You’re Going Back? — 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 labor in vain.

You’re Going Back?

Interpretation & Explanation

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?

He reminds them that in their past they did service unto the gods of their religion. This was not just service, but rather it was slavery. They performed many rituals to please the gods and sacrificed many things to please them. These naturally are not gods (Isaiah 44:9-20). These gods are only gods in their imagination, yet they were slaves to them. God is the only true God of nature.

Now, they know God — the true God. Rather are known of God. Truly, no one knows God except He know him first. We love Him, because He first loved us. This also gives the sense of having God’s “approval.”

Paul expresses incredulity and utter amazement that they would turn back to weak and beggarly elements. These are fleshly elements, elements of the world — vs. 3.  They are sensual elements; not necessarily lustful, but fleshly. They are things we can see, feel, and do. They are outward things. True Christianity is spiritual, not sensual. He tells them this indicates a desire to start from the beginning to please God through the bondage of these “elements.”

Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.

Paul gives examples of their return to bondage. Earlier he spoke of circumcision. Now he refers to them observing Jewish days, festivals, etc. He expresses great concern for them. He has a very strong fear that displays the love of the apostle. Stern warnings normally come from those that love you. He is not afraid that he had wasted his time, but that they had turned their backs on the gospel. This is not a selfish statement, rather it shows the seriousness of the situation.

Application

Christ is the fulfillment of all the law. He is the end of the law. All that the law demanded He supplied. When we seek to please God through keeping the (or any) law, we make the work of Christ of none effect. We act as if Christ has not done His work. We assume that the law must still be met.

In Galatians, there is the continual contrast of process — before salvation we work to please some god; after salvation we are pleasing to God because we live by faith. If you’re working to please God after salvation, you’re not living according to the gospel — you’ve returned to the same methods that you lived in before you were saved.

Conclusion

We live in a rule-governed society. But we are not happy if we only live by the rules. We don’t please God (or anyone else) if we only live by the rules. We must live by faith and submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Living this way takes the worry out of life! Don’t go back to rule living for happiness.

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3 Comments

  1. after salvation we are pleasing to God because we live by faith. If you’re working to please God after salvation, you’re not living according to the gospel.

    I am a little confused by this statement. Yes, the only way the Father can be pleased with us is when we are in Christ – but we are still, as believers, to live a life pleasing to Him. We can’t claim to be pleasing to the Lord if we disregard His Word and disobey its commands and principles.

    Philippians 4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

    Colossians 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

    Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

    1 Thessalonians 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

    Hebrews 13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

    Am I misunderstanding what you are saying here?

  2. Jerry,

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I can’t say whether you are misunderstanding or not, but I’ll try to restate and clarify.

    The point I was trying to make (and I believe Galatians makes) is that we cannot trust in external works to please God — for salvation or after salvation. We must live by faith. Yes, true faith works, but no, works are not faith.

    In fundamental circles there is a danger of trusting in our works and standards for, or as proof that we are pleasing to God. And the point of Galatians (at least through chapter four) is that depending on externals (circumcision, feast days, etc.) is another gospel — not the one by which they were saved — not the one by which they were to be “made perfect.”

  3. Pastor Voegtlin,
    Very well said! The above article is a great truth from a great text; a necessary reminder.
    God Bless,
    Tom

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