A Study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: Lesson 6/ Living in Liberty Series Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering
Forces of Slavery Galatians 4:8-11
Once Paul had made it clear to the Galatians that they were saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by keeping the Jewish(Levitical) Law, he challenged them to keep their faith real and to not to turn back again to the phony things that they were once enslaved by. Paul reminded them that “formerly”, before they knew the true God, they were “slaves” to “those” who “by nature” were not gods at all. “By nature” these so called “gods” that they once worshiped were creatures of imagination, or, if any of them ever existed, they were dead men, evil spirits, or the luminaries (stars, sun, moon) of the heavens, or other creatures of God (animals, sea creatures, reptiles or insects), redefined by human foolishness and utterly incapable of bestowing any blessing whatever on their worshipers.
The Galatians were pagan (polytheistic[ worshiping multiple gods] Greek, Roman,Egyptian) until they received Christ, and now that they had received Him as savior, the Judiazers were telling them that they had to follow other rules of enslavement to keep that salvation. “How is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?” Paul asked. “Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” . The Galatians were on their way to being spiritually enslaved again but this time to the Jewish laws. . They were already beginning to observe the special days, months, seasons and years of that law (Special days—Jewish Sabbaths; and months — new moons; and times — as that of the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles; and years — Annual ceremonies and rites). Paul was concerned that he had wasted his efforts in teaching to the Galatians about gospel.
The Judaizers In the early church, those who taught a combination of God’s grace and human effort were called “Judaizers.” The word Judaizer comes from a Greek verb meaning “to live according to Jewish customs.” The doctrine of the Judaizers was a mixture of grace (through Christ) and works (through the keeping of the Law). This false doctrine was dealt with in Acts 15 and strongly condemned throughout the book of Galatians.
As Christians we can make the similar mistake of the Galatians by compromising our freedom in the faith for more legalistic versions of Christianity. Such examples are Catholicism which adds a hierarchy, a priestly and saintly mediation, and a system of works; Seventh Day Adventism which adds an observance of days, a special diet and a simple dress code. Many Christians marry into these faiths and adopt them, and teach them to their children over the freedom that is truly given through the gospel of Christ. Of course, some Christians derail their faith completely by drifting into “Christian”
cults(perverted teachings) like Mormonism (Latter Day Saints) or The Jehovah Witness Organization. We should never compromise the freedom that we have in Christ to belong to a church, organization, family or spouse for that matter (2 Corinthians 6:14). We must remember that although one calls himself/ herself a “believer” in Christ, they may indeed hold to false beliefs about Him that undermine what He actually accomplished on the cross. If Jesus’ work on the cross was not enough to cover man’s sins then what human work is?
The “forces of Slavery” that Paul was talking about come hidden in many different forms: the worship or prayer of another (idolatry), the following of rules or laws, etc. Anything that adds or takes away from the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross to save man from sin is a “force of Slavery”. When we act under those things we become spiritually enslaved.
Slaves of Righteousness Romans 6:15-23
The Christian is warned against being spiritually enslaved by anyone or anything. Rather that enslavement is to the false idea of carrying out works to bring salvation, as it was for the Galatians, or it is to material things, pleasure, lust or pride for the carrying out of ones own fleshly desires. “for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them” 2 Peter2:19b
We are encouraged to have only one master (Lord) and that is Jesus Christ who saves the believer through His work on the cross. We are encouraged to be slaves to none but Him and to nothing except His righteousness. Anything else is idolatry.
“Though Christianity forbids idolatry, many ‘Christians’ practice spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, but they never repent for their sins”. Matthew Henry (Seventeenth Century author, minister and theologian)
Fakes Galatians 4:12-20, Hebrews 10:23, 11:1,6, Luke 18:8b Paul pleads (makes an emotional appeal) with the Galatians to become like him, for he became like them. Paul initially stopped in Galatia because he became ill during his travels. We are not sure what his illness was but it likely involved his eyes (vs.15 ). The important thing here is that Paul reminds the people that they once treated him with love and respect as he shared the gospel truth with them. Paul put his Jewish culture and his plans aside to minister to the Galatians at their request. Paul “became like them” to teach them the truth. Now they treated him like an enemy because he held unswerving to that same teaching .
Paul was solid in his faith. The Galatians had turned from theirs largely because they wanted to fit in with the up and coming crowd. The Judaizers who were winning the Galatians over with their false teachings were zealous and charismatic (false teachers usually are) but zeal never makes falsehood correct. A genuine Christian is one who lives by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7, Romans 10:11). How one feels on a given day or what one hears in a certain way should not determine how one lives. Faith in Christ should determine that. The Lord’s word and His promises are clear. Real faith is birthed in the decision of the will to follow Jesus, takes hold, grows and demonstrates itself in a life. Adversity strengthens its resolve. Fake faith is birthed in emotion and falters under pressure. Keep it real friends!