Galatians 4:8-20 HCSB – 8 But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods. 9 But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? 10 You observe [special] days, months, seasons, and years. 11 I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted. 12 I beg you, brothers: become like me, for I also became like you. You have not wronged me; 13 you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a physical illness, 14 You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus [Himself]. 15 What happened to this since of being blessed you had? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They are enthusiastic about you, but not for any good. Instead, they want to isolate you so you will be enthusiastic about them. 18 Now it is always good to be enthusiastic about good—and not just when I am with you. 19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 20 I’d like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you.

Introduction: Let’s remind ourselves quickly what we studied last time.

Heirs and adopted sons:

  • Before Christ came, we were heirs under guardianship to the Law (verses 1-3).
  • When Christ came, so came adoption (verses 4-5).
  • God sent His Spirit to live in our hearts (verses 6-7).

Paul now begins to really show his concern for the church in Galatia.  As he has been unpacking justification by faith, he now put’s flesh on this doctrine and in concern confronts the Galatian believers so that they might repent.

We must be concerned, not only for our local church, and all the churches in our community, but for the church in the U.S. and the world as well.  There are many things in the name of Christ and the Holy Spirit that are false and leading many astray.  These things must be exposed and repented of.

Let’s begin unpacking our text.

The danger of turning back.

Galatians 4:8-11 – 8 But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods. 9 But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? 10 You observe [special] days, months, seasons, and years. 11 I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted.

  • The Galatians at one time were enslaved to idol worship (verse 8). They were at one time pagans who worshiped multiple gods, but now have been gloriously saved because the Gospel came too them.
  • Now that they are saved, they are in danger of walking away from the freedom they have in Christ and becoming enslaved all over again (verse 9). Let me quote from Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians: “Paul seems to identify their defection from the Gospel to the Law and their former idolatry.  Whoever gives up the article of justification does not know the true God.  It is one and the same thing, whether a person reverts to the Law or to worship of idols.  Whenever justification is lost, nothing remains except error, hypocrisy, godlessness, and idolatry.”
  • Paul is fearful that He has wasted his time on them because they are in danger of being in bondage to religion (verses 10-11). Paul in these two verses is referencing the Jewish Holy Day Calender.  The Galatians before Christ were in bondage to pagan idol worship, but Christ has set them free.  Along comes the Judaizers and now they are in danger of becoming bound by religious performance; which is the sin of idol worship.

There are many voices pointing to religious practices, trying to find favor with God, or some “special” anointing from God.  These can lead us down a very dangerous, slippery path and bind us to idolatry once again.

Paul’s concern even in the midst of sickness.

Galatians 4:12-16 – 12 I beg you, brothers: become like me, for I also became like you. You have not wronged me; 13 you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a physical illness, 14 You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus [Himself]. 15 What happened to this since of being blessed you had? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

  • Paul’s plea – become like him as he became like them (verse 12). “Beg” in Greek is deomai (deh’-om—ahee). It means, “to beg (as binding oneself); to petition, to plead.”  Paul did not come to the Galatians promoting or even practicing the Mosaic Law.  His plea is that they do the same.
  • When Paul came to them he has some physical illness (verse 13). Paul did not allow physical suffering to prevent him from preaching the Gospel.  In fact, I surmise from the text that the original reason that he preached the Gospel to them was because of this physical illness/weakness he had.
  • The Galatian church welcomed and received Paul in spite of his illness (verse 14).
  • Now the Galatians are probably getting angry at Paul because of his rebuke (verses 15-16). Once they would have given their eyes to him (I believe this let’s us know what Paul’s illness was – some type of eye condition); now they are almost treating him as some enemy.

It is never easy to hear a biblical rebuke; and sometimes it is easy to become angry and hold a grudge.  But we must remember that the purpose behind a biblical rebuke is not to make one angry, but to draw the person in sin to repentance.

Being godly enthusiastic as opposed to being enthusiastic for religion.

Galatians 4:17-18 – 17 They are enthusiastic about you, but not for any good. Instead, they want to isolate you so you will be enthusiastic about them. 18 Now it is always good to be enthusiastic about good—and not just when I am with you.

  • The false teachers (Judaizers) are enthusiastic toward the Law and that the Galatians would convert to keeping the Law as a form of justification (verse 17). False Gospels and religions and their proponents are never satisfied to find their small niche’; they have a tendency to spread like an uncontrolled cancer.
  • The purpose of false teacher’s zeal and enthusiasm is to alienate people from the true Gospel (verse 17).
  • Being enthusiastic is good as long as it’s purpose is good (verse 18). You want to be enthusiastic – be enthusiastic for the Gospel; be enthusiastic for the Church that God is perfecting; be enthusiastic for taking the Gospel to the lost; be enthusiastic for making disciples.

Paul’s concern brings him pain and anguish.

Galatians 4:19-20 – 19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 20 I’d like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you.

I’m not going to cover this portion of the passage in great detail – but Paul has such a deep love for the church in Galatia that he is in emotional pain over their turning to the idol of religion.

We must love the church so much that when we see or hear of false teaching or false manifestations, it pains us.

Conclusion: We should celebrate the doctrine of justification by faith alone through Jesus Christ alone.  We should also be concerned for any believer and church that is bound by the idol of religion.  We must love them enough to confront lovingly and expose the sin of idolatry; with the purpose of leading them to repentance.

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