Study 26: Gal. 4:8-20
then, when ye knew
not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after
that ye have
known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the
weak and beggarly
again to be in bondage? Ye
observe days, and months, and times, and years.
I am afraid of
you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Brethren, I beseech
you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye
know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you
at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye
not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ
Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear
record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your
own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become
enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect
but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect
them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a
thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little
children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in
you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my
for I stand in doubt of you.
1. Turning back
The Galatians knew and were known of God, they had
into eternal life; and now Paul says they had turned back
that which is opposite to the Gospel truth, whether Jew or Gentile
convert. The Jewish contingency going back to the
of the Mosaic Law, whereas the Gentile section either going
Judaism or into a system of legalism that brings the same
results into their lives. And Paul's
rhetorical question is:
after tasting of the age to come how can you do
The word 'turn
' is the same word used in the NT for ' convert', and is
used by Paul of the Thessalonians in their conversion to God I Thess.1:9.
It seems, therefore, that Paul is accusing them of another conversion,
this time away from God! This is what Paul pointed out to
them from the
very opening verses of the epistle, see study
This is also the same word that Peter uses in his second
about those who having known salvation then turn back to their previous
pollutions, ending up in a worse state; Peter saying that it would
been better for such never to have known the way of righteousness in
the first place.
they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of
corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in
bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the
world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they
are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with
them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not
have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment
delivered unto them. But it is
unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to
his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in
II Pet. 2: 19-22
This turning back of the
Galatians brought their return to bondage, they were slaves once more
to an external system of things; once they were slaves and had become
sons and now they had returned to a slave state. Why? What is
virtue in returning to an inferior way of living? How can people, who
know the freedom and liberty in Christ, be so foolish to go back into
bondage? Perhaps a key is given to us in I Cor. 3.
could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as
unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with
meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye
able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you
envying, and strife, and divisions, are
ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one
saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
Paul here defines what a carnal Christian is: one who
ordinary men! In Galatians we have seen that there is only
one of two
ways to live: after the flesh ( carnally) or after the
we see that to walk as ordinary men in the world is to be
carnal. Just as Israel of old said they wanted to be like other nations
and have a king I Sam.
likewise carnal Christians say they want to have religion
like the world: to have laws and rituals and not to rely wholly on the
finished work of Christ. In thus doing they 'covert' back to their
former state of bondage, or worse if Peter's words can be taken into
account here. Believers may not state it as bluntly as that, but their
actions declare that is what they mean: to try and gain merit by works
of the flesh.
Paul states four things about those things the Galatians were going
For what the law could not do, in that it
was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the
likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh
the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law
of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh
cannot please God.
that these bondages that the Galatians returned to
weak. The Greek word means 'strengthless'.
The Law, as we are
constantly reminded in the NT, can neither remove sin, nor make us
God. It is a fundamental truth that only Christ's redeeming work can
bring salvation. Any addition by works of the flesh nullify it, for as
we have already seen, study
13 , trying to add to
Christ's work means that we don't trust Him ALONE and therefore we can
not be saved.
The Lord will not tolerate anyone adding to His perfect
work. By trying to add we are saying His work was not perfect and
therefore He was not the spotless Son of God, and we thereby deny that
work was all sufficient; for we are saying he needs our help! Such
blasphemy ought to be seen clearly by those who are born again, but
some do not see it! They walk as men and are carnal.
Paul's statement above in Rom.8
makes it quite clear. The flesh CAN NOT do anything to please God at
all. The ways of any form of legalism is weak, totally devoid of any
strength to please God, or make us acceptable to Him.
means 'poverty stricken'
, or 'powerless to
The ways of legalism can not bring any sort of spiritual richness to us
at all. It was of of the complaints that the Lord
Because thou sayest, I am rich,
and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art
wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be
rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the
shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with
eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Laodiceans thought that what
they were doing was alright; they were rich before God, Jesus said
otherwise. Whatever they were doing they were not rich, instead they
were impoverished; their works of the flesh had brought no
spiritual riches; they couldn't see their true condition.
Likewise, the works of the Law, or any form of legalism, brings the
same effect. People are caught up with their own efforts and can not
see their own condition as God sees it; they are wrapped up in the
works of the flesh, and the consequent pride that goes with it. Our
true riches are found, not by works of the flesh, but in Christ alone.
