Grace and peace and mercy to you beloved in the name of Christ. God has granted us another day of life. May we devote ourselves, body, and soul, to worship Him on this day of worship.
We are back from our two-week break from the book of Galatians. This morning I want us to look at Galatians 4:8-20. Paul continues to call the wayward Galatians back to the simplicity of Christ Crucified and away from trusting in their own works-law-righteousness. May I read God’s word in faith. May we all hear in faith. The perfect word of God, read.
Galatians 4:8. However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. 12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you– 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
As our great desire is to worship God in spirit and in truth and for this we rely upon God the Holy Spirit. (Jn.16:7-15, Acts 1:8, Jn.14:16-26) Let’s pray to Him now. Pray.
What I want to do today is to consider the relationship of the minister of Christ towards the flock of Christ. What is the relationship of Paul to these Galatians? What is their relationship to or with him? What duties if any do they mutually own one another by virtue of their relationship as we see expressed in this passage.
Think along these lines. A father and a child have a natural and a filial relationship. And from this relationship flows mutual duties. The father is required to love and support and instruct his child. And his child is to love and support and receive instruction from his father. (Mal.1:6-10)
The same can be seen in the relationship of a husband and wife. They have a marital relationship. And from that union flows certain divinely governed duties to one another. Duties I will say unique to this relationship. And duties which are the privilege and the blessing of this relationship. The husband is to love the wife as Christ’s loves the church. And the wife is to respect and obey her husband as unto the Lord. (Eph.5:22-33)
Well similar to these two examples, Christ’s minister and Christ’s people have an ecclesiastical and a spiritual relationship. And Christ requires certain duties of the minister to the congregant and certain duties of the congregant to their minister. (WLC 126-132, 158-160)
We are joined to the same Christ. He is our Head. We are joined to the same Body. (WCF 26.1-2) But we also are individual members joined to the same Body. God has given distinct calling and gifts to each Believer and placed them where He wants us in the Body of Christ.
If we look at this passage in the macro view, we see that Paul shows us the place of the minister within the Body of Christ. The minister is the mouth or the herald or the teacher.
He is the religious preacher and teacher of God’s word, of God’s law, and of God’s gospel. He is to be singular and devoted in this ministry for Christ to the church. He is not to become sidetracked in other things. The minister is pastor-teacher to Christ’s lambs and a herald of salvation to the lost.
And if we take the rest of the church members of the Body, we are the those being taught. (Rom.12:1-13, I Cor.12:1-31) Paul is Christ’s teacher. He is teaching the Galatians the truth of God’s word. Even correcting their errors.
From our passage I hope to discover a few of the particulars concerning this relationship in Christ, things for our growth in Christlikeness. (2 Pt.3:18, Rom.8:28-29)
First, I want to consider how unbelief and sin will be serviceable to teaching. So we will look at unconverted Paul and the unconverted Galatians. Then we will directly consider converted Paul as a teacher and the Galatians as professing Christians as those taught.
The unbelief of man – the Religious ignorance by nature.
The first thing that Paul and the Galatians share in common with one another is that by nature they are both fallen sinners.
Minister and congregants are all conceived in sin and at one time were children of wrath. (Ps.51:5, Eph.2:1-3, Rom.3:23, Rom.6:23, Rom.3:9-18) We can say, in one sense the minister and those ministered to are on the exact same natural moral plane. Together they are undone sinners deserving God’s wrath for their sin and needing the Savior.
Considered apart from Christ, considered apart from the saving grace of God in Christ, the minister and the congregant are morally fallen, unholy, displeasing to God. Church office does not convey holiness or the forgiveness of sin. The leader and those lead both need saving.
Benefit for the teacher and the taught.
So, in this way there is a solidarity in sin. They are equally separated from the comfortable presence of God. They are equally in need of a Savior.
Think of it. Once Paul was saved, he could teach the Galatians, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the whole world – the same Law that condemned him is the same law that condemns them. And the same Gospel that saved him is the same gospel that will save every man that believes.
This is why God’s sends men to preach and teach and not angels. Only fallen men restored in Christ can preach to fallen men about Christ. This produces a solidarity, sympathy, and love born out of that common nature and experience.
In addition to the spiritual solidarity, look at V.13. Paul had an eye problem. Timothy had an anxiety and stomach problem. God can even use our physical infirmities and distresses to better serve the teaching of Jesus Christ to others. These things make us more sympathetic to the sufferings of God’s people. Let make us warmer, kinder, gentler. And by this our content and our tone is sanctified thus helping our teaching.
