Chapter 17

PAUL'S CONCERN FOR THE GALATIANS

(Galatians 4:8-20)

Before we begin our study let us pray,

Dear Heavenly Father,

Lord God we come before You in the Name of Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Father, please help us to see and understand the concern You have for all those who belong to You. Please strengthen our faith, belief and trust in You, Your Son Jesus Christ and in Your Word.

Amen

Let us begin our study by reading the verses that are the subject of this study. They are recorded in,

Galatians 4:8-20

"[8] Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. [9] But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? [10] You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! [11] I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. [12] I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. [13] As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. [14] Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. [15] What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, 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] Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. [18] It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. [19] My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, [20] how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!"

To better understand the Holy Spirit's concern for the Galatians and now for some of the churches of today, let us go over some background material and refresh our memories on what we learned in our previous study.

BACKGROUND

In our previous study we saw that the Holy Spirit used the illustration of a child, who will inherit their families estate or business, to teach us about the Kingdom of God. We saw that prior to the appointed time for the child's promotion to be owner of the estate, he is placed under guardians and stewards.

Galatians 4:1-3

"[1] What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. [2] He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world."

When the appointed time arrived God sent His only begotten Son to redeem us from these elementary principles, which is the Law.

Galatians 4:4-5

"[4] But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, [5] to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons."

Thus, we found that those who place their faith in Jesus Christ and what He did to save them from their sins have been given the right to become a child of God.

John 1:12

"[12] … to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--"

Those who have been born again of God are filled with the Holy Spirit and are recipients, that is heirs, of the promised eternal life.

Galatians 4:6-7

"[6] Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." [7] So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."

With this exalted position in mind, we are now ready to examine

PAUL'S, THAT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT'S, CONCERN

To begin let us read from,

Galatians 4:8-11

"[8] Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. [9] But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? [10] You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! [11] I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you."

Let us notice the following verses,

8 … Those they were enslaved to were the ministers of the ceremonial law. Prior to Jesus Christ the people of Israel had to go to the Temple to worship, offer sacrifices and in general submit to the authority of the priesthood. In fact, as we read the Old Testament we find that the whole religious system of the Jewish people revolved around the Temple and the priesthood. Thus, the people of Israel were basically enslaved to the priests.

9-10 … The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, is asking: "Why?" Why, after we have been redeemed from the Law and became free children of God, do we voluntarily revert back to our previous position of trying to comply with all the demands of the Law, that is to be enslaved by them? In the case of the Galatians, to justify themselves before God, they were observing: (1) Holy days, such as the Sabbath, (2) Old Testament feasts, such as Passover, etc., (3) years, such as the year of Jubilee, etc. An example for today would be to have the following belief or attitude: " I go to church every Sunday, therefore I'm right with God." We must never forget that the purpose of the Law was to lead us to Jesus Christ so we can be justified by faith and not by works or observances of the Law. To see this let us read from,

Galatians 3:24

"[24] So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."

Consequently, after we come to the knowledge of the truth and then, to justify ourselves, we revert back to try and comply with the demands of the Law, we have left Jesus and fallen from God's Grace. This is revealed to us in,

Galatians 5:4

"[4] You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."

With the above in mind let us return to the letter to the Galatians and explore verse,

11… Because of the behavior within the churches in Galatia, the Apostle Paul was extremely distraught and discouraged. He is so concerned about their spiritual well being that he was afraid that the time he spent preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them was in vain. Pretty sad commentary.

As a result of the state of affairs in the churches of Galatia, the Apostle Paul gave them the following reprimand and

EXHORTATION

The Apostle Paul began His exhortation to the Galatians by reminding them that,

AT FIRST THEY EAGERLY RECEIVED THE GOSPEL

To see this let us read from,

Galatians 4:12-15

"[12] I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. [13] As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. [14] Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. [15] What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me."

Let us notice the following verses,

13-14 … Even though Paul was in Galatia because of an illness, the churches in Galatia warmly received him. In fact they treated him as though he was Christ Himself.

