Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 19
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|Christianity and the Christian life—and I hope we understand this from the text that we have been studying—is all about Christ. It’s all about Christ. It’s about me learning to say yes to Him, and you, all of us, and letting Jesus be Jesus in us, letting Him be the life in us, manifesting His character through us.|
Son or Slave?
Turn with me this morning to Galatians 4. We are going to be looking at verses 8-12 today. What a wonderful book, the book of Galatians. Christianity and the Christian life—and I hope we understand this from the text that we have been studying—is all about Christ. It’s all about Christ. It’s about me learning to say yes to Him, and you, all of us, and letting Jesus be Jesus in us, letting Him be the life in us, manifesting His character through us.
Let me introduce you this morning to Edgar. [Edgar is an oven mitt.] Somebody gave me this years ago and I said, “What am I going to do with it? I cannot cook. I cannot even boil water.” However, it serves as a great illustration. You know Edgar, Edgar, I want you to say hello to all these people out there, because, you know, they’re our friends. Would you just say yes, hi, to them and say something to them. Just wiggle a little bit. Would you do that? Well, Edgar, you’re just not very helpful. Just do something. Make a noise. Can you make a noise? Isn’t it interesting that a person without Jesus Christ is about like that? You can put a law over it; it can’t even respond. It has no clue what to do. But I tell you what, you put a little life inside of Edgar, just put a life inside of Edgar [slips “Edgar” on his hand]. Edgar, would you say something to these people? “Hey, how are y’all doing?” Boy, it just does all kinds of things now, doesn’t it? Well, now it’s amazing.
You know what we just learned? It’s not about Edgar, is it? Edgar can’t do a thing. He can’t do a thing. It’s all about the life that’s in Edgar. That’s what Paul is trying to get across in the book of Galatians. We don’t need Edgar to teach us that. The book of Galatians teaches us that. We need to understand that the Christian life is not me trying to do anything for God. It’s letting God do something in and through me. And what is it that unlocks that door? What is it that releases the presence and the power of God in all of our lives that are believers? It is one word, and it’s the word “faith.”
Faith unlocks the door to all the blessings that we already have in Christ Jesus. Faith is allowing Him and His Word to dwell richly within our lives. It’s not a performance mentality. It’s not this mentality that says if I go to church this many times and if I study my Bible this much and if I give out this many tracts, these many tracts, then somehow I can prove myself to be spiritual. That’s religion. That’s a performance mentality. No sir! It’s not Edgar. It’s saying, “Lord, I can’t do it, but You can and I am willing to cooperate with You in all ways. I am willing to trust You. I am willing to bow before You,” and then letting Jesus be Jesus in us. That’s the subject of the whole book of Galatians. And Paul takes this subject of faith, which is the key that unlocks the door, and he weaves it all the way through the six chapters of Galatians. It’s not maybe the main theme, but it’s one of the main themes.
And just for a second, in fact, a brief one, I want to show you how he weaves this thought through Galatians. In fact, in every chapter he does the same thing just a little different way. In 1:23 he gives his testimony. And in giving his testimony he talks about how the believers, back when he was saved, were talking about him. Many of the believers had never met him. They had only heard about him. But this is what they began to say once the message got around that he had become a believer. And 1:23, “But only,” Paul says, “they kept hearing [and here is what they kept hearing] he who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith that he once tried to destroy.” The term “the faith” covers it. That became his message. Here is a man that lived religiously most of his life and now he’s a believer. It was faith that received the Lord Jesus into his heart and became a believer. But it’s also faith once you have become a believer. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus [by faith], so walk you in Him,” by faith. That’s his message. And this message began to identify who Paul was even to those early believers.
Now certainly faith in Christ is the way to salvation. And Paul rehearses this for Simon Peter in 2:16. He has to get right in his face. He has to remind him that it was not works of the law that saved them; it was only faith in Jesus Christ. And in 2:16 he says, “Nevertheless, knowing that a man is not justified [that word means saved; he’s not saved] by the works of the law [there’s not anything he can obey to obtain salvation] but through faith in Christ Jesus.” He had to remind Simon Peter of that.
