Living the Gospel – Galatians 3:26-29; 4:8-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 4, 2013 AM
As a child and a teen, I was worried about my physical growth. Both my parents were relatively short, especially my mom. I was afraid I would reach her height and no more. Throughout elementary school and middle school, I was one of the smaller boys in class. In high school, I finally experienced a growth spurt. I was elated the day I realized I was taller than my mom was.
In my later years growth remains a concern for me, albeit growth of a different kind. I want to continue to grow as a Christian. Spiritual maturity continues to be a goal toward which I want to move. I want to learn more about the Scriptures and to translate them into my daily living. As we learn more about the Gospel and act on what we learn concerning our relationship with Jesus Christ, our salvation, and in living the gospel, we will grow as Christians. That was Paul’s desire for the Galatian believers as well. In living the Gospel, he desired they continued to mature. Let’s discover what he shared with them…
READ: Galatians 3:26-29; 4:8-20
Do all Christian adults need to learn more about the gospel and grow as believers? Yes. Do all adult believers recognize they need to learn more about the gospel? No. Some Christians, believe they have learned all they can. They no longer participate in regular Bible study. Paul emphasized that believers are God’s children by faith. In living the Gospel, God wants us to continually mature as Christians. He reminds us that we are not on our own…
I. We now belong to Jesus! (Vv. 3:26-29)
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29 NIV)
1. Paul had declared that the Galatian believers no longer “were held prisoners” under the law. The Commandments were still valid as guidelines for living, but they no longer could condemn or bind believers. Instead, “through faith in Christ Jesus” they were “baptized into Christ’! In Christ, God took the initiative so believers could come into His family. Believers “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” All Jews and Gentiles enter God’s family the same way: by faith in Christ. Paul knew genuine believers have been baptized into Christ. Baptism is the open expression of a person’s trust in and commitment to Christ—a public witness of our salvation. Immersion in water pictures the believer’s death to the old self, which was dominated by sin, and the believer’s resurrection to new life in Christ. It is a visible expression of one’s personal relationship with Christ. We are no longer our own we have “clothed” ourselves “with Christ!” Pious Jewish men thanked God daily that they were not Gentiles, slaves, or women. Likewise, Gentile men thanked their gods for not making them animals, barbarians, slaves, or women. However, Paul emphasized that a redemptive relationship with Christ is open to people regardless of gender, nationality, or social status. Paul understood that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are not our own, we now belong to Jesus!
EXAMPLE: Paul’s point was that all believers have equal standing before Christ. Racial or national distinctions, class differences, and gender are unimportant. In Christ, believers are to treat one another equally as brothers and sisters; grace has replaced distinctions distorted by evil. When people are in Christ, they have a spiritual unity that removes barriers to fellowship. Christians are the new humanity in which our differences no longer matter. In fact, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Whatever our race, socioeconomic status, or gender, we are not our own, we now belong to Jesus!
Paul stressed that God sent His Son to redeem people who were under the law. God has adopted believers as His children and given them the Holy Spirit. They are not slaves but God’s heirs. Paul warned believers about turning back to manmade laws for salvation. He reminded them of their former way of life, of the change they had experienced in salvation, and of their initial response to him and the gospel. In living the Gospel, Paul reminds us that…
II. We have changed, since we have been redeemed! (Vv. 4:8-14)
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. (Galatians 4:8-14 NIV)
1. Paul had referred to Jews’ and Gentiles’ as being enslaved “under the basic principles of the world.” He was referring to the rudimentary elements of religion, the heavenly bodies, and spirit powers people associated with them. Because of God’s grace, the Galatian believers were adopted into God’s family. They had received the Spirit of His Son; they were no longer slaves but were children and heirs! “Formerly” they had been pagans, they had worshiped other gods; they had been “slaves to those who by nature are not gods”! They had no perception of the one true God—they were ignorant of His existence. “But now that you know God,” Paul asks, how could you turn “back to those weak and miserable principles?” Did they “wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” How could they exchange freedom in Christ for the slavery of legalism? The Greek word for “know” means, “know by personal experience.” Through faith in Christ, the Galatians were intimately related to God. Paul was dismayed that they would forsake a close fellowship of grace to pursue ungodly behavior! Yet, even today, many believers do just that! Paul equated returning to old habits to paganism! They were “known by God”, which stresses God’s initiative. Believers do not discover God; He reaches out to them to draw them to His grace. Paul emphasized the danger these Christians faced. They were on the verge of making a tragic mistake. Would they exchange their freedom of grace for sinful enslavement? These Christians had begun to celebrate special events of the Jewish religious calendar. Paul retorts, “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Paul pleaded with the Galatians to “become like” him. Paul had “become like” them in order to win them to Jesus. In fact, he first came to them because of his ill health. He reminded them, “Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.” Christians need to remind themselves of their former way of life, but since we have been redeemed, we are changed!
