Receive grace, give grace (Galatians 5:1-12)

Receive grace, give grace (Galatians 5:1-12)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 31, 2019

We are going to talk about Galatians 5:1-12, so please turn there as I introduce it.

When I was training for my first marathon, I would try to run a really, really long route each week. I am not really sure how far it was. A car tracked it at 26 miles, but that may not have been accurate. I only made it all the way through that route one time and my mapmyrun app did not work properly so I did not get a final reading on the distance. Technology and running can be a real bummer because it makes it like the run does not count if the technology does not track it. I would run down these country roads and it was quite enjoyable. Many times, I would get up in the morning and not really feel like going on this long run, but by 11:30 am I was ready to go. I most always started out really good. I felt good, I was running fast and I was in the best shape of my life at about 35 pounds less than I am now. But though I started out good, I did not finish well. My first 10 miles would go really well. Then between 10 and 15 miles I started to slow down. Then, almost every week, at about 18 miles, I would run up one particular big country hill and the wind would hit me at the top of the hill, then as that wind hit me I would think, “why am I doing this?” I would then stop, pull out my cellular phone and call Meagan. I did this from January through early April of 2013. It was funny because by late March Meagan would answer her phone and say, “where are you at?” She knew, regardless of how I started I could not finish this route. Meagan would come and get me and I would keep running until I saw her and end at about 20 miles.

Funny as it is, I would beat myself up for not finishing the route. I wanted to finish. I started so fast. But I did not end well. After I finished, I would get home and start stretching only to experience Charley-horses in my side and calves.

In the passage we are going to look at today Paul encourages the Galatians that they were running well. Paul encourages them to keep going.

My theme and application today is:

Receive grace, give grace

Let’s read Galatians 5:1-12:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

  1. Paul tells them “You are called to freedom.”
    1. Let’s look at verse 1.
    2. Paul had just finished talking about how we are children of the free woman, children of Sarah.
    3. Now, in verse 1, Paul says we have been set free for freedom.
    4. The New American Commentary shares: If Galatians is the Magna Carta of Christian liberty, then Gal 5:1 has reason to be considered one of the key verses of the epistle. With the language of freedom and slavery still ringing in their ears from the analogy of Hagar and Sarah, the Galatians are now told by Paul: “Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery” (Phillips).[1]
    5. They are set free from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations BUT NOT from obedience to God’s moral standards.
    6. Paul gives an application, “Therefore…”
    7. This is a command: keep standing firm, do not be subject to the “yoke” of slavery.
    8. The law is described as a yoke. A yoke would be used to control animals and animals are NOT free. Here the yoke figuratively represents the burdensome nature of slavery.[2]
    9. We are commanded not to be subject to the Law which would be slavery.
    10. Jn 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
    11. Jn 8:36 So if the son sets you free, you will be really free.
  2. Now, Paul gives the consequences of the law, severed from Christ.
    1. Look at verses 2-6
    2. Verse 2: Paul specified that he is the one writing this.
    3. Paul essentially says, if you receive circumcision… in other words, if you follow the Law, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
    4. I think Paul is meaning if they are trusting in the law for salvation then Jesus is of no benefit.
    5. Verse 3: Paul repeats: if you receive circumcision you must follow the whole law. Again, I think what is meant is if you receive circumcision for salvation you must follow the whole law (see Rom. 2:25 as a cross reference).
    6. Verse 4: Those who are seeking to be justified (declared righteous) by the law have been severed from Christ. They have been severed: broken off, abolished, alienated from Christ.
    7. The Moody Bible Commentary believes that alienated is a better word.
    8. “The Greek word for “severed” means “to be separated,” or “to be estranged.” The word for “fallen” means “to lose one’s grasp on something.” Paul’s clear meaning is that any attempt to be justified by the law is to reject salvation by grace alone through faith alone.”[3]
    9. In this verse Paul specified that he is applying this to those who wanted to be justified by the law. This is a strong warning.
    10. Paul adds that they have fallen from grace.
    11. Luther interpreted this expression to mean “You are no longer in the realm of grace” and illustrated it graphically in the following way: For just as someone on a ship is drowned regardless of the part of the ship from which he falls into the sea, so someone who falls away from grace cannot help perishing. The desire to be justified by the law, therefore, is shipwreck; it is exposure to the surest peril of eternal death. What can be more insane and wicked than to want to lose the grace and favor of God and to retain the law of Moses, whose retention makes it necessary for you to accumulate wrath and every other evil for yourself? Now if those who seek to be justified on the basis of the moral law fall away from grace, where, I ask, will those fall who, in their self-righteousness, seek to be justified on the basis of their traditions and vows? To the lowest depths of hell!27[4]
    12. Wow! There are severe consequences for trusting in your own merits for salvation. We must trust in the grace of Christ.
    13. Verse 5: Paul begins explaining more “for” is an explanatory conjunction.
    14. Paul is explaining how they are waiting for the hope of righteousness:
    15. They are waiting by faith and through the Spirit
    16. ESV Study Bible: [this] means that Christians do not attempt to produce perfect righteousness in their lives by their own efforts (as Paul’s opponents were futilely trying to do), for their hope is not in themselves; instead, they wait for God to complete righteousness in them—either when they die and are with the Lord ( 12:23) or at Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:49; cf. Rev. 21:27). An alternative explanation is that “the hope of righteousness” refers to the believer’s hope and expectation that God will declare that the believer is in fact going to be judged righteous at the final judgment.
    17. Verse 6: In Christ what matters is faith and that faith is working through love.
    18. The ESV Study Bible shares: Paul is not opposed to circumcision in and of itself but only if it is required for salvation. True faith is a living and active thing and produces love.
  • Paul says essentially “you were running well, pick up where you left off…”
    1. Look at verses 7-12
    2. Verse 7: Paul seems to be trying to encourage them. He says they were “running” well. They were living the Christian life well.
    3. Paul asks who hindered them and then he adds detail, they were hindered from obeying the truth.
    4. In verse 8, Paul adds, this did not come from Jesus. In other words this teaching did not come from Jesus.
    5. Verse 9: A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Paul will copy and paste this for 1 Cor. 5:6. “Leaven is often used in Scripture to denote sin (Matt. 16:6, 12) because of its permeating power.”[5]
    6. So, we come to verse 10: Paul encourages them again. He has confidence in them, IN THE LORD. He has confidence in them, but only in the Lord. He has confidence in the Lord working in them.
      1. This is the way it should be for all of us. In the Lord we have an awesome future, but we do not live our Christian life in our own strength.
      2. Live in Christ.
    7. He has confidence that they will adopt no other view besides the correct one.
    8. Paul is also saying that the one disturbing them must bear his judgment.
    9. So, we come to verse 11, Paul is saying if he preaches circumcision, in other words, the law, why is he persecuted.
    10. Apparently, Paul has been persecuted and apparently, he is also accused of preaching the law. Paul says if this were the case the stumbling block of the cross is gone. The stumbling block is salvation by grace. The NET Bible notes: That is, if Paul still teaches observance of the Mosaic law (preaches circumcision), why is he still being persecuted by his opponents, who insist that Gentile converts to Christianity must observe the Mosaic law? The offense of the cross refers to the offense to Jews caused by preaching Christ crucified.[6]
    11. 6:12: Those who want to make a good showing in external matters are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do so only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.[7]
    12. Verse 12: is a simple, yet provocative, statement.
    13. Paul is essentially saying if you are going to believe in the law don’t stop at circumcision, castrate yourself. “The Greek word Paul used for mutilate was often used of castration, such as in the cult of Cybele, whose priests were self-made eunuchs.”[8]
    14. The Moody Bible Commentary shares: Paul sarcastically dismissed the legalists as troublers. As with Jesus’ command in Mk 9:43-45, Paul’s words calling for legalists to mutilate themselves were not to be fulfilled literally. Rather they were meant to stir the Galatians to cut off relations with the legalists.[9]
  1. Let’s apply this:
    1. We are set free, we must know that we are saved by God’s grace.
    2. We must respond in worship of Christ.
    3. Since we are saved by God’s grace, we must not think we are better than any other Christian.
    4. Since we are saved by God’s grace we must give others grace.
      1. We must not be judgmental.
      2. This does not mean we do not call out sin, it just means that we must be full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14).
      3. We must love and support people even when they fail. That is what grace is.
    5. We must recognize the strong consequences of living under the Law, alienation from Christ (5:4).
    6. We must wait expecting Jesus and His future Kingdom (verse 5).
    7. We must continue living for Christ as we started, we must keep the faith (verse 7).


