Paul speaks about turning back from God’s grace in Christ to slavery. We were once slaves to “the elementary principles of the world.” Here’s what Paul says in Galatians 4:8-9, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you 16 not about mewere enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” The basis of our relationship with God is what He did for us, not what we do for Him. A focus on the latter is what we know as “legalism.”

Paul makes an interesting parenthetical statement in this passage. He changes his thought from our having come to know God to having been known by God. Paul’s understanding of man’s total depravity precludes the idea that any man can come to know God by his own efforts. Job’s age old question always assumes a negative answer: Can man by searching find God? Of course not! It’s not that God doesn’t know everything at all times, it’s that God takes the initiative in salvation – not man! We have free access to the Father through Christ Jesus. Instead of taking advantage of that the Galatians are turning back to “weak and worthless” procedures of self-effort. The only thing that the law, any law, will do for you is point out your failure. In contrast to Christ, the law is powerless to set us free, to make us righteous, and change our roles from slaves to sons.

Richison attacks such a foolish notion as that of the Galatians. He writes, “Man’s efforts of merit are trash; God’s grace is treasure for us. Salvation is all of grace. God finds us; we do not find Him. God extends His grace to us; we offer Him nothing. When we turn back into earning God’s favor and approbation, we turn back the clock spiritually. There is a proclivity to revert to the past. Somehow, someway, we want salvation or the Christian life to depend on us. That is a warm and wonderful feeling not based on the Bible. Many people need to trade in their religion and get the gospel of grace found only in the finished work of Christ on the cross. This is a bitter pill to swallow for those who are impressed with their self-effort.” It’s not about me, or the work I do, about Christ and the work He has done!