Galatians 4:20-21

In Galatians 4:20-21 Paul tells the church that he wishes a couple of things:

  1. That he could be present
  2. That he did not need to speak to them with such strong words and tone

But since there was a danger that they might leave the true gospel and follow false teachers (“Super Christians”) he decided that he had to take strong action. This was a serious situation that required some seriously strong instruction. “I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.”

Guzik explains that this chapter ‘shows us principles for the attitude for people in the church toward their pastor.

  • Their attitude must not be determined by his personal appearance or personality.
  • Their attitude must not be determined by their own theological whims.
  • Their attitude should be determined by his loyalty to the apostolic message in the Bible.’

And he goes on to explain that this chapter ‘shows us principles for the attitude for the pastor towards the people in his church.

  • He must be willing to serve and sacrifice for his people.
  • He must tell them the truth.
  • He must love his people deeply; never for a selfish motive.
  • He must desire to see more than mere excitement, but zeal for good things.
  • He must desire to form Jesus in them, not himself in them.’

Paul writes directly to those who are promoting legalism as well as those who have caved in to their pressure. He is addressing a group of people who believed that living under the law would help keep their relationship with God on course. “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” While those of us living under grace may wonder why anyone would be drawn to the law in comparison, at that time there were some reasons it might get buy in.

  1. Under the law you knew with certainty what the list of rules were that needed to be kept. So it was more defined than grace.
  2. Under the law you could pat yourself on the back when you accomplished some of them, and could compare yourself and how you were doing with others with a focus on those who didn’t do as well as you so it was an emotional boost.
  3. Under the law you could take credit for your own salvation based on your own efforts earning it by keeping a list of rules

The law was replaced by grace when it comes to salvation. The law can still show us our sinfulness, and point to areas we miss the mark, but make no mistake – salvation comes from one place in one way – God’s gift of grace through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to be saved!

Galatians 4:16-19

In Galatians 4:16-19 Paul questions the Galatian church if they were changing the relationship from being a supporter of Paul to that of an adversary because he has confronted them with the truth. They needed the truth more than they needed to feel good about where they were at. “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Boice explains “To the degree that ministers and teachers of the Word of God do teach the Word, to that same degree should they be received as the Galatians received the apostle Paul. Ministers should not be received and evaluated on the basis of their personal appearance, intellectual attainments, or winsome manner, but as to whether or not they are indeed God’s messengers bearing the word of Christ.” Paul was not afraid to remind them of the importance of their relationship, and to call them out when they began to drift.

There was a faction in the church that were working to pull the Galatian believers back to legalism. Often subversive types of groups us a technique sometimes referred to as ‘love bombing’ to pull people into their way of thinking and acting. “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.” They overwhelm a prospective member with attention, support, and affection. Yet it isn’t really a sincere love for the prospect; it is really just a technique to gain another member. Paul cautions the church to be alert and recognize what was happening. The motives of those who were working against him were not for the good of the people.

In fact, Paul’s legalistic opponents wanted to draw the Galatian Christians away into their own divisive group. They actually wanted to exclude the Galatians from other Christians and to bring them into the “super-spiritual” group of the legalists. This is the same battle Paul fought with the Corinthian church. The effort was done by these folks for their own benefit, not for the sake of those they recruited and certainly not based on scripture or the teaching of Jesus. They were creating a group that was totally designed to bring value to themselves and they wanted to create a group of “super-Christians” that would eventually serve the leaders of the group to ‘make much of them’.

Paul’s not against people being zealous. In fact, he wants us to be zealous about God’s Word and living as an obedient Christ Follower. But we also have to realize that being zealous about wrong things can be dangerous.“It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” Paul knows exactly how being zealous for the wrong things can be a problem, as that described his life before Christ met him on the road to Damascus. Paul wants the Galatians to be zealous for Jesus not only when he is present, but at all times!

Galatians 4:12-15

In Galatians 4:12-15 Paul talks to the Galatians about what they should do. Paul knew well that he wasn’t sinlessly perfect. He wasn’t standing before the Galatian Christians, saying, “Look at how perfect I am. Don’t worry about following Jesus, just follow me.” He simply wanted them to follow him as he followed Jesus. “Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.” Paul knew the Galatian Christians should imitate his consistency. They started out correctly understanding and following the Gospel, but didn’t stay on track. They were led astray.

