Summary: There are two tempting traps that return us to slavery. One is clearly sinful, the other looks and smells religious, but actually is bondage. Paul asks, "Who’s your Mother?" It makes all the difference!
It was April 17, 1957 at 12:05 a.m. in a hospital in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A baby boy was born to Charles and Betty Nance. He was their first born son. Three years earlier they had a daughter, and five and seven years later they would have two more boys. This is my family.
You know, I had no choice in the matter of who my mom and dad would be. I had no choice over whether I was male or female. My race, nationality, cultural context, date of birth, genetic make up, and a host of other factors that make up my identity were totally outside of my control. In fact, it would be correct to say that all of the main factors determining the greatest part of what made me who I am were beyond my personal power. Even my religious shaping throughout my most formative years was given to me without my direction or consent.
Think about it. How much of your identity is caught up in who is your family. Someone has well said, “Where you came from determines to a large degree where you are going.” Suppose you were born of a slave. Where would you be today? On the other hand, suppose you grew up a slave and a king found you and loved you and decided to adopt you into his family. What impact would that have?
Galatians 4 is all about just these things. It’s about moving from slavery to freedom by birth, adoption and parenthood. Paul even talks about experiencing birth pains with those he addresses until Christ is formed in you.
Let’s look at this chapter in three sections.
1-11 Redeemed, adopted and inspired, vs enslaved.
12-20 A perplexed Paul’s personal plea.
21-31 In Christ, we are born of a free Mother!
Since this entire chapter has one focus, we will spend the most of our time on this first section.
In these verses there is an interesting parallel painted between the Jewish state under the Law and the Gentile state under idolatry. Look at verses 1-3 and 8-9 once more.
Jewish state before Christ: 1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,
2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.
3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
Gentile state before Christ: 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?
Notice that when Paul describes the slave master of the Jews and again the master for the Gentiles, he uses the same wording: “Elemental things of the world” and “weak and worthless elemental things.” These weak and worthless elemental things he’s talking about are the Jewish Laws and idolatry! He is not saying that the Old Testament is bad, but that since Jesus Christ has come, returning to it FOR SALVATION is paramount to idolatry! It is slavery under a guardian and manager after the Father has removed its authority and given you the inheritance. It is like abandoning the inheritance and seeking to be under them again.