Galatians 4:8-11: Whom Do You Serve?

March 30, 2018

 There are two things we need to always remember in our Christian experience: 1. What we were  before Christ moved into our lives. And 2. What we are now in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The book of Ephesians tells us that those who are in Christ have been adopted, predestined, chosen, foreordained, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, made alive, given an inheritance, made holy and blameless, made to the praise of His glory, given wisdom, made to know the mystery of His will, placed in heavenly places, strengthened with might, filled with all the fullness of God, the power of God lives in us, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and blessed with all spiritual blessings. Halleluiah what a Savior, and what a great God we have!

 

And we must  never forget that true Christianity is not what we do for God, but simply responding to what he has done for us! That’s what makes Christianity different from all other religions. They say, “Clean up your act;” “straighten up your life;” “get it all together;” “live a good, clean life,” then you can come to God. Then you will be pleasing to God and He will love you. Only the Gospel of Christ is “good news.” We can hang up our hang ups at the cross and live in heaven on the way to heaven!

Why would any believer ever want to go back to a world that is filled with unhappy, dissatisfied people who are searching for solutions for the emptiness in their lives? This explains the reason for so much drug dependency, alcohol abuse, criminal behavior, eating disorders, immorality, divorce, depression, and psychological disorders. It seems that people will do anything to bring some semblance of happiness into their miserable lives. We are a messed up society! If these issues were ever solved, Jerry Springer, Maury, Steve Wilcos and Dr. Phil would be out of business.

 

The Galatian Error Was Legalism. Galatians 1:6, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” In the church at Galatia there were those who were guilty of mingling grace and works. They were teaching that in order to be a Christian, they had to believe in Christ by faith, but also had to observe rituals, of circumcision and Levitical law. This legalism can take different forms. The first is when a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation. The second is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation.

Please note that salvation comes through believing. The Philippian jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The answer for him and for the whole lost world is,  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” It is not, “believe, and…”; “believe, plus…”; “believe, providing…”; “believe, if…”; it is simply “believe!”

Here Paul is asking them to consider again the fact that they believed in Christ, and asks why on earth would they ever want to return to a bondage? Their religion had never done anything for them and they remember the freedom they experienced when they received Christ by faith. So he asks them, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”   (Galatians 3:1-3).

Dr. Wayne Barber writes, “And here is the question: Are you—now draw a circle around yourself and forget that anybody else is here, but just draw that circle and say—am I living as a slave or am I living as a son? Have I chosen to say ‘yes’ to God? Have I chosen to lay everything down and just let Jesus be Jesus in my life, or have I chosen not to go that route? Am I living as a slave or am I living as a son?” –Precept Austin

Verse 8: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.”

“But then…” “When you did not know God…” before they knew the one true God, the Galatians, “served those which by nature are not gods.” Even the heathen have some knowledge of God, “…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

Don't be foolish enough to give up your favored status as God's children!!! Remember what you used to be when you did not know God! Remember when you were slaves to idols and the spirits of dead men who only existed in your imagination!

To “know God,” is an experiential, personal, and relational knowledge of God. Both words translated “know” and “known” are the Greek word ginosko which refers to knowing Him in reality. It is to truly know Him, not just know about Him. “And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent” (John 17:3 MSG).

Isaiah 55:6 tells us, “Seek the Lord while He may be found.” Since God can be “found,” He can be known. God desires for us to know Him. That is why God sent Jesus, to reveal Himself. Jesus said to Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9 NLT). So to know Jesus is to know God.

I remember when I did not know God! I had absolutely no interest in spiritual things. One of my favorite defenses was, “Just because all those weak people at church, who claim to be Christians need someone to lean on doesn’t mean that I need someone to lean on, I’m John Sparks.”  But now that I know what I was then and who I am in Christ I realize believers are the ones who are strong.

If you could see where Jesus brought me from,

To where I am today;

Then you would know the reason why I love Him so…

           –“It’s my desire” by Troy L. Sneed–4 Heart Harmony

Verse 9a:But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God…”

Isn’t it a wonderful blessing to know that we who “know” God are also  “known by God?” This is a great thing for the name-droppers. When anyone is bragging about what movie star or sports celebrity they are bragging about knowing personally, they can say, “God knows me!”

“I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted for me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

This is a momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort--the sort of comfort that energizes…in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. Three is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowl3edge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me…He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and I am glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose… not merely that we know God, but that He knows us.”–J. I. Packer, Knowing God

 

Verse 9b: “…how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

 

The Greek word for “weak” is asthenes, meaning, infirm, sick, without vigor, no strength, no inherent power. Paul asks why return to a religion that is too weak to do anything for you? The second word, “beggarly” in Greek is ptochos, it refers to a person reduced to begging, that is, someone who is destitute of all resources. One who is worthless, totally helpless. Again Paul is asking his readers why they would ever return to a religion that is worthless, in comparison to the grace of Christ?

When Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship, His listeners were hedging, giving excuses, to said one of them, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Essentially that is what Paul is saying here! Why would you prefer that which is powerless and destitute, when it is contrasted to, “…the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!” (Ephesians 1:18 MSG).