Stott explains “All Christians should be able to say something like this, especially to unbelievers, namely that we are so satisfied with Jesus Christ, with His freedom, joy and salvation, that we want other people to become like us.” We’ve been called to be salt and light, and to point the way to God through Jesus Christ. Paul had been like the Galatian Christians – having lived most of his life trying to earn his way to God by following the law. But he knew he fell short and needed a Savior. That’s how Paul was like the Galatians. Paul is direct with the people here, not because he was hurt, but because he wants them to return to the Gospel and grace.

Paul was in the region of south Galatia when persecutors tried to execute him by stoning in the city of Lystra (Acts 14:19-20). His attackers gave him up for dead, yet he miraculously survived. He had a physical infirmity of some sort. “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.” The Galatians received Paul and didn’t dwell on his physical challenge. We don’t know exactly what the problem was – some believe it was an eye problem.

Fung explains “As physical infirmity and illness were regarded by Jews and Gentiles alike as a symbol of divine displeasure or punishment, there would have been a natural temptation for the Galatians to despise Paul and reject his message.” “What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.” The Galatians did not treat Paul with disdain. Even though Paul seemed weak and afflicted, they embraced him and responded to his message of grace and God’s love. While they didn’t hold his physical condition against him, they still lost their way around God’s love and grace.

Galatians 4:6-11

In Galatians 4:6-11 Paul continues his schooling on what it means to be a child of God. As children of God, we have both the right and ability to cry out to “Daddy” or God our Father just like Jesus did. We are joint heirs with Christ. Abba was the way a small child addressed their father in Paul’s day. We have that kind of relationship with God through our place as His children. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” We have access to the same intimacy with God the Father that God the Son, Jesus Christ had. And because we are children of God, we can also cry out to him.

Sons are never slaves and slaves are never sons in their father’s house. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.” Heirs inherit something and Paul made it clear just what we inherit: we inherit God Himself, which is the richest inheritance we could ever receive. It is not a small thing. We move from being a slave to sin to being a child of the King. We are freed from the slavery of sin which keeps us pushed down and guilty, to being set free through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul makes a key distinction here. It is really more important that God knows us (in the sense of an intimate, accepting relationship) than it is that we know God. How do we become known to God? Through a relationship with Jesus. We certainly don’t want to get to judgment day and hear God tell us the words “I never knew you”. “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” The Galatians were struggling to stay focused on relationship and were falling back to the idea of works based on the law. That is not how we become known to God.

The false teachers among the Galatians demanded the observance of days and months and seasons and years and other such legalistic matters and acted as if this would lead them into a higher plane of spirituality. But what we do doesn’t make us a child of God. Only a faith relationship with the Savior can do that. “You observe days and months and seasons and years!” Paul’s fear was that this attraction to legalism would mean that his work among the Galatians amounted to nothing and would end up being in vain. “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” He has worked hard with the churches in Galatia, but if they don’t put aside the law and receive salvation through grace, they will fall short and miss the mark.

Galatians 4:1-5

In Galatians 4:1-5 Paul reminds us that we are free and now are God’s children. Paul refers to us as a child which has special meaning at the time of his writing. In both Jewish and Greek cultures, there were definite “coming of age” ceremonies where a boy stopped being a child and started being a man, with legal rights as an heir. “I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.” As Christ Followers, we have to make the transition from being a child to becoming an heir.

Guzik explains “Think of a wealthy ancient household, with a young boy who is destined to inherit all that his father has. When the boy is just a child, he actually has less day-to-day freedom and authority than a high ranking slave in the household. Yet, he is destined to inherit everything and the slave isn’t.”  He continues “Now comes the comparison to our own spiritual condition. We are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus and we are heirs according to the promise. The law was our guardian, to watch over us when we were still “children.” “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.”

As Christ Followers we have to break free of the principle of earning our salvation and deserving it. We never can, but until we grasp onto the reality of grace, we remain enslaved to the thinking of the world that we will reap what we sow. In Christ, we die to the elementary principles (earning salvation) and must latch onto God’s principle of grace through faith. Until we do that, we live in bondage to a lie of the enemy. He wants to keep us from understanding and more importantly living life based on God’s grace – that He has adopted us as children into His eternal family through faith in Jesus Christ.

When the time was right in God’s plan for humanity, Jesus was born. It had been prophesied for centuries, but Jesus didn’t come until God determined it was the right time. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Jesus came not only as God’s Son, but also as one born of a woman, born under law. Because Jesus is God, He has the power and the resources to redeem us. Because Jesus is man, He has the right and the ability to redeem us. He came to purchase us out of the slave market, from our bondage to sin, that we might be adopted as children of God!

