I recall a few years back having a quiet conversation with a shocked, disappointed, chastened, and influential fellow-pastor. Following the tragic demise of a famous Christian leader, his serious, solemn, words struck an unforgettable note: "Never again," said added, "will I preach to a church and assume everyone is saved!"
It takes us to the heart of what the Apostle Paul is saying in his epistle to the Galatians - during one of his missionary visits, occasioned by his own ophthalmic problems, the people welcomed the message and were gathered into God's Church. Then twisters came along to corrupt free grace with works - conflict was the result.
Two groups are distinguished by paradigmatic statements made in a legalistic context: mere profession may be accompanied by legal rites, religious feasts, pulpit texts, winsome acts, religious pomp, flowery prayers and loud claims, but without new birth, and faith at work through love, there is no justification by saving grace.
Specimen A, is Galatians 5:16:
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Specimen B, is Galatians 6:15:
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
Specimen C, set in a context of license, reaffirms the point, in 1 Corinthians 7:19:
For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.
"Counts-for" is not in the original text - but it sums up well what Paul meant by "has meaning" or "is valid" or "has significance" or "carries weight" - all outward, impressive-looking, pomp and puff amounts to nothing but a religious bluff!
What can we learn from Paul's exposé of zealous, works-salvation, pretense: even in gathered churches, hearers must be warned as well as being cheered; the Gospel is always relevant to ongoing life in church; flaws in practice may red-flag faulty profession; the best proof of a state of grace is Christ's own progressive, inward, spiritual, loving, renewing, life in us.