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Spiritual Slavery

Spiritual Slavery

Perry Duggar |

In Galatians 4:8-20, Paul continues to teach Christians how to live freely in the liberty we receive from Christ.

 We continue our survey of Galatians called Living Free.
  1. Today’s message is entitled “Spiritual Slavery.”
  2. Let’s begin with Galatians 4:7 (NLT)—Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.
  3. By faith, these Galatians had become children and heirs of God, co-heirs with Jesus, (Romans 8:17) with the expectation of sharing in the relationship and blessings Jesus has with the Father.
  4. However, these Gentiles came under the influence of false teachers, called Judaizers, who persuaded them that they must become Jews by circumcision before becoming Christians—and all Christians, Jews and Gentiles, had to obey the laws given to Moses with all of its rules, regulations, rituals and ceremonies to be righteous before God.
  5. Surprisingly, these people were abandoning their identity as the adopted, fully-forgiven, children of God and reverting to relating to God through a formal system of behaviors.
  6. They were abandoning their liberty in Christ and regressing into bondage to rules.
  7. How is this relevant? Some of us are relying on our actions to make us right with God.
  8. These could be religious actions such as worship, walking an aisle, praying a prayer, weeping at an altar, baptism or the Lord ’s Supper, or acts of generosity and service.
  9. All of these things are good practices which should be part of the way you live out your faith, but none of them can cause you to be saved; they indicate that you are saved!
  10. We are saved only by God’s work of grace which initiated a personal relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  11. The performance of good works and generous gifts are expressions of faith, not conditions for faith.
  12. I don’t think many of us today are in danger of seeking God’s approval by giving and serving Him more, but we are in danger, like the Galatians, of devising our own, unbiblical, means of salvation.


Let’s consider Paul’s…

Warning against returning to spiritual slavery by… (Galatians 4:8-20)

 #1 - Reverting from freedom to rule-keeping. (Galatians 4:8-12a; C/R: John 14:15; Romans 5:20-21; 6:15-18; Colossians 2:16-23; 1 John 2:3-6; 5:3)

  1. Galatians 4:8-9a (NLT)—Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. [demonic spirits; 1 Corinthians 10:20] So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you) [implies a 2-way personal relationship],
  2. We can have a lot of correct information about someone who has never met us!
  3. He continued at Galatians 4:9b (NLT)—…why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?
  4. Slave = Gk. dŏulĕuō, which means to be a slave to, to be in bondage, to serve.
  5. These people were in danger of forfeiting their personal, familial, relationship with God, and instead, relating to Him through the bondage of rule-keeping and rituals.
  6. [T]he weak and useless spiritual principles of this world, include the idea that we must work and earn whatever we receive, which is the opposite of grace which is unmerited favor, receiving what you don’t deserve—forgiveness of sins, acceptance by God.
  7. Galatians 4:10 (NLT)—You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. [Part of the law of Moses.]
  8. These practices were object lessons that trained Jews for a personal relationship with God (Colossians 3:16-17)
  9. However, requiring Christians to follow these Old Testament laws to obtain righteousness discredits the gospel of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, which greatly concerned Paul.
  10. Galatians 4:11 (NLT)—I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing.
  11. It seemed to Paul that he had wasted his time and effort with these people because they were forsaking what he had taught them.
  12. Galatians 4:12a (NLT)—Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.
  13. Paul had been a zealous law-keeper: [Screen] Philippians 3:5b–7,9 (NLT)—5b …I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. [But then he adds…]

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. … …I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.

  1. Did the law have no value? The law exposed sin (Romans 5:20); it revealed that we can’t become righteous by our own efforts because we can’t behave perfectly.
  2. God’s law hasn’t been abolished, but it has been fulfilled, satisfied, for us by Jesus (Matthew 5:17); that’s faith—trusting that Jesus satisfied the law’s demands on me!
  3. This doesn’t mean we disregard and disobey the guidelines; it means our salvation is not judged by how completely we comply with the directions given.
  4. In fact, we are called to obey what the Bible teaches, not from fear of judgment, but out of love for the Giver of the guidelines.
  5. [Screen] 1 John 5:3 (CEV)—3 We show our love for God by obeying His commandments, and they are not hard to follow. [John 14:15 1 John 5:3]
  6. It’s true that Jesus shows love toward us even when we sin (perhaps especially when we sin), but we show our love to Him by respecting, honoring, obeying, Him.
  7. APP.: Does God show His love for you? Do you show your love for Him?

