I may have freedom of religion while living under the authority of the American Constitution, but, if I choose to live under the authority of Iran, the American Constitution cannot profit me there, if I’m concerned about such freedom. Similarly, Christ cannot profit me, as far as freedom is concerned, if I choose to live under the Mosaic Law and trust in it for my salvation or my moral walk (Galatians 5:2). The Law doesn’t have power to give life, but it does have power to take it. Neither does the Law have power to make anyone righteous. It was never intended to have such power.
If I had not received the freedom Christ offers and, rather, looked to the Law to dictate my moral behavior, I would be in the same position that Paul claimed these Galatians were in—submitting to a different authority. In such a state the freedom Christ offers would have no effect upon my life. I would be living a slave’s life seeking to please my Master through my own effort (Galatians 5:3-4). The fruits of the authorities are different, the Law brings death, but Christ brings life.
The importance of authority is seen in what goal one wishes to attain (Galatians 5:2-3). A good American citizen would obey the laws of the land, and, if that is all he wanted, he’d have achieved his goal. However, being a good American citizen is of little importance as far as being righteous before God is concerned. If I submit to the American constitution, it means nothing according to righteousness, but by trusting in Christ, not only am I righteous before God, but I should have no problem being a good American citizen. Similarly, the Mosaic Law was the constitutional Law of the Jewish nation. Living under it had nothing to do with making a Jew righteous; neither could such a law give life to a Jew or anyone else.
The theme of Galatians is that we gain acceptance from God through faith in Christ and not through law (Galatians 5:4). The doctrine of the Judaizers was that we have a responsibility before God to obey the Law, and this is how we gain his acceptance. According to their doctrine, acceptance may come through law in conjunction with Christ, but trusting in Christ alone cannot gain us acceptance before the Lord. This is a different Gospel and is not good news (cf. Galatians 1:6-7), and people who preach such a gospel and those who follow them live under a curse (Galatians 1:8), not a blessing, because those who embrace the Law as their authority are compelled to keep the whole law, and not merely a portion of that law.
Today, some try to impose the yoke of bondage (slavery) under a different guise to make Christians more acceptable to God. They make everything a burden, from evangelism to feeding and clothing the poor. They imply that our behavior in matters pertaining to their preaching is important as far as fulfilling our Christian duty is concerned, and if we don’t do as they tell us (which usually means supporting their ministry), how can God be happy with us? This is a subtle form of spiritual enslavement (Galatians 5:4). Grace is an unmerited gift. If we seek grace by working for it, we’ve committed an oxymoron. Who earns a birthday gift or any gift? A gift is a gift only if it is simply received. One earns a wage, but never a gift. So seeking to earn God’s favor can never be done, because God’s favor is offered as a gift through Christ.
The problem with justification through law is it demands that we be righteous today. If we are unable to be righteous today, we cannot become righteous tomorrow, because unrighteousness today under the Law brings death tomorrow. Righteousness in Christ is different. We are accounted righteous today, because faith looks for something not seen. Salvation is a process. We are justified through the death of Christ, saving us from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23). We are sanctified by the Spirit of Christ throughout our lives saving us from the power of sin (Philippians 2:12-13). Finally, when we meet Christ, we’ll be given new bodies, thus saving us from the presence of sin (2Corinthians 5:1-8). So, salvation isn’t complete in this life. It is finished in the next. Living by law denies this truth.