15 … Paul wanted to know what happened to the churches. When they received the Gospel of Jesus Christ they were so filled with joy and gratitude that, for Paul to see, they would gladly have given him their own eyes. However, now, they have no joy and as we will see in the next verse are no longer excited to see or hear from Paul.

This brings us to,

PAUL'S QUESTION

which is recorded for us in,

Galatians 4:16

"[16] Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"

What was the problem? What truth did Paul tell them that caused them to turn away? The answer to these questions is provided to us in,

Galatians 2:15-16

""[15] We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' [16] know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified."

Unfortunately, the people in the churches in Galatia forgot the tremendous blessings that were bestowed upon them through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did to save their souls. Instead they were being taken in by those who wanted to spiritually enslave them through rituals, laws and traditions. Consequently, their love and appreciation for Paul and what he taught and preached cooled down.

Filled with concern over the state of affairs in the churches of Galatia, the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul offered the following

WORDS OF INSTRUCTION

This instruction or explanation of what was going on in Galatia is recorded for us in,

Galatians 4:17-18

"[17] Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. [18] It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you

Let us notice the following verses,

17 … Religious people were infiltrating the churches in Galatia with the purpose of enticing them from the freedom of the Gospel to their belief system. These religious people wanted the body of Christ in Galatia to be zealous for them and their religious practices.

This leaves us with the question of: "Who?" "Who were they?" and "What were they teaching?" These were the people who taught that to be right or justified before God one had to follow various Old Testament rituals, traditions or laws, such as: circumcision, observance of Holy days, observance of Sabbaths, and various other ordinances and rituals. To see some examples of what they were teaching let us read some excerpts from Paul's letter to the Colossians. To begin let us read from,

Colossians 2:16-17

"[16] Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. [17] These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."

Notice, the various rules and traditions about foods, festivals and celebrations are only shadows. True faith or true Christianity is faith in Jesus Christ and what He did to save us.

With this in mind let us continue our reading from Paul's letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 2:18-23

"[18] Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. [19] He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. [20] Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: [21] "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? [22] These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. [23] Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

Let us notice the following verses,

18-19 … Those who look to false humility, angels and other forms of self imposed piety to be right with God have severed themselves from Christ.

20-21 … Since Jesus Christ freed us from all the elementary principles of the world, that is various laws, traditions and rituals, why go back to them?

23 …All of these regulations, traditions and rituals make one think they are righteous and holy. Unfortunately, they are of no value for helping us to live a life pleasing to God. We must never forget that the Bible teaches us that:

1. UNLESS A PERSON IS BORN AGAIN THEY CAN NOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

John 3:3

"[3] … Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.""

And,

2. IT IS BY THE HOLY SPIRIT WE PUT TO DEATH OUR SINFUL NATURE

Galatians 5:16

"[16] So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

With all this in mind, one is left with the question as to: "Why?" "Why would anyone try to lead a born again Christian away from their faith and back into the bondage of laws, traditions and regulations?"

The Apostle Paul gives us the answer to this question in,

Galatians 4:17(b)

"[17] ... What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them."

In other words, they were trying to force the people to come to their laws, traditions and rituals for salvation. In doing so they were in effect drawing the churches in Galatia to themselves, that is they were trying to make the people dependent upon them. Specifically, they were teaching the people that unless they came to their religious system, of which they were the ministers or leaders, they would not be justified in God's eyes. This in effect would nullify the freedom that Jesus purchased for them and for us. Can we think of similar situations, organizations or religious systems that try to do this today?

Let us now return to Galatians and read what else the Apostle Paul had to say about this topic.

Galatians 4:18

"[18] It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you."

In other words it is good to be zealous. However, be sure that your zeal is valid, that is not hypocritical, and is directed towards Jesus Christ, Who alone can and will save you from your sins.

CLOSING

With this in mind, let us now finish our study by reading from,

Galatians 4:19-20

"[19] My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, [20] how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!"

In other words the Apostle Paul was fervently praying for the churches in Galatia. He was praying so that they would come to their senses and live their life in the freedom that Jesus Christ purchased for them. Because if they did not then the consequences would be devastating. To see this let us read from,

Galatians 5:4

"[4] You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."

Question: What about us? Where are we in our faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for us?

Shall We Pray?

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