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Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Galatians (4:12-20) (Lesson 14)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (4:-12-20)                                                             (Lesson 14)

Welcome to HBS.

I thank God for His Amazing Grace.

Florida is in recovery mode and making remarkable progress thanks to all the neighbors helping neighbors, the out-of-state volunteers, the first-line responders who are assisting people with their urgent needs, and all those who have shown an interest in helping the people affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively, through their generous prayers and charitable contributions.  Florida and Texas appear in the news most often, but please remember these hurricanes also inflicted severe damage to the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St Thomas, the Dominican Republic and others.  So please remember these folks are in dire straits too, so pray for them and give what you can so they can rebuild their lives too.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ… Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6:2, 9-10).

Please open your Bible at Galatians 4:12.

Galatians 4

12: I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are.  You have done me no wrong;

I beg of you, brethren - Paul ends his rebuke of the Galatians with these words and the tone of this letter changes noticeably.  He suddenly shifts from reprimanding them to pleading with them.  The Koine Greek word for beg is Deomai (deh’-om-ahee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1189, meaning:  to ask, to desire or long for with urgency.  

You’ll find other examples of this phrase in your Bible.  Luke 9:38 is one.  Let’s all turn there now.  Here we have Jesus coming down from the mountain to find a man waiting patiently for Him.  The man’s son is possessed by a demon that is torturing his son.  The father was beside himself with anguish and desperate, so he sought the Lord’s help.  And behold, a man from the multitude shouted out, saying, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy…

The urgency in this man’s request literally leaps off the page!  No matter where you encounter this phrase in the N.T. the same sense of urgency is present.  So, Paul’s plea to the Galatians “I beg of you, brethren,” contained the same sense of urgency as this passage from Luke 9:38.  The only difference between these two passages is the reason for Paul’s urgent request.  He said, “brethren, become as I am.”

Bible commentators have assigned multiple interpretations to the phrase “become as I am,however, Paul only had one meaning in mind.  If we keep Paul’s statement within the context of the previous verses, the sense of this phrase isn’t all that difficult to determine.  Our Apostle Paul is obviously referencing the Jewish rites and religious customs, under the Law, and the question all along has been whether or not they were relevant to Gentile Believers.  Paul is trying to convince the Gentiles in Galatia they need to “walk away from” these religious customs (traditions), as He has done.  In essence, he’s saying follow my example; for I also have become as you are.  Even though I am a Jew, I became like a Gentile; free from the Law thanks to Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:16). 

We know we’re on the right track, that Believer’s should be like him, because Paul wrote a similar message in Philippians 4:9:  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

Y’all should be aware, when Paul says, “imitate me,” he’s not being egotistic.  He is truthfully saying: Be imitators of me, just as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).  Permit me to illustrate by using a game from childhood.  When my siblings and I played “follow the leader” with other children from the neighborhood, we imitated the physical antics and speech of our chosen leader in a continuous line that moved along with them.   If you failed to imitate the leader correctly, you were out of the game.  Now there were usually 7 or more children playing this game at one time, all of us in a line.  Not everyone could see the leader and that was especially true for the child in back of the line.  Most of the children had to imitate the child right in front of them, hoping that kid got it right.  With that mental picture in mind, our apostle Paul is saying Christ is the Head of the Church; he imitates Him, and we Believers are to follow Paul.   Does that help?

You have done me no wrong – with this statement Paul assures the Galatians this is not a personal matter; therefore, there is no sense of ill will between them. 

Verse 13:

Galatians 4

13: but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first timePaul doesn’t give us any details about his bodily illness, so as usual I’m not going to speculate as to what this might have been.  It’s my duty to inform you Bible commentators suggest it was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” but this book doesn’t tell us what that was.  These same commentators also think it might have been an “eye condition,” i.e. Ophthalmia, which he may have acquired on the Damascus Rd (Acts 9) or at his stoning in Lystra (Acts 14:19-28).  Both of these illnesses are viable arguments so they can’t be completely discounted.  But since Paul doesn’t tell us what the bodily illness was we’re just going to move on because the bottom line is it doesn’t matter.  What matters is this illness kept Paul off of the missionary road and in Galatia for quite some time.  He took advantage of this bodily illness to preach the gospel to the Galatians who were steeped in paganism. 