But then on the other hand in chapter 2 he also shows that it’s faith after you get saved, that which is his message. He says in verse 20 the clearest statement about what the Christian life is that you can find anywhere. He says in 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live [and I love this], but it is Christ who lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh [in this same body I had before I got saved] I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” Now, to understand faith, we have to realize that faith allows no confidence whatsoever to be placed into the flesh. There’s no confidence at all can be put into our flesh.
Wouldn’t it have been wonderful when all of us were growing up and we were in churches, if you grew up that way, and you were in committee meetings and they said, “What can we do for God? How can we help Him out?” Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if we could have understood this truth? Because, you see, there is nothing we can do for Him, other than surrender to Him. He doesn’t want our abilities; He wants our availability to Him.
So in chapter 3 he quizzes the Galatians, the foolish Galatians. And he wants to make sure that they rethink what they’ve done. They’ve gone back up under religion, and he says in 3:2, “This is the only thing I want to find out from you,” Paul says. “I only have one question of you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?” And, of course, the answer was clear: They knew that the law had never done anything for them. They remembered the day when they bowed in total desperation, seeing themselves as sinners. They remember receiving Jesus into their hearts. And so Paul asked them now in verse 3, “Are you so foolish,” he says, “having begun by the Spirit?” You remember what it was like. You were desperate. You couldn’t save yourself. “If you had begun that way, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” And in that phrase he shows you the enemy to faith. The enemy to faith, to living by faith is the flesh. The flesh will be religious. The flesh will pray; it will sing; it will do whatever you want it to do, as long as you let it rule and reign your life. And he said that’s the enemy to the living the Christian life, to letting Jesus live His life through us.
Now to strengthen his argument he starts back with that salvation again, by faith. And he goes to Abraham and he says in 3:6, “Even so Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” You see, he takes them right back to their hero, to Abraham. And then he opens the subject up to believers, Jew and Gentile and he makes a powerful statement in 3:7. He says, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith [who are out of faith, who originate out of faith, nothing else] are the sons of Abraham.”
But then, you see, he’s doing the same thing. He shows that salvation is by faith, proving it through Abraham. And then he turns right around and shows that once you get saved that’s the only way to live and to enjoy the relationship. In 3:11 he says “Now, that no one is justified or saved by the law before God is evident, for the righteous man [the one who is already saved] shall live by faith.” And he quotes out of Habakkuk 2. He says it has always been this way.
And then in 3:26 he moves it to an entirely different level. And look what he says here. He says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” You have entered into the adult position of sonship in Christ Jesus. This is your position in Him. You are no longer children under the law. You are sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
And in chapter 4 what he does, and we saw the beginning of it last week, verses 1-7. And what he’s doing there is to try to show the immaturity of anybody who lives religiously as opposed to those who walk in the adult privileges of sonship. And his point is if it was faith that caused you to receive this position, it’s only by faith that you can enjoy this position. In other words, if a person isn’t going to walk in the intimacy of a relationship, confessing his sins, making sure the blood daily is cleansing him, a person who is saying yes to God and yes to His word moment by moment by moment by moment, then he only has one other choice, and that’s to walk after the flesh, and the flesh cannot produce what only faith can.
Faith causes us to enter that which we already have in Christ Jesus. In fact, what Paul does is he compares a principle of their day and he shows how a son, a child, at some point in his life, whether it be Roman culture, Grecian culture, Jewish culture, entered into a time of adulthood, the rite of passage. That’s when he became an adult and there was a celebration for that particular time. And he compares that practice that they understood culturally, he compares that to the spiritual coming of age which is salvation. He says in Galatians 4:1, “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, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.”
Paul said there was a time that we were just like those children. There was a time when we were under the ABC’s of what he would call religion. And he said that religion may have helped us; it may have governed some of our external behavior; but it couldn’t change us from the inside out. And the word “elemental” there means the ABC’s. What he’s saying is a person who puts themselves under law has put themselves back up under immaturity. And in verse 4 he says, “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 are under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons.” You see, He forgave us of all of our sin. Jesus had to come and pay the price on the cross before salvation could be completed. And now we live in that new covenant. And he says we used to be children and we used to be up under the rules and the regulations whether we rebelled against them or whether we sought to live after them.
