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Galatians 4:8-11

Howbeit 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 elements, whereunto ye desire 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. [Gal 4:8-11]

This passage begins with the Galatians as what they absolutely were before they heard the Word of truth, the gospel of their salvation which is that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again according to the scriptures, and they believed it.  (See Eph 1:12-13, 1Cor 15:3-4)  They were heathen gentiles who did service to idols, that by nature are not gods.  To think of the foolishness of idolatry, hear the words of the LORD through Isaiah the prophet:

To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that [is] so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree [that] will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, [that] shall not be moved. [Isa 40:18-20]

Think of how the effort of idolatry is hard work and diligent craftsmanship all put forward for a man to make a god whose eyes cannot see and ears cannot hear.  When it is all completed, the idolatrous people are in deeper poverty than when they started because of all their goods, time, and effort went into creating a stupid god.  The Ephesian silversmiths in Acts 19 learned how to make a profit off of their idolatrous religion.  Is that a step up or down?  The idolatry of the people allowed a group to get rich while they got poorer.  How foolish! and who was all behind this?

But I [say], that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. [1Co 10:20]

Some gentile (pagan, heathen) religions worship “nature”, rejecting the true God and His word.

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. [Rom 1:25]

And then it became idolatry:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [Him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. [Rom 1:21-23]

As I once heard a wise man say (at least when he said this he was wise):  Sin will make you stupid!

But Paul is not here speaking against idolatry.  These Galatian Christians had in fact turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (1Thes 1:9) He speaks of them as having known God, and even better as being known of God.  And they were known of God in this way:

For ye are all the children [huios, “sons”] of God by faith in Christ Jesus. [Gal 3:26]

So Paul is again begging the question in another way.  He is asking, “Why are you going back to the law?”

We have been made righteous by grace, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, and we have been clothed with Christ Himself. (Rom 3:24, Gal 2:21, Gal 3:13, Gal 3:27)  A return to the law is not a way to righteous living.  It is a return to “weak and beggarly elements”.  These are the things of poverty.  As those justified by Christ, we are in a position as a son in the Father’s household, but living under law we have retaken a position as differing nothing from a servant.  The Galatians are told that their desire to be under law is a desire to be in bondage–when they are free.

Free from the law—oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.

{Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876)}

Paul had made great effort to teach the gospel of Christ and to teach them to rejoice in the freedom found in Christ.  Yet he is seeing them turn it into a religion. To the Galatians, Paul spoke of this return to the Jewish religious things.  To the Hebrews, he instructed them to move away from the Jewish religious things and “on to perfection”. (Heb 6:1)  To the Colossians, he speaks against a return to and a making of any new kind of religious system.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. [Col 2:16-23]

It is foolish to have freedom and throw it away to live under the bondage that you were redeemed from.  As Paul went on to tell them, So I will repeat again:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. [Gal 5:1]

Previous Study:  Galatians 4:1-7

Next Study:  Galatians 4:12-20

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