Verse 14:

Galatians 4

14: and that (bodily illness) which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as a angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.

Many Jews and Gentiles would have said Paul’s illness was a judgment from God, which linked it to sin (John 9:2-3).  But we know Paul was in God’s will, and ill, so this should force the Bible student to reconsider such a thought.  When the man sinned in the Garden of Eden, he condemned all of humanity to suffer the consequences of that sinful act, one of which is sickness.  

Please turn to Romans 8:20-22:  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 

Until that great day, God uses illnesses and other evils, such as hurricanes, to bring about His Sovereign purpose upon this earth, ultimately to bring glory to Himself.  I’m reminded of WW II and the many major battles fought between the Allies and the Axis armies that were turned in favor of the “good guys” simply because the weather changed in their favor, The Normandy Invasion, and the Battle of the Bulge would be just two examples.  But when illness does come, it may not be the result of God’s direct intervention in one’s life, but is rather the result of that individual living in a “fallen world,” with a “fallen body,” and poor health is a direct result of making poor choices (cigarettes, meth, heroine, Opioids, pot smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not enough sleep, poor diet choices, poor exercise routine, STD, etc.).  God wants people to enjoy good health (3 John 2), however, illnesses are permitted to occur for His purposes, whether we agree with them or understand them or not (Job; Romans 8:28).

A great deal of speculation surrounds our Apostle Paul’s physical illness and this verse shines some light on people’s response to it.  Paul said his illness was a trial to them (a test); they could have avoided him, the way you would purposely avoid someone suffering a contagion.  People, by nature, are attracted to beauty, but shun that which is unappreciated or unattractive.  However, they did not despise or loathe him. 

Paul’s use of the word loathe tells the story or reveals truth.  It’s a graphic term which literally means:  “to spit out.”  If you’ve ever swallowed a bug, you have a better understanding of this word than others.  In the ancient Near East, people would spit, automatically, after coming in contact with a disease or an illness which was repulsive, thinking there was some therapeutic value in this act.  Paul’s point isn’t lost on his readers:  visually, he was a mess; an unattractive sight.  But Spiritually speaking, he was as an angel of God. 

but you received me as a angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself in spite of his “unattractiveness” the Galatians received him warmly.  They received him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself.  Why would they do this?  They didn’t receive him warmly because of his physical appearance or because of his oratory skills.  There can only be one reason they welcomed him in such a fashion; it was his simple message.  Paul came preaching the gospel and because of this the Galatians were saved by faith (alone).  By the way, the word for “angel” in Hebrew and Greek also means messenger. 

Verse 15:

Galatians 4

15: What then is that sense of blessing you had?  For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.

What then is that sense of blessing you had – in asking this rhetorical question, Paul wants to know where the original, warm, feelings the Galatians held for him have gone.  The Phillips translation Bible reads:  “What has happened to that fine spirit of yours? 

The Celtic People:  They were descended from the Gauls who sacked Rome in the fourth century B. C. and in the third century B. C. invaded Asia Minor and northern Greece.  A part of them remained in Galatia predominating in the mixed population formed out of the Greek, Roman and Jewish people.  They were quick-tempered, impulsive, hospitable and fickle people.  They were quick to receive impressions and equally quick to give them up.  They received Paul warmly and then suddenly turned from him (Galatians 4:13-16).

For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me – some people in the church say this statement from Paul supports their theory his “thorn in the flesh” was related to an eye condition.  But I’m not eager to board that train…  Paul’s statement above is not so far removed from one of our common expressions used today; “I’d give my right arm for the chance to ________” (marry him/her, get that job, hit the lotto, have a healthy baby…); you fill in the blank.

In Paul’s day the eyes were considered important parts of a person’s anatomy, so Paul is merely conveying the thought the Galatians would have given him anything; they would have contributed anything to his welfare at one time because they truly loved him.  Yet now, Paul has realized their fickleness regarding his apostleship, the gospel, and the church doctrines, or the truth, as they were abandoning these things to follow the doctrines of men instead.

Verse 16:

Galatians 4

16: So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?