But he says one day when Jesus came He birthed us into the family of God. And then in verse 6 he says, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying ‘Abba, Father.’” And that is that little word we looked at last week, Daddy, Daddy, papa. It’s a precious tender word that we have in our relationship with the Father that under the law you don’t have. When a person is under the law and living after his own flesh, then he is under a curse. He has put himself there and there is no forgiveness in the law. However, when a person is under grace and he chooses to walk and live that way, he can cry out when he fails because he is not going to be condemned.
There is no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus, and he can cry out “Abba, Father, I have failed again,” and God immediately surrounds him and the forgiveness is his; and he can stand up and continue to walk in the newness of life that God gives to him. We don’t have that under law. We have that under grace. Now technically, positionally, it is always ours, but we can refuse it when we choose to do things our own way.
One of the beautiful things about my children—and they are in their 30’s—when they call me and they are hurting—that’s not beautiful—but when they call me they say “daddy,” they always say daddy. If they aren’t hurting it’s “dad,” and that’s more respectful and that’s more adult. But when you’re hurting you cry out for daddy, you cry out for daddy. And that’s what you have in the relationship. If I choose to walk by faith I enter into the fullness of that relationship even though positionally I have always had it. I get to enjoy it for myself. That’s why Paul says in Romans 12, “Prove for yourself what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And then in verse 7 the apostle affirms our sonship and he calls us heirs. You have to be in a family to be an heir. He says, “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but you are a son; and if a son then you are an heir through God.” Now, I want you to think with me because Paul is trying to get the Galatians to think. Let’s think with him. What are the implications of that statement, “you are no longer slaves, but you are sons,” with full privileges in the family of God? You see, if you’re not enjoying that, perhaps you have to be taught it and you still don’t know it. Even though it’s true, we still haven’t grasped it. Once we are free from the bondage to the law we are free from slavery. We have to learn to live by faith because it is faith that appropriates what is already ours in the Lord Jesus.
You know what the Galatians did? They dropped out of the school of grace and they re-enrolled into the kindergarten of law. That’s exactly what they did. And how many times in our life have we all done the same thing? When we choose not to live in that intimacy of a relationship, we choose not to say yes to God, we choose not to let His word totally affect our behavior and our life, we choose to enroll one more time in the school of the law, the kindergarten of law. We have a choice today. We have a choice to live as a slave and we have a choice to live as a son. Slaves have no relationship with the Father and they have no relationship with the family. Only by faith do we enjoy those relationships. Even though technically, positionally, they are ours, we don’t enjoy them unless we are willing to live by faith.
And this begs the question that I am going to address today in verses 8-12. And here is the question: Are you—now draw a circle around yourself and forget that anybody else is here, but just draw that circle and say—am I living as a slave or am I living as a son? Have I chosen to say yes to God? Have I chosen to lay everything down and just let Jesus be Jesus in my life, or have I chosen not to go that route? Am I living as a slave or am I living as a son?
And there are three things that are a downside of living as a slave that Paul addresses the Galatians that I want us to understand this morning, three things in verses 8-12. First of all, we want to see the frustration of being a slave. Now, Paul has to take them back and remind them where they used to be. What is it like to serve a master, a god, little “g” that is helpless and uncaring? You see, my flesh cares about nothing but itself. And when I choose to do things my way, I step outside of the compassion and the presence and the power of God. What’s it like to serve as a slave rather than to live as a son? And Paul takes the Galatians back to their pagan past. He takes them back to when they were sinners, totally in bondage to the law, whatever law that was, the condemnation of the law in 4:8. “However, at that time,” Paul says, “when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.”
Now what he’s talking about, “when you did not know God,” refers back to when they weren’t believers. It wasn’t talking about when they didn’t know about God, really. But he is talking about, they knew about Him, but he is talking about when they didn’t know Him intimately. He uses a particular Greek word here. It is oida. But it means to intuitively know someone. A little baby intuitively knows the sound of his mother’s voice. It’s something intuitive. He doesn’t have to go to school to learn it. It’s something that’s given to him. This is the word used in Romans 8:28, “For we know that God causes all things.” It’s something that is intuitive. You don’t have to be taught this. And he’s referring back then to a time that they had never come to intuitively or divinely perceive who the Lord Jesus Christ truly is.