Sometimes the Christian life is described as a run (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 5:7). Other times the Christian life is described as a walk (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 4:1). We must keep moving in the Christian life. We must keep growing in the Christian life. We must stay the course. We must “hold fast.” We must not give up.

I told you about the many times that I could not finish that long running route. There was one time I did finish the route. Here is how I finished. I ran to the end. I did not give up. I had pressure to finish. Meagan was in Dayton so I could not call her to pick me up. I knew a few people I could call, but I did not want to call them. This pressured me to finish.

Some of us need to be challenged in our walk with Christ. We need challenged. I watch a show called “A Football Life” which is about various NFL players. I watched the episode about Bill Cowher, the former Steelers coach. It is interesting because you see him motivating players on the sidelines. He is telling them in a very strong way, “Your job is to rush the quarterback.” His motivation is yelling. But it works for the football players. Some of us need challenged. We need the Word of God to challenge us like a football coach. “Your job in Christ is to sack the enemy.” “Your job in Christ is to be contagious Christians and this sacks the enemy.”

Some of you have beat yourself up enough. You are giving yourself standards that are not from the Holy Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, you must lessen the pressure. After those long runs, I ran the 2013 Cincinnati marathon. Then in 2014 and 2015 I ran two more marathons. I ran a second Cincinnati marathon and in 2015 I ran the Pittsburgh marathon. But in my training in 2014 and 2015 I lessened the pressure. I could not finish that long running route. I wanted to but could not. So, I did not try to run longer than 20 miles straight. Remember the grace of God.

Receive grace and give grace.



[1] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 352.

[2] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 5:1.

[3] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.

27 LW 27.18.

[4] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 359.

[5] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.

[6] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 5:11.

[7] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005), Ga 6:12.

[8] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.

[9] The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 75968-75970). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Children are Children of the Free Woman (Galatians 4:21-31)

God’s Children are Children of the Free Woman (Galatians 4:21-31)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 24, 2019

We are going to be turning to Galatians 4:21-31, if you would like to turn there while I introduce it.

J.D. Greear writes:

Believe it or not, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the Apostle Paul agree on one thing: Religion can turn you into a really bad person. Religion caters to the worst parts of us—pride, self-centeredness, condescension, self-righteousness, and bigotry—which is why religious people can be (in the words of our generation) the worst.

Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher, told a story about a man who dies and goes to hell. He doesn’t think he should be there, so he makes an appeal to the Apostle Peter, who is standing on the edge of hell.

Peter asks him, “Why do you think you don’t belong here?”

“Because I did so many good deeds in my life! One time I gave a carrot to a poor, hungry man.”

“OK,” Peter said. “Let’s see if that’s good enough to get you out of hell,” and he lowered a carrot over into hell by a fishing line.

The man took ahold of the carrot. Well, lots of other people in hell noticed what was happening and grabbed onto the line as well. The man was afraid the line was going to break, so he started kicking and punching other people, screaming, “That’s my carrot!”

This, Kierkegaard said, is a picture of religion.

When you do religious deeds to try to save yourself or exalt yourself, they’re actually done from self-interest. Religion done to distinguish ourselves from others or set us apart inevitably leads us to insecurity and cruelty.

The gospel teaches the opposite of religion. It teaches that God offers salvation not to those who earn it as a reward but to those who are unworthy and receive it as a gift.[1]

This is Paul’s theme in Galatians as well as Romans and the rest of the New Testament. Actually, the whole Bible is about God’s grace.

Today, my theme is:

God’s Children are Children of the Free Woman

Let’s read Galatians 4:21-31:

Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”

28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?

“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”

31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

  1. Listen to the Bible (law).
    1. Verse 21 is about this.
    2. Notice Paul switched back to a more accusatory tone. He says that they want to be under the law, but they don’t listen to the law.
    3. Paul used a play on the word translated as “law.” Law could mean the law of Moses, or the first 5 books of the Bible. In this case Paul means the first 5 books of the Bible. He is going to talk about Genesis.
    4. There are some strong applications from that one sentence.
    5. Do we listen to the Bible? Do we listen to the whole Bible, or just the parts we want?
    6. Do we surrender to the Bible?
    7. There is something called eisegesis. This is interpreting a passage to make it say what we want it to say.
    8. In contrast to eisegesis is exegesis. Exegesis is letting the Bible speak for itself.
    9. Sometimes we go around a table and we say, “What does the Bible passage mean to you?” That is not correct. What is correct is, “What does the Bible passage mean if you were not even born?” We need to let the Bible say what the author wanted it to say. We need to dig into the text itself for this.
    10. We must listen to the Bible.
    11. In listening to the Bible we must listen to the Lord.
    12. A few weeks ago I quoted Invictis. Today I quote a response written by Dorothea Day:

My Captain Out of the light that dazzles me, Bright as the sun from pole to pole, I thank the God I know to be For Christ the conqueror of my soul. Since His the sway of circumstance, I would not wince nor cry aloud. Under that rule which men call chance My head with joy is humbly bowed. Beyond this place of sin and tears That life with Him! And His the aid, Despite the menace of the years, Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid. I have no fear, though strait the gate, He cleared from punishment the scroll. Christ is the Master of my fate, Christ is the Captain of my soul.[2]

  1. Isaac versus Ishmael
    1. Verses 22-23 are about the two sons of Abraham.
    2. verse 22: Paul now uses an allegory story.
    3. Abraham had 2 sons, 1 from the slave wife and one from the free wife.
    4. One source points out: As a matter of fact, Abraham had eight sons, six of them by Keturah (Gen 25:1–2), whom he married after Sarah’s death. Paul did not mention Abraham’s latter progeny because they were irrelevant to his present purpose. It does not follow, however, that Paul was not interested in giving “an historically accurate account of the Genesis narrative.Ishmael and Isaac represent the two lines of descendants that sprang from Abraham. According to Gen 25:13–18, Ishmael begot twelve sons who became the ancestors of the Arab tribes, which occupied the territory “from Havilah to Shur,” that is, the desert lands between Egypt and the Euphrates River.245In time the descendants of Ishmael became identified with the Gentiles in general, while the sons of Isaac were regarded as “a holy seed,” the unique possession of God and cherished above all nations on the face of the earth.The birth of Ishmael was the result of the outworking of the philosophy that God helps those who help themselves.Both Abraham and Sarah were childless in their old age, and it appeared that they would die that way. So they decided to “help God” fulfill his promise. The result was the birth of Ishmael, who was a source of contention and suffering for the rest of his life. Then fourteen years later God’s promise was at last fulfilled in the birth of Isaac, so called because of the laughter, first of unbelief and then of joy, which greeted his birth. Ishmael was Abraham’s son by proxy, according to the flesh; Isaac was his son by promise, a living witness to divine grace.[3]
    5. In verse 23 I like how the NLT words it. The son of the slave woman was born from a “human attempt…”
    6. The son of the slave woman was born “according to the flesh,” that is, by the normal means of human procreation; conversely, the son of the free woman was born “through the promise,” that is, in direct fulfillment of God’s word to Abraham. Luther correctly observed that the principal difference here was the absence of the word of God in the birth of Ishmael: “When Hagar conceived and gave birth to Ishmael, there was no voice or word of God that predicted this; but with Sarah’s permission Abraham went into Hagar the slave, whom Sarah, because she was barren, gave him as his wife as Genesis testifies.… Therefore Ishmael was born without the word, solely at the request of Sarah herself. Here there was no word of God that commanded or promised Abraham a son; but everything happened by chance, as Sarah’s words indicate: ‘It may be,’ she says, ‘that I shall obtain children by her.’247[4]
    7. The verse further says, the son of the free woman was God’s way (my translation).
    8. Abraham and Sarah tried to do things their way rather than wait on God.
    9. I am amazed at Abraham and Sarah, just because they were nearing 86 and 76 years old they doubt God. I mean, people of that age have babies all the time.
    10. No, really, we act before God can answer prayers too, don’t we?
  • The explanation
    1. Verses 24-31:
    2. Verse 24: Hagar is Mount Sinai= the law and the law enslaved them.
    3. The NET Bible shares:Paul is not saying the OT account is an allegory, but rather that he is constructing an allegory based on the OT account.[5]
    4. About allegory I have one source that shares:
    5. In its root meaning, to speak in an allegory means to “say something else.” Allegorical interpretation seeks to discern a hidden meaning in a given story or text, a meaning that may be entirely divorced from the historical referent alluded to in the narrative itself.[6]
    6. A good example of an allegory in English literature is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. This famous story is a Christian fantasy that Bunyan said came to him “under the similitude of a dream” and in which he depicted the various stages of the Christian life through a series of coded characters, events, and places—Pliable, Faithful, Hopeful, Giant Despair, Doubting-Castle, Hill Difficulty, City Beautiful, and so on. Allegorical exegesis was a common form of literary analysis in the Hellenistic world.[7]
    7. Verse 25: Jerusalem (Jewish people) are like Mount Sinai because they are enslaved to the law.
    8. Verse 26: Sarah is the Heavenly Jerusalem; what an application.
    9. Verse 27: Isa 54:1: a prophesy about gentiles in the covenant. Isaiah 54:1 looks to the millennial reign when the current barren women of Jerusalem will no longer be barren. This famous passage of Scripture likens the city of Jerusalem to a barren widow sitting at the gates of Jerusalem. She is covered in sackcloth and ashes because her husband has been carried away into captivity and she has no children to care for her in her old age. In the midst of this desperate situation, the voice of God breaks in: “Be happy, you childless woman! Shout and cry with joy, you who never felt the pains of childbirth! For the woman who was deserted will have more children than the woman whose children never left her.”[8]
    10. In Verse 28: the Christians are like Isaac.
    11. Verse 29 has quite an application: The persecution of Christians by the Judaizers is compared to the persecution of Isaac from Ishmael. In Galatians 5:11 Paul referenced being persecuted for his preaching.
    12. There is only one short reference to Isaac being persecuted by Ishmael: The only biblical basis for this tradition stems from the statement in Gen 21:9 that Sarah saw Ishmael “playing with her son Isaac” during the festivities surrounding the weaning of the younger boy. The KJV gives a more sinister translation to Ishmael’s activity, “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian … mocking.” Later traditions identified Ishmael’s behavior as sexual immorality, the worship of false gods, and murderous sporting activities directed against his brother after the pattern of Cain and Abel.[9]
    13. Verse 30 comes from Gen 21:10 and 12.
    14. Verse 31: we are free

A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.

“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”

“What’s that, sir?”

“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them all free!”

With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.

Until you give yourself permission to be the unique person God made you to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows you to do . . . you will be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom.[10]

  1. Let’s Apply
    1. In verse 21, Paul asks if they listen to the Law. We must listen to God’s Word.
    2. We must let God bring about His will. In verse 23 Paul refers to Ishmael as the way that Abraham and Sarah tried to do God’s job. We must trust God.
      1. We must not get ahead of God. We must trust the Lord and do what is right.
      2. This means that we must be ethical in business practices and moral in everything.
      3. We must have integrity and responsibility even when it does not make sense.
      4. We must not cheat numbers, or “cook the books.”
    3. We will trust and follow God’s promises.
    4. We must repent where we have not been trusting God. Have we rushed ahead of God like Abraham and Sarah did?
    5. We must recognize that these two covenants don’t fit together. Paul says that we are free. We cannot be free and slave at the same time.
    6. Worship God.


