LIVING BY THE GOSPEL
Galations 3:36-4:31 June 21 2009
The goodness of God to his people of old, in giving the law to them; for though, in comparison of the gospel state, it was a dispensation of darkness and terror, yet it furnished them with sufficient means and helps both to direct them in their duty to God and to encourage their hopes in him.
The great fault and folly of the Jews, in mistaking the design of the law, and abusing it to a very different purpose from that which God intended in the giving of it; for they expected to be justified by the works of it, whereas it was never designed to be the rule of their justification, but only a means of convincing them of their guilt and of their need of a Saviour, and of directing them to Christ, and faith in him, as the only way of obtaining this privilege. (Romans. 9:31, 32; Romans. 10:3, 4.
The great advantage of the gospel state above the legal, under which we not only enjoy a clearer discovery of divine grace and mercy than was afforded to the Jews of old, but are also freed from the state of bondage and terror under which they were held. We are not now treated as children in a state of minority, but as sons grown up to a full age, who are admitted to greater freedoms, and instated in larger privileges, than they were. This the apostle enlarges upon in the following verses. For, having shown for what intent the law was given, in the close of the chapter he acquaints us with our privilege by Christ, where he particularly declares,
1. Under the Gospel state true believers are all one in Christ. (Gal.3:26-29)
Gal. 3:26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Baptized into Christ . (Romans 6:3-11; 1Co 12:13). Unity in Christ transcends ethnic, social and sexual distinctions (Romans 10:12; 1Co 12:13; Eph 2:15-16). Christians are Abraham’s true, spiritual descendants.
Real Christians enjoy great privileges under the gospel; and are no longer accounted servants, but sons; not now kept at such a distance, and under such restraints as the Jews were. Having accepted Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and relying on him alone for justification and salvation, they become the sons of God. But no outward forms or profession can secure these blessings; for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. In baptism we put on Christ; therein we profess to be his disciples. Being baptized into Christ, we are baptized into his death, that as he died and rose again, so we should die unto sin, and walk in newness and holiness of life. The putting on of Christ according to the gospel, consists not in outward imitation, but in a new birth, an entire change. He who makes believers to be heirs, will provide for them. Therefore our care must be to do the duties that belong to us, and all other cares we must cast upon God. And our special care must be for heaven; the things of this life are but trifles. The city of God in heaven, is the portion or child’s part. Seek to be sure of that above all things.
2. The Happy change made in the Gentile believers.(Gal.4:8-11)
Gal. 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 4:9 But now that you know God —or rather are known by God —how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 4:10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 4:11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
When you did not know God . (1Co 12:2; 1Th 4:5). Are not Gods. When the Galatians were pagans, they thought that the beings they worshiped were gods; but when they became Christians, they learned better. Turning back. (Gal.4:1-3). WEAK AND MISERABLE PRINCIPLES. (Gal.4:3). Enslaved . . . again. Legalistic trust in rituals, in moral achievement, in law, in good works, or even in cold, dead orthodoxy may indicate a relapse into second childhood on the part of those who should be knowing and enjoying the freedom of full-grown sons. Special days . Such as the Sabbath and the Day of Atonement (tenth day of Tishri; (Lev 16:29-34), which had never been, and can never be, in themselves means of salvation or sanctification. Months and seasond. Such as New Moons (Num. 28:11-15; Isa 1:13-14), Passover (Ex 12:18) and Firstfruits (Lev 23:10). Years . Such as the sabbath year (Lev 25:4). The Pharisees meticulously observed all these to gain merit before God. Wasted my efforts . Due to their return to the old covenant law.
The happy change whereby the Galatians were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was the effect of his free and rich grace; they were laid under the greater obligation to keep to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. All our knowledge of God begins on his part; we know him because we are known of him. Though our religion forbids idolatry, yet many practise spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, though they repent not, but go on in their sins. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion, to be afterwards drawn aside from purity and simplicity. And the more mercy God has shown, in bringing any to know the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them. Hence all who are members of the outward church should learn to fear and to suspect themselves. We must not be content because we have some good things in ourselves. Paul fears lest his labour is in vain, yet he still labours; and thus to do, whatever follows, is true wisdom and the fear of God. This every man must remember in his place and calling.
3. The Apostle reasons against following false teachers .
( Gal. 4:12-18)
Gal. 4:12 I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. 4:13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 4:14 Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 4:15 What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 4:16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 4:17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. 4:18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.
Brothers . (Gal.1:2). Illness . On the basis of(Gal.4:15; 6:11) some suggest it was eye trouble. Others have suggested malaria or epilepsy. First Preached . When Paul visited Galatia on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14-14:23). You welcomeed me . He implies that under the influence of Judaizers they have changed their attitude toward him. What has happened to all your joy ? Because of the restraints of legalistic Judaism they had lost their blessing and joy. Totn out your eyes . A hyperbole indicating their willingness, for his benefit, to part with that which was most precious to them.( Mark 2:4), where the same verb is used of digging through a roof. Your enemy . Telling the truth sometimes results in loss of friends. Those people . Judaizers (Gal. 2:4,12).
The apostle desires that they would be of one mind with him respecting the law of Moses, as well as united with him in love. In reproving others, we should take care to convince them that our reproofs are from sincere regard to the honour of God and religion and their welfare. The apostle reminds the Galatians of the difficulty under which he laboured when he first came among them. But he notices, that he was a welcome messenger to them. Yet how very uncertain are the favour and respect of men! Let us labour to be accepted of God. You once thought yourselves happy in receiving the gospel; have you now reason to think otherwise? Christians must not forbear speaking the truth, for fear of offending others. The false teachers who drew the Galatians from the truth of the gospel were designing men. They pretended affection, but they were not sincere and upright. An excellent rule is given. It is good to be zealous always in a good thing; not for a time only, or now and then, but always. Happy would it be for the church of Christ, if this zeal was better maintained.
4. HE EXPRESSES HIS EARNEST CONCERN FOR THEM. ( Gal.4:19,20
Gal. 4:19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 4:20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
My dear children . For Paul’s affectionate relationship to his converts (Acts 20:37-38; Php 4:1; 1Th 2:7-8). The expression occurs only here in Paul’s writings, but is common in John’s (John 13:33; 1John 2:1; 3:7). Until Christ is formed in you . The goal of Paul’s ministry ( Romans 8:29; Eph 4:13,15; Col 1:27).
The Galatians were ready to account the apostle their enemy, but he assures them he was their friend; he had the feelings of a parent toward them. He was in doubt as to their state, and was anxious to know the result of their present delusions. Nothing is so sure a proof that a sinner has passed into a state of justification, as Christ being formed in him by the renewal of the Holy Spirit; but this cannot be hoped for, while men depend on the law for acceptance with God.
The apostle, in this chapter, is still carrying on the same general design as in the former-to recover these Christians from the impressions made upon them by the judaizing teachers, and to represent their weakness and folly in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the gospel doctrine of justification, and to be deprived of their freedom from the bondage of the law of Moses. For this purpose he makes use of various considerations; such as, The great excellence of the gospel state above the legal . The happy change that was made in them at their conversion . The affection they had had for him and his ministry . The character of the false teachers by whom they had been perverted . The very tender affection he had for them . The history of Isaac and Ishmael, by a comparison taken from which he illustrates the difference between such as rested in Christ and such as trusted in the law. And in all these, as he uses great plainness and faithfulness with them, so he expresses the tenderest concern for them.