We have seen what the Law does, and what the Law can never do over the last 3 sermons on Galatians. Now that we have that view in mind; and can see the entire scope of redemptive history from the curse to the law to the satisfaction of those things; we can rightly examine ourselves upon that scope. This is why the book of Galatians still matters (among other reasons); in Galatia you had Pharisees twisting the Scripture and importing their culturally informed understanding of the Gospel into the church. What do we have in the modern world? We have pretty much the same thing, just performed by Gospel denying “Christians” and secularists. What is the cure for this? The cure is in grounding our understanding of the Gospel in the totality of the work of God in history.
Exposition of the text
8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
We understand that apart from God we are slaves; the Bible is replete with examples of the state of the sinner separated from Christ:
Romans 5:6 – 8—For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us
Ephesians 2:1 – 2—And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience
Colossians 1:13 – 14—For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins
The real important note for us today is in the second half of this verse which explains what/who we were enslaved to: our idols and our lusts. These are the things that ultimately hold the slave of sin (we discussed this last week); and these are the powers that Scripture warns us about.
1 Corinthians 8:4 – 6—Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him
1 Corinthians 10:19 – 20—What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons
This is our reminder that those we witness to, pray for, and hope will come to repentance of sin and trust in Christ are not our enemy; they are the prize we fight for. The enemy is the one who holds them as they are unwitting.
Ephesians 6:10 – 12—Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places
9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
Verse 9 here reminds me of one of my favorite Old Testament passages:
Isaiah 44:14 – 17—Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. 15 Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” 17 But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god
It is a favorite of mine because it reminds us of the foolishness of us all. Before we stood in Christ we stood in this level of nitwittery worshipping things we thought were going to bring us: wealth, health, peace; but in reality were merely the means of our enslavement.
Verse 10 reminds of the commandments of the Law, to appear before God at the appointed feast times, to be a slave to your offerings and to be constantly at work to cover for your sin and atone for your own iniquity. A good little reminder here is that while we are no longer required to attend religious functions because we need to for our salvation, we are required because it is good for our very souls:
Hebrews 10:23 – 25—Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near
This little command in Hebrews instructs us not just what, but why; we come together to build one another up and to spur one another on to completion in Christ. No man is an island, and no Christian is meant to function on one either. A love of God demonstrates itself in a love for His people and a desire to work with those people to root out the remnants of slavery deep inside our souls:
Hebrews 10:26 – 29—For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace
1 John 1:8 – 10—If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us
12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.
Verse 12 will be our primary focus here because it is so vital to understanding why Paul is so perplexed, frustrated, annoyed, whatever with the Galatian churches. Let’s 1st remember what Paul is that he wants the Galatians to emulate:
Galatians 2:20—I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me
1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23—For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it
Philippians 3:7 – 11—But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead
In other words, Paul is full surrendered to Christ. He is living his life, not for his own gain, but for the benefit of the Kingdom of God. Why does he do that? Paul does that, because he has been set free from his slavery. He looks upon all the things that used to rule him and reign over his life and sees them as lesser, because he has seen the goodness & mercy of God. In comparison to Him; everything of this life is dross that is useless and secondary to benefit of serving the great and glorious God of creation.
15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.
Verse 15 asks a great question because one of the fruits of the Spirit (and focus of our Advent services) was on the joy that Christ brings:
John 8:34 – 36—Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed
Instead of this joy, the Galatians have been turned against the truth by those who hated it the most.
Matthew 23:2 – 12—The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted
Remember, this condemnation was given by Christ against the Pharisees and religious leaders. Some of these Pharisees are doing their same work now in Galatia. They are heretics preaching a false Gospel that does not rightly understand the Old Testament or the work of the Law in salvation. They are also still clinging to their pride; seeking to be thought well of and as teachers, despite their false teaching. Our standard should never be allowed to dwindle, and must always remain fixed upon God:
Proverbs 25:6 – 7—Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7 For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen
James 4:8 – 10—Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you
This is why the heart matters. Ultimately what we do is an outflowing of why we do it. Why we do it is hidden in our hearts, but is seen by God and it will be found out. Examine your heart each day and check your motivation—ensure it is inclined to God and His Kingdom and not our own.
18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Paul concludes this portion of his letter with a great prayer for his “children”. It is a prayer and hope we have for our biological as well as spiritual kids; a prayer of hope that they will attain the Christian maturity and blessing in Christ that is promised those who are faithful to him. We have such warnings of what comes upon those apart from Christ:
Romans 1:18 – 23—For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures
John 8:53 – 58—Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am
And we hope that our family (both physical and spiritual) will never face such judgment. This is why we must be diligent to seek Christ fresh daily. To see our world rightly through the lens of Him who made it and will remake it again. To live our lives in service as Paul did because of the reason that Paul did. Because we see the great and glorious King and know Him and love Him.