One writes:

One of my good friends, Clayton King, has a guy on his pastoral team whose pregnant wife and young child were involved in a terrible accident. An EMT worker fell asleep at the wheel and hit them head on and killed the wife and her unborn child.

At the sentencing of the EMT, who was facing felony charges and harsh time, the pastor showed up and pleaded for a more lenient sentence. That gesture began a friendship between the two men that has lasted eight years. They meet every couple of weeks and have become like family.

I didn’t hear this story from Clayton. The story was carried on the Today show, and the pastor was asked why he did such a thing for a man who was responsible for the death of his wife and child. He said simply, “This is what Jesus did for me. After I wronged him, he brought me close. It just makes sense that I do this for others.”

Religion doesn’t do that to you. The gospel does.[11]







[2]—Dorothea Day, quoted in Hazel Felleman, The Best Loved Poems of the American People

245See F. F. Bruce, “ ‘Abraham Had Two Sons’: A Study in Pauline Hermeneutics,” in New Testament Studies: Essays in Honor of Ray Summers, ed. H. L. Drumwright and C. Vaughan (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1975), 72.

[3]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 338.


[4]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 337.

[5]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 4:24.

[6]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 338.

[7]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 338–339.

[8]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 344.

[9]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 346.



Paul’s Personal Appeal (Galatians 4:12-20)

Paul’s Personal Appeal (Galatians 4:12-20)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 17, 2019

I like to hear stories of how God’s Word works in someone’s life. Recently, that hit home for me as I read this story from Chuck Swindoll.

He writes:

When I served overseas in the Marines many years ago, I had a bunkmate named Eddie. When he found out I was a Christian, he told me in no uncertain terms:

“Hey, I want to tell you something, Swindle. I didn’t come over here to Okinawa to be evangelized. So just back off, okay?”

“Sure, that’s no problem,” I answered. So, I’d lie up on my top bunk and I’d try to figure out how I could get Eddie interested in the Lord Jesus. One day I said, “Hey Eddie, can you help me with some of these words?” I dropped down about forty of my verse cards, and I said, “Let’s see if I can do these.” They were verses like John 3:16 and other verses on salvation. So I began: “For God, uh . . .”

“SO,” Eddie added impatiently.

“Oh, okay,” I’d reply, “For God so . . . uh . . .”


“Yes, yes, that’s it. For God so loved the world.” We went through dozens of verses just like that.

Fast-forward thirty years . . . and the phone rings one day in my study.

“Hey, Swindle!”

I said, “This can only be a guy named Eddie.”

“Yeah,” Eddie answered, “Hey, you know that trick you played on me in Okinawa? Well, it worked! I’m loving Jesus now.”

Isn’t God good? The power of the Word of God never fails to amaze me. It’s just as the prophet Isaiah recorded:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:10–11)

God’s Word will never return empty. It will always serve a purpose—primarily in the lives of those of us who digest it, who apply it, who memorize it, who meditate on it, who ponder it, who declare it, and by God’s grace, who live it out.

That’s our calling. God’s Word will never return void.[1]

We are about to open up the Bible. The Bible is an inspired book. That means it is “God breathed.” We must not read this like we read the TV Guide or the Newspaper. We are going to continue our trek through Galatians. Today, we are going to look at a personal appeal from Paul to the people of Galatia. Let’s jump into it.

My theme today:

Paul makes a personal appeal to the Galatians based on their past relationship.

Let’s read Galatians 4:12-20:

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.

