Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 4:8-20. These verses indicate that the Apostle Paul was in a difficult situation with respect to the believers in Galatia. They had been brought to the Lord through Paul’s preaching of the gospel, and he had a heart to care for them. Paul’s burden was not to carry on a Christian work, but was to minister Christ to the believers, to labor that Christ might be formed in them (v. 19). It is possible to work for the Lord and to help the saints, without having the burden to minister Christ to them. We may earnestly work for Christ without having any burden to see Christ formed in the saints. Hence, it is important for us to see that Paul’s burden as expressed in these verses was altogether different from that of most Christian workers. We may be burdened for the raising up of local churches and for the strengthening of the churches. However, we may not have the burden to minister Christ into the saints. To preach the gospel and raise up churches is one thing; to bear the burden to minister Christ into the saints is another. Paul’s burden was not for a work; it was for ministering Christ into the believers. This is the reason that in 4:8-20 Paul uses certain intimate expressions, expressions which show the closeness of his relationship to the Galatian believers and his affection for them. Let us now consider 4:8-20 verse by verse.
Verse 8 says, “But then indeed, not knowing God, you were slaves to the gods which by nature do not exist.” The gods, or the idols, do not have the divine nature. They were considered gods by their superstitious worshippers, but by nature they do not exist as gods.
In verse 9 Paul says, “But now, knowing God, but rather being known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and poor elements, to which you desire to be again enslaved?” The “elements” here are not substances. They are the elementary principles of the law, its rudimentary teachings. Here Paul points out that by turning again to the weak and poor elements of the law, the Galatian believers would once again become enslaved. Paul’s use of the word enslaved indicates how serious the Judaizers were in working on the Galatian believers. The Judaizers bewitched them, deceived them, to such a degree that they were brought into slavery. To the Judaizers, the law was a matter of life and death. Therefore, they were desperate in their attempt to mislead the Galatians. Paul realized that once the Galatian believers had been deceived, they would be enslaved. To say that the Galatians were enslaved means that they had been deceived to the uttermost.
In verse 10 Paul continues, “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” The observances here were Jewish religious observances. The days mentioned were the Sabbaths and new moons (Isa. 66:23). The months were the sacred months like the first, Abib, the ear-month (Exo. 13:4); the second, Zif, the flower-month (1 Kings 6:1, 37); the seventh, Ethanim, the month of streaming rivers (1 Kings 8:2); and the eighth, Bul, the month of rain (1 Kings 6:38). The seasons were festal seasons such as the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Chron. 8:13). The years perhaps denoted sabbatical years (Lev. 25:4).
In verse 11 Paul tells the Galatians, “I fear for you, lest I have labored upon you in vain.” Paul labored upon the Galatians to bring them into Christ under grace. Their turning to the Jewish religious observances might cause Paul’s labor upon them to be in vain. It seems Paul was telling the believers in Galatia, “I labored on you and ministered Christ into you. Why, after receiving what I ministered to you, would you go back to the ordinances of the law?” Paul was puzzled. He simply could not believe that those who had received his preaching could be bewitched to such a degree that they would return to the observances of the law and become enslaved to them.
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