Galatians 4:8-9 8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?
Like the rest of us, there was a time in the Galatian Christian's past when they had no real knowledge of the true God. It is certainly possible that someone may have told a story about something they heard regarding a man who died on a Roman cross and came back to life. But as far as a true convert to Christianity bearing witness to the facts that this same Jesus changed his life, Paul was the one who had shared Jesus with these people.
Therefore, before they knew Christ, they were in a similar situation that many of us in this room today were in. How amazing is it that so many of us were born and raised in homes where the name of Jesus was spoken of, yet, we no more had a true relationship with him anymore than these Galatians did?
The result for them and us is that we were serving false gods. To be specific, the Galatians would have literally served idols and false Gods such as Hermes and Zeus. It is likely that most of us may have never done such a thing. Nevertheless, we served those gods through our lifestyles. What I mean is that all false religion has one purpose...to pull humanity away from the one true God. In addition, all sin has one purpose...to pull humanity away from God.
Therefore, when we spent our time worshiping in bar rooms and paying our tithes to the god of drunkenness and lust by giving of our money to the cause, we were serving false gods just like the Galatians.
Paul reminds them that now they know God. Furthermore, they are known by God. The question is…are they really going to return to weak the weak and beggarly place they were before? Because if they continue down this path of false religion, they will lose access to the power of God and be reduced to conquered slaves. Consider this concept...what picture does the usage of the words weak and beggarly produce in your mind from a spiritual perspective?
Weak- asthenes- this is the same Greek word used to describe the impotent folk that were at the pool of Bethesda in John 5.
For those of you who were with us during that study, you should remember that the scripture told us that there was a multitude of impotent folk: lame, halt, and withered. It was a spiritual triage. It was a mass of people incapable of helping themselves. They were living under the time frame of Law.
They were not only physically crippled, but the picture being portrayed was that Jesus was ushering in the New Covenant, which would allow people to be able to walk right with God.
Beggarly- literally means to be a beggar. It describes someone who is destitute of prosperity and has been reduced to the position of a street beggar.
Paul is amazed at their decisions. Essentially, they are returning to a former life of bondage. He uses that word elements again. As we learned last week, this word describes first things...as in elementary school before higher levels of learning.
While they may not be returning to their former Pagan religions or the worship of idols, they are turning themselves over to a system of law through which God no longer works that time frame ended with Jesus.
Basically, the idea that you are left with is a crippled man incapable of accessing the help he needs and subsequently he is reduced to being a beggar.
Think about the progression that has taken place in Paul's communication. He has taken the Galatians down a path where he showed them that the Law's purpose was for Israel to carry them through to a certain point in Salvation History where the promised seed would be manifested. During that time-frame, Israel is seen as an immature child requiring nannies and tutors to guide and care for her because she is incapable of caring for herself. But now, in Christ, we have come to the age of maturity where we are able to access our inheritance. Spiritually speaking, the inheritance describes access to the Spirit of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Because the God of glory has made His home in our hearts, we now have access to victory.
There is no devil in Hell that can supersede the power of the Holy Spirit. But! The Galatians have chosen to approach God in a way that He absolutely will not honor. If God releases grace in response to the Law, He would be contrary to His word, and He would cause confusion in His people because they would begin to think that they are rewarded based off what they do rather than faith in what He did.
Galatians 4:10-11 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
Paul is specifically letting them know that what the Judaizers are teaching them is going to bring them under bondage. The last thought he gave in the previous verse was that the result of their new approach to God would ultimately lead to bondage. The word bondage is translated from the word doulos, which is the common Greek word for servant or slave.
Obviously, they were being brought back into a system that emphasized the OT feast days...such as Passover, Pentecost... But Paul is saying that the result will be bondage.
I need to take a moment here and speak of some things. There has been a movement recently in the Christian church where people are attempting to access grace through observing some of the old Jewish holidays or operating according to some of the old Jewish ways. One big thing has been the use of a prayer shawl. Now, I am quite certain that the prayer shawl has some wonderful imagery that explains in detail the covering that God desires to be for His people Israel. But let me say this, "Jesus is the fulfillment of the covering. I don't want to be covered with a prayer shawl. I am covered with the righteousness of Jesus.
While most of us listening to this study will not go back to the Jewish Law, there are other things that you must be concerned about. Churches across America do not preach the truth of the Gospel. Therefore, the people are left crippled beggars. When the church has no answers because the Pastor does not understand the finished work of Christ, the people are instructed to seek counsel elsewhere for their malady.
The church is embracing Psychology and self- help programs. The church has and painted these human derived answers with scripture in order to find help for the really "bad ones". No Jesus can deliver and heal all manner of disease. Don't misunderstand me. If I have counseled with a person repeatedly telling them the truth and they do not want the truth and instead they want Psychology, I will not stop them. I will let them know that it won't work, but maybe that is what they need in order to be convinced that Jesus really is the answer.
