The Law - Relying or Obeying?

The verses from Sunday, Galatians 4:21-31, round off the theme that Paul has been highlighting since the middle of Galatians chapter 2. It is here that he addresses the kind of people who “want to be under the law”. It is important to understand that Paul’s use of “under the law” does not mean, “obeying the law”.  

If someone is “under the law” they are RELYING on the law for their right standing with God. So Paul is addressing Christians who are being fooled to believe that their performance is a necessary addition to Jesus’ work on the cross, if they are going to be acceptable to God.

During Sunday’s sermon, I identified four kinds of people in the church and challenged everyone to determine where they are at. I think it is helpful for us to soberly assess our thinking and motivations if we are going to walk closely to Jesus.  Please take a few minutes to read through the descriptions below and honestly assess where you are at.


Four Types of People in the Church: (Tim Keller) Please consider yourself not others

1.    Law Obeying, Law-Relying People. These people are under the law and are usually very smug, self-righteous and see themselves as superior to the people around them. Externally, they are very sure that they are “right” with God, but deep down, they have a ton of insecurities – since no one can truly be assured that they are living up to God’s standard. This makes the Law-Obeying, Law-Relying People very touchy, sensitive to criticism and easily devastated when their prayers are not answered. This group would include members of other religions, but there are plenty of this kind that go to church. Law Obeying, Law-Relying People have a ton in common with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

2.    Law Disobeying, Law Relying People. These people have a strong religious conscience based on works-righteousness, but they are not living consistently with it. As a result, they are more humble and more tolerant of others than the Law-Obeying, Law-Relying “Pharisees”, but they are also super guilt ridden, subject to mood swings and often are afraid of discussing religious topics. Most Law Disobeying, Law-Relying People go to church, but their attendance is irregular and they never commit. They prefer stay on the sidelines because of their low spiritual self-esteem. 

 3.    Law-Disobeying, Not Law Relying People. These are people who have thrown off the concept of the law of God (antinomians). They are intellectual and secular or relativistic – and often claim a vague spirituality. They often choose their own moral standards and then insist that they are meeting them. But Paul, in Romans 1:18-20, says that at a sub-conscious level, they know there is a God who they should be obeying. The Law-Disobeying, Not Law-Relying People are usually happier and more tolerant than the above two, but there is usually a strong, liberal self-righteousness. They believe they are earning their own salvation because they feel superior to others. This form of self-righteousness is just less obvious and more widely accepted than that of the Pharisees.

 4.    Law Obeying, Not Law Relying People. These are Christians who understand the gospel and are living out the implications of the gospel in true freedom! Law-Obeying, Not Law Relying People obey the law of God out of grateful joy that comes from the knowledge of their sonship though divine adoption. They also obey the law out of freedom from the fear and selfishness. They trust that God loves them unconditionally as the Bible makes clear. Law-Obeying, Not Law Relying People more tolerant, more sympathetic and more confident than the others. But most Christians struggle to live as Law-Obeying, Not Law Relying People because most don't fully believe the gospel and as a result fail to apply it to certain areas of their lives.

Christians can obey the law of God out of grateful joy that comes from a NEW HEART and a NEW IDENTITY. We long to obey the law of God out of freedom from fear and selfishness – we can know that we are children of God because we are resting in the fact that we have been divinely adoption by Him.

The gospel makes it clear that our actions will never cause God love us anymore than he already does and by the grace of God, our actions will never cause God to love us any less than He already does in Jesus Christ! This is AMAZING GRACE!