But now, after that ye…are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements?

Galatians 4:9

I am not in the business of trying to downgrade any other believer’s efforts to win souls. I am just of the opinion that we are often too casual and there are too many tricks that can be used to make soul-winning encounters completely “painless” and at “no cost” and without any “inconvenience.”

Some of the unsaved with whom we deal on the “quick and easy” basis have such little preparation and are so ignorant of the plan of salvation that they would be willing to bow their heads and “accept” Buddha or Zoroaster if they thought they could get rid of us in that way.

To “accept Christ” in anything like a saving relationship is to have an attachment to the Person of Christ that is revolutionary, complete and exclusive!

It is more than joining some group that you like. It is more than having enjoyable social fellowship with other nice people. You give your heart and life and soul to Jesus Christ—and He becomes the center of your transformed life!

Lord, as Your followers share the gospel around the world today, I pray that each hearer will have a clear understanding of the consequences of the decision they will make to either accept or reject Jesus.[1]

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, Paul asks in bewilderment, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you once gave your devotion? Why do you desire to be enslaved all over again? Now that you are sons, he asks the wavering Galatians, why do you want to go back into slavery? Now that you are free adults through faith in Christ, why do you want to revert to your childhood servitude under the law?[2]

4:9 How could they excuse their conduct? They had come to know God, or, if they didn’t know Him in a deep experiential way, at least they were known by Him, that is, they were saved. Yet they were turning from His power and riches (of which they were heirs) to weak and poor things, the things connected with the law, such as circumcision, holy days, and rules of diet. They were again putting themselves in bondage to things that could neither save nor enrich but could only impoverish them.

Paul labels the law and all its ceremonies as weak and beggarly. God’s laws were beautiful in their time and place, but they are positive hindrances when substituted for the Lord Jesus. It is idolatry to turn from Christ to law.[3]

9 “But now,” in contrast to “formerly,” the Galatians “know God,” or, more precisely, “are known by God” (cf. 3:26–29; 4:6–7). The Galatians do not merely have intellectual awareness of God, but they have experienced intimate familial relationship with him and have been identified as his “sons” (3:26) and as having received his Spirit (4:6). More important (the significance of the “or rather”), they are known by God. He has taken the initiative to come to humanity in the person and work of Christ, and by means of the proclamation of the gospel and hearing with faith (cf. Heb 4:1–2), the Galatians have been incorporated into Christ. This is why Paul asks, more than a little incredulously, how they can turn back to the “weak and miserable principles” of enslavement. Having come to know—and to be known by—the one true and living God, how can they desire a relationship that is anything other than what they have with God in Christ? How can they seriously entertain a return to the “basic principles” (v. 3) of a former age when those principles, in contrast to their life of faith in Christ, are now to be characterized as “weak” and “miserable”?

Paul has melded together the pre-Christian paganism of the Galatians and the former law observance of the Jewish Christians and identified both as being under “basic principles” so as to put both into stark contrast with relationship with God in Christ. Both are seen by Paul to have been superseded by the age of maturity in Christ. Compared to maturity in Christ, then, the immaturity of these relational dynamics are “weak” and “miserable.” So he asks rhetorically if the Galatians really want to become enslaved again to these “basic principles.” He assumes, of course, that they will see the logic of his argument and turn away from any Judaizing tendencies—tendencies that will only result in such enslavement.[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (p. 111). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1887–1888). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 608–609). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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