He says, “However, at that time when you did not know God,” that time refers to that pagan past when they used to live as slaves to their flesh. Paul takes them back to that terrible, terrible time. “However, at that time when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” Now, Paul points here to the gods that they used to serve, and he puts it in the plural. We only have one God, but he says the flesh has many gods, little “g,” little gods. He takes them back to the days of living in bondage. And if you have ever studied their culture, going back to the days of superstition and slavery, they had some of the weirdest philosophies. The world came into being by a giant egg that hatched and people came from that. I mean, you wouldn’t believe some of the things they believed back when they were pagans and the gods that they served.
He says, “You are slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” Now, to make this practical, to help us understand it, an idol or a god, a false god, is anything that comes from man. We have got to understand there is only one true God. So anything else that a person chooses to worship comes from man. It is from man’s creativity, from man’s mind. In fact, Acts 17:29 really nails this. It says, “Being then the offspring of God [he speaks to believers], we ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone.” Their gods were made out of all three of those things. “An image formed by the art [the creativity] and the thought of man.” Any idol, it doesn’t matter what it is, comes from man. If we believe God that’s something totally entirely different. He says, “To those which by nature are no gods.” The word for “nature” is the word phusis, and phusis is the word that means did not have any origination from God. It’s used in Galatians 2:15 when Paul says “We are Jews by nature.” And he says those gods you served back before you became a believer, they didn’t have any nature of God in them. There was nothing divine about them.
Now, you have to stop and think; Paul doesn’t become specific here. If they were Jewish, the mindset of the Galatians may be it was the 613 laws that man added to Mosaic law, and perhaps that become their god. Maybe that’s what he’s talking about, back when you used to let the law be your master. Or to the pagan Gentile in Galatia, he could be referencing thousands of pagan idols that they had. But how does that relate to you and me in the 21st century? And I will tell you what it is. Anything that is an idol is nothing more than pure flesh. And if we want to put it in simplistic terms for us today to get anything out of what Paul is saying here, he is saying, remember when you were lost and you used to serve the idols that your flesh came up with, whatever that was? Maybe it was your job. Maybe it was power. Maybe it was money. Maybe it was something else, but you were a servant before you got saved to some kind of pagan idol. And he wants to identify what those things are as to their character.
He says, “To those which by nature were no gods.” And the word “gods” is the word theos. And theos is that beautiful word for God that we see in Scripture, the divine personality, the divine power, the divine passion. He says anything that you have ever served, other than God, has no divine personality, no divine power, and no divine passion in it. Why would you ever want to yield to anything other than the One who is the true God? Anything that the flesh can come up with, whatever it is, has no divine power, personality, or passion. So when the Galatians were lost they were frustrated. They couldn’t, they could not receive anything from these gods because those gods couldn’t give them anything back. They had no divine personality. There was nothing in what they served to give them any fulfillment whatsoever.
Now why does Paul bring this up, because these are saved believers? He brings it up because the Galatian believers had chosen rather than to walk in the fullness of the promises, rather than to enjoy the full adult privileges of being intimate with the Father, and walking daily with Him, they have chosen to go back to what their flesh has come up with. They have chosen what can give them nothing but despair, frustration. Paul has been there before himself and he says, why, why would you go back to a slavery that you have been set free from? Verse 9 says, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” You know, if I could get inside of Paul’s brain, what he’s saying is, it’s literally insane, it’s insane for a believer to deny the fullness of what God offers him in Christ and to choose anything else that he becomes a servant to.
Let me ask you a question. Are you living as a slave or are you living as a son? If you are living as a son, the character of Jesus, like in Edgar, is being manifested in your life. He’s motivating your life. He’s moving your life. He’s presenting His presence in your life. If you are not, you’ve got something you have attached yourself to and chosen to become its slave. And it’s what is driving you. It’s what is framing your mindset. It does everything against relationships. That’s what Paul is trying to get across to the Galatians. He’s not down on them, he’s frustrated. He’s trying to get them back to the place that God would have them to be.
The frustration of being a slave. I’ve been there, I understand it. I’m not pointing a finger at anybody. I have four pointing right back at me. Everybody in here has been there at least once this past week. If you haven’t then you can’t say with Paul “I have not yet arrived.” Nobody has arrived in this yet. But it’s good for us to understand the stupidity of the choices that we make. I know I have got a PhD in how to do stupid things.
