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No Turning Back: Pressing Ahead into Gospel Freedom (Galatians 4:1-11)

Galatians 4:1–11 - 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, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 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. 


What does today’s passage say?

In this passage, Paul first illustrates our hopeless state before salvation, imprisoned and enslaved under the towering forces of sin and human religion, with no rights as heirs to the Kingdom of God (vv. 1-3). But in the fullness of time, God intervened! He sent Christ to redeem us from darkness and adopt us as beloved children who can call the Creator "Father!" through the Spirit's power (vv. 4-7). This intimacy with God astounds Paul and he asks why would the Galatians turn from grace back to the harsh slavery of legalism and empty rituals (vv. 8-11). As Christ's heirs now, we must also avoid whatever enslaves and find joy in the grace God has given us through the cross.


How can I apply Galatians 4:1-11 to my life?

Paul confronts the startling news that the Galatians are wavering from the true freedom of the Gospel he preached to them. Judaizers have come into town, turning people's heads with their teachings that blend faith in Christ with stringent rules and Jewish rituals like circumcision. "That's not enough," they insist. "You started with the Spirit but now must attain perfection through works of the law!"  Paul asks how these believers could so quickly desert the Gospel that liberated them from earning salvation. Why chain themselves again to human effort once Christ has unbound them? This deviation threatens the very heart of their faith! The issue transcends culture and applies to us today too. It's all too easy to slip into legalism, basing our relationship with God on how well we perform religious rituals or keep codes of conduct. But the amazing truth is that in Christ, God has fully and forever accepted us as His beloved children. Jesus' finished work means we can rest as sons and daughters, not slaves. So, as we explore this passage, let's guard against going back into slavery after being set free into the grace-life! Here are some key principles for us:

1.    Recognize Your Redemption and Adoption as an Heir Through Christ (vv. 1-7): Paul's contrast between our past lives under law and present freedom in Christ is striking. We were slaves, shackled in bondage, but Jesus came and unbound the chains! He brought us out of gloomy dungeons into the light, paying the ransom Himself through the cross so we could walk as liberated sons and daughters. No more futile toiling under oppressive taskmasters. Now we can lift our heads, stand tall, look our Heavenly Father in the eye, and cry out in intimate familiarity, "Abba! Father!" Out of sheer grace, while we were still sinners, God adopted us into His family. The Creator of galaxies and mighty oceans loves you so much He calls you His precious child. You have passed from slave to heir, not just of some earthly estate but of God's eternal Kingdom! This truth turned the pagan Roman world upside down, and it still holds revolutionary power today. You have inherited Christ's righteousness and glory as co-heir. You have direct access to the throne room of Heaven. You are royalty in God's eyes. Live each day in light of these identity-shaping realities. Walk in joyful sonship, not slavery to sin. Rest confident that God will never disinherit those He has adopted (John 1:12, Ephesians 1:5, 1 John 3:1).

Food for Thought: What sins still cause you to live like a slave? How will grasping your true identity empower you to resist them? Do you regularly thank God for the gift of adoption? What can you do to cultivate a heart overflowing with gratitude?

2.    Turn Away from the Worthless Principles that Used to Enslave You (vv. 8-9): Paul asks the Galatians why they are turning back to the pathetic principles of this world after knowing God. Before Christ, we were all shackled to the elemental spirits that govern this present darkness. We vainly pursued manmade religion and legalistic efforts to make ourselves right before God. But those things are weak and miserable at best. They cannot impart life or acceptance before our Maker. We have been freed from that former bondage! So why consider going back? Don't chain yourself again to worthless rituals, rules, and regulations. Don't take up beliefs or practices that cannot save. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Stand firm then in the glorious freedom of the Gospel and bear its fruit with thanksgiving. Leave behind any attempt to justify yourself. Turn from any controlling religious snobs. Fix your eyes solely on Jesus and walk in joyful relationship with Him. Stay far away from the things of this world from which He has delivered you through the power of the cross. Decide today not to entangle yourself again in that old yoke of sin. Your Father has made you an heir of heaven! (Colossians 2:20-23, Romans 6:6-7, Acts 15:10)

Food for Thought: What "principles of this world" do you need to turn from today? Are you adding rules or rituals to your faith that God hasn't required? Could these become burdensome?

3.    Move Forward and Grow in the Freedom Christ Has Given You (vv. 10-11): Paul is distressed that the Galatians are taking up religious observances focused on special days and seasons. But as followers of Christ, we are not tied to rigid calendars or repeated rituals. Jesus ushered in a new era of freedom from external prescriptions! We relate to God by His Spirit now, not codes etched in stone. Keep moving forward into the joyful liberty you have in the Gospel. Don't try to find life in lifeless regulations or hollow ceremonies. Don't relapse into former fears that your acceptance depends on rigorous rule-keeping. Christ bore that burden, setting us free! We are complete in Him. God delights in our sincere worship and obedience that flows from a place of gratitude, not compulsion. With Christ as the stable ground beneath our feet, we can grow steadily in spiritual maturity while avoiding legalism's shifting sands. We walk by faith, not sight. And the more we behold Jesus' glory in the Word, the more we will be transformed. Our Triune God has forever sealed our adoption papers. He will never revoke our heavenly citizenship. Live each moment free and unhindered in His redeeming grace! (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, John 8:32, Galatians 5:1)

Food for Thought: What next step is the Spirit leading you to take in your faith journey? Are you making consistent progress? Do you view God as a rigid rule-enforcer or a loving, welcoming Father? How does this impact your relationship with Him?

Paul describes the radical contrast between life under law and the freedom we gain through faith in Christ. Before knowing Jesus, we were enslaved to worldly principles that could never earn acceptance from God. But in His amazing grace, God gave His Son to redeem and adopt us as heirs of His eternal Kingdom. We who were once slaves are now beloved children who can call the Creator of the universe our loving Father! What an awesome privilege. As those liberated by the power of the Gospel, we must turn away from and resist going back under the crushing weight of legalism and human effort. We should continually move forward into the grace-life we have inherited in Christ. He alone is our solid rock the shifting sands of today’s culture. Our Triune God will never revoke the adoption He has granted through the finished work of the cross.


Dear Heavenly Father,

I lift my hands to You in gratitude for the amazing gift of freedom and adoption I have inherited in Christ Jesus. I was a slave chained to sin and futility but now, I am seated in the heavens with my Lord Jesus. But in Your upside-down kingdom, this is precisely my new identity through faith in Jesus Christ. When I forget this remarkable truth and fall back into striving through rigid rule-keeping to gain Your approval, wake me out of legalistic thinking. Remind me that Jesus already completed the work. Reorient my heart to simply receive Your steadfast love. Remove any remaining sense that I must still earn what You've already freely given. As I walk in newness of life by the power of Your Spirit, may each step bring me deeper into the vast, unbounded joy of the grace-life. You have called me not slave but son...forever secure in Your love.

I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.


Galatians 4:7 - Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.



With His Blessings,

Pastor Corby

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