Galatians 3:23-29

In Galatians 3:23-29 Paul continues his explanation of grace through faith as compared to the law. Before we were saved by faith; before we lived our lives by faith, we were held captive by the law. We were imprisoned by the law. Our sin does that to us. The law does play an important part in that it shows us God’s standard and makes known the need for a Savior. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” It acts as a guardian, pointing us to the need for grace. That’s what Jesus provided us through His death on the Cross. “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”

The whole purpose of the law is to bring us to Jesus. Therefore, if someone doesn’t present the Law in a manner that brings people to faith in Jesus, they aren’t presenting the Law properly. The way Jesus presented the Law was to show people that they could not fulfill it, and needed to look outside of their law-keeping. “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through faith in Him. When we receive Him through faith, we become children of God – something we can never lose.

Paul illustrates what it means to have faith in Christ. We are to be baptized into Christ. Just as in water baptism a person is immersed in water, so when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, we are immersed in Jesus. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” We must understand that this is the baptism that really saves us: our immersion into Jesus. If a person isn’t baptized into Christ, he could be dunked a thousand times into water and it would make no eternal difference. Once we are baptized into Christ by receiving Him as our personal Savior, then we can follow through with water immersion to demonstrate our faith in Christ.

The whole problem among the Galatian Christians is that some wanted to still observe the dividing line between Jew and Greek. They wanted some division. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But Paul makes it clear we are all the same in Jesus. There is no differentiation. Morris wrote “He is saying that when people are saved by Jesus Christ they are brought into a marvelous unity, a unity between the saved and the Saviour and a unity that binds together all the saved.” And that salvation through faith makes us an heir to the Kingdom as children of God. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Galatians 3:19-22

In Galatians 3:19-22 Paul continues his clarification around the law and grace. He begins by explaining the purpose of the law. Part of the reason God gave the law was to clearly reveal His standard for living. He had to give us His standard so we would not destroy ourselves before the Messiah came. “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” It also shows us the need for a Savior as we fall short through our rebellion against God’s standard.

Guzik explains “According to ancient traditions – true traditions, according to Paul – the Law was delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai by the hands of angels. Angels were the “go-between” or mediator for Moses when he received the Law from God. Moses needed a mediator between himself and God, but we don’t need a mediator between us and Jesus – He is our mediator. The law was a two-party agreement brought by mediators. Salvation in Jesus by faith is received by a promise.” “Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.” God’s promise of salvation through Christ was superior to the law because the law was mediated by more than one. Salvation is one way – God’s gift of grace through Christ’s death on the Cross.

Paul asks a compelling question. “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” The law does not contradict the promises of God. The law exposes our sin and the desperate need we have for a Savior. And because it sets God’s standard for how we must live to earn salvation on our own, it shows clearly that we’re doomed in our attempts to follow it. Righteousness will never come by the law – we can’t live good enough to achieve it on our own. We need a Savior to experience eternal life.

Paul paints a picture of us being imprisoned by sin. The bars of the cell are sin and they keep us confined and separated from God. Scripture puts us in prison because it clearly points out how short we fall from God’s standard. “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Fortunately, God made a way for us to overcome the prison that sin puts us in. Luther explains “When the Law drives you to the point of despair, let it drive you a little farther, let it drive you straight into the arms of Jesus who says: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ ”

Galatians 3:15-18

In Galatians 3:15-18 Paul continues explaining God’s plan for salvation. He establishes the principle that even with a covenant among men, the covenant stands firm once it is made – you don’t add to or subtract from it. The point is not what happens between men, but that if that’s how covenants work for humans, we can pretty much be sure it’s that much more certain in any covenant that God makes. “To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.” And God has made a covenant with man that we can trust.

God promised Abraham back in Genesis 22 that his offspring would be blessed for all generations. It wasn’t a plural blessing – there was no ‘s’ on offspring – but it referred to Jesus Christ who was a specific offspring of Abraham and God’s way for blessing to be given to all. So even thousands of years ago, God had a plan for the world He created – and that plan was Jesus. That was His promise. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”

Guzik explains “If the inheritance offered to Abraham was on the basis of law, it might not be permanent – because it would depend, at least in part, on Abraham’s keeping of the law. But since the inheritance was offered on the basis of promise, God’s promise, it stands sure.” Salvation does not depend on what Abraham, or anyone other that Jesus Christ, has or will ever do. God’s promise to Abraham came before the law was even created, and His promise of salvation through faith to Abraham is still the promise we claim. “This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.”

