Galatians 4:8-11    “Enslaved All Over Again”     March 19, 2006

 

SI:   Paul continues his strong appeal to Galatians not to reject the Gospel.

   A person is right with God through faith in Jesus Christ period.

 

The problem in the Galatian churches

   was not that they denied need for faith in Christ,

   but that obedience is part of the formula necessary

   for peace with God and acceptance by Him.

 

They were legalists.

   In this passage he warns them that legalism is simply paganism

   in a Christian clothing.

 


INTRO:  Man named Fred—all buddies married, Fred still single.  Lots of girls.

Friend:  What’s the matter?  Are you too picky?

Fred:  No.  Like lots of these girls. 

   But every time bring one home to meet parents, mother doesn’t like her. 

Friend:  Find a girl just like your mother.   (Few months later)

Friend:  How’s love life?  Did you find the girl we talked about?

Fred:  Yes.  Found a girl just like mother.  Brought her home, mother loved her.

   But she’s not going to work out.

Friend:  Why not?

Fred:  Because my dad can’t stand her.

 

Paul makes a striking comparison in this passage. 

He says that Christian legalism is just like superstitious paganism.

   God doesn’t like either one.

   Both will enslave you.

 

Galatians had been pagans.

They worshipped the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.

   If they wanted success and happiness in particular area of life—

   in romance, or business.  If felt depressed, anxious, fearful, guilty.

They would go to the temple of a particular god or goddess—

   do whatever necessary to make that god view them with favor.

 

Might be offering a sacrifice, or ritual of some sort.

   Might be wearing some kind of lucky charm bought at temple.

   Might be paying to get fortunes read by priest.

They were enslaved to these superstitious idols.  Vs. 8

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.”

  

Paul came along as a missionary.  Told them about true God.

   How they could know Him personally through Jesus Christ.

   How they could be loved and accepted by faith alone.

   How they could become sons of God, heirs of all His blessings.

They accepted the Gospel.  Became Christians. 

   Isn’t this wonderful.  It’s all God’s grace.  He loves us in Christ.

 

Then Paul left and who came to these Galatian churches?

   Professing Christians of Jewish descent.

Said:  Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. 

Yes, you have to have faith in him to be saved.

   Yes, Isn’t God’s grace wonderful.

But the way you know you are really loved and accepted by God—

   is by keeping certain Old Testament ritual laws.

These are the mark of a real Christian. 

   These are the things that make your acceptance by Lord certain. 

 

Paul says:  If you make these things necessary to be right with God—

   then you are going back to your old paganism.

Just like you are worshipping the gods and goddesses of Greece and Rome

   with all their superstitions and rituals.

   Vs. 9  How is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?

   Do you wish to be enslaved all over again?”

 

Notice what it was that the Galatians were doing to make sure had God’s approval.

   vs. 10  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years.”

Keeping Jewish calendar:  Passover, Day of Atonement, Year of Jubilee.

 

Is there anything wrong with this? 

   Wrong for a Christian of Jewish descent to keep Jewish holy days

   as part of his heritage?  Wrong for Gentile Christian to decide to do it?

Is it wrong for you to keep Christian holy days:  Christmas, Easter

   as a time of celebration of Christ’s birth and resurrection?

 

Nothing wrong it itself. 

   But whenever keeping those days becomes part of a formula for getting

   peace and acceptance from God—then that is legalism—

Legalism—even Christian legalism—is just like paganism. 

 

Paul’s point is that you can desert the Gospel while claiming to uphold it.

   You can introduce self-salvation into the Gospel message—

   and not even realize you have done it.

These Gentile believers didn’t think they were turning away from true faith.

   They didn’t think they were returning to slavery of paganism.

   They thought they were simply becoming more serious Christians.

 

Galatians is in Bible because legalism is a perennial problem for Christians.

   Paul has been addressing this all along—goes deeper here with more explanation.

   This is a subject you must understand, in order to stay true to Gospel.

Four headings:  The appeal of.  The forms of.  The effects of.  The cure for.

MP#1  The appeal of legalism

Why is it that Christians all through the ages have fallen into legalism?

   No matter where you look in church history you will see the pure Gospel

   of faith in Jesus Christ alone piled up with extra requirements.

You would think that because the Gospel is so unique that this could never happen.

   But it does—and it even happens in the best of churches and to best Christians.

What’s the appeal of legalism to Christians?

 

Paul explains this in verse 9 when he says that the Galatians are returning

   “to those weak and miserable principles.”

Paul has already referred to these in reading last Sunday—

   but I didn’t comment on them—look at verse 3.

   “we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.”

 

What are these basic principles?

   They are the ABCs of natural, human religion.

Paul is saying that there are basic principles of religion

   that are imprinted on the spiritual DNA of every person. 

These are not good principles—weak and miserable.

   They cannot deliver what they promise.

