World English Bible translation
4:8However at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods. 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, why do you turn back again to the weak and miserable elements, to which you desire to be in bondage all over again? 4:10 You observe days, months, seasons, and years. 4:11 I am afraid for you, that I might have wasted my labor for you.
Those who have put on Christ have entered into the family of God. When we accepted Christ as our Savior by faith, God translated us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His Son. God does this by His own power and for His own reasons. In saving us, God is fulfilling the promise that He made to Abraham and renewed with the patriarchs. God demonstrates His grace and His mercy by taking those people who were once against Him and bringing those same enemies into His own household.
Paul reminds the Galatians that before God raised them up they were in bondage. They were in bondage to their own sin. They were in bondage to "the weak and miserable elements." Every Christian, when he or she first comes to Christ, experiences an initial sense of freedom. We feel ourselves lifted out of our former burdens and the things that held us back.
Now, what Paul wanted to know is why did these Galatians want to return once again to the very things that used to enslave them? Christ set them free from laws and regulations. Christ set them free from sin. But, these Galatians were listening to the Judaizers who were trying to put them under the law. What they were failing to realize is that in accepting the law, they would first be required to accept the burden of the sin that Christ took for them.
Paul feared that the time that he had spent with them was wasted. If they took on themselves the burden of the law, then Christ meant nothing to them. If they truly understood that Christ had relieved them of the complete burden of sin, what need would they have of the law? Christ had already completely reconciled them to God, having made atonement for all their sins. If they did reject the atonement of Christ, then Paul would have wasted his time with them.
Having raised the prospect that he may have wasted his time with them, Paul immediately sets that prospect aside. He reminds himself and them as well, that they completely accepted the message that he brought to them. They accepted the gospel that he preached just as though it had come from heaven itself. Paul had seen the work of the Spirit of God in their lives. He had the evidence of his own experience to tell him that he had not wasted his time at all.
But that made it even more difficult to understand why the Galatians were tolerating the teaching of the Judaizers. The Galatians had clearly accepted the truth of the gospel. Their lives demonstrated that God was at work within them. How could they turn so quickly from the truth to something that would enslave them? How could they, even when God was working in their lives, accept a lesser gospel? This basic question is the reason for the vehemence of Paul's questioning.
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