      (You give money to what you love, admire, are interested in, don’t you?)


Warning against returning to spiritual slavery by…

#2 - Rejecting the messenger of grace. (Galatians 4:12b-16; C/R: John 9:2; Acts 13:43-14:1: 22:6-13; 23:1-5; Romans 16:22; 2 Corinthians 12:6–9; Galatians 6:11)  

  1. Galatians 4:12b–13 (NLT)—12b You did not mistreat me when I first preached to you. 13 Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News.
  2. Paul either became sick in Galatia or went there to recuperate—and while there, he preached the gospel to these Gentile in Galatia—and they responded. (Acts 13-14)
  3. Galatians 4:14 (NLT)—But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus Himself.
  4. We are unsure of the exact nature of his illness (though I have an opinion), but it appears that his sickness could have caused them to reject him.
  5. Was that because he was contagious (no, he preached in close contact with them) or because his appearance was repulsive, his symptoms disgusting (perhaps, but I don’t think so) or another important reason (which is what I think)?
  6. During this time illness was believed to be judgment from God for sin (Job 8:4; John 9:2) but, surprisingly, these people accepted Paul as God’s messenger, cared for him, listened carefully to him and responded, but their attitude toward him has changed!
  7. He asked, Galatians 4:15a (NLT)—Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?
  8. Then continued at Galatians 4:15b (NLT)—I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible.
  9. This verse makes me think he was suffering some type of eye condition which may have altered his appearance, but certainly affected his vision.
  10. This condition may have been caused by malaria which can affect the optic nerve, or even the after-effects of being struck blind on the Damascus Road in his saving encounter with Jesus Christ. (Perhaps a corneal burn? Acts 22:6–13)
  11. Other evidence includes his closing in this letter at Galatians 6:11 (NLT)—Notice what large letters I use as I write these closing words in my own handwriting.
  12. Also, Paul dictated many of his letters to a stenographer, often adding a postscript of greeting in his own handwriting. (Romans 16:22; 1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17)
  13. A dozen years later (59 AD), he couldn’t recognize the high priest, who he would have known since he was a Pharisee. (Acts 23:1-5)
  14. Perhaps this was his “thorn in the flesh” which kept him dependent on Christ. (2 Corinthians 12:6-9)
  15. He asks at Galatians 4:16 (NLT)—Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? [Imagine the emotional pain Paul must have felt!]
  16. The very people Paul led to faith had abandoned his teaching and rejected him personally because they did not want to be confronted by him.
  17. It often happens that the messenger is rejected along with his message.
  18. In our culture, people are attacked personally when their opinions are not accepted.
  19. EX.: Christians are being criticized and rejected personally, even attacked, because of their biblical beliefs regarding premarital sex, homosexuality and abortion.
  20. APP.: Are you rejecting someone because you don’t want to hear what they will say?


Warning against returning to spiritual slavery by…

#3 - Receptivity to manipulation. (Galatians 4:17-20; C/R: Matthew 7:15-17; Romans 16:17-18; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 2 Timothy 4:2-4)  

  1. Galatians 4:17–18 (NLT)—17 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. 18 If someone is eager to do good things for you, that’s all right; but let them do it all the time, not just when I’m with you.
  2. The false teachers had been telling these Galatians that they really cared for them and their spiritual well-being, but their true motivation was to gain a following. 
  3. They wanted to form an exclusive group of people who observed Jewish laws, who accepted their opinions without question, and looked only to them for direction.
  4. One mark of false teachers is they try to attract people to themselves personally and not simply to the truth of the Bible or the person of Jesus Christ.
  5. Beware of any religious teacher, speaker or writer who asserts that he/she alone is right.
  6. The task of a spiritual leader is to encourage people to love and follow Jesus, not build dependence on themselves or promote their personal ministries.
  7. Galatians 4:19 (NLT)—Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.
  8. Paul has deep emotional feelings of anguish for these Galatians because they, his little children, have not been growing; in fact, they almost needed to be birthed again!
  9. Paul would carry this painful concern for them until they reached maturity in their faith.
  10. Galatians 4:20 (NLT)—I wish I were with you right now so I could change my tone. But at this distance I don’t know how else to help you.
  11. Paul wanted to deal directly with these issues, so he wished to be present with them.
  12. APP.: Are you moving forward into the freedom of loving Christ and following Him or moving backward into bondage to outward behaviors or the slavery of sinful practices?
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