The second thing: the frustration of choosing to be a slave. Let’s just all be honest here. The foolishness of choosing to be a slave. Not only the frustration; you can never get out of it what you are looking for. It can’t offer you anything. It has nothing of God in it. But he said now the frustration, the foolishness of choosing to be a slave. The Galatians were not slaves because somebody made them be; they were slaves because they choose to be. Now that is the height of stupidity. When I was in Romania once I said to some precious Romanians, “I’m so sorry that they have forced you into this communism.” And they looked at me very sheepishly, almost as if the blood had drained out of their face. And I said, “Did I say something wrong?” And they said, “Wayne, don’t you know?” I said, “Evidently not.” They said, “We weren’t forced into communism. We voted it in. We made the choice. We chose the slavery that we have been under for all these many years.” That’s what the Galatians did. That’s why Paul says in 3:1, “O foolish Galatians!” What are you doing, he said to them. Verse 9: “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turned back again to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?”
Now the phrase at the end of that verse governs the whole verse. We have to understand that before we can go back and start at the beginning. “To which you would desire to be enslaved all over again.” Now that’s the key thought. The word “desire” is the word thelo. “You choose to continue to desire,” because it’s in a tense that is present active. You are choosing. You are choosing as I write, Paul said. Your constant choice is you desire to be enslaved again. It means that you have every intention of doing it. That word thelo means a conviction. I mean, it’s an intense word. “I’m going to do this, bless God, and nobody is going to stop me.” And that’s the attitude that he’s referring to right here. “I’m going to expel all energy that I have to go this particular route rather than walk with God. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it.” That’s the word “desire.” And that phrase governs the verse.
And now if you take that, just start back at the beginning of the verse and see what he’s talking about here. He says, “But now that you have come to know God.” See, he’s contrasting something here. “Come to know God,” the word for knowing God is to experience Him, ginosko. It’s a different word than what we saw earlier. It means to know Him by experience. And it’s in the aorist tense and it’s active. It means there was a time when an event took place in your life. You experienced God. You knew Him the very moment you bowed in faith before Him. That was a knowing of God. Isn’t that awesome! I got to tap into, experience actually, the God that created the air that I breath. I got to know Him and experience Him the moment I bowed and received Him as my Savior.
It was an established fact that they had experienced God in salvation, so he’s just documenting that. “You are believers, but let me talk to you as believers,” he said. But quickly he changes it from us knowing God to God knowing us, which puts salvation in its proper perspective. There’s no such thing as us seeking after God. God has always been seeking after us. He says, “But now that you have come to know God,” and look what he says, “or rather to be known by God,” and he puts that in the passive voice. And what he’s saying here is God has known us since before the foundations of this world. That truth continues to overwhelm me. He knew everything about me. I couldn’t do anything today that He was not already aware of. He knows my thoughts before I think them. He knows the words before they ever come out of my mouth. He knows what I’m going to do, and yet, He still loved me and knew me.
That’s a very intimate word, far beyond anything I can explain. He has fully known us and He has desired that we come to know Him. And, you see, when we came to know Him, His knowing us, it all became a completed cycle. And that’s what He has been about all; He finally completed it. He brought us into the family. He wanted us to be free from sin before the foundation of the world. He wanted us to walk in that beautiful relationship before the foundations of this world. He knew that man would sin, but He also knew that Jesus would come and die as our Redeemer upon the cross, and He wanted us to be a part of the family. He wanted us to be able to cry out “Abba, Father,” and he’s reminding those Galatians of that.
With this in mind, then he says, “You have come to know Him, but He knew you long before that.” And now that the cycle is complete, now that you’re in the family, look what he says: “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?” Wow, to go back to the weak and worthless things. We have already determined that elemental means ABC’s, means religion, and we are going to show that even more clearly now in just a second. Why would you go back to religion which requires performance, and performance is nothing that God accepts? Why would you go that route, he said? And then he sums up all religion and everything that it involves in one phrase. He says, “How is it that you turned back again to the weak and to the worthless elemental things?”