Verse 9c: “…to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

“Do you want to go back and offer your ideas to God, or do you want God to offer His ideas to you? Your ideas, your religion, your system, your rules, your regulations, he says all that is, they are weak, and they are worthless, and you have desired—it blows me away—you have chosen, you have committed yourself to going back to the very thing Jesus has freed you from.” –Dr. Wayne Barber

Verses 10: “You observe days and months and seasons and years…”

Remember, the deceiving teachers that had come among them were the Judaizers, who were trying to take them back to the Mosaic Law, the ceremonial law, and the Galatians had foolishly believed them. Listen to Paul’s assessment of the Judaizers: “Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved”  (Philippians 3:2 NLT). Paul confronted Peter for accepting this false doctrine, “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed…” And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him (Peter), so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy” (Galatians 3:11-13).

Now again Paul has to deal with the Judaizers, who were trying to get the Galatians to go back to Jewish Law. Not only were they causing those who want to become Christians to be circumcised, they were teaching them to again observe, “days and months and seasons and years.”

“Days” refers to Sabbath days, feasts days, and fasts days. The term “months” would refer to the harvest celebrations for example, the offering of the firstfruits to the Lord. “Seasons” would be seasons such as the Passover season or Pentecost or Tabernacles. And it would mark specific events in the history of Israel that they would set aside as holy days. The term “years” would be such things as the sabbatical year, the seventh year or the year of Jubilee, which would be the fiftieth year” –adapted and edited from Precept Austin

“They meticulously observe special days with the belief that the practice would gain merit, but this was out of keeping with the spirit of Christian liberty. Every day is to be lived to the glory of God. “Days” (weekly Sabbaths), “months” (new moons or the especially sacred first and seventh months), “times” (seasons, three annual feasts of the Jews-Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles), and “years” (Sabbatical of Jubilee years).

“Since the members of His Body, the Church, are considered by Him to be neither Jew nor Gentile, the Sabbath is not for their observance. They are new creatures in Christ Jesus: ‘For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace’ (Ephesians 2:14,15).” – backtothebible.org

So is it wrong for Christians to observe Christmas? Even though I do not personally believe that Jesus was born on December 25th, I do not think it’s wrong to set aside a day to celebrate His birth. For one thing it is the one time of the year when the whole world is thinking about Jesus Christ. It is wrong, only if we make it a part of our salvation and command people to observe or fall out of favor with God. The scripture is very clear that Christians are not to try to legislate observance of any special days or ceremonies.

All believers at one time or another are pressured by well-meaning people who try to put you under bondage to a lot of do’s and don’ts. Rule-keeping or supposed commandment-keeping before or after your conversion to Christ is not the way to salvation or the way to make God happy with you. Some may even go so far as to say, that if you do not adhere to their own list of do’s and don’ts, then you are not a Christian, even if you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Robert Roberts, in an article in Christianity Today, wrote: “There’s something comfortable about reducing Christianity to a list of do’s and don’ts, whether your list comes from mindless fundamentalism or mindless liberalism, you always know where you stand, and this helps reduce anxiety. Do’s and don’ts-ism has the advantage. You don’t need wisdom, you don’t have to think or make hard choices.”

Eugene Peterson wrote, “We all know pastors and Christian people who do not want us to be free. To be accepted just as we are by His grace. They don’t want us to be free to express our faith creatively in the world. They insist that we all look alike, talk alike and act alike, thus validating one another’s worth. Without being aware of it we become anxious  about what others will say about us, obsessively concerned about what others think we should do. We no longer live the good news, but anxiously try to memorize  and recite the script that someone else has assigned to us. We may be secure, but we will not be free.”

The Bible says:

Romans 14:5 MSG, “…one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience” (Romans 14:5 MSG).

Colossians 2:16 NLT, “So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths” (Colossians 2:16 NLT).

Verse 11: “I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”

“Afraid” in Greek is, phobeo, meaning, dread, reverence, or terrified. Paul

“Labored” in Greek is kopos, meaning, intense labor, laborious toil, involving weariness and fatigue.

Paul was in fear of something that was actually already happening. Apparently the report had already reached Paul that the Galatian believers were already falling back into their former belief system, and maybe all his intense labor for them had been to no effect. John MacArthur observes: “What he's saying is this, ‘Maybe you're not even saved. Maybe all my work went for nothing. At least I can't imagine someone turning in sonship for slavery. I can't imagine it.’” John writes, “These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us” (1 John 2:19 NLT).

Paul had worked intensely to bring the Galatians God’s word, resulting in their salvation by grace through faith alone apart from the works of the Law. Now he fears that his labor may have been in vain as they again embrace legalism. He writes in verse 19 NLT, “Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.”

Pastors always worry that their people will not continue to practice what they have been taught. It is such a joy when our people are serving God. John writes,  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). Every pastor can identify with that. Do we not think of our parishioners as our children? Do we not agonize over them if they are not walking with the Lord? Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “…we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7,8 MSG). That’s a pastor caring for his flock.

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English  bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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