You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.Galatians 5:4(NASB)
The serious peril of legalism is the principle message of Galatians, because legalism devalues and discredits Christ's incredible offering of Himself as our sacrifice for sin. Legalism belittles the glorious grace of God by erroneously requiring some form of human merit to secure God's unconditional, free gift of salvation!
Paul had been called and chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ to be His primary apostle to the Gentiles. He spoke with God's authority during His missionary journeys and through his various epistles, and Paul often found it necessary to correct doctrinal error through his writings. The legalistic teaching that had infiltrated the Galatian Church had supplanted Christ as the unique and exclusive Saviour. The Galatian gospel replaced Christ with the false gospel of human effort and an unscriptural, works-based salvation.
Legalistic Jews resented Paul teaching that the Mosaic Law had been superseded because of the Cross and did everything in their power to discredit his apostolic authority. They continued to insist that there was no salvation without circumcision. This shocking teaching rendered Christ's offering of Himself as irrelevant, causing Paul to condemn them in the strongest possible terms - if anyone teaches this false doctrine, "let him be accursed," is Paul's forceful language.
Legalism requires one to follow the entire Law of Moses with its 613 indivisible regulations. Failing to keep even the most insignificant statute, results in the entire Law being broken and placing the individual under God's terrible condemnation.
One can argue that there are two ways to be justified. LAW or GRACE. EITHER, we are justified by living an entirely sinless life, from beginning to end, and never breaking the slightest jot or tittle of any Law in thought, word, deed, or motive. THIS is salvation through the LAW - an impossibility for fallen, sinful man. OR, we are justified by receiving salvation as a free gift from God - by faith in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. THIS is salvation as a free gift of God's GRACE.
Salvation is not by Law AND Grace. It is either through keeping the entire Law OR given as a free gift of Grace. Both are mutually exclusive and cannot be combined or commingled. 'LAW' severs a sinner from Christ and His free gift salvation. Trying to be justified by the Law "severs us from being justified by Christ." Justification by 'LAW' is incompatible with being justified by 'GRACE'... which is why Paul tells the Galatian Christians that by adopting the Law, "You have been severed from Christ! You who are SEEKING to be justified by law; have fallen from grace!"
Many like to use this verse to teach that one can lose their salvation. They suggest that falling from grace by trying to keep the Law means the loss of a believer's salvation. But this teaching contradicts the numerous passages that show that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ and not by works of the Law. This verse is clearly talking about JUSTIFICATION and is directed towards someone SEEKING to be saved i.e. an unsaved sinner.
Justification is the initial work that takes place when a lost sinner places their trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. Justification is the point in a sinner's life when God declares them to be righteous - because they trust in Christ alone for their salvation. Justification is the point when one becomes a child of God and is transferred from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of His dear Son. Justification is the point where a sinner becomes a saint, is positioned in Christ, and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.
When an unsaved man or woman seeks to be made right with God through keeping the Law, they have cut themselves off from the one and only way to be saved - as a free gift of God's grace - by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. May we never stray from the truth the glorious gospel of grace - that we are justified by grace ALONE, through faith ALONE in Christ ALONE.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the important teachings of Paul in the book of Galatians and the serious peril that comes from trying to be justified by works of the Law rather than as a free gift of grace - through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. It staggers my understanding that You should love sinners, such as me, to the extent that You gave Your only begotten Son to become the substitute for my sin and that by faith in Him alone, I am declared righteous in Your sight and covered in His righteousness. Were it not for the Lord Jesus, I could never be justified in my own merit - but I praise and thank You for Your wonderful plan of redemption whereby I am credited with righteousness - through faith. Thank You, in Jesus' name, AMEN.