He uses two words that sum it all up. The word for “weak” is the word asthenes. It means it has no strength; it has no inherent power. Have you ever tried to go back to some religious performance mentality and realized there’s nothing here? You can have your quiet time till you fall over in the floor, but if you’re not there to meet God out of love for Him, it’s not going to do a thing in the world for you, but just suck some time out of your life. That’s all it’s going to do. You can give your tithe to the church, and you can do that and do that and do that. It can become so mechanical all you end up is broke. It hasn’t done any good. It’s weak. It’s not in the doing. He said the doing isn’t the key. It’s the becoming. And he says all religion offers is weak. And then secondly he says, it’s worthless. And the word “worthless” is the word ptochos. Ptochos is the word for someone who is absolutely and totally helpless. It’s a beggar. It’s somebody lying on a stretcher that can’t even move. It’s the word God uses in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” ptochos. It’s the word that means you’re helpless.
And he says you want to go back to the flesh. Do you really want to just play church? Do you want to see if you can come up with a good opinion as to what the church ought to be? He’s saying this to the Galatians. This is a religious, this is a Christian context here. Do you want to go back and offer your ideas to God, or do you want God to offer His ideas to you? Your ideas, your religion, your system, your rules, your regulations, he says all that is, they are weak, and they are worthless, and you have desired—it blows me away—you have chosen, you have committed yourself to going back to the very thing Jesus has freed you from.
Well, in verse 10, he tells us what those ABC’s were, and we see that it’s religion. He says, “You observe days, and months, and seasons and years.” Now, as a former Pharisee, Paul identified with these very quickly. Because, remember, the deceiving people that had come amongst them were Judaizers, the Mosaic law, the ceremonial, etc. They had come to put this back on these Galatians, and the Galatians had foolishly bought it. See, that terminology and that vocabulary, “the days and the months, seasons and years,” would most likely be Jewish terms. The term days would refer to them to Sabbath days, to feasts days, to the fasts days. The term months would refer to the harvest celebration such as the month of Abib, when the corn was finally ripe. On the 16th day of the month of Abib the harvest would take place. On the 17th day the firstfruits would be offered unto the Lord. Seasons would be seasons such as the Passover season or Pentecost or Tabernacles. And it would mark specific events in the history of Israel that they would set aside as holy days. The term years would be such things as the sabbatical year, the seventh year or the year of Jubilee, which would be the fiftieth year.
Now, you see, many of those Pharisees had observed every one of those things during their lifetime. And yet they had no life in them whatsoever. It’s like a lot of people today. They can come to church. They can give to the church. They can’t miss anything for a whole year. Back when I was growing up they had attendance pins and some people would trip over them as they walked through the door. They have never missed a time and they are spiritual, yet they are the meanest people in the whole church. It hadn’t done them any good. And that’s what he’s trying to say. You want to go back to that kind of thing? All these terms most likely fit the Judaizers, terms that they had deceived them with in their false doctrine. These Galatians which Paul calls foolish, or as we could say stupid, had re-enrolled in the kindergarten of the law instead of graduating into the school of grace, learning what grace is and walking in that relationship with Him.
We have to be careful when we deal with them however cause every one of us, when we choose our flesh, have just done exactly the same thing. We love to measure what we do. “How many did you have at church last week?” “Well, we had this many.” “Well, we had this many.” “Oh, you’re more spiritual than we are.” And we tend to measure ourselves by the way the world measures us. Brother Hession told me one time, he said, “Wayne, we are preaching the same message in England you are preaching over here. We are losing people; you are gaining people. Which one of us is doing it right?” And the point was well taken. When God does something you cannot measure. You don’t know exactly what He’s doing. You just let Him do it. But, you see, when we get back up under that mindset that’s what kills us. That’s what robs us of the intimacy of relationship we can have with Christ.
But the utter foolishness of choosing to be a slave, the frustration; it’s not going to provide anything for us. There’s nothing divine in it with the flesh. But not only that, the foolishness of it, why would you choose to go back to something that offers you nothing? And then finally, the feat of choosing to be a slave. What feat does, is accomplished when we choose to go back to slavery. And evidently this is a real problem, because if those believers under Paul had been taught by him could do that, we can certainly do that in our time. What does it accomplish?