This is very strong language.  The Koine Greek word for enemy is Echthros (Ech-thros’), Adjective, Strong’s Greek #2190, meaning:  hostile, hating, and opposing another.  Paul has never lied to these folks; he’s never manipulated or scammed them.  He didn’t enter Galatia with dollar signs in his eyes.  He came preaching the gospel with the intention of saving some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). 

So, his question is not only appropriate it’s relevant because Paul’s enthusiasm hasn’t changed.  His heart for the Lord and for every Believer in Christ Jesus is reflected in this letter; there isn’t one untruthful thing in it.  But, have the Judaizers’ been equally truthful?   Hardly; they came preaching a different gospel; a legalistic gospel (1:6-7), and the fickle Galatians’ were in the process of turning away from Paul and the truth of his gospel.  They were heeding the message of the false teachers and striving to observe the doctrines of the Judaizers’ even though doing so placed them back under the Law (4:8-9).

Jack Nicholson’s line from the movie, “A Few Good Men, “ just came to mind.  You can’t handle the truth!”  Paul wanted these folks in Galatia to know Christ the way he knew Him, but things don’t always work out the way you expect them to or the way you want them to.  That’s life.  Jesus, who was the embodiment of Truth, walked this earth for 3 years loving people, healing people, teaching people; He performed miracles, signs, and wonders to prove to His people, who He was, but the majority of the Jews voted for His execution; only a precious few actually recognized Him as their Redeemer.  Considering the fact He ministered to thousands, fed thousands, I find that remarkable!  (John 21:24-25)

These Galatians were introduced to the truth, but look what happened to them after Paul continued on down the missionary road.  Turn with me to 2 Timothy 1:14-15:  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure (the gospel) which has been entrusted to you.  You are aware (the word had spread) of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me…  

What’s Paul saying?  His letter to the Galatians had little to no effect on these Galatian churches.  Another way of putting it is, “His words fell upon deaf ears and hardened hearts” because all they which are in Asia turned away from Paul’s gospel.  Only one thing could have caused this 180 degree shift in attitude and behavior.  The Galatian churches deserted the gospel and eventually embraced legalism (1:6).  It’s doubtful these churches survived such a disturbing shakeup.   We know the cities did not each one of them fell into the dust of history.   

Was this a judgment of God or merely a result of cause and effect?  Permit me to respond to the question this way.  I read an article the other day re: “The Decline of the Catholic Church in Europe,” and it gives one reason to pause and reflect.  In the article the writer comments the elder Catholics are dying and they are not being replaced by younger Catholic converts.  This trend has been ongoing for decades it’s just now becoming more obvious.  He also stated in the article he entered many Catholic churches on Sunday morning and found the building almost empty.  Now before people start getting upset with me prematurely, I’m not picking on the Catholic faith.   I am merely reporting on a recently written article, by a well-known author, reporting on current events.  The Catholics are not the only faith experiencing a decline in growth or a decline in Sunday worship attendance.  Every Church denomination, across the board, is in decline to some degree with some mainline churches headed toward extinction. 

I am saying it is human nature to reject the truth because humans are flawed creatures.  This is evident across all aspects of society and not just regarding one’s faith.  This flaw can be traced back to the woman’s decision to listen and then believe the serpent’s lie in the Garden of Eden that she will be like God (Genesis 3:4-5).  This has been humanity’s chief problem ever since that day; they’ve copied Satan’s mantra:  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14; Ezekiel 28:2). 

Verse 17:

Galatians 4

17: They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.

They eagerly seek you – They are the Judaizers; the false teachers who have infiltrated the Galatian churches eagerly seek you.  Eagerly seek are from the Greek word Zeloo, (dzay-lo’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2206, meaning:  to desire earnestly.  So, Paul is saying, “They earnestly desire you; or “They want you on their team.” 

but (behold the underlying truth):  they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them - They demonstrate a great commitment towards you, but that’s not a good thing; their reason is to get you to fellowship only with them.”  These Judaizers were teaching in such a way as to create dependency on themselves in the lives of the Gentile Believers.   

Verse 18:

18: But is it good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you.

Here Paul admits it is not wrong to eagerly seek to win the affection of others as long as it is for their welfare.  But Paul calls us to be careful that we are not seeking the affections of others for our own selfish advantage.  Paul's focus has been and still is on the Galatians’ benefit; the false teachers' focus was upon the Galatians’ contribution to the teacher's benefit.

