4:8-20 The Gospel Of Grace Changes Everything
Memory Verse: Galatians 4:9a
4:8-11 The Enslavement Of False Hope Or A Relationship With God
- 4:8 Paul just finished explaining to the Galatians that they are sons of God, but now he contrast that point with reminding them of their past—the time before they knew God. Before hearing and believing in the gospel of grace, they served and worshipped false gods and idols. All false gods and idols are not really gods. They are just creations of men or the evil spirits. They have no real existence. The Bibles clearly tells us that there is only one God. Anyone who chooses to worship anyone or anything else besides the one real God is really worshipping devils. This was the Galatian’s life before the gospel.
Deuteronomy 32:16-17; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:19-20; Isaiah 44:9-20
- 4:9a But everything is different now because they know the one true God—they have a relationship with Him. Now they are known by the true God—He has a relationship with them. God knows them and if you are a believer God knows you. God knows your name. As believers, we have a personal relationship with God. All the problems of a broken relationship have been reconciled through Jesus. Remember, we are children of God. The security of our salvation is in the fact the we have a restored relationship with God.
1 Corinthians 8:3
- 4:9b If all of this is true, then Paul asks why they are turning back to false teachings. We have known from the beginning of the letter that the problem in the Galatian churches was that they started to believe a false gospel. This false gospel required obedience to the law with faith in Christ in order to be saved. Just like the false gods and idols could never save them, neither could obedience to the law save them. They were turning back to “weak and beggarly elements” that only can cause them to be in bondage again—means that everything, apart from faith in Jesus, can only enslaved you because it holds the position of “master” in your life. Anything from believing a moral life can save you to worshipping Buddha are all equally enslaving and damning.
Galatians 1:6-7; 2:14-16
- 4:10 Apparently, the Galatian churches started observing days, months, times and years that was not customary to them. This is probably indicating the influence of the false teachers to get them to start following the law of the Old Testament. The false teachers would have emphasized it as a required part of their faith—thus creating an idol. Keeping the law has become an idol to the Galatian churches. We are in the same danger of creating idols if we add requirements to salvation apart from faith in Jesus alone.
- 4:11 Paul was afraid that his work was in vain because they created this “idol of law keeping.” He was afraid that they really left “faith in Christ” and started trusting in the “works of the law” for salvation. As believers, everything should have changed for them and if it didn’t then his work among them is in vain. This should caution us to check our lives and see if there is anything that we believe we have to do for God to accept us. Have we created idols in our lives? Or are we confident in the fact that we are saved through faith in Jesus alone and are known of God?
4:12-20 Paul’s Ministry Exemplifies True Gospel Service
- 4:12 Paul reminds the Galatians that he became like them when he ministered to them at the beginning of his time there—meaning he most likely adapted to their culture so that he could give them the gospel. (As believers, we should be willing to adapt to the culture of others so that we can teach them about Jesus.) But now he is calling them to become like him, they have done nothing to hurt him—meaning he is inviting them into his life to imitate him so they could grow in the faith. (As believers, we should live holy and transparent lives that can be imitated by others.)
- 4:13a, 15b Paul reminds them that he first preached the gospel to them because of an “infirmity of the flesh” or a “bodily ailment.” Paul was sick. He had health problems. But he didn’t use this as an excuse to not serve God, but saw it as an opportunity to serve God where he was. He preached the gospel to those who were around him. He seized the opportunity instead of complaining about his condition or feeling bad for himself. He didn’t loose hope. Paul doesn’t say what his health probably is exactly, but it caused him to stop traveling. It probably was a problem with his eyes because verse fifteen refers to the Galatians being willing to give Paul their own eyes, meaning his had problems. (Note: God uses suffering to carry out his will in our lives. He might use our suffering as a way to minister to other people or he may use it to work on our character and make us more and more like Jesus. God doesn’t always answer our prayers to take away our suffering. Instead, we need to learn like Paul did to depend on the sufficient grace of God and to gladly glory in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon us.)
Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 12:7-11
- 4:14-15a, 16 The Galatians didn’t treat Paul bad because of his condition when they first met him, but they received him and treated him like an angel or even like Jesus Christ. But now their attitude and actions toward Paul has changed. He is preaching to them the same truth as he did in the beginning, but now they are treating him like an enemy for it because they have believed false teaching. He wants them to see their change, not his. The message they originally received with joy is now being rejected with hostility.
- 4:17-18 The false teachers used great energy and enthusiasm in their pursuit to persuade the Galatians churches to obey the law, but their motivation wasn’t pure. They wanted the Galatians in response to using great energy and enthusiasm to pursue them. They wanted to exclude them from the truth so they could create their own sect that was focused on glorifying man instead of God. (Note: Using zeal—great energy and enthusiasm—in our pursuit to preach the gospel is not wrong. Paul even used zeal to preach the gospel to the Galatians. But zeal doesn’t make something correct. It is the purpose and truth behind the zeal that dictates if it is good or bad.)
- 4:19-20 Paul is in anguish over the situation and says that he will “travail in birth again”—meaning he is willing to go through much heartache to help them understand the gospel and it’s implications again. Just as a mother goes through pain in giving birth so the child can live independently of her, so it will take pain to cause new churches and believers to be born-again and live spiritually independent—until Christ be formed in them. Paul truly cares for them, he calls them his little children and he desires to be with them. He wants to change his tone of voice, but right not he is doubting them (because of what the false teachers taught and how they chose to follow them).
- What was the Galatians life like before knowing God?
- What did the false teachers cause the Galatians to believe in?
- What can be an idol in our lives?
- Did health problems cause Paul to give up hope?
- What do we learn about gospel service from Paul’s example?