  1. This is a different type of writing
    1. Do you notice how different this is than what we have been talking about?
    2. One writes: This section of Galatians forms a personal parenthesis in Paul’s overall argument for justification by faith, which he resumed and concluded in vv. 21–31 with one additional proof from Scripture. Chrysostom observed that whereas Paul in the preceding verses had stretched out a hand to his tempest-tossed disciples, he now brought himself into the very midst of the storm.208In his 1519 Galatians commentary, Luther observed, “These words breathe Paul’s own tears.”209When he revisited this text in his 1535 Galatians commentary, Luther sought to penetrate further into Paul’s mind: Now that he has completed the more forceful part of his epistle, he begins to feel that he has handled the Galatians too severely. Being concerned that by his harshness he may have done more harm than good, he tells them that his severe rebuke proceeded from a fatherly and truly apostolic spirit. He becomes amazingly rhetorical and overflows with sweet and gentle words, so that if he had offended anyone with his sharp denunciation, as he had undoubtedly offended many, the gentleness of his language would set things right again. He also teaches by his example that pastors and bishops should take a fatherly and motherly attitude, not toward the ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15) but toward the miserable, misled, and erring sheep, patiently bearing their weakness and fall and handling them with the utmost gentleness.210
    3. I like that. I don’t know if you notice, as I notice, the tender words of Paul. Paul is pleading with them in this section.
    4. Look at verse 12: I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have becomeas you are. You have done me no wrong…
    5. Paul became a gentile to minister to them. not literally, but he did sacrifice the Jewish law to minister to them. Now, he is asking them to recognize they are saved by grace through faith.
  2. Now, let’s talk about how Paul met them (verses 13-14).
    1. Paul says that it was a bodily illness which made him meet them. It was a bodily illness that led to him preaching the Gospel to them.
    2. Think about that.
    3. Paul is on a missionary journey and then he gets sick. While being sick he preaches the Gospel to them.
    4. I don’t know how this happened, but that is a Divine appointment if I ever saw one.
    5. If Paul did not get sick would we have the letter of Galatians?
    6. Who would not be saved if Paul did not get sick?
    7. We must never miss what God is doing, even in our sickness.
    8. People speculate about his sickness.
    9. Three major theories have emerged about what the nature of this illness may have been (the following comes from the New American Commentary):
      1. Malaria is one. Paul may have contracted malaria when he first came into the swampy region of Pamphylia in southern Asia Minor. This was the occasion when John Mark became disillusioned with missionary life and returned home to Paul’s great consternation (Acts 13:13). It may have been that Paul’s original plan was to travel westward toward Ephesus and Greece but that he was redirected because of his illness toward the higher terrain around Pisidian Antioch. There, high above sea level, he found a more congenial place to recuperate. On this theory Paul may still have been in the grips of a terrible fever when he first began his preaching mission in Galatia.
      2. Epilepsy: The verb in v. 14 translated “you did not … scorn” literally means, “you did not spit out” (ekptuō). A common belief was that the evil demon that caused epilepsy could be exorcised or at least contained by spitting at the one thus possessed.218On this reading, Paul was commending the Galatians for receiving him with courtesy and favor even though they may have witnessed the unpleasant sight of his epileptic seizures.
      3. Ophthalmia [inflammation of the eyes, conjunctivitis]: In v. 15 Paul praised the Galatians for their willingness to tear out their own eyes and give them to him. This, together with Paul’s reference in 6:11 concerning writing such “large letters” in his own hand, have led many scholars to believe that Paul’s illness was some kind of serious eye disorder. But as F. F. Bruce has noted, “there can be no certain diagnosis” of Paul’s ailment here, nor of his “thorn in the flesh,” assuming the two are not to be identified.219
    10. Regarding the illness being something to do with the eyes, that may be unlikely. One commentary shares: Sacrificing one’s eye for someone else was a figure of speech for a great sacrifice (Petronius attributes it to some rhetoricians). Thus Paul’s statement that the Galatians “would have dug out your own eyes to give them to me” need not mean that his infirmity (4:13–14) was an oozing eye sore, as some commentators have suggested. In Greek culture, friendship was especially demonstrated by sacrifice; Paul here reaffirms the bond that exists between himself and the Galatians.[2]
    11. We cannot know for sure what Paul is dealing with, we do know that God used it for the good. We also know from 2 Cor. 12 that Paul wrote about a “thorn in the side” which could be this illness.
    12. Paul met them through this illness, and they were willing to sacrifice for his needs. They helped him out. His bodily condition was not good, yet they still helped him.
  • Notice Paul’s concern for them (verses 15-20)
    1. Look at the next five verses.
    2. Paul asks them what happened to their blessing, or their joy. This could have to do with the joyful spirit they had, or the blessing they offered to Paul.
    3. Either way, let’s talk about joy for a moment.
    4. Could it be that they had great joy in the Lord and that was taken from them? Maybe they had joy recognizing their salvation in Jesus and now they have lost the joy because they are discouraged trying to live by the Law.
    5. I like what the Life Application Study Bible shares:
    6. Have you lost your joy? Paul sensed that the Galatians had lost the joy of their salvation because of legalism. Legalism can take away joy because (1) it makes people feel guilty rather than loved; (2) it produces self-hatred rather than humility; (3) it stresses performance over relationship; (4) it points out how far short we fall rather than how far we’ve come because of what Christ did for us. If you feel guilty and inadequate, check your focus. Are you living by faith in Christ or by trying to live up to the demands and expectations of others?
    7. In verse 16 Paul questions if he has become their enemy for telling them the truth. Think about it. They had these super-apostles come in and change the message of the Gospel. These Judaizers who thought they had to keep the whole law came in and changed the message. However, Paul tells them the Truth and so he becomes their enemy.
    8. Have you ever faced that? Have you ever lost a relationship for pointing out the truth? If so remember that happened to Paul as well. You are in good company. But also remember Paul fought for the relationship and so should we. In this short New Testament letter he is pleading with them for them to recognize proper doctrine. We must be careful about trying to win an argument but losing a person, but we still must point out the truth.
      1. This is especially true if you are a parent, or grandparent, or mentor, or spiritual parent over someone. Paul planted this church in Galatia and so he had a spiritual obligation to correct them when they went wayward.
      2. This is true of you too.
  • I understand that my children are young, so I have not faced this yet, but the Truth is the Truth. Parents are called to be spiritual leaders to their children and that does not change when they get older. I see too many parents neglecting this high calling or quitting when their children get older.
  1. Sometimes you quit and you do not even realize it. How important is it to pass on a high calling of worship to your children? Some of you will say, “Oh yea, that is very important.” To which I will say, then why do you skip for silly reasons. Here are some of the reasons:
    1. sports,
    2. family coming into town,
      1. to which I say, invite them to church.
      2. Luke 14:26: If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
      3. Jesus does not mean literally hate family. He just means that Jesus must be Lord.
      4. You neglect worshipping Your Lord and Savior for things like this, I dare say it could be likened to denying Your Savior and you just wait until your children do too.
    3. Other reasons for skipping church: family were in town yesterday so I am tired,
    4. my children are in town so we are going to spend time together;
      1. again, bring them to church.
      2. You talk about the Gospel with them and you want them to be in church, but you don’t model it.
    5. Other reasons for skipping church: scouts;
    6. Sleeping in;
    7. Don’t have anything to wear;
    8. And you know the rest.
  2. We could go deeper with this. How do you value worship when you are in church? Do you model a value of worship? Do you show up late and leave early?
  3. How are you being a spiritual parent to your children or those you disciple? Do you model daily devotions? Do you model prayer? Do you repent? That is big one. We think, “I am not going to repent to those who are “below” me. Listen, no one is below you. Do you model humility? Are you approachable? Do you get angry at people for correcting you or trying to correct you?
  • Are you telling the Truth? Are you modeling the Truth? This whole letter is about Paul doing that.
  1. Verse 17 is simply saying that these Judaizers, these Jewish Christians who want them to follow the whole law, they are trying to get them to seek them instead of Jesus. The New Living Translation says: Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them.[3]
  2. Verse 18: is clear: these people of Galatia were zealous when Paul was with them but not anymore.
  3. Verses 19-20 are Paul’s heart. He calls them children and then later he gives a maternal illustration. Thus, in one verse he uses a paternal and a maternal illustration to talk about his concern for them.
  4. I like what one source shares: The anguish of his labor over them had to continue, he said, “until Christ is formed in you.” The Galatians who a moment ago were described as being formed in the womb were now spoken of as expectant mothers who themselves must wait for an embryonic Christ to be fully developed (morphoō, a medical term for the growth of the fetus into an infant) within them.
  5. That is how much he cares for them.
  1. Applications:
    1. Notice, just as Paul really rebuked them, he did this out of love. Sometimes we are hurt by a rebuke but we are not realizing the reason for the rebuke. Paul was quite clear in rebuking them but that is because he was concerned for their salvation.
    2. Paul preached the Gospel to them, we must also preach the Gospel (verse 13).
    3. Paul preached the Gospel to them because he ended up with them as a result of illness. We must also watch for Divine appointments to share the Gospel (verse 13).
    4. They cared for him, we must care for others (verse 14).
    5. They cared for him and did not despise or loathe him, we must do the same.
    6. They were willing to give up for Paul, we must be willing to give up as well (verse 15).
    7. We must not lose our sense of blessing and joy (verse 15).
    8. We must speak the truth to people even when it hurts (verse 16).
    9. We must also be willing to accept the truth even when it is unpopular or hurts (verse 16).
    10. We must labor for people as Paul did for them (verses 19-20).