The eyes of your understanding
that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches
of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is
exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to
the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ,
he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the
beggarly, conjures up beggars asking alms, one example being the man at
the gate called 'beautiful'
Day in day out he would ask for alms from people, if people gave such
to him it would bring relief, but only temporary and it didn't do
anything for his actual condition; he was still a cripple and would
still have to beg for temporary relief.
What a picture of legalism this is! In our unregenerated state we are
spiritually crippled, and following the works of flesh may bring some
relief - to our conscious that is - but it does nothing to change our
actual state. Just as the beggar needed a supernatural intervention
likewise we needed God's supernatural work of regeneration in us to
make us anew. Legalistic codes are beggarly they may give some relief
of conscious but they can not do anything of any worth before God. How
then can we live the Christian life by them?
'elements' mean any
first things/principles. And Paul here is talking of the first
principles of the world as stated in verse 3 of this chapter. Clearly
Paul was referring to the Mosaic rituals, but why call them the
elements of the world? After all it was God who gave them to the Nation
of Israel, they were not something the nation made up or adapted from
heathen culture. So why, and what significance can we place on Paul's
words? A clue might be given to us in this passage.
|Which stood only in meats and
drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them
until the time of reformation.
The writer to the Hebrews calls the Mosaic rituals
now this does not mean that they were of the flesh, as the word
is used in Rom.
8:7, but rather in the sense of it being
outward. The OT Mosaic law was
outward in form. So Paul in Galatians is using the same idea here;
they were elements of the world because they were outward in
world uses outward form as its principles. The whole of human society
is based on that principle; it can do no other. God
the OC in that form for it was the only way we could understand in
'shadow form' what He was to do in the spiritual realm in Christ.
To live by legalistic/outward codes, of whatever type,
return to the
way the world lives, and to do so means to walk after the
flesh and not
the Spirit and fall into being carnal Christians as we have
'elements' of the world is the outward observations of special days
etc. We are warned in Col.2:16
& Rom. 14
regarding allowing others to judge us, or we judging others,
about keeping, or not keeping
special days. Whether one wishes to set aside special days is a matter
of individual conscious before God. Some regard Sunday as
day, some do not; some regard Christmas day, some do not. One thing is
clear and that is no one is to judge another on the issue.
But that is not the point Paul is wishing to make here in
word observe here
means to keep with a view of obtaining
advantage In other words to try and find merit with God by
keeping these days. It doesn't have to be said outwardly, but
actions of the life betray what is in the heart. How many times in
'churches' is 'keeping
Sunday special' proclaimed as a law for Christians to keep otherwise
they're in sin? By implication this is trying to find merit
God by observing times and seasons, yet it is taught.
Consider this question carefully: how can keeping one day special make
you approved to God? If one wishes to regard one day above
before the Lord, that's fine providing : (1) One doesn't judge others
for not doing so & (2) one doesn't try to find favour with God
doing. It's not a question of the outward (carnal) but the inward
heart state that matters.
6. Desiring Bondage
in bondage means to be enslaved.
And that in turn means to be under the orders of a master. To be in
bondage to the law, or any legal system, means to be under
the orders of that system. To desire here
means to be resolved in purpose. What Paul is saying is that
Galatians were determined to be enslaved to a legal code.
Now this doesn't mean necessarily that they
had a meeting and
then an 'altar call' as to who would want to be in bondage; but rather
their way of life, their attitude betrayed what was in their hearts.
Actions speak much louder than words.
Usually these events occur by degree. Something creeps in and is
accepted for it pleases the flesh, this giving in to the ways
the flesh shows where the will is; eventually they
enslaved . How foolish it having being freed by Christ to return to
bondage. It does seem that people like bondage for it makes them feel
7. How could you?
question: 'how turn ye back?' reveals the heart of
apostle. He was hurt by the Galatians' about turn. Just as a
man is hurt if their spouse is faithless,
cry: 'how could you?'
so Paul was broken hearted by their infidelity to God. The
Christian life is a life of heart love between one person and God,
everything is motivated by that; love is
the fulfilling of the law
Rom.13:10 going back to a legalistic life is
infidelity, it shows that
one doesn't have perfect trust in God .
We have repeatedly made the point that no effort of
please God, or do anything for us in the spiritual
Having received the true salvation from God and having tasted of the
life from above, how can one repent, have a second
conversion and turn back to what we have been saved