Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
Open Your Bible
Galatians 4:8-20, Deuteronomy 32:1-9, Acts 17:24-31, Romans 1:18-25
Last year, I told a good friend that my life felt characterized by loss. We were sitting in a two-story coffee shop, iced chai in hand, and I felt guilty as soon as I said it. After all, this wasn’t entirely true. Loss didn’t always steal my joy in those times of tasting God’s goodness and His many good gifts, but it always overshadowed it once my attention drifted to what had been taken away. My friend then did what he does best: challenge that belief. This didn’t need to be the story, or lens, through which I interpreted my life. We could learn to look for what was there, rather than what was missing.
The truth was I was enslaved to this false narrative, just like the Galatians were enslaved to former ways of living. It’s easy to read the New Testament and wonder why it was so hard for people to stay faithful to God after an encounter. These people had known God and been known by Him, yet they turned away. Why? How do people who were living so close to the time of Christ—and the formation of the early church—turn away from it? This was the question also burning inside of the apostle Paul. “But now,” he said, “since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elements? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?” (Gl 4:9).
Paul is implying that real relationship should inspire loyalty and freedom. Instead, the Galatians had become enslaved to “weak and worthless elements” by reverting back to worshipping false gods. You see, human nature is human nature. Even after encountering God today, like the Galatians encountered Him back then, we still allow ourselves to be enslaved by untrue stories or objects of false hope.
“Where, then, is your blessing?” Paul asks (Gl 4:15). We can’t receive the blessing of being sons and daughters if we are enslaved to the law, or false gods, or any other object outside of Christ. That is, in fact, the very curse of sin that Christ came to break.
Paul so deeply desired that these people find freedom and a genuine commitment to God that He said He was “suffering labor pains” until Christ was formed in them (4:19). This type of personal interest only comes from someone who encounters Jesus, finds transformation, and seeks the eternal well-being of others.
Staying close to Jesus is the only way to release the things we’re enslaved to. Whether it’s the narratives in our heads, or other tangible idols, we will never be able to fight hard enough against the inclinations of our own flesh. Victory comes through Christ alone. Victory and blessing.