I want to make sure you understand something, nothing positive, nothing positive. But there is one thing that you can always take to the bank that it will do, and that is it will absolutely break the heart of anybody who lives and teaches the message of grace. It will break their heart. It broke Paul’s heart. It broke his heart. Paul is grieving when he says in Galatians 4:11, “I fear for you that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” Back in chapter 3 he says almost the same thing in verse 4. He said, “Did you suffer so many things in vain?” Then he says, as if he stops and rethinks and he says, “If indeed it really was in vain.” Maybe you didn’t come to know Christ to begin with. Maybe everything I taught you just went right over your head, in one ear right out the other ear. It never lodged; you never received that truth. You never were changed by that truth.
Well, in verse 11 “I fear for you,” he says “that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” The word for “fear” is the word phobeo, and phobeo means to be terrified, to be terrified. It’s the idea of shuddering, of shivering, you’re afraid. Paul never was afraid of the Romans and the domination. He says “To live is Christ, to die is gain,” that doesn’t bother me. But what really terrified him and caused him to shudder were the people that sat under his teaching and heard the message of grace and refused it and never heard a word that he said. That’s what broke his heart. That’s what caused him to shudder. He said, “I shudder to think that you have missed this whole thing.” I guess in his mind he was wondering, “Did you hear anything that I ever said?” I can so identify with that. And sometimes, you know, you preach and you can fall over in the floor when you walk out, did anybody hear anything that has been said?
That’s exactly the heartbeat of what Paul is saying. All the labor that he had given for them: In Lystra he almost died; he was beaten and taken outside the city to be dead. I mean, he has been through it preaching the gospel of grace to these people. He was sickened to death when they found him and it was beautiful, the whole situation how the Galatian church was birthed. But I wonder, I wonder, if he would come to church in the 21st century, to any given church, walk in the backdoor and set on the back row. I wonder if his epistles are being taught. I wonder if he would say again, did they ever hear anything that I said, because it caused him to shudder that such a precious jewel of truth could be so callously ignored and walked away from.
And in verse 12, I tell you he’s a born-again optimist and I love that about him. He will not turn it loose. You will see this again before we finish the epistle. He says in verse 12, “I beg of you,” and he is urging them. He wouldn’t do this if he didn’t know that they could “become as I am.” He says, “become as I am.” Actually, the tense there, present middle imperative, become and keep on becoming as I am. Now, he puts it in a command form. And you know what he is saying here? He isn’t some egotist who is on an ego trip. No, no. What he’s saying is, you live like I am seeking to live. “The life I now I live I live by [what?] faith in the One who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” He says become and keep on becoming as I am. Don’t look at me, but look at the faith that God is encouraging within my heart. You look, pursue your relationship with Him.
And I guess that comes back to the question. It begs to be asked. It begs to be asked. You say, “Wayne, you’ve got an agenda.” No, I don’t, before God I don’t. I’m just trying to tell you what Paul is trying to tell them, and he is trying to tell us today. And here is what it is: are you living as a slave or are you living a son? Only by faith can you live as a son, which means this Book right is going to become your spiritual refrigerator. You live out of it. It dictates your thoughts. It renews your mind so God can transform your life. If you love Him you will love His Word and then you begin to enter into what is already yours in Christ Jesus. The life comes inside of you and now there are things that you can do that you couldn’t do before, not because of you, but because the life that is inside of us.
This ought to be the magnet that draws everybody to what we have right here. We have Jesus living in us, and when they see us living after the flesh, they will walk away so fast it will make your head swim. They say, “I have that misery in the world. Why do I want to come to the church and get it?” That’s the question. Are we living as slaves or are we living as sons? You know, when you have lived as a slave for so long this is the frightening part of it. It’s like searing your conscious that we talked about in another epistle.
The Indians had this thing about arrows being in your conscious and it would turn and it would prick you. But the longer you put up with it, the duller the arrows would get, and after a while you became callous to what even was going on in your life. And do you realize that’s what can happen? When we choose to walk after the flesh to the point that we become dull of hearing, which was talked about in another epistle, in Hebrews, what happens is we don’t even hear truth anymore. Truth has no impact on our life.
Here’s what I’m saying: if we are living as slaves you’d better be careful and I’d better be careful because we become dull of hearing and truth, truth can no longer affect us. And what will happen is, in our disorientation, in the dullness of our senses, we will turn and go right back into that which destroys us. That’s why it’s so important. Are you living as a slave or are you living as a son?
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.