God gave Abraham a promise. The word gave here is the ancient Greek word kecharistai, which is based on the Greek word charis – grace. God’s giving to Abraham was the free giving of grace. The word is also in the perfect tense, showing that the gift is permanent. God made a once for all promise of grace to Abraham. It wasn’t something that depended on performance by anything other than the faith and belief to receive that gift. Jesus did all the work. All that mankind has to do is receive God’s gift of grace through Christ based on the promise God made to Abraham. Salvation is that simple. It’s God grace promised to Abraham centuries ago that applies to us today and forever. “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”

Galatians 3:11-14

In Galatians 3:11-14 Paul continues to focus on grace as God granted it through the death of Jesus on the Cross. He has already proven that no one can be justified by the law, not because of the law, but because no human is able to completely follow it. So faith is the only way to receive grace that will cover us from our sins. “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Paul quotes Habakkuk’s statement that the righteous shall live by faith – one of the most quoted statements from the Old Testament in the New Testament where it is quoted three different times.

The Old Testament tells us that approval by God through the law must be earned by actually living in obedience to the law, not just trying. Close enough doesn’t count, we have to live the law completely and perfectly if that is going to be our way to God. We can’t, and we won’t, so Jesus is the only way. “But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” You might think something like this: “Look, I’ll do the best I can under the law and let faith cover the rest. God will look at my performance, my effort, and my good intentions and credit to me as righteousness. The important thing is that I am really trying.”

Good intentions won’t cut it. Trying hard isn’t going to be enough. Doing your best and then letting grace cover the rest is not how it works. Paul is clear that salvation comes from one place and one place only – the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. That’s the only source of grace that will cover our sin. Without that, we’re doomed. We will be destined for eternity separated from God. It’s not a maybe proposition. We either deal with our sin through faith in Jesus Christ, or we face the consequences. And it is important to remember that eternity is a very long time to spend apart from the loving God who created us.

Paul makes it clear here-Jesus is the way we can remove the curse of sin from our life. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Morris wrote “Redemption points to the payment of a price that sets sinners free.” We have to be redeemed to enter heaven. Jesus paid the price to rescue us. Jesus became cursed on our behalf; He stood in our place and took the curse we deserved. Jesus received this curse, which we deserved and He did not, so that we could receive the blessing of Abraham, which He deserved and we did not. That’s how much God loved us – enough to send His only Son to the Cross so we could spend eternity with Him if we only believe and receive His free gift of grace which is our salvation!

Galatians 3:8-10

In Galatians 3:8-10 Paul continues to remind the Galatian church that we are justified by faith, not works. Paul always taught the truth based on Scripture. He had already spoken from his personal experience and from the experience of the Galatian Christians themselves. But this passage is even more important, because it shows how Paul’s teaching is correct according to the Bible itself. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” He talks about Scripture as virtually as a person who foresees, preaches, and says.

Scripture foresaw that even back in Abraham’s day, righteousness would come by faith and God intended it for every nation, for Gentiles as well as Jews, then and forevermore. The blessing we receive with believing Abraham is not the blessing of fantastic wealth and power, though Abraham was extremely wealthy and powerful. The blessing is something far more precious: the blessing of a right standing with God through faith. “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Luther explained “The faith of the fathers was directed at the Christ who was to come, while ours rests in the Christ who has come.”

Paul then tackles yet again those who thought their performance of the law would give them right standing with God. It won’t. It didn’t then, and it won’t today. Only Jesus can do that for us through faith. “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Abraham couldn’t make it by fulfilling the law, so how could we possibly do it. Morris explains “If even the great patriarch was accepted by God only because of his faith, then it follows that lesser mortals will not succeed in producing the good deeds that would allow them to be accepted before God.”

Paul doesn’t mean that the law is bad or the Word of God is wrong. He simply meant that God never intended the law to be the way we find our approval before Him. He knew we could never keep the law, and so God chose grace through Jesus’ death on the cross as the atoning sacrifice along with the law. And the entire sacrificial system looked forward to what Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Paul is clear that if we’re trying to be redeemed on our own, we have to abide by and do ALL THINGS written in the law. ALL is a whole lot of abiding and doing. There are no small sins and no passes. We will never make it on our own accord, which is why God sent Jesus to the Cross as our atonement for falling short. Jesus alone is our way to right standing with God.

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