Now let’s consider the teacher Paul as a Jew and then those being taught, the Galatians as Gentiles.
The unbelief of the Jews – the Religious ignorance in the church.
According to the flesh the apostle Paul was a Jew. In fact, in Philippians 3:1-14 he tells us in his unconverted estate he was Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, and actually a super Pharisee, intense in his practice to perform works of the law for his own righteousness.
So, before he was converted, he was akin to these Judaizing false teachers that he is now combating. Unconverted Saul despised unclean Gentiles. And he despised Christ. And he despised anyone including fellow Jews that believed in Jesus as the Christ. He thought it was his service to God to crush the true gospel of Christ. Read Acts chapter 8. People that think they are earning their righteousness hate free grace and full acceptance with God based on the righteousness and merits of Another, even the Lamb of God.
Benefit for the teacher and the taught.
A few things here. We see after Paul was converted that God the Holy Spirit used Paul’s former unbelief and particular sins in order to better instruct Christ’s Lambs. In other words, Paul was a former legalist. Once converted, he became a better teacher against legalism which is what he is writing against in the Galatian epistle.
Learning the truth experimentally is the only way to truly know the truth. Mere head knowledge of the Bible or of Christ is not true saving knowledge. A man cannot teach that which he does not really know.
Beloved, before we were Christians, we all did and said and thought things that we are now ashamed of. (Rom.6:21-23) But God in His great grace and wisdom can use even our worst failures and make them serviceable to teach people the truth of Christ. (I Cor.6:9-11)
If nothing other than by way of negative examples. (I Cor.10:1-10) In other words, Paul can say from personal experience seeking your own law-works-righteousness does not work. Saved sinners make the best teachers to sinners that need salvation and sinners that have found salvation. It makes us have sympathy for others.
Think of king David’s sin with Uriah and Bathsheba. He taught sinners about sin and repentance from experience – see Psalms 32 and 51. Think of the apostle Peter’s denial of Jesus. Jesus let the devil sift Peter. And Jesus told Peter, when you return feed My sheep. This failure helped mortify Peter’s pride, it drove him to Christ. This made him a more Christlike teacher of Christ.
Think of John Newton. He lived in sinned, he suffered as a semi-slave because of it. And then God used mightily to proclaim Amazing Grace.
Former drunks can say to drunks there is forgiveness and cleansing in Christ. The same is true of a whole hosts of sins and sinners. Uncleanness, hatred, anger, worldliness, pride. We can to those caught in the very sins that once held us fast – Jesus has set me free from these things. He can set you free. Only believe. (Jn.8:36) Practical learners of Jesus make the best teachers.
Think of Andrew. After he found Jesus he went and told his brother Peter. The same thing happened with Philip. After he met Christ he went and told his friend Nathanael. Learners of Christ make the best teachers of Christ. (Jn.1:41-49)
Next, Saul was an unconverted Jew. He had the Bible. He had the sacraments. He was a member of the visible church. Yet for all this, he did not know God. He was not known by God savingly. Paul was in the household of faith, but he did not have saving faith in Jesus. His faith (really) was in himself.
Benefit for the teacher and the taught.
Once Paul was converted to Christ and commissioned as a minister of the Word, he could instruct the Jews in their synagogues and Christians in their churches that the word and the sacraments by themselves do not convert us.
He can testify that church membership does not convey holiness. He can teach his fellow Jews and fellow church goers from experience that you must be born again, you must believe Jesus is the Christ. Or else, all the means of grace you enjoy in the church will actually stand up and condemn you in the day of judgment. (Mt.8:10-12, Jer.13:27, Mt.11:21-30, Lk.19:41-44)
Oh beloved, how many people have grown up in the church, but they do not know Christ? Think of it beloved, these Galatians Christians were in the church, but they were falling away from the true Gospel of Jesus. They were seeking their righteousness in circumcision, in their own law-keeping. (Acts 15:1-5, Gal.1:6-9) Paul knows a more excellent way.
What a powerful teaching testimony that Paul gave to his fellow Jews, to his fellow unconverted church members. This is why you don’t see Paul teaching on circumcision. (Acts 15:1-5, Gal.6:12-14) Or for that matter why you don’t see him preaching on water baptism. (I Cor.1:12-18) A former unsaved church member knows that external rites do not save. Only by believing in Christ do we know God and are known by God.
And he says so. Oh how we need former unbelieving church members to be bold and to be honest. There are people in the church that need to hear their testimony.
