Exasperated, Paul wonders at the Galatians’ desire to place themselves back under the yoke of the Law. He worries over them as they fall victim to Judaizers who wish them circumcised, observant of certain days and specific customs. Paul