Summary: A message in an expository series from Galatians
Very forcefully Paul has just finished making the point that we are no longer slaves but children of God and since we are children of God, He has also made us heirs. This reveals the ultimate purpose of God sending His Son, of the Son putting on humanity and His sacrifice on the cross to set us free, was to make us all God’s children and heirs. This issues a challenge for us to continue living as children of the King celebrating our freedom and striving to resist any temptation to return to slavery. Now this is what presents such a huge problem. What we ought to do and what we actually do many times are not the same. As we have seen this is the exact problem that existed among the Galatian Christians. The Galatians are risking everything; they are in danger of throwing away their freedom in Christ and ultimately their salvation. The question that I wonder is, “How could they do this?” Paul in our text appeals to the Galatians on a very personal level. Let’s look at the argument Paul presented to encourage the Galatians to continue living as Children of the King.
I. We are Children of God.
A. Paul begins with addressing the Gentile Christians about their condition before Christ..
1. In their past they worshiped in the darkness of ignorance. Though they were well meaning, they were idolaters who did not know the true God.
2. Paul provided no details concerning the precise character of the Galatians’ former religious commitments.
3. Perhaps some of them were devotees of the various mystery religions that flourished in the Hellenistic cities of South Galatia. Others may have been devoted to the Roman Imperial cult or to the pagan deities of ancient Greece.
4. As a consequence of their darkened ignorance they were formerly “slaves,” just as the Jews had been slaves. The difference is that while the Jews were enslaved to the written code of the Law, the Gentiles were enslaved to idols that were nothing but pieces of metal, word or stone.
5. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12—NIV)
B. Paul very skillfully points out the fact that their situation should have changed drastically in Christ.
1. In Christ these Gentiles came to know the one true God and find salvation in his grace. Paul is quick to point out, however, that knowing God is not a one-way street. It is not as if we earn salvation by learning or knowing certain mystic secrets, as the Gnostics were later to teach.
2. Having left the dark ignorance of idolatry, these Gentile Christians wanted to “turn back.”
3. Notice something quite surprising here: when these people “turn back,” it is not to worship idols again. In this context they “turn back” when they submit to weak and miserable legalism.
4. From the Christian perspective, there is little difference between the pagan and the Jew. Both are on the same level, enslaved to “weak and miserable principles.”
5. The Galatian Christians, especially the former Gentile idolaters among them, apparently thought they would be stepping up to the next level above Christ when they accepted circumcision and other requirements of the law.
C. Paul is urging the Galatians not to fall into the religion of legalism but to rise above it and experience a relationship with God based on grace as His children.
1. We obtain salvation when we are introduced to God, and when He acknowledges us. It is the last part, being known by God that is really the most crucial.
2. The two Greeks words for “know” in verses 8 and 9 are synonyms meaning much the same thing, there is still a shade of difference in their meaning.
a. In verse 8 the word “know” reflects the Greek word (oida), which sometimes means merely that a fact has come within the scope of someone’s perception.
b. The word used in verse 9 is (ginōskō), which usually goes beyond mental perception to describe the forming of a relationship with someone through actual involvement with that person.
3. God has taken the initiative, making the move to get acquainted with us first.
4. Paul fears that his work with the Galatians will have been wasted if any of them choose to reject God’s love and give up their adoption as children.
II. We are members of the same family.
A. Verse twelve begins the most personal, earnestly emotional section of Paul’s letter. His urgent tone is reflected in the word “plead”.