Year 3 Day 56
Read - Galatians 4
Message - Scott Woodburn
We can sometimes remember the past with misty eyes...wouldn't it be great to go back in time? We believe that things were better back then, we were younger, fitter, prettier...wouldn't it be great to be 18 once again? Mmmmm. I'm not so sure. Life is not about standing still but growing up.
Unfortunately the Galatians were looking back to days of slavery. They had become children of God through faith in Christ but nevertheless they seemed to be seduced by the ways of the past. Paul reminded them that there was a time that God's children were under guardians and managers until a date set by the father (v2). In other words there was a time that the church lived and worshipped in type and shadow. Everything was pointing forward to Christ but He had not yet come.
The Law was in place to lead the faithful to Christ but some made law observance their means of escape. They sought righteousness in works and Paul calls this pursuit "the elementary principles of the world" (v3). Ever heard someone saying "good people will go to heaven"? If so you have heard someone explain an elementary principle of the world - it might sound plausible but is Biblically false. Eventually Christ came to redeem those under the law (v5). Jesus has sent His Spirit into our hearts and now those who once were slaves are called heirs (v7). We are sons and daughters of the king able to cry out "Abba! Father!" (v6).
Paul cannot believe that the Galatians wanted to return to the "worthless elementary principles" (v9). It was like freed slaves wanting to be back in chains. Those seeking to add circumcision to the Gospel wanted the Galatians to return to observing the Jewish calender (v10) and it seems the Galatians had followed their lead. It was as if the Galatians had trusted Christ but still kept their fingers crossed just in case. It was enough for Paul to worry that his work among the Galatians was in vain (v11).
He had come to them in physical weakness and yet they did him no long. They had helped him and treated him as if he were an angel or Christ Himself (v12-14). Paul believed that there was a time the Galatians would have gouged their eyes out for him (v15) hinting that Paul's physical ailment concerned his sight. But now, due to the influence of the false teachers, Paul feels that he has become an enemy to the Galatians for merely telling the truth (v16). These individuals wanted to be the focus of the Galatian's attention - they wanted to be the stars of the show (v17).
Paul's desire on the other hand was that Christ would be formed in the Galatians. He feels like a mother going through the pains of childbirth waiting for spiritual maturity to reach Galatia (v18-19). To convince his listeners of their error Paul takes the Galatians back into the Old Testament.
Abraham had two sons, one called Ismael and the other Isaac. Ismael was born to Hagar whilst Isaac was born to Abraham's wife Sarah. Ismael was the first born child but he was not the child of promise. He was born according to the flesh (v23) whilst Isaac was born according to the promise. Paul interprets this by way of allegory - he takes the story and shows a deeper meaning (v24).
Paul says Hagar represents slavery and is the current city of Jerusalem which remains in chains to law (v25). Sarah on the other hand represents the heavenly Jerusalem and freedom (v26). The Galatians had been set free by the Gospel but now longed for the chains of law observance and works based righteousness. Paul's conclusion was clear "brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman." (v31)
Brothers and sisters, there is no joy and no freedom striving endlessly to save ourselves. We have not trusted Christ in order to continually wonder "Have I done enough? Will I one day be saved? Perhaps I should observe a certain day just in case?" I urge you today to lay aside your attempts at works based righteousness and rest fully on the finished work of Christ. Uncross your fingers and gaze upon the cross.
Q56 What is the reason annexed to the third commandment? The reason annexed to the third commandment is, that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.