I did not write the following but I thought it was good:

I was at the grocery store this morning and heard a loud crash and something shattering. Being nosy, I walked towards the sound and saw some people whispering and looking back to the end of the next aisle. When I walked down that aisle, I saw an older lady had hit a shelf and many things had fallen to the ground and broke. She was kneeling on the floor embarrassed, frantically trying to clean up.

I felt so bad for her, and everyone was just standing there staring at her. So I went and knelt beside her and told her not to worry and started helping her pick up the broken pieces. After about a minute, the store manager came and knelt beside us and said, “Leave it, we will clean this up.”

The lady, totally embarrassed said, “I need to pay for all this first.” The manager smiled, helped her to her feet and said, “No ma’am, we have insurance for this, you do not have to pay anything!”

Close your eyes, and imagine God doing the same for you!

Collecting the pieces of your broken heart from all the blows life has thrown at you. God will heal all your wounds. He wants to heal you! He wants to take care of your soul!

We can have that same insurance and it’s called Grace.

I would only add, God is not healing common blows, but He is healing sins.




208NPNF 13.31.



218See H. Schlier, “ὲκπτυω” TDNT2.448–49. While the act of spitting had demonological associations in the Hellenistic era, by the time of Paul it was more commonly viewed merely as a gesture of disrespect, hence the derived meaning “despise.” Galatians 4:13–14 is frequently cited as evidence by those who identified Paul’s physical ailment with epilepsy (C. J. Klausner’s, From Jesus to Paul[London: SCM, 1944], 325–30).

219Bruce, Galatians, 209.

[2]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 4:15.

[3]Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Ga 4:17.

Paul rebukes the Galatians for their return to legalism (Galatians 4:8-11)

Paul rebukes the Galatians for their return to legalism (Galatians 4:8-11)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, March 10, 2019

Christ saves us, Christ rescues us, Christ changes our lives. Think about the change in John Newton:

Perhaps no one since Paul has grasped the meaning of this tremendous transition more completely than John Newton, the former slave trader whose remarkable conversion is reflected in his famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” As John Stott tells the story of Newton:

He was an only child and lost his mother when he was seven years old. He went to sea at the tender age of eleven and later became involved, in the words of one of his biographers, “in the unspeakable atrocities of the African slave trade.” He plumbed the depths of human sin and degradation. When he was twenty-three, on 10 March 1748, when his ship was in imminent peril of floundering in a terrific storm, he cried to God for mercy, and he found it. He was truly converted, and he never forgot how God had had mercy upon him, a former blasphemer. He sought diligently to remember what he had previously been, and what God had done for him. In order to imprint it on his memory, he had written in bold letters and fastened across the wall over the mantelpiece of his study the words of Deut 15:15: “Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee.” Stott, Only One Way, 110. Far from leading Newton to a life of quietism and inaction, the doctrine of sovereign grace propelled the former slave trader into one of the most remarkable ministries in the history of the Christian church. In his sermon on the “Sovereignty of God,” Newton exclaimed: “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God almighty! Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints! This is the God whom we adore. This is he who invites us to lean upon his almighty arm, and promises to guide us with his unerring eye.… Therefore, while in the path of duty and following his call, we may cheerfully pass on regardless of apparent difficulties, for the Lord, whose we are, and who has taught us to make his glory our highest end, will go before us. And at his word, crooked things become straight, light shines out of darkness, and mountains sink into plains. Faith may and must be exercised, experience must and will confirm what his word declares, that the heart is deceitful and that man in his best estate is vanity. But his promises to them that fear him shall be confirmed likewise, and they shall find him in all situations a son, a shield, and an exceedingly great reward” (A Burning and a Shining Light: English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, ed. D. L. Jeffrey [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 438).[1]

Christ changes all of us. Christ keeps us from falling into sin as well. Today, we look at Galatians and we notice how Paul rebukes them for going backwards. They were saved and now they are going backwards. They were saved from paganism and ritualism and now they are going back to legalism. Let’s look at the passage.

My theme:

Paul rebukes the Galatians for their return to legalism.


Serve Christ and rest in His grace, don’t be a slave to anything or anyone other than Christ.

Let’s read Galatians 4:8-11:

However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 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.

