by Mike Ratliff
3 So also we, when we were children, we had been enslaved under the fundamental principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law 5 that he might redeem the ones born under law that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:3-5 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
As I shared in our last post, Only One Gospel Part 8, my own pilgrimage or sojourn from my justification to this stage of my sanctification has not been a smooth upward line on a chart. No, in fact, one of the reasons I think I have such a clear understanding of Romans 7 is that I have lived it especially during those dark periods of those fiery trials that seemed to last forever during the 1990’s right up to through 2009 when my seizure disorder, which had been dormant since 1976 reappeared. However, the main element that comes through all of these “elemental principles of the world” is that even though those of us who are in Christ are indeed saved by grace and are new creations all according to the will of God all by his work, we are still in this temporal state in these bodies of flesh in this lost and dying world that neither knows our Lord nor what true joy is. However, even in the midst of a our tests and trials, we can rejoice in our Lord and be full of the joy of the Lord for we know that God is 100% in control and our time to meet him face to face is fixed and our time in our Lord’s presence will be for eternity.
We have come to Galatians 4:8-20 in which Paul expresses his fears for the Galatian churches. We’ll look at vv8-11 first then vv12-20.
8 However, then indeed not knowing God, you served as slaves the ones which by nature are no gods. 9 But now having known God, yet rather having been known by God, why do you want to turn again as slaves to serve the weak and impoverished fundamental principles? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you lest somehow I have labored for you in vain. (Galatians 4:8-11 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
In v8 we learn much. No one knows God before coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. In our day we have people saying that there are followers of Jesus who are Muslims or Hindus or Mormons, et cetera. Sorry, but in v9 we see that people do not come to know God on their own. No, it is God who comes to know those whom he saves. That is an incredible statement by Paul. We can know God only because he first knew us, just as we choose him only because he first chose us (John 6:44, John 15:16). Why do we love him? We love him only because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Our faith in him is a gift from him (Ephesians 2:8,9).
In v9 Paul asks the Galatians why, after coming to know God, why would they want to go back into slavery to that which is not of God, which are the weak and impoverished fundamental principles of the world? In v10 we are given the answer to what they were doing. They were following the rituals, ceremonies, and festivals of the Jewish religious calendar, which God had given, but were never required for the church. In v11 Paul plainly tells them that if they go back into legalism then all of his work as a missionary to bring them into Christ’s kingdom has likely been in vain. That is an incredible statement. Think of all those church leaders in our time who major in legalism. What’s the difference? I have people contact me nearly every day who have idol issues, but they don’t see it that way. They see it as if those who aren’t falling down before their particular idol are not following God correctly as they are. I am baffled at times as to how to address this since it is massively prevalent in the church and my brethren, idolatry ALWAYS leads to spiritual blindness, no exceptions. That means that those in idolatry have been given over to it and don’t even know it.
12 I beg of you, brothers, become as I am, because I also became as you are. You injured me in nothing; 13 and you know that I preached the Good News to you through weakness of the flesh at the first; 14 and in your trial in my flesh you did not despise nor loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 Where then is your blessedness? For I testify to you that if possible you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So I have become your enemy in speaking the truth to you? 17 They are eagerly seeking you, not well, but to exclude you that you may eagerly seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in the right way and not only during my presence with you. 19 My children, for whom I again suffer birth pains until Christ is formed in you– 20 now I was desiring to be present with you just now and to change my tone because I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:12-20 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
In v12 Paul beseeches the Galatians to do as he has done which is to totally forsake his former legalism for salvation by grace alone through faith alone as God’s gift alone. In this abandonment he became free from enslavement to that which cannot save to slavery to the Lord Jesus Christ which is to be free indeed. When Paul first preached the gospel to the Galatians he was ill and it must have had something to do with his eyes, but that did not stop him from preaching. Notice that despite his illness, the Galatians eagerly responded and loved Paul. That is grace from God. Now the contrast—in v16 Paul talks about the Judiazers who are eagerly seeking the Galatians as converts to their false gospel. Their motives are not pure though. No, they know that in their corruption of the gospel they will separate the Galatians from the Orthodox churches that follow the teachings of Paul and so they will then eagerly (they think) seek out these false teachers. Paul then contrasts that with proper teachers who teach the truth. They eagerly seek out those to hear the Word of God in the right way and Paul says this is good and right and not only during his presence. In vv19-20 Paul expresses grief for what is going on in the Galatian churches with the spread of this false gospel and shows that their willingness to abandon grace has caused him to be perplexed about them.
I think I understand that. I feel the same way when I read of or hear about a once solid Bible teacher, church leader, or even a very visible Christian leader apostatize. I find it very difficult to understand how that happens. However, I think we get glimpses of how this takes place when we “latch on to” certain “Christian celebrities” and then we witness them buddying up with someone we know is an apostate or they defend that person using argumentation that is unbiblical.
Well, I’m not God. I’m not omniscient. I am only the slave of our Lord Jesus Christ and he has me working right here doing this for the Body of Christ. Opening the Word of God, studying it gives the Holy Spirit time and opportunity to transform us through the renewing of our minds, and this builds within us the mind of Christ, hence, the reason for this ministry.
Soli Deo Gloria!