Statement of Faith
The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell
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AM Bible Study Archives
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
March 22, 2006
One of the great needs of our Christian life is to remember two things: (1)
what we were before Christ; and (2) what we now are in Christ. Just as God
called Israel in Deuteronomy 15:15 - just before the nation entered the land
He promised to them: "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land
of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you . . ." - so we need to remember
that, before Christ, we little more than slaves under the law; but now we
are sons and daughters!
Christ had set the Galatians free from the shackles of bondage; but
now - having been set free into the full blessings of sonship - they were
actually seeking to place themselves under bondage again! What madness!
This was nothing less then a backslide from the liberty we enjoy under
grace. And out of serious doubts and fears about their spiritual state,
Paul wrote to them to call them back to freedom.
Paul calls them "brethren" in verse 12, and "my little children" in verse
19. But looking through this passage, we see that Paul, with a passionate
heart of love for his precious brothers and sisters in Christ, is concerned
. . .
I. THAT HIS LABORS TOWARD THEM FOR THE GOSPEL WERE IN VAIN (vv. 8-11).
A. At one time - before they knew the one true God - the Galatians served those
things which, by nature, were not gods (see 1 Corinthians 8:4-6).
B. But now, they have come to know the one true God. Paul makes it a
special point to establish that their knowledge of the one true God is by
grace; in that they actually have come to be known BY God. It was not
through their efforts, but by His compassionate love (see Gal. 3:1-5;
C. Paul went to great lengths and sacrificed much of himself in order to
bring them to the place where they knew the one true God by grace through
faith. He "labored" (kopaű; to be spent in labor to the point of
weariness). But now, he fears that his efforts were "in vain" (eik„;
1. His fear was based on the fact that they had returned to the "weak"
(asthen„s) and "beggarly" (ptűchos) "elements" (stoicheia; same word as used
in verse 3) to which the Jewish people were once in bondage (see Hebrews
7:18). In other words, they had turned away from the cross of Jesus; and
sought instead to earn God's favor through the rules and regulations of
2. This "turning back" was demonstrated in the fact that they observe the
Judaistic calendar (see Col. 2:16-17); and in addition to circumcision (Gal.
5:2-3). Paul accused them of observing:
a. days (i.e., Sabbaths and daily sacrifices).
b. months (i.e., new moon observances).
c. seasons (i.e., yearly feasts).
d. years (i.e., jubilees).
D. To come to Christ, and to then turn from Christ's sacrifice to that
which is vastly inferior by means of our own efforts, is enough to give Paul
reason to fear that his efforts were in vain. May we prove, with our
confident faith in Christ alone, that the efforts that were extended to
bring us to grace were NOT in vain (1 Thess. 2:1).
II. THAT HIS EXAMPLE OF LIBERTY WILL NOT BE FOLLOWED (v. 12).
A. Paul came to the Gentiles as one "without law" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
He became like them in the sense that he didn't hold back from them - as a
Jewish man normally would from Gentiles; but instead, he warmly interacted
with them and drew close to them. He ate their food, and went into their
homes, and "being a Jew", lived "in the manner of the Gentiles" (Gal. 2:14).
In all of this, they did him no harm. His righteousness was not based on
the works of the law but on faith in Christ (2:16); and therefore, he could
set the example of liberty in Christ.
B. Now, in fair turn, he urges them to be like him. If anyone would have
been injured as a result of the imitation, it would have been him; because
he was a real Jew. Now, he must appeal to them to come with him - as it
were - into the waters of liberty in Christ and see that "the water's fine".
C. May we show a confidence in the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice for us
by the fact that we follow Paul's admonition: "Sand fast in the liberty by
which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again in a yoke of
bondage" (Gal. 5:1).
III. THAT THEIR RECEPTION OF HIM HAD TURNED TO REJECTION (vv. 13-16).
A. Paul bears witness that, when he came to the Galatians the first time,
they were very receptive to him as a preacher of the gospel:
1. He came to them, first, because of a physical infirmity; and this became
an occasion for him to preach the gospel. We're not told what the infirmity
was; but it may have been a disease in his eyes (see v. 15; also 6:11). He
apparently suffered from bad vision (Acts 23:2-4). It may have even made
him somewhat repulsive in appearance; but the Galatians did not despise or
reject him for his "trial in the flesh".
2. Not only did they not reject him, but they very positively received him.
They welcomed him as an "angel" or "messenger" from God; and even received
him as they would Christ Himself (possibly a reference to the fact that they
welcomed him as one of Christ's "sent ones" - see Matthew 10:40-42).
3. Their reception of him was so sacrificial and loving, in fact, that they
were prepared to pluck out their own eyes - if they could - and give them to
B. But now, he asks were that blessing has gone. He fears that he has now
become their enemy - in their minds - because he has told them the truth about
Christ. This may be, in part, why he felt such a strong need to affirm his
apostleship at the beginning of the letter.
C. As we grow in Christ, may our love and appreciation of those who first
brought the gospel to us be a demonstration of our commitment to it (2 Tim.
IV. THAT THOSE HE HELPED SET FREE IN CHRIST WILL FOLLOW MEN (vv. 17-18).
A. The false teachers where giving a show of being "zealous" for the
Galatian believers. But they do so for an evil reason: they want to exclude
the Galatians - that is, make the Galatian believers feel inferior and needy
and dependent upon them - so that they will zealously desire these false
teachers. This is always the trick of false teachers and leaders of cults.
B. Paul affirms that its always a good thing to be "zealous" - but only when
the thing itself is good. Paul's desire was quite the opposite from the
false teachers. He didn't want the Galatians to be zealous over him in an
inappropriate way. Rather, he wanted them to be zealous for the gospel and
for the freedom they enjoyed in it. True teachers of the gospel do not end
up producing a group of followers around themselves, but rather around
C. May we too be zealous for liberty in Christ (Gal. 5:1).
V. THAT THOSE FOR WHOM HE LABORED BIRTH WILL PROVE TO BE STILLBORN (vv.
A. Paul loved these errant Christians. He called them "my little
children". They were dear to his heart.
B. He also felt a strong connection to them in that he labored in birth for
them in Christ. But now, he feels something very unnatural. He feels
almost as if he is having to give birth to them again - as if they were
needing to be "born-again 'again' Christians"! They seem to have failed to
understand the call of the gospel the first time they heard it; and their
actions are suggesting that they had fallen short of grace.
C. Paul wishes he could be with them and change his manner toward them.
Because he has very real "doubts" about their spiritual condition.
D. May we prove, by our confident trust in the grace of God through Christ,
that we truly were born again.