The problem I have is that most ministers now days don't even know the truth to tell the people to begin with, and the result is that the people are encouraged to return to the weak and beggarly elements of what human wisdom offers.
Galatians 4:12-14 12Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
In the second part of the verse, Paul is reminding them of their time together and how well they treated him. At that time, he obviously had some type of infirmity. In actuality, it may have been because he was sick that he ended up in this place and was able to preach the Gospel to them. Paul points out that they received him and treated him as though he were an angel sent from God or Jesus Himself. In other words, they treated him well.
Ultimately, he wants them to know that they have not injured him. Thus far, they have treated him well, but he is concerned for their well-being.
What sticks out most to me is the fact that the great Apostle Paul also had to endure trials. However, even in the midst of a physical infirmity of some sort, he did what God called him to do. So Paul says that it was because of the infirmity that he preached to them the first time. I can't prove this, but I think it would be hilarious if it is what happened. The devil was trying to stop Paul. He was probably planning on going somewhere else and got sick. Instead, of just stopping and recuperating, he stopped and preached the Gospel.
I can assure you that there will be trials in the midst of our Christian walk. My prayer for all of us is that the trials of life will not stop us from accomplishing God’s will, instead, I pray that we will receive the grace that we need to continue on in the Father's will…to continue on and be a witness for the Kingdom of God.
Galatians 4:15-16 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
Commentators and scholars are divided about this comment that Paul makes regarding the Galatians plucking out their eyes to give to him. Many have taught that the infirmity he was speaking of and the thorn in his side had to do with a visual ailment. However, there is no way to prove either of those theories.
The comment could also be describing the level of trust and acceptance that the Galatians at one time had towards Paul. The idea would have been that they cared and trusted him so much that they would have given him their most prize possessions (their eyes), and now they are turning against what he taught them. His concern was that he had become their enemy because he had told them the truth.
There is a very valuable lesson to be learned here. There is an aspect to being a Christian witness that is not always enviable. What I mean is that a big part of being a Christian witness is telling the truth even when it is uncomfortable. Sometimes telling the truth leads to a lack of popularity. We have to determine what is important in our lives. Is it more important for me to be a witness to the truth? Or do I prefer to be popular in the eyes of men?
Let me finish this thought by saying that I am not talking about purposefully offending people. There are times when we handle things in a harsh manner, because we know we are right, and the result is that the person is offended to the point they tune us out. Truthfully, sometimes God will work this way, but we need to be certain that it is the Spirit of God and not our flesh that is the driving force behind it.
Galatians 4:17-18 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.
Zealous- to desire deeply, or be in pursuit of something. The word describes a level of passion associated with it.
Paul uses this word three times in these two verses. His point is that zeal is a good thing when a person is passionately pursuing something with Godly motives, but in the case of the Judaizers, their motives are impure. They desire to exclude the Galatians from the truth that Paul preaches, which leads to liberty and freedom. Furthermore, they want the Galatians to be zealous towards them and their teachings. This is a prime example of people operating in the lusts of the flesh rather than the fruit of the Spirit.
Most of the time when we teach on the lusts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, we discuss things like fornication and drunkenness because that is where most sinners saved by grace have come from and possibly have continued to struggle with to some extent after their conversion. However, false teaching is also a lust of the flesh...along with envy, jealousy, and division. The Judaizers are operating in all these sins.
The KJV translated zealously affect you. The idea is better communicated through the NKJV, which states zealously court you.
Court- special or devoted attention in order to win favor.
Even the word court is somewhat obsolete in our modern society because the idea of courting rarely exists anymore. At a time when things were more pure, if a young man wanted a young lady's attention, he would treat her with respect and show her special favor. This indicated his desire to hopefully one day know her more intimately.
Paul has explained that it is a good thing when someone zealously desires something or someone with pure motives, but the Judaizers are not pure. So they are over there courting you...making you feel special...you know the fun part of a relationship.
Galatians 4:19-20 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.
Paul is saying that while they are over there romancing and winning you over through special attention, I am over here going through birth pains. Truthfully, there can be no better natural, human illustration of love than the pain of childbirth. True love can be revealed in it. There is no romance in the midst of birth pains. There is no flirting or the fluttering of eyelashes when a woman is giving birth to a baby. It is some of the most excruciating pain that a human being could ever endure. Yet, the result for that woman is pure joy when the baby has come forth.
This is the illustration that Paul is attempting to project. His motives are pure towards the Galatians. Unlike the Judaizers, Paul's only concern is that Jesus be produced in their lives. What he is experiencing is spiritually painful. But the reward will be worth the pain. What is the reward?
... Until Christ is formed in you.
The word formed in the Greek is morphe- where we get our word morph. The idea is where one thing is transformed into another.
Through this discourse, Paul is letting us know that when the true Gospel is properly presented, a transformation takes place in the life of the believer. The transformation is not necessarily a bigger bank account or nicer car. It is not necessarily a better job or house. Instead, it is a process where every day the Christian changes, morphs, or is transformed by the grace of God to look more like Jesus and less like himself.