Verses 19-20:

Galatians 4

19: My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you – but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

As I pointed out to y’all back in verse 12, Paul went from rebuking the Galatian churches to pleading with them, to appealing to their better judgment, as a parent with a broken heart would to a child who has gone astray.  Paul often used metaphors because of their warm and caring connotation.  He called himself a spiritual father in 1 Corinthians 4:15 and 1 Thessalonians 2:11 and here it’s implied. 

I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you - the Koine Greek word formed is Morphoo (mor-fo’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #3445, meaning:  to form.  According to the text, this refers to the Galatians’ spiritual maturity or their being like Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:13) (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18, 7:1; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 1:4, 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 4:3, 7, 5:23; 1 Peter 1:15).  All of you should be aware by now that spiritual maturity is a “process of change.”  Therefore, we are encouraged “to walk worthy of our calling,” (Ephesians 4:1); “to walk worthy of the Sprit,” so as not to “fulfill the lusts of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16); and to “walk in love” (Romans 5:2).  Paul was showing the Galatians his motives in teaching and preaching the truth were totally different from those of the self-seeking Judaizers. 

but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone for I am perplexed about you  - Paul’s heart was on fire for the Lord and equally for those he served; though this letter probably seemed harsh by its readers… who likes being scolded?  It’s easy to pick up on Paul’s frustration in dealing with these Believers because we see the flip-side of the issue too; for I am perplexed about you.  The Phillips Bible translation reads:  I honestly don’t know how to deal with you.”  The word perplexed in the Greek is Aporeo.  It literally means: to be without resources; to be in doubt; to not know which way to turn.  Paul had many reasons to doubt the sincerity and the soundness of the church doctrines of which they had been introduced and he was very anxious about the Galatians’ spiritual maturity. 

(To be continued)

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Galatians (4:5-11) (Lesson 13)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (4:-5-11)                                                             (Lesson 13)

Welcome back to HBS.

We began our study of chapter 4 last week and we made it as far as verse 5.  So that’s where we’ll pick up the lesson today.

In 4:1-2 our Apostle Paul talks about a well-known practice in both the Greek and Roman cultures, that of an heir coming of age.  At that time the son could legally take ownership of his father’s estate.  Previously, his father’s assets belonged to him he just didn’t have any control of them yet.  Then in 4:3-5, he uses the analogy to address the status of the believing Jews who lived under the Law.  The heir under Roman law had legal ownership of his father’s estate too, minus the control, until he came of age.  Similarly the Jews who believed in Christ Jesus had the promises of God to Abraham; they just hadn’t realized them yet.  God is in control of the timing of these promises.

Please open your Bible at Galatians 4:5.

Galatians 4

In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law – the Koine Greek word for redeem is Exagorazo (ex-ag-or-ad’-zo), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1805, meaning, by payment of a price to recover from the power of another, to ransom, to buy back.  This word is taken right from the marketplace in Paul’s day where slaves were bought and sold routinely.  It literally means:  to buy out of the marketplace” or “to ransom from slavery.” 

The slave was powerless to alter his or her position in the marketplace.  They did not possess the ability or the means to “deliver themselves;” they were helplessly held in bondage hoping someone would show them mercy by redeeming them.  A life of slavery in someone’s home or in their workplace was a far better end then to be taken away to be a galley slave or entertainment for the masses in the arena or coliseum where crowds encouraged and cheered for their ghastly death.

Most people are familiar with the hymn “Amazing Grace” but few people know the man John Newton who wrote it.  He grew up as an only child.  His mother died when he was 7 years old.  He chose the life of a sailor and went to sea at the age of eleven.  He learned that way of life well as he became a captain of his own ship; a slave ship.  He had a hand in that horrible degradation of humanity that will forever be a stain on human history which has been called the “Slave Trade.”  But at the age of twenty-three, on March 10, 1748, when his ship was in imminent danger of sinking off the coast of Newfoundland, he prayed to God for mercy, and found it.  He never forgot how amazing it was that God had heard his prayer and received him, after all the wrongs he had committed.  To mark this event and to keep it fresh in his memory, he fastened on the wall over his fireplace mantel the words of Deuteronomy 15:15:  You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you. 

May this serve to remind each one of us, if we’d only remember, keep fresh in our hearts and minds, what we once were, where we once were, and what we are now in Christ Jesus, it will benefit us greatly daily for we are slaves no longer but free men and women and co-heirs with God, by faith; thanks to God’s Amazing Grace. 

that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters) see Romans 8:14-15, 23, 9:4; Ephesians 1:5.  Right out of the gate I want to address the fact that the Bible is not gender-neutral and mean-spirited toward women as some people believe and some people teach.  It presents from beginning to end a masculine perspective because that represents the culture or accepted traditions of society when this book was written.  Instead of re-writing scripture it’s up to the reader of scripture to determine what application to females or what inclusion of females is implied by the passage.  Sometimes, a reference to men or brothers (brethren) should be understood to include females; in other instances, men simply mean “men.”  The context will guide you at all times.  It’s not difficult.    

Next in line, the Koine Greek word for adoption is Huiothesia (hwee-oth-es-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #5206, meaning:  that relationship which God was pleased to establish between Himself and the Israelites in preference to all other nations; the blessed state looked for in the future life after the visible return of Jesus Christ from heaven. 

Our Apostle Paul continues to explain the benefits or privileges true Believers receive as full heirs of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus.  He uses the metaphor adoption in reference to our salvation.  The Apostles John and Peter used the metaphor most people are familiar with “born again.  In Roman law, the process of adoption was very difficult.  It not only took a long time to arrange it was also quite expensive; but once enacted adoption afforded several special rights and privileges:

1:  All debts were cancelled
2:  All criminal charges were cancelled
3:  The adoptee could not be legally put to death by his father
4:  The adoptee could not be disinherited by their new father

Legally speaking, the adopted child was a completely new person.   When a father publicly adopted a son, he officially and permanently became his heir.  In using this Roman, legal adoption procedure, our Apostle Paul is in effect saying the true Believer is eternally secure once they place their faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:15, 23).    The metaphor was used in the official ceremony of a boy becoming a man, i.e. Liberalia, which was held annually on the 17 of March. 

Verse 6:

Galatians 4

6: Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba!  Father!”

Please note Paul shifts from writing in first-person to second-person in verse 6 to show the adoption received by those under the Law (v5) was also received by the Gentile converts.  He’s speaking to the Gentiles when he says, “Because you are sons…”  How did they become sons?  The only answer is by faith in the gospel:  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). 

But now that the Galatians had believed the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ had died for the sins of all, was buried, and was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 3:1); their faith (plus nothing else) enabled them to be immediately considered as “sons of God.”  And being sons (daughters is implied), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts (Ephesians 1:13). 

Some people have declared this a difficult verse simply because two Persons of the Triune Godhead are mentioned.  They say this confuses its meaning.  I don’t believe Paul intends to introduce confusion.  I do believe he has introduced a significant teaching about the Holy Trinity in this passage.  God the Father sent God the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of God the Son, into our hearts to give us an assurance that we are the sons and daughters of God.
The Spirit of His Son: The Holy Spirit can be called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or linked to God the Father.  This is because the nature of God is consistent among the Persons of the Trinity.  Here, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of His Son because the idea of our sonship is based on Jesus' sonship.

I may have just lost some of y’all, so I’ll say according to this book the ministry of the Son and the Spirit has always been closely linked.  Still, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not God the Father.  The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  They are not three different gods, but separate, eternally existing in three Persons, equal in every respect.  

As I’ve said before the Trinity is an unfathomable and yet an unmistakable doctrine in scripture (Deuteronomy 6:4; John 10:30, 33; 14:16, 18, 23; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:9).  Although they are one, the Word of God in no way denies the simultaneous existence and distinctiveness of each of the three Persons of the Godhead.  The Bible is clear:  God is one God (not three), but the One God is a Trinity of Persons, each One with individual characteristics, capable of expressing thought, will, and emotions.     

In Galatians chapter 3 Paul mentioned the Spirit frequently in reference to our becoming Believers (Galatians 4:2, 5, 14).  He is now called “the Spirit of His Son.”  We’re seeing two works of the Spirit:  1) drawing people to Christ Jesus; and 2) forming those He has called into Christlikeness (John 14-16).  The Spirit also baptizes Believers into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). 

So Paul’s saying as a result of being adopted into God’s (holy) family, by faith, every true Believer will have the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ in them.  We find Paul saying something similar to this in Romans 8:9:  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells (where) in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (Romans 8:9). 

Before our conversion we were excluded from the presence of God; our access was denied, even our prayers were inaudible because of our “unrighteousness” (John 9:31; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).  Now I believe the Sovereign God can and will answer any prayer from anyone, as He chooses, but because all men and women are alienated from God at the moment of their birth this book is very clear in saying unbelievers are by nature enemies of God (Proverbs 15:8, 29; Psalm 34:16; Romans 5:10).  Our Father in heaven hears the prayers of His children but not those of His enemies, unless they’re asking Him for salvation of course.  I call this the “life-guard principle.”  Having said that, one of the blessings we experience because of our “right standing” with God, thanks to the righteousness of Christ Jesus, is timeless access into the very presence of God the Father (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19:22; 1 Peter 3:18). 

For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).

crying, “Abba!  Father - Paul wants the Galatians to know this is the result of having the Spirit of Christ in their hearts.  The Sprit is crying to the Father and not ourselves, by the way.  One of the first ministries the Spirit performs to us, after baptizing us into the Body of Christ and securing our eternal salvation, is providing our faith.  The Spirit assures us God has become our “Abba” “Father.”  In doing so, He confirms our identity as the adopted children of God, assuring each one of us have the right to call Him “Abba, Father! 

Common slaves were not permitted to use the loving and reverent title “Abba” in addressing the head of the family.  However, all true Believers are considered free men and women in Christ Jesus because they are no longer enslaved by sin (Romans 6:6, 18).  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:15-17). 

Verse 7:

Galatians 4

7: Therefore you are no longer a slave (servant in the KJV Bible), but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son - if you read ahead through verses 8-10, you’ll see Paul’s used the word slave but he’s referring to unbelievers – for they “knew not God,” nor were they “known by God.  What Paul means to say is, “They did not have an intimate knowledge of God.”  This kind of knowledge can only be derived from a personal Father/son relationship. 

and if a son, then an heir through God – because we are sons and daughters of God, we are heirs.  But here’s the thing, we are heirs only through Christ Jesus.  Just like the Roman male child who was adopted into the prominent family back in Paul’s day, we too did not have a hand in our adoption.  We’re entitled to all the privileges of a son and we’re all heirs of God through Jesus Christ, the Redeemer (Romans 8:17). 

Verse 8:

Galatians 4

8: However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.

However at that time, when you did not know God – beginning here and in the following verses Paul is addressing the Galatians, the Gentiles, who were pagans in every sense of the word prior to his first visit to Galatia.   In their state of paganism, when they had no knowledge of God, they could not serve Him, obviously.  Instead, Paul said, “you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.”  Paul’s saying, they were slaves by nature to idols; false gods.
With this statement, “you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods,” Paul shines a light on a biblical truth that runs throughout scripture and that is all humans are religious by nature.  This book is quite clear in expressing the fact that all humans have the potential of knowing the One, true God both from creation (Psalm 19:1-5; Romans 1:19-20) and also an inner moral witness (Romans 2:14-15).  However, the Bible asserts that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, have rejected this knowledge:  as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; (Romans 3:10); for have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

A person doesn’t have to be deeply committed to some religiously defined god to be a slave to non-gods.  All a person has to do is have some objective or goal which he or she consistently pursues.  I’ll explain:  the acquisition of wealth is, for some, a god.  For others, public opinion is a god for whom they will do most anything to please.  For others, pleasure in the physical realm is a god to them and their commitment and willingness to sacrifice is incredible (they will destroy their bodies, families, health, marriages, minds, and their reputations in order to experience a momentary pleasure).  For others, knowledge is a god for whom they will spend themselves.  For some, work becomes a god and they surrender all their time to this inanimate object sacrificing their health, their family, and their marriage as they feed their all to it.  There are far too many non-gods to list here and the truth is people are fashioning new ones constantly, all the while ignoring and despising the Creator God who holds death and life in His mighty right hand (Deuteronomy 5:9; Isaiah 44:6-23; John 3:36; Romans 2:5; Colossians 3:6; Revelation 14:19, 16:1).