This makes Paul major on the majors. He does not get sidetracked with secondary things. He stays focused on the gospel of Christ. (I Cor.2:2)
Romans 10:1. Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom.9:30-33)
The belief of Paul – his conversion to Christ.
Now for Saul how was he translated out of his estate of unbelief and sin? How did this happen? (Col.1:13, Jn.3:16)
Teacher Christ – The Religious Instructor.
Christ Himself came to him and preached the gospel to Paul and saved him.
The gospel of Christ Crucified is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom.1:16) It was the message of the Cross that changed Him. It was the merits of Christ that made him denounce his own merits.
God in the Flesh personally showed Paul the error of his ways and the truth of the true Gospel. Christ instructed Paul in a more excellent way. (Acts 9:1-20) And then Paul came to learn that his prior way of seeking salvation by his own works-righteousness was a filthy rag compared with Christ Crucified. (Eph.3:1-14) Christ told Paul that He did not come to call the (self) righteous but He came to seek and to save sinners.
Well in this way we can say that the relationship of Christ to Paul was one of Savior to the saved. But also, of Teacher and disciple. The duty of the teacher is to teach. The duty of the disciple, which means “learner of”, is to receive instruction.
Christ taught by both positive and negative instruction. In other words, Christ alone pays for sins, faith alone receives all of Christ. That is the positive truth. Negatively, all other paths are wrong and unsaving. Therefore, stay in the Narrow Path of Christ alone. And flee from the Broad Path of self-righteousness. Christ teaches salvation. Paul learns of salvation. Do you see the relationship and then the related duties?
You see as Believers we say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. And He is. And He is our Teacher and we are His disciples. He is under obligation as our Teacher to teach us the way of salvation and holiness. And we are under obligation to take His yoke upon ourselves and learn of Him.
Teacher of Christ Paul – the Religious under-instructor.
Now we come to this spiritual re-born apostle Paul taught of Christ the way of salvation. Now he is a saved man. He is a believer. He knows God. And he is known by God. And he is then commissioned by Christ as Christ’s gospel herald and gospel preacher-teacher. Jesus sends Paul out to preach the gospel to lost sinners so that they might be saved by knowing and believing Jesus. (Mt.28:18-20) Faith comes by hearing and hearing by this word of Christ. And this occurs by the minister of Christ. (Rom.10:1-17)
The apostle Paul has been saved by Christ to serve Christ by serving other people. The work or the service that Christ has given the apostle Paul to perform is that of a religious teacher. Paul has been sent by Christ to preach and to teach the whole counsel of God and especially the gospel of Christ. Christ commissioned Paul to teach anyone that would listen, that Christ Jesus saves sinners. Jesus dies for our sins. By believing in Him we have eternal life. (I Tim.1:15, I Cor.15:1-6)
Listen to this.
Acts 9:15. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
Galatians 1:1. Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. (Acts 20:18-24)
Paul, sitting in prison, writes the Philippian church that God has appointed him for the defense of the Gospel. (Phil. 1:7-16) Christ has given to the OT church prophets that preach God’s word to God’s people. Christ has given to the NT church extraordinary teachers, apostles. And Christ has given to the NT church ordinary teachers, pastor-teachers. (Eph.4:11)
The disciple of Christ – the Religiously instructed.
Now as regards to the Galatians and then by extension to us. These people are now professing disciples of Jesus Christ. And as such they are obligated to learn of Christ. And the way that Christ ordinarily teaches us religiously the truth of His word is by His teachers. Here, apostles. With us, ministers.
Christ sends us His ministers to teach us. That is their job (unto Christ) to do so to speak. But our job (unto Christ) is to be taught by them.
Listen to the word of God.
Luke 10:16. The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
John 15:20. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
I John 4:6. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Hebrews 13:7. Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith…17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
The teacher corrects religious error.
V.8-20. This entire section today, and in one sense, the entire book of Galatians is a correction by Paul of the Galatians. Part of the duties of the teacher of the word and of the gospel is to correct God’s people when then err. That is what Paul is faithful to do. He seeks to do it out of the principle of love and in a winsome way. But he clearly is telling them, based on the Word of God, you are believing a false Gospel.
And it is the duty of these Galatians to heed the apostle Paul’s correction teaching on the word of God. They are to listen to him. Search the scriptures to see that it is true. And then repent and reform.
The teacher reminds them of their unconverted estate.
V.8-9. What Paul does here as a good teacher is he reminds these erring Christians of what they were before they became Christians.
