All of us at one time or another has taken out a loan to purchase a major ticket item (college, house, credit card, vehicle,…etc.). If you were to read all of that paper work which you have to sign, one would see that you must repay all of the original amount plus any origination fees, processing fees, and interest. This can be burdensome and costly since it is a debt that one is obligated to repay.
In the Galatian Church, false teachers were trying to get the believers to revert back to following the Law or basically make them feel obligated to “repay” God for what He has done. Paul continued to encourage his audience to stand firm and to not return to the yoke of slavery of the Law, because ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom’ (2 Cor 3.17). The false teachers did this subtly by saying that one must be circumcised. It seemed innocent at first glance, but it was a religious rite involving consecration and even ethnic identification. Basically, it was a public proclamation that one intends to keep the entire Law. The false teachers used it as their way to get right with God. Paul tells them in Galatians 5:3
Galatians 5:3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.
If you receive circumcision as a way to get right with God, then you are under obligation to keep the whole law. It is the idea of having to pay off your debt to get out from under a debt, but this debt is like paying the minimum payment on a maxed out credit card that you keep using with a 22.99% interest rate. You are unable to pay it off. It is impossible to fully keep the Law and when you stumble in one point of the Law, you have become guilty of breaking the entire Law (James 2:10).
In verse four, Paul does some play on words and tells those who are trying to keep the Law, that they are ‘severed’ from Christ.
Paul is saying that you are not connected to Christ or Christ is no benefit to you if you are trying to get in a right with God on your own. You have fallen from grace. This is not a ‘lose your salvation verse’. It’s clear that in context to the book of Galatians that once saved you are always saved (4:4-7).
He tells them that they have fallen from grace or you have not received God’s free gift of salvation. Instead of receiving the free gift and let Christ do the saving, they rather get into a right relationship with God with their own works; which is impossible.
Paul is trying to get his point across that it is Christ that does the saving and it is not by our works. We are free from the law. It is by Christ’s finish work on the cross that gets you in a right relationship with God. There is nothing that we can do, except to believe, and when we believe our sin debt is a paid and we are free from being a slave of the Law (3:13).
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.