But religiously all people are dependent on these principles.

 

What are they in particular? 

First, natural religion is self-righteous. 

   We believe deep down in our bones that salvation must be earned.

   People define salvation differently.  Some people, happiness here.  Afterlife.

 

Second, closely related, natural religion is idolatrous.

   We have to have something we can turn to that will reward us for our work.

   Reward with happiness, with security, with salvation.

   Serve something created instead of the Creator.

 

Third, natural religion is legalistic.

   There are the actual things we have to do to get idols to reward us—

   certain behavior and rituals.

 

All people think this way.  Charles and Julie Garland—planting church in Portland.

   Neighbors totally unchurched, totally non-Christian, even anti-Christian.

Garlands examples how legalistic these people were—rigid rituals, behaviors.

   The only kind of coffee could buy, Songbird Friendly coffee.

   Grown in some kind of environmentally responsible way, migratory birds.

That would appease idol—environmentalism—then reward them with

   sense of being good people, connected to earth in meaningful way. 

 

Easy to laugh at that.  But we should be laughing at ourselves.

   We have the Gospel.  Gospel is that you don’t have to appease God.

He calls you into a living relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

   He adopts us as his sons and enables us to live in love and gratitude.

 

But deep down we think its got to be earned.

   So whenever requirements are added to Christian faith—we are drawn to it.

   Sometimes so subtle, don’t even realize its happening.

Galatians didn’t.  They just thought they were becoming more mature Christians.

   But they weren’t.  Legalism no different down deep from your paganism.

 

Let’s be warned.  That’s what this is—a warning. 

   You are susceptible.  I’m susceptible. 

   Becoming Christian doesn’t destroy the hold basic principles have on you.

 


MP#2  The forms of legalism

What are the forms legalism takes in the Christian church?

   If we got down to specifics there would be too many to list.

But wise minds have always pointed out that legalism in the church

   falls into two big categories:   Ritualism and Moralism

 

CS Lewis put it this way.

   When Catholicism goes bad, religion of statues, holy places, and priestly rituals.

   When Protestantism goes bad, moral teaching.

Different churches, denominations, Christians—depending on makeup—

   will tend toward two different kinds of legalism—

   one emphasizing rituals, the other emphasizing morals.

 

*Both religious rituals and good works are necessary for the practice of true faith.

   You can’t have biblical Christianity without baptism and Lord’s supper,

       church attendance, corporate worship, public prayer.

   You can’t have biblical Christianity without modesty, sobriety, generosity,

       all the other moral virtues, theological soundness.

You can’t solve the problem by just doing away with these things.

 

The problem is that ritualism and moralism substitute these things

   for living dependence on Christ.

Insist that these are proof of true Christian faith and loyalty to Christ. 

 

The history of Presbyterian church has numerous examples of legalism.

   Because of the nature of Presbyterian church, legalism has always tended

   toward moralism, correct belief, but there are some examples of ritualism.

 

That may surprise some of you who have come to Christ Covenant

   from other churches with crushing legalism. 

   But I want you to know that Presbyterians can be terrible legalists.

 

Let me list some of the issues that have become legalistic for Presbyterians.  

   Celebration of Christmas and Easter

   Exclusive psalm singing in church

   Details of Sabbath keeping

   Use of alcohol

Lots of theological fine points—revivals, church/state, end times, OT civil law,

   arguments for the existence of God, effectiveness of sacraments.

None of these subjects are off limits. 

   These have all been important things to debate. 

Christians may come to different convictions about some—

   and these may be so significant that have to form different churches.

 

There are Presbyterians who have such a deep conviction about singing only

   Psalms in worship, there is a denomination that does that—that is fine.

   Nothing legalistic about that in itself.

   No more legalistic than church saying—only going to do contemporary choruses. 

 

But this is the question: 

   Have these things become in mind of church, individual believers in the church,

   proof that we are real Christians and proof that we are loyal to Christ?

Do you do these things because you are a Christian, or to be a Christian.

 

This easy to spot in other people, but so subtle when it happens to you. 

   Because we judge people by externals.  Have to, can’t see hearts.

But in doing so we start to think that God judges us the same way—

   by our outward conformity and attention to religious activities.

 

 


MP#3  The effects of legalism

Let’s talk about the effects of legalism.

   When a Christian lapses into legalism like Galatians did—what are effects?

This is a very important question because it is by seeing these effects

   in your life you get a clue you have become legalistic.

 

Paul focuses on one effect—enslavement all over again.

   You start to think like a slave instead of a son.

 

Allison found a book on bargain table at Books A Million—

   “A Bondwoman’s Narrative” by Hannah Crafts

Autobiographical novel written in 1850s by a black woman who was

   a slave in the South until she escaped to freedom in New Jersey.

Original manuscript was just brought to light and authenticated a few years ago.

