is supposed to be like a cross country team lead by Jesus. We are to follow Him, trusting that He knows the way to our heavenly home. Religious legalism is like someone cutting in front of you and pushing you off course so that you are no longer following Jesus.
Second, a bit of legalism in a family or church family is like a bit of leaven that soon overtakes everything. Jesus also warned of legalisms from two religious groups in his day, saying in Matthew 16:11, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees”.
The problem with legalism is that it drowns grace. To illustrate this point, picture in your mind someone who is clearly drowning and needing to be rescued. So, a lifeguard jumps in to save them. The worst thing that could happen would be that the person drowning works against the lifeguard, which results in two deaths and no rescues. The best thing that could happen would be that the drowning person accepts their inability to rescue themselves and surrenders to the lifeguard who does all the work to save them. Human religious works and their man-made legalisms literally work against a gracious rescue from Jesus.
Is there anything in your life that you need to surrender to God?
Galatians 5:2-6 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
When Grace and I were first married, I made the same mistake over and over. We were broke, but I really wanted to ensure that she had a dependable car. Over and over, I bought a car in faith that it would run. And, every car was a lemon that broke down.
Because having faith in someone or something is only worthwhile if the object of that faith is faithful. Paul tells us that we only have two options.
Option 1 – Faith in me and what I do for God
This path leads only to hell, and never to heaven. To keep the laws of God requires that we be, as Jesus said, “perfect” and keep every law perfectly. But sin is a condition that only God can change, and not just an action that we can change. Furthermore, since our life is a test, even if we started obeying God perfectly today, it’s too late as we’ve already failed our test. Lastly, Jesus emphasized not only the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law so that lust and adultery, as well as murder and talking trash about a Christian are equally transgressions in God’s sight. If your faith is in you to save yourself, then your faith is in vain. For this reason, religious people need to empty their hands of all that they have accomplished, so that God can fill those same hands with grace from Jesus who is your perfection.
Option 2 – Faith in Jesus and what God did for me
This path always leads to heaven and never leads to hell. Jesus did all the work necessary for our salvation through his sinless life, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection in victory of Satan, sin, death, hell, and the wrath of God. When it comes to getting, and staying, right with God, Jesus did all the work and gives us all the benefits. This is grace.
Our relationship with God is sourced and sustained by grace. In fact, any other healthy relationships with others must be also. This is what Paul means saying that the “only” thing that matters is “faith working through love.” Once you know that God loves you, forgives you, and has grace for you, it frees you up to share that grace with others to heal broken relationships with others as God has healed your broken relationship with Him – all by grace.
Do you have full confidence that you have trusted in Jesus Christ, received grace from God, and have nothing to fear when you stand before God on the day of judgment?
Galatians 5:1 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Legalism is what happens when people try and do the job of the Holy Spirit. This explains why legalists seek to control people.
Legalism is godless because it replaces a personal God with impersonal rules and demands. This explains why legalists don’t want you to seek the Lord’s will, but instead just do what they demand.
Legalism puts law-based people in authority, especially in churches and ministries. This explains why legalists make rules that God did not make, and pressure people to obey or face punishment.
Legalism does addition, not subtraction. This explains why legalists keep making new rules, and more rules about the old rules.
Legalism seeks to prevent people from needing grace. This explains why legalists seek to keep people from doing anything they think is incorrect because they disdain the need for grace.
Legalism makes neutral things necessary. This explains why legalists move neutral issues (e.g. circumcision, baptism, Bible translation, speaking in tongues, etc.) and enforce them as things necessary to be right with God.
Legalism prevents maturity. This explains why legalists act like controlling parents who do not let others make decisions, learn through trial and error, and live in grace.
Is there anyone you are legalistic with? Is there anyone who is legalistic with you?
In this week’s Ask Pastor Mark, he addresses several recent questions about Calvinism and teaches on the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, the history behind various stances on the topics, and how the Bible, at its core, should be used as the basis of all our belief systems.
Have a question you’d like answered in a potential future Ask Pastor Mark video? Send an email to email@example.com.
Galatians 5:1 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
One of the most beloved concepts human beings have is freedom. Most every nation has holidays dedicated to freedom, songs sung to freedom, and parades dedicated to freedom. Most people value freedom, but few people live free.
The entire book of Exodus is about God freeing His people from slavery so they could worship Him freely. In this way, freedom is two parts. First, you have to be set free. Then, you have to live free. In every age, God’s people are sadly prone to act like they did in Exodus. First, we grumble and complain about life. Second, we romanticize our past season of bondage as something we long for. Third, we forget our identity as God’s children free to live in God’s will. Fourth, we then choose something or someone else to replace God as the center of our life and object of our affection.
Jesus Christ came to give us an even greater exodus. Instead of conquering Pharaoh, Jesus conquered Satan. Instead of liberating people from physical slavery that lasts for a lifetime, Jesus set us free from spiritual slavery that lasts forever.
Once set free, we have to live free by living in relationship with Jesus by the Spirit. Our enemy that we must hold the line against, is religion based upon human works that lead to legalism. This “yoke” is a heavy burden of duty and things that people must do to become and remain right with God. This crushing weight from legalism wearies the soul until it weighs you down with guilt, burden, shame, striving, and an always-growing list of things to do.
Is there any legalism hindering living in the freedom Christ has for you?
Galatians 4:28-31 – Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Have you ever tried to help God out by taking matters into your own hands? If so, then you understand the mess of Abraham and Sarah.
After the establishment of God’s covenant in Genesis 15, Abram sought to take matters into his own hands by bearing a son with his Egyptian maidservant, Hagar (Genesis 16). Their actions were likely motivated at least in part by the fact that they had been waiting ten plus years for God to give them a child since He had promised to do so, and Abram was now eighty-six years old and his wife was perhaps sixty-five years old and barren.
