Summary: Legalism is a real temptation for us because we're wired to DO something. We have learned that we earn our bread by the sweat of our brow and we can't help but apply that to our spiritual life.
The book of Galatians has six chapters and they are easily divided into three themes. The first two chapters are doctrinal. Paul reminded the believers the Gospel of grace is the only true Gospel. The two middle chapters are personal, and the last two chapters are practical. We’re in the middle of this personal section where the Apostle revealed he was frustrated and perplexed that these believers had turned back from the grace way to pursue religion. He wrote this letter because some false Jewish teachers had infiltrated the churches and demanded that all the Christians had to become good Jews before they could truly be saved. That meant, “No more pork for you!” That meant no work could be performed on Saturday. That meant the men had to be circumcised, whatever their age. And these baby Christians were being misled to go back to old religious rules and rituals. Paul was so upset that he wrote this harsh letter trying to knock some sense into their legalistic-leaning minds.
Galatians 4:8-11. “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 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? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”
Legalism is a real temptation for us because we’re wired to DO something. We have learned all of our lives that we earn our bread by the sweat of our brow and we can’t help but apply that to our spiritual life. When I was a boy, I turned in my Sunday School envelope every Sunday. I got to check certain boxes that showed how good I was. “Present” Check! “On Time” Check! “Giving an offering” Check! “Bible read daily” Oops, doggone it, I didn’t read my Bible on Tuesday. Sorry, God, I know You can’t be happy. I’ll do better, I promise! “Attending worship” Check! Let’s see four out of five isn’t too bad.” I was like this nursery rhyme: “Little Jack Horner sat in the Sunday School corner. Holding his church envelope. He stuck in a dime, filled out every line and said, ‘What a good boy am I!’”
There’s something in us that likes to check boxes, and fill in blanks (you’re doing that this morning). Truth be told, we like having a spiritual check list to be able to say, “If I do these seven things today, I can cross them off and be right with God. Grace has nothing to do with my goodness, it’s all about the goodness and grace of God who has chosen to save sinners. In this passage we uncover three great truths.
1. A PERSON’S GREATEST DISCOVERY: God wants to know me
Paul wrote, “Now that you know God—or rather are known by God.” The word “now” indicates that these people had not always known God. There were two kinds of Christians in Galatia. Some had come from a Jewish religion, and the Gentiles had come out of a Greek religious background. Greek and Roman religion had an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses. Zeus, Neptune, Mercury, Aphrodite, and Bacchus were just a few of these many gods. Statues and icons of these deities could be found in the temples throughout the Roman Empire. These mythological gods lived in their own world and seldom interacted with inferior human beings. When they did intervene in human affairs, the results were usually not in the humans’ favor. So people feared these capricious gods and constantly sacrificed to them to keep them happy. They didn’t want a relationship with these gods; in fact, they hoped their offerings and sacrifices would make the gods ignore them. But Paul wrote that these gods were NOT gods at all: They were just dead, deaf, blind, and dumb, statues. The idea that God would know you intimately and that you could know Him was totally unheard of.
After Paul preached the good news to these people, they made the greatest discovery that a person can ever make. It is this: the One True God, the Living God, created YOU for a purpose. He made you so that you could have a personal relationship with Him. He wants to know you! This message was totally revolutionary compared to the Greek and Roman religions.
We toss around the term “eternal life” a lot, but we think it means, “living forever.” It includes that, but eternal life isn’t about a length of your life; it’s about a relationship. Jesus defined eternal life in His prayer the night before He was crucified. He prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)