  1. Notice in verses 8-9 Paul rebukes them for going backwards.
    1. In verse 8 Paul says that they “at that time” did not know God.
    2. This was a previous time. This was before they were sons and daughters. This was before they knew God. This was when the Jewish people were living under the “guardians” or “managers” or “tutors” (3:24 and 4:2). This was when the Jewish people were living under the law. They were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
    3. They were gentiles so they were not enslaved to the law, they were enslaved to pagan gods.
    4. They are going backwards. Christ has set them free and why would they go backwards? Why go backwards?
    5. Paul says that they were slaves.
    6. Now, in their case they were not slaves to the law. They were slaves to false gods.
    7. Look at these other passages:
    8. 1 Co 8:4f With regard then to eating food sacrificed to idols, we know that “an idol in this world is nothing,” and that “there is no God but one.” 8:5 If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)…
    9. 1 Co 10:20 No, I mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.
    10. Ga 4:3 So also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basic forces of the world.
    11. Take note, here, everyone is a slave to something. Even today, if you are not serving Christ you are serving someone or something else. They were slaves to paganism.
    12. In verse 9 there is a transition, “but Now…” Now, they know God. Or, the passage specifies, they are known by God.
    13. The biggest deal is that they are known by God.
    14. This is true for us. Don’t miss this, the biggest deal is that God has made Himself known and saved us. He has saved us! God has intervened so that we are known by Him.
    15. But they are turning back to something “weak” and “worthless.”
    16. Why would they turn back to something “weak” and “worthless”?
    17. That is exactly what Paul is asking.
    18. Col 2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world?
    19. Notice the emphasis on enslavement continues. The repetitive nature continues. Paul says they want to get into these “elemental things.” These would be the Jewish law for Jews and the paganism for gentiles. Paul says they are enslaved all over again.
    20. Listen, we must not go backwards in our faith. Serve Christ and rest in His grace, don’t be a slave to anything or anyone other than Christ.
    21. We will come back to that.
  2. Notice in verse 10 Paul gives an example of how they are going backwards.
    1. Verse 10: They observe days and months and seasons and years. This is an example of how they are going backwards. They are going back to legalism.
    2. This is current, so I think it is Jewish days and months and seasons and years. One source shares:
    3. Paul linked four measurements of time, each of which likely refers to certain aspects of the Jewish system of religious feasts. Thus days could refer to the weekly Sabbath observance as well as to other feasts celebrated for only a day; months, to the new moon rituals mentioned in Num 10:10; seasons, to the great annual feasts such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (cf. 2 Chr 8:13; Zech 8:19); and years, to the Year of Jubilee, the Sabbatical Year, and the New Year celebrations.[2]
    4. Further: It is quite possible, of course, that the expression “days, months, seasons and years” was a kind of double entendre referring at once to Jewish calendar dates and pagan cultic observances. Thus Paul would have been saying to the Galatians, “If you fall prey to the lure of the Judaizers, you will find yourselves just as captivated by the oppression of the astral deities as ever you were under the old paganism.”[3]
    5. In another text Paul says Col 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—
  • Let’s talk about some applications:
    1. There is no salvation in legalism, we must only trust in Christ (verse 10).
    2. There is no salvation in days, months, years, etc, only Jesus (verse 10).
      1. We must understand that our salvation is not in attending Sunday worship or even taking communion.
      2. We must understand that our salvation is not in Christmas and Easter worship, but only Jesus.
    3. We must not turn back to things which Jesus has delivered us from (verse 9).
      1. Jesus has saved us, why turn back?
      2. Jesus is making us more holy, why turn back?
      3. We must rest in Christ allowing Him to deliver us from sin and sins.
      4. We all are delivered from past sin, don’t turn back. Maybe you were delivered when you were saved, don’t turn back. Maybe you were delivered since you have been saved, don’t turn back.
        1. Were you a slave to alcohol? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
        2. Were you a slave to pornography? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to drugs? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  1. Were you a slave to self and self absorbed? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  2. Were you a slave to materialism? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  3. Were you a slave to fear? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to worry? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to another religion, wicca? Secret societies? Islam? Buddhism? Hinduism? Mormon? Jehovah’s Witness? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  1. Were you a slave to sports? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  2. Were you a slave to atheism? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  3. Were you a slave to agnosticism? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to work? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  1. We must understand that we all serve something and we will serve Christ. We must understand that apart from Christ we are a slave to sin and sinful ways. We will not be slaves to anything other than Christ. (verse 8)
    1. We must not be a slave to a political ideology.
    2. We must not be a slave to sports.
    3. We must not be a slave to materialism.
    4. We must not be a slave to knowledge.
    5. We must only be a slave to Christ.
  2. We must stay true to Christ and only serve Him.

Don’t return to past sins:

In 1999, 25-year-old Christopher Miller was arrested after he forced employees into the back room of the Stride Rite shoe store on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, New Jersey. After a 15-year sentence, on Friday, March 21, 2014, Miller was released from South Woods State Prison in New Jersey. The very next day, Miller, now 40 years old, took a bus from Atlantic City to Toms River and went to the same shoe store.

Employees tell police that he entered the store and demanded cash, telling two workers to go to the back room. When the employees refused, Miller became agitated and took the cash register drawer, which had $389. He then took the workers’ cell phones and fled on foot. Police say he was found a few blocks away, with the cash stashed in a gutter and the phones in a garbage can.

Toms River Police Chief Mitchell Little speculated, “Maybe [prison life is] the only life he knows, and the only thing he could think of was going back to the same store and doing the same crime again—getting caught and going back where he was taken care of and told what to do and getting meals and shelter and everything else.”[4]



[1]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 314–315.

[2]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 317.

[3]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994).

[4]Adapted from Brian Thompson, “Man Leaves Prison, Robs Same New Jersey Shoe Store 15 Years Later: Police,” NBC News (3-26-14)

Sons, NOT Slaves, Passing from Slavery to Sonship (Galatians 3:26-4:7)

Sons, NOT Slaves, Passing from Slavery to Sonship (Galatians 3:26-4:7)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 3, 2019

What do you think about when you think about inheritance?

CNNMoney reported, “American retirees expect to leave an average inheritance of almost $177,000 to their heirs.” This ranks sixth in the world, but this number does not apply to all Americans, however, since only 56 percent expect to leave any inheritance at all to their children.[1]

My theme today is:

We are no longer slaves but children of God.

Let’s read

Galatians 3:26-4:7:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

  1. Let’s review the context.
    1. Remember where we are at in Galatians. Paul has been writing about the law. The law had a purpose, it was not purposeless. There could be concern that Paul had talked negatively about the law and now people think it was useless and give in to antinomianism. This was a belief that we don’t need a moral law or a law.
    2. Then, in chapter 3:19-25 Paul talks about the law as a guardian.
    3. Now we are picking up after talking about the guardian and the law as a tutor to lead us to Christ.
    4. We were held in custody under the law but then faith came.
    5. The law could not give us righteousness.
    6. Faith came and Jesus came and so we are no longer under custody under the law.
    7. So, this brings us back to verse 26
  2. We are all sons (and daughters) through faith
    1. Let’s look at verses 26-29.
    2. We are all grafted into God’s family.
    3. àthis is an awesome truth, we have a family.
    4. 4:5 will get into this idea of sonship more.
    5. The ESV Study Bible shares: The Greek word huioi(“sons”) is a legal term used in the adoption and inheritance laws of first-century Rome. As used by Paul here and elsewhere in his letters (cf. 4:5–7 8:14–16, 23), this term refers to the status of all Christians, both men and women, who, having been adopted into God’s family, now enjoy all the privileges, obligations, and inheritance rights of God’s children.
    6. In Gal. 3:27, we have a nice picture of being baptized into Christ.
    7. This is a nice picture of being clothed with Christ.
    8. This is like we put on the uniform of Christ.
      1. Baptism seems to be a ceremonial rite.
      2. Baptism was a huge deal at that time and in the first few centuries of the church.
  • Sometimes they had different robes for them to put on after the baptism.
  1. When we are baptized into Christ we have a new life.
    1. Rom 6:3 talks about being baptized into Christ and being baptized into His death.
    2. 13:14: Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.[2]

Max Lucado shares about this:

I make no claim to being a good golfer, but I love to play golf, watch golf, and on good nights I even dream golf.

So when I was invited to attend the Masters Golf Tournament, I was thrilled. A pass to the Masters is the golfer’s Holy Grail. Mine came via pro golfer Scott Simpson.

Off we went to Augusta National Country Club in Georgia where golf heritage hangs like moss from the trees. I was a kid in a candy store. It wasn’t enough to see the course and walk the grounds; I wanted to see the locker room where the clubs of Ben Hogan and Paul Azinger are displayed.

