Chapter 4:8-10 (ESV) - Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Question to consider: What were the weak and miserable forces to which the Galatians were returning?
It is interesting that Paul is comparing the Galatians’ fall into works-based righteousness to their former worship of idols. Whether they were bowing down to idols or completing empty rituals, their motive was out of a selfish desire for temporal things like acceptance, health, and material prosperity. The rituals, celebrations and sabbaths that were performed by the Jews were meant to point to Jesus. They were meant to help them recognize their Messiah when He came. Now that Jesus has come, there is no need to engage in the ministrations of the mosaic covenant. That covenant has been fulfilled. We are now under a new covenant that is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
We no longer celebrate the day of atonement (Yom Kippur) because our atonement is in Christ. We no longer have an annual passover feast because our passover lamb was sacrificed once and for all time, and we share in His life death and resurrection through communion. We no longer circumcise the flesh because the Holy Spirit has circumcised our hearts. We no longer rely upon priests to be our mediator with God because the veil of Christ’s body was torn so that we may go directly to the Father in prayer.
Paul feared that his preaching was done in vain because if they really understood who they were in Christ Jesus, they would never be swayed by the Judaizers.
Lord of all creation, may all blessing and glory and honor be yours. Help us to put our faith and hope in what you have done for us instead of what we can do for you. Continue to separate us from the desires of the world so that we can view it with your eyes and heart. Amen.