Summary: Don’t fall for the temptation to turn back.
TEMPTED TO TURN BACK
By Cleavon Matthews
February 11, 2007
Due to a lack of mutual familiarity it appears to be prudent to express my doctrinal commitment to Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus which means in Latin ‘No salvation outside the church.’ Cyprian said “he cannot have God for his Father who does not have the Church for his Mother.” Historically the prince pupils of scholastic academia have congregated at the desk of discussion and debate regarding the erudite ideas surrounding the identity of the addressees, their geographic location, the historical-theological situation, and the identity of the Pauline opponents in the ninth chronicled New Testament book of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians.
There is no diminutive supply of Bibliographic research extending from the present time back to the second century pen of Justin Martyr. It is easy to be besieged by the jargon of such terminology as the northern and southern Galatian theories concerning the addressees or the traditional view, two-opponent view, and Gnostic-syncrestic view of the Pauline opponents.
Granted the work of professional scribes and theological connoisseurs are an invaluable source when engaging in the spiritual exercise of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, testing theories, training Christian leaders, and defending the faith. However our thinking must not extend beyond the grasp of the common man.
Therefore we begin not with the scholar at his tattered and clustered oak desk and his voluminous library of books and journals. But our terminus a quo is AD 48 and our terminus ad quem is AD 58. Sometime between these two dates the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of a region called Galatia. Paul, a zealous Apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul, a former Pharisee. Paul, a man with a perplexing past. Paul, an injurious man. Paul, a man who persecuted the church of God beyond measure. Paul, whose former aim and dearest aspiration was to annihilate the church. Paul, a man referred to as weak in bodily presence and untrained in speech (2 Cor 10:10; 11:6). Paul, converted and called by Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-17) in obedience to the Lord preached the Gospel in Galatia.
When he preached the Gospel there was a response in the hearts and minds of the Galatians. They were released from an arduous bondage (Gal 3:23; 4:3; 5:1). They became sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (3:26). They were baptized and put on Christ (3:27). They became one in Christ (3:28). When they became Christ’s they also became Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise (3:29). They were adopted as full-grown sons (4:5). They became recipients of the Spirit (4:6). They were no longer slaves but sons (4:7)!
The ‘hearing of faith’ produced sons and not slaves! They were heirs of God through Christ. But things digressed when malevolent messengers came after Paul and attempted to overthrow their faith leading these sons back into slavery under ‘the elements of the world.’ These legalistic taskmasters were known as Judaizers (Gal 2:14). Judaizers were Christian Jews attempting to impose Jewish customs and traditions (not only religious but also racial) on Gentile Christians. The Judaizers alleged faith in Jesus as the Messiah enhanced but did not replace their Judaism. Christianity was not regarded as a religion distinct from Judaism, but rather as the truest form of Judaism.
I.FREEDOM FROM A PAGANISTIC PAST
Galatians 4:8-9 “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature and not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”
In classic Pauline fashion he argues with an inspired and brilliant rhetorical strategy. He personalizes the defense and guides his audience into a series of self-discoveries. He speaks of mutually held facts and then requires a response to a quite reasonable question.
They had been liberated from a paganistic past. Formerly they did not know God. They were in the darkness of theological and spiritual ignorance just as the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:9). They served idols who in essence and essential constitution were ‘not gods.’ If one ascribes to the Southern-Galatian theory, perhaps they were enslaved to the Greek idols Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:8-13) whom the Romans called Jupiter and Mercury or maybe they served ‘the star gods, celestial bodies whose movement in the heavens were believed to control human life on earth.’
A brief consideration of the phrase ‘not gods’ is insightful and crucial to our understanding what follows. In the prolific and doctrinally replete Song of Moses a comparison is made between idols and demons. We can witness the comparativeness of the context by beginning at Deut. 32:10. Now in 17 Moses sings, “They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear. Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who Fathered you” (DT 32:17-18).