But they wouldn’t let me in. A guard stopped me at the entrance. I showed him my pass, but he shook his head. I told him I knew Scott, but that didn’t matter. “Only caddies and players,” he explained.

Well, he knew I wasn’t a player or a caddie. Caddies are required to wear white coveralls. My clothing was a dead giveaway. So I left, knowing I had made it all the way to the door but was denied entrance.

God has one requirement for entrance into heaven: that we be clothed in Christ.

When someone prays, “Take away my [sinful] rags and clothe me in your grace,” Jesus in an act visible only to the eyes of heaven, removes the stained robe and replaces it with his robe of righteousness.

What did Jesus do for you and me? He put on our coat of sin and wore it to the cross. As he died, his blood flowed over our sins and they were cleansed. Because of this, we have no fear of being turned away at the door of heaven.[3]

  1. In Gal. 3:28: we are all one in Christ Jesus.
  2. This verse does not mean we lose our own identity, it just means our identity does not separate us. We are no longer:
    1. Greek or Jew
    2. Slave or free
    3. Male or female
  3. You are all one in Christ Jesus.
  4. I believe it would be okay to add other nations in here as well. Christianity does not separate based off of nationality or gender.
  5. However, this does not mean there are no longer gender roles.
    1. Ro 3:22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,
    2. 1 Co 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
  • Col 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.
  1. 3:29: important summary: if you belong to Christ you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.
    1. This is really awesome
    2. It is a privilege to be Abraham’s descendants and heirs according to the promise.
  • Belonging to Christ grafts us in to be children of Abraham.
  • Now, Paul drives this point home.
    1. 4:1-3: As long as the heir is a child, even though he owns everything he is a slave. He is under guardians and managers, UNTIL the date set by his father. This would be the date of freedom and ownership and sonship. One writes: In Roman culture the father determined the proper time to conduct the ceremony of passage. He took his child out from under the tutelage of his professional guardians and made him a free son. Normally he did this when his child turned 14.
    2. Now this is the application. We were the children, we had the promise, but we were under guardian. We were held in bondage under the elementary principles of the world.
    3. What does that mean? The ESV Study Bible shares about elementary principles: Both here and in  9the expression refers to the elementary principles the Galatians previously followed, which for Jews would be the Mosaic law and for Gentiles the basic concepts of their pagan religions. But the additional overtones of demonic bondage in this phrase should not be ignored; they were, in terms of their mind-set and life situation, under a legalistic system and enslaved, and Paul explains in v. 8 that this enslavement was “to those that by nature are not gods.” Legalistic superstition and demonic domination are closely linked.
    4. Verse 4, Jesus came at just the right time:
    5. I am always amazed at this passage. This passage makes me think, “Wow! God did have a plan!” of course God had a plan and God sent Jesus at just the right time. Now, some can read this and think this is talking about the right time period for the Gospel to spread. Others may think of this as the right time period within historical Judaism. Either way this does have to do with God sending us His Son at the right time. In Romans 8:18-22 the Bible talks about how all of creation had been waiting in eager expectation for redemption. Actually, all of creation is still waiting in eager expectation for the final redemption.
    6. As far as the history of culture goes, at the time when God sent Jesus things were very ripe for mass communication which helped spread the Gospel. As the Bible exposition Commentary says it: “Roads connected city with city, and all cities ultimately with Rome. Roman laws protected the rights of citizens, and Roman soldiers guarded the peace. Thanks to both the Greek and Roman conquests, Latin and Greek were known across the empire. Christ’s birth at Bethlehem was not an accident; it was an appointment: Jesus came in “the fullness of the time.” (And, it is worth noting, that He will come again when the time is ready.)”
    7. Why does this matter? It matters because these Roman Roads as well as most of the area speaking the same language facilitated an easier spread of the Gospel.
    8. God had a plan and God still has a plan! Jesus came at the right time.
      1. Do you ever doubt? Don’t be afraid to admit that you have certain doubts or that you have certain struggles with faith. We all have doubts sometimes. But this shows us that God’s perfect plan considered every single detail.
      2. God is sovereign.
      3. Trust in God, I encourage you to remember that we can trust in Him.
    9. Jesus was born under the law, this means that Christ lived and fulfilled the Old Testament Law.
    10. Verse 5: Christ came born of a woman, born under the law so that He might redeem us.
    11. In verse 6 we see that God has sent forth His Son’s Spirit into our hearts
    12. This Spirit cries “abba Father!” or “daddy”
    13. Verse 7 gives a nice summary. You are not slaves any longer. This implies that they were slaves to begin with. Slaves to what? Sin, as earlier mentioned
    14. If a son than an heir through God.
  1. Applications:
    1. We must rejoice and worship that we are children of God (3:26).
    2. We must live for Christ recognizing that we are baptized into Christ and clothed with Christ (3:27).
    3. We must not allow cultural differences to separate us from others (3:28).
    4. We must and will confess and repent of any racist thoughts (3:28).
    5. We must challenge and encourage unity (3:28).
    6. We must stand up for those who are put down by others (3:28).
    7. We must not misinterpret chapter 3:28 in a way that takes away differences between cultural groups and roles.
    8. Christ came and because of that we have the right to become a child of God (4:5)
    9. Christ came at just the right time (4:5). We must spread the news of this gift (4:5)
  • We must recognize God’s sovereignty.

Christ gives us a greater inheritance than anything we could ever receive in this world.

The first Russian cosmonaut, Urie Gagarin, famously said when he got to space, “My atheism has been confirmed. I went up in space and looked around, and I didn’t see any God.”

Shortly after this, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay responding to Gagarin’s statement. Lewis pointed out that if there is a God who created everything, he would not relate to us the way a person who lives upstairs relates to a person who lives downstairs. This seemed to be Gagarin’s assumption: God lives somewhere “up there,” and if we climb high enough we’ll find him.

If God is Creator, Lewis said, then he would relate to us more like Shakespeare relates to Hamlet: Hamlet’s never going to find out anything about Shakespeare by going backstage. The only way Hamlet knows Shakespeare is if Shakespeare writes information about himself into the play.

The gospel goes one better: God inserted himself into the play. He wrote himself into creation, and, amazingly, he did so not only as the Judge but as the suffering Redeemer.[4]



[1]Today in the Word, Feb 2017

[2]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible(Biblical Studies Press, 2005), Ro 13:14.

[3]Max Lucado, “Back Door,” Christian Reader (May/June 2000), p. 96