EXAMPLE: We can forget that we are accountable to more than just we are — all believers have this much in common: Through God’s grace, we have a relationship with Him, forgiveness of our sins, and eternal life. It is a sacred thing. The Lord, our church family, and those who have mentored us – we are responsible to as well! Because of all we have experienced in being redeemed, we have every reason to grow as Christians. If we forget what we were redeemed from, we may hold in contempt what we have been redeemed to become! We are to live and mature in Jesus!
Paul was disturbed that the Galatian believers would let someone lead them astray. He expressed his concern that they develop as Christians to the point of fully reflecting Christ’s image. In living the Gospel, Paul believed all Christians needed to…
III. Mature in their faith! (Vv. 4:15-20)
What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! (Galatians 4:15-20 NIV)
1. When believers forget the grace of God in their lives, they often lose their joy of salvation. This is why Paul asked, “What has happened to all your joy?” He could “testify” about their former attitude toward Paul. In fact, he reminds them, “if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me!” WOW! The idea is that out of love and gratitude they would have given him something of great value—their sight! Did they now regard him as their “enemy”? One view is that under the Judaizers’ influence, believers indeed considered Paul their enemy. Another view is that Paul exaggerated their stance toward him for effect. Either way, a breach had opened up between Paul and them. Some folks, who are caught in their sin, often accuse those who point out the truth as now being their “enemy” or “judging them”. Sin is always deceptive and blinds folks who are caught up in it. Those who would have encouraged the Galatians in their sinful condition were “zealous” to win them over to their deceitful lifestyle. Peter would relate that these folks, “mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:18-19 NIV) The Greek term for zealous means “make a show of affection and devotion towards” those they were enticing into their sin. Proverbs reminds us that we are not to “envy wicked men” nor “desire their company.” (Proverbs 24:1) The Judaizers, like all sinful folks, wanted “to alienate” the Galatian Christians from godly believers like Paul. They wanted to drive a wedge between them and Paul. He reminded them, “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.” Paul viewed those he had ministered to as if they were his own children. He was “perplexed” and concerned for them. Almost audible in his closing words is Paul’s sigh of sadness and perplexity. He wanted Christ to be fully “formed” in them. He desired they mature in their faith!
EXAMPLE: In our world, we have created spiritual hermits. We think all we need is to worship when we feel the need. Yet the Bible warns of the dangers. Only by continuing to mature as Christians can we progressively become more like Jesus. We need to stay away from those who would drag us back into sin or keep us from living our lives for the Lord. Also, we need to realize that we never outgrow our need to continue to mature spiritually. Taking part in consistent Bible study, fellowshipping with fellow church members regularly and holding each other accountable is essential for our spiritual growth. The goal is for Christ to be formed within us—for us to take on His character and to live as He would. This goal is a great challenge and a great privilege. We are to mature in our faith!
1. Whatever our race, socioeconomic status, or gender, we now belong to Jesus!
2. Christians need to remind themselves of their former way of life, but since we have been redeemed, we are changed!
3. Only by continuing to mature as Christians can we become more and more like Jesus.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.