 

This black woman was very articulate—

   read you a portion about what she says about being a slave:

 

XXXXXXXXXX

 

One thing she mentions several times—happy marriage impossible.

   Bringing children into world condemned to slavery, whim of master.

   Over all this anxiety.

One more part:  Her life as free woman—freedom in her relationships.

 

Awesome illustration of spiritual condition.

   The effect legalism has on a Christian is that you begin to relate to God

   as a slave and not a the son you are. 

No only free, personal relationship, but one based on anxiety and fear.

 

Here’s what makes this so important.

   You could have two Christians—externally both look the same.

   Both trying to live obedient lives.  Doing all things Christians do.

But one is obeying as a son.  Knows God loves and accepts him in Christ.

   His obedience is an expression of love and gratitude.

 

The other is obeying as a slave. 

   He is not sure God loves him in Christ so he is obeying to make sure

   God accepts him and give his what he wants.

Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son?

 

When the younger son finally decided he would return to his father—

   what speech did he have prepared?

I am no longer worthy to be called your son,

   make me like one of your hired men—make me a slave.

 

And remember what the older son said after younger son returned:

   “All these years I’ve slaved for you and I never got a party with my friends—

   but when this son of your, wasted inheritance returns, kill fattened calf.”

 

Both of these sons were legalists: 

   Very different paths—one wild, one strict.  One failure, one success.

Both wanted to relate to Father as slave, not son.

   Both self-righteous—could earn blessings by work.

   Both turned father into an idol they could manipulate, appease by obedience.

 

But Father refused to treat either one like a slave.

   Called both “my son” and gave them exactly the good things they needed.

 

How do you view your relationship with God?

   Slave or a son?  Freedom in your obedience or an anxious duty?

   Do you do things to pay back your past sins?

   Do you think God owes you a better life—better marriage, better children?

   Is your inner life more a routine of activities than living relationship with Christ?

   Do you take your Christianity for granted?

 

That’s the mentality of a slave not a son.

 

 


MP#4  The cure for legalism

So what’s the cure for legalism? 

   Look at verse 9.  “But now that you know God—or rather are known by God”

 

Seems at first glance that Paul is correcting himself and saying Galatians

   don’t know God.  But that can’t be what he is saying.

Everyone who has eternal live knows God.

   Paul does not question that the Galatians have put on Christ.

 

So the word “rather” probably means “more importantly.”

   How can you turn back to legalism and slavery since you know God—

   more importantly—you are known by God.

 

What Paul is saying is that what makes a person a Christian is no so much

   you knowing God, as God knowing you.

In the Bible “to know” someone means more than knowing about them.

   To know someone means to enter into a personal relationship with.

 

So what Paul is saying is that it is not so much your regard and love for God—

   but His regard and love for you that really makes you a Christian.

Your knowing God will rise and fall depending on many things—

   but God knowing you is absolutely fixed. 

 

Getting a hold of this is the cure for your legalism.

   Listen to the way one person explains it.

 

“Christians who are no longer sure God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons, much less secure than non-Christians because of the constant bulletins they receive from their Christian environment about the holiness of God and the righteousness they are supposed to have. 

 

Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce defensive assertion of their own righteousness and defensive criticism of others.  They cling to pharisaical righteousness but envy, jealousy, anxiety, bitterness, and discontent grow from this fundamental insecurity.”

 

So it is insecurity regarding your acceptance with God that makes you legalistic.

   You are looking for ways to firm up your standing with Him.

   All sorts of problems come from that.

Probably trace all troubling, ungodly attitudes back to this source.

 

You have to come back to the Gospel. 

   The good news is that you don’t have to make yourself acceptable to God—

   He already knows you.  He knows you in Christ.

You have to preach that to yourself.  Will lead you to repent and rejoice.

 

You have to repent of your self-righteousness.  Unbelief in Christ.

   Repent of your desire to live like a slave—

“Make me like one of your hired hands”—I’ll make it up to you.

   Repent of that—do you see how it is a sin against His fatherly love.

“All these years I’ve slaved for you”—God, you owe me.

   Repent of that attitude too—that’s also a sin against his love.

 

Then you need to rejoice in the saving work of Christ.

   Rejoice in it.  One of the great purposes of worship in life of believer.

   These wonderful things are true—must rejoice in them.

God knows you in Christ before you knew Him.

   Your acceptance rests on his love—not your performance.

 

To the extent you rejoice in these things—to that extent you will find yourself

   warmed by the fire of God’s love—free from slavery of legalism.

 

CONC: 

 

The legalist sitting in pew every Sunday, keeping all rules—

   is just like the pagan in his superstitious, immoral rituals—

   Both are far from God.  Both are paths to spiritual slavery.

 

With the Holy Spirit’s help, be very careful not to let the precious

   freedom and sonship you have in Christ, be ruined by legalism.