Abram slept with Hagar and she bore him a son. And, in bitter irony, Sarai blamed Abram for the rift in their family because he slept with Hagar as Sarai wanted him too. Sarai mistreated Hagar which caused Hagar to flee from her.
But God intervenes as the hero of both this chapter of Genesis and the canon of Scripture altogether. And, just as God came searching for Adam and Eve in the Garden, the angel of the Lord came searching for Hagar in the desert. The angel of the Lord spoke to her to inquire of her circumstances. Hagar explained that she was running from the abusive Sarai. The angel of the Lord instructed Hagar to return to Sarai and trust that God would protect her and provide for her and her son like He had Abram. God also promised that her son would become the father of a great nation because he was a son of Abram, though not the son of the promise as that would eventually be Isaac. God also told Hagar that his name would be Ishmael, which means God hears, because God had heard her weeping and responded with kindness. God then promises that Ishmael would be a “wild donkey of a man” and that he would be a warrior in hostility with his brothers who would descend from Abram.
Paul’s point in Galatians is that law (trusting in what we do for God) and grace (trusting in what Jesus does for us) live together as miserably as two women with kids and one husband they both share. If you can imagine a family where a husband and wife with kids are divorced, then the husband remarries another woman and has more kids, and the two women hate one another but they all live under one roof as one family then you get the picture Paul is painting about the need to get law out of your life and live only in grace to have a healthy life and relationship with God.
Are you certain that you have trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life and that there is nothing you can possibly do to make God love you more, or force Him to love you less?
Galatians 4:26-27 – But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written [Isaiah 54:1], “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.”
Over the years, I’ve had the honor of teaching in a lot of different churches and being in the homes of a lot of families. Subsequently, I’ve gotten to witness and experience a wide variety of environments. One of the favorite environments I have been in is a loving, joyful, healthy and relational church that feels like an awesome family. As I got to know the godly family leading the church, I realized that the church family is basically like an overflow of their family and one big, fun, Godly extended family. This church has been growing for years because it is life-giving in a world that is life-taking, and burden-lifting in a world that is burden-giving. People who come in and participate in the church family simply get healthy and then bring more people to also get healthy.
The family and church family you live in each have an environment, culture, or atmosphere. Examples include the violent home, the cold, aloof, and non-relational family, or the critical and judgmental household. Throughout the Bible, the Kingdom of God (sometimes called the New Jerusalem) is depicted as our true home. The Kingdom of God, right now, has a culture. God wants the culture of our family and church family to be the same as His Kingdom culture. This is, in part, why Jesus Christ came down from heaven, and we repeatedly see the Holy Spirit falling on people from above – to bring the culture of the Kingdom to the earth.
When Paul quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, he is using the analogy of child birth to explain the law and the gospel of grace. The law includes the 613 laws in the first five books of the Bible, and they accomplished three things. One, they revealed God’s holiness. Two, they revealed our sinfulness and need for a Savior. Three, they kept God’s people distinct from the rest of the world keeping them for the coming of Jesus to fulfill the law for them. The law was in effect for a long time, and painful to live under – just like childbirth. The law, like the pain of child birth, served the important purpose of birthing new life once the grace of God was poured out because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this way, the law is like childbirth – unpleasant but necessary and temporarily used to birth new life. Just as childbirth is the incredibly painful process that births new life, so too the pain we endure is used of God to birth something new in our life. Just as a baby is brought home from the hospital to life with their parents, so born again Christians are to live in their home and church home in an environment of grace so they can experience health and grow.
How has God used something painful in your life to birth something new and good?
Like your family, we live in a home with a thermometer and a thermostat. The thermometer tells us what the temperature is, and the thermostat allows us to change the temperature to ensure the environment we live in is comfortable. This is incredibly important as we live in the desert with hot summers and when the air conditioning once went out we simply went to a hotel for the night.
Our home, and yours, also have emotional and spiritual temperatures. Some are hot, angry, and uncomfortable. Some are cool, distant, and lonely. In the family, the mother is usually the thermometer. She is usually most aware of the spiritual and emotional temperature of the home. Dad is often the thermostat. What he says and how he acts usually sets the spiritual and emotional temperature in the home.
In Galatians, Paul who writes the book, is acting like the dad trying to set the right temperature for the church family. In so doing, he teaches throughout the book that relationships, families, and church families are either based upon law (what people earn through their works) or grace (what Jesus earned for us through His works). For this reason, as you read Galatians (it takes about twenty minutes), you will see the word “law” (32 times) and “works of the law” or “works of the flesh” (7 times) versus Christ (38 times) and grace (8 times). As a practical result of the conflict between law and grace, there are three kinds of environments God’s people live in:
Grace-based. The environment is peaceful, loving, healthy, and fun because there is an emphasis on grace.
Law-based. The environment is fearful, discouraging, and judgmental because there is an emphasis on performance and punishment.
Law & grace-based. The environment is one of conflict, confusion, and often abuse because there is division between two rival ways of seeing God and doing life.
When Paul planted the church in Galatia, it was grace-based. After he left, false teachers came in who were law-based. This is kind of like a family where one of the parents in the nice, relational and grace-based one, whereas the other parent is the gruff, non-relational, law-based one. The result is a miserable home where law and grace live together making everyone miserable.
Which category was your home like growing up? What is your current home environment like? What is your current church environment like?
At Trinity Trinity Church, we have been working through the book of Galatians. And to my surprise, there has been a consistent theme of parenting and family throughout! A frequent question I have been receiving is how do we raise kids with grace, in a way that won’t lead to rebellious or religious kids?