Scripture Text – Galatians 4:1-18
He Laments Their Regression
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are 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? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. – Galatians 4:8-11.
What really happened when the Galatians turned from grace and back to the Law? To begin with, they abandoned their liberty for bondage once again. When they were ignorant sinners, they had served their false gods and had experienced the tragedy of slavery to pagan and useless worship. But then they had accepted and trusted in Christ and had been delivered from superstition and slavery. Now they were abandoning their liberty found in Christ and they were going back into bondage from which Christ set them free. They were “dropping out” of the school of grace and enrolling in the kindergarten of the Law! They were destroying all the good work the Lord had done in them through Paul’s ministry.
The phrase “weak and beggarly elements” tells us the extent of their regression. They were giving up the power of the Gospel for the weakness of the Law, and the wealth of the Gospel for the poverty of the Law. The Law never made anybody rich or powerful spiritually; on the contrary, the Law could only reveal man’s weakness and spiritual bankruptcy. No wonder Paul weeps over these believers, as he sees them abandon liberty for bondage, power for weakness, and wealth for poverty.
How were they doing this? By adopting the Old Testament system of religion with its special observations of “days and months and seasons and years.” The Apostle is giving them very definite specifics in what areas they are falling back into.
Does this mean that it is wrong for us as Christians to set aside one day a year to remember the birth of Christ? Or that a special observance of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, or the blessing of the harvest in autumn, is a sin?
Not necessarily. However, why are you observing it and what exactly is the motive of your heart? If we observe special days like slaves, hoping to gain some spiritual merit, then we are sinning. But if in the observance, we express our liberty in Christ and let the Spirit enrich us with His grace, then the observance can be a very gracious spiritual blessing.
The New Testament makes it clear that Christians are not to legislate religious observances for each other (Romans 14:4–13). We are not to praise the person who chooses to celebrate the day, but then neither are we to condemn the person who chooses not celebrate. But, if a person thinks and believes they are saving their soul, or automatically growing in grace, because of a religious observance, then they are most definitely guilty of legalism.
Our evangelical churches have so many different kinds of observances in this day and age, and it is wrong for us to go beyond the Word of God in comparing, criticizing, or condemning. However, all of us must beware of that legalistic spirit that caters to the flesh, leads to pride, and makes the outward event a substitute for the anointed inward experience.
To Be Continued