He reminds them they did not know the true God.
V.8. Remember Paul was the chosen instrument of God to bring the gospel to them at the first. Paul preached Christ crucified for sinners to pagan sinners and they repented of their sins and they believed in Christ. And thus they turned away from dead gods and embraced the true and living God of the Bible. Paul now reminds them of that fact.
Beloved, sometimes when we are caught in a sin, either a doctrinal sin like the Galatians or a practical sin like the man in First Corinthians chapter five, our sin can temporarily make us forget what we once were before we came to know Jesus. And to temporarily forget our Savior and the salvation He alone gives.
It is sometimes very needful for God to remind us what we once were before we came to know Christ by the mouth of His servants. Like the prophet Nathan to David. You are the man!
God sends us a faithful teacher to wake us out of our sinful delirium.
He reminds them they were slaves to false gods.
Paul is to the point. He says to them, before I preached Christ to you, you did not know God. And you were enslaved to false gods. Oh beloved, most Christian churches in our Land today would not put up with what Paul just said. Paul said, there is only one God, the God of the Bible. And every other god is not a god, but a lie.
He says that people that do not believe that Jesus is the Christ do not know God. The gospel is designed to have us know God savingly and be known by God lovingly. The gospel is not health and wealth.
Of course the better part of the world today and I sure at Paul’s day would have hotly objected. Those that rejected Jesus as the Christ would have vehemently proclaimed that they did know God and that their gods were real gods. The Bible says no.
So what he does here is states a basic undeniable truth. And this is undeniable truth in their lives.
When Paul says, can you turn back, he means that they have turned back. He is likening their embrace of a false gospel to going back to paganism. You see Beloved many people use the name “Christ” but they do not mean the Christ of the Bible. They mean the Christ of their own making. That is paganism.
He gives them proofs of their apostasy.
V.10-11. Then Paul gives proofs that they have turned away from the simplicity of Christ. They are observing special religious days. Remember they are under the sway of the Jewish false teachers. These men are perverting the OT and then adding the man-made religious laws of the Pharisees to their corrupt form of Christianity. (Mk.7:1-10) And the Galatians loved it. The flesh always does.
With the coming of Christ the OT church calendar with the religious feasts and the one day of fasting is over. God has instituted only one abiding day of the week to worship and that is the sabbath. Beyond that all special religious holy days are not holy. And they only detract from the true gospel as presented in the word of God. (Col.2.13-23, Gal.4:10, Rom.14:5)
So you see adding these holy days and holy rites to the Cross of Christ destroys the grace of God in the Gospel. They have the appearance of religious wisdom. But they are in fact religious corruption. And they ought to be forsaken.
Extra Biblical religious rites are contra biblical rites. They are not good or helpful. They are not acceptable worship of God. They are returning to spiritual bondage. What is worse, it is a willing and self-bondage. The people are doing it to themselves.
He reminds them of his abiding love for them.
V.11-12, 19-20. Paul then reminds them of his abiding love for them. Even now after they have defected from his original gospel teaching. Even after they believed the false teachers against him. They thought the false teachers were true and that he was false! Stunning. And he still says, you have done me no wrong!
What this faithful servant of Christ has done is he has covered over their sins against him with a cloak of love. In love he takes no record of their wrongs against him. Oh beloved, the more we see the greatness of our sins against God and the greatness of His forgiveness of us in Christ, the infinitely inconsequential do the sins of others against us seem.
Teachers of religious truth would do well to imitate Paul. Forget the sins of the past. Start afresh. Move forward. Above all, love God’s people like our own children.
He says that he is afraid for them. He calls them “my little children”. Oh Beloved, this is the heart of a true under-shepherd of Christ. This is the true imitation of Christ. Christ loves His people. Christ loves even His erring people. And this faithful teacher of Christ also loves the people of Christ. Their sins and faults and errors cannot stop his love of them. And his service of love to them is his teaching.
V12. He wants them to become as he is, to enjoy freedom in Jesus. (Acts 26:28-29, I Cor.9:20-22) His greatest desire is that Christ be formed in them. That they love Jesus in spirit and in truth. And that they be increasingly conformed into Christ’s holy image.
You see the faithful servant of Christ does not want to build devotees to himself or his cause, but he has the heart of John the Baptist – I must decrease, but Christ must increase.
Oh beloved, how convicting. What a goal to strive for.
Oh beloved, may we love Christ and His word and His people as the goal of our life. May we devote ourselves to tell people and show people the truth and the love of Christ.