To illustrate this message Charles Dickens’ classic The Christmas Carol quickly comes to mind.  Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter, old man made excuses his whole life for his uncaring nature, as he diligently worked to build his fortune.  He wasn’t interested in family or making lasting friendships during his lifetime; he was interested in making money, in making a name for himself among his peers.  In the movie the last spirit showed him the “price” of his success.  He died a lonely, old man while serving his non-god.  He was given an opportunity to view his future and repent. 

Christ came to tell us He is the resurrection and the life… without Him in our lives, in our hearts, we are not free men and women, enslaved to sin we have no future (John 11:25, 14:6).  The unbeliever’s future without Christ is worse than Ebenezer’s vision by far.  The unbeliever faces the second death; an eternity suffering in the Lake of Fire and separated from God’s love.  That’s a heavy price to pay for being purposely uninformed and stubborn fence-sitters. 

Paul’s not pulling any of his punches; so to speak, he wants these Galatians to understand their current situation.  As Believers, they are free men and women in Christ Jesus, adopted children of God, and heirs of God.  Why would they willingly return to enslavement under the Mosaic Law?

Verse 9:

Galatians 4

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?

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God – the time element Paul introduced in verse 8 is contrasted in verse 9 with the words “But now.” 

The term know God means more than acquiring knowledge of God from His Word.  It implies an interpersonal relationship (Genesis 3, 4:1; Jeremiah 1:5).   Both the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden knew the LORD God on an intimate, personal level.  They walked with Him in the garden and conversed with Him; they spent time with Him daily because they were committed to their relationship with Him.  Only one relationship between humans comes close to matching that intimate relationship and that’s the marriage relationship. 

The Galatian Believer’s new relationship wasn’t based on knowing facts about God and His Son, but God initiating a New Covenant through Christ with the Gentiles who were once excluded and far off (Ephesians 2:11, 3:13).

how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things - Paul chooses to use the word elemental again here (see 4:3).  In Koine Greek the word is Stoicheion (stoy-khi’-on), Noun Neuter, Strong’s Greek #4747, meaning:  any first thing, from which the others belonging to some series or composite whole take their rise, an element, first principle or discipline.  They were trading the slavery of paganism for the slavery of Judaism as a means of salvation.  Paul’s saying both Judaism and paganism were subject to the Stoicheia (See verse 8).  Both of these are inadequate and incapable of providing eternal life.  The Law could not justify anyone; Paul described them as weak and worthless in this respect.    

Verse 10:

Galatians 4

10: You observe days (of the Jewish festivals) and months (new moon: Numbers 10:10, 28:11-14) and seasons (the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, etc.) and years (the year of Jubilee or the sabbatical year).

Here Paul is referencing the Jewish religious calendar (Colossians 2:16).  The Galatians were attempting to make progress in their spiritual life by learning and keeping the Mosaic Law.  They were in effect exchanging one religious calendar (pagan) for another (Jewish).   But Paul’s understanding of the gospel allowed him to apply its truth to different situations.  The situation in the Galatian churches required him to oppose legalism and works-based righteousness.  However, in Romans 14, Paul encouraged strong Believers not to judge weaker Believers who respected “certain days” (Romans 14:5-6).  So, there’s no conflict here.  In Galatians it is a matter of the proper understanding of the gospel, whereas in Romans 14 it concerns the Believer’s fellowship (1 Corinthians 8, 10). 

Verse 11:

Galatians 4

11: I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.

After the Galatians salvation, Paul’s goal in the Galatian churches was spiritual maturity in Christ.  This is the reason for this statement.  He’s not questioning their salvation.  The meaning of the word labored is, “done with obvious effort or difficulty to the point of exhaustion.”  Paul’s saying he labored among the Galatian churches in preaching the gospel and teaching church doctrines to these folks.  Now he is concerned because they have strayed from the true path of spiritual maturity in Christ; they have been side-tracked by the Judaizers onto the path of legalism.  That was quite literally a dead-end; this is what he feared. 

(To be continued)

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