Galatiansby Khan Hui Neon
The freedom we enjoy in Christ is very precious. The Son of God secured it for us with His life. We must be careful not to give it up; otherwise we will fall back into slavery.
Addressing the Gentile Galatian believers directly, Paul lays out the threat to their newfound liberty in Christ. The developing crisis triggered by the Judaizers causes Paul to express his fear that somehow he has wasted his efforts on them (Galatians 4:11). This is a serious assertion. Clearly, Paul is not only frustrated but dismayed, because his work would be in vain if the Gentile Galatians exchange one form of slavery for another.
Paul reminds them of their past before conversion, and how they were slaves of false or counterfeit gods (v. 8). But now that they have come to know God through Christ, he cannot understand why they would want to return to these ″weak and miserable forces″ again (v. 9). In frustration, he rebukes the Galatians: ″Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?″ (v. 9). Better for them to have never experienced salvation and its liberation from bondage than to have obtained and then given it up to return to slavery.
What kind of slavery were the Galatian believers turning to? Paul spells it out plainly in verse 10: ″You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!″ Listening to the false teachers, they had started to observe the Jewish calendar of festivals, special days, etc. as stipulated by Jewish law, believing that they were essential to salvation.
If they do that, Paul warns, they will be doing something no different from what they did before their conversion: worshipping false gods!
Coming from Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, this is quite alarming. How can he equate the keeping of the Jewish sacred calendar to the worshipping of false gods? Is he criticising the very rules and traditions that he was brought up with, and which he continues to observe himself?
Not at all. Paul has unequivocally declared that the law is good (Romans 7:12). He keeps the rules because he is following his cultural heritage, and also because he does not want to stumble other Jews who have become converts. He observes the rules and traditions voluntarily-not because he feels compelled to, and certainly not because they are able to save him or bring him closer to God. But when the observance of the law is made a requirement for salvation, then we would have fallen into slavery under false gods. God's grace frees us from slavery to sin and the curse of the law. If we start to believe that we must keep a rule or tradition-no matter where it comes from, or how good it is-in order to be saved, then we would have given up the freedom we enjoy in Christ.
Can you identify some ″false gods″ that can easily distract and enslave us?
What can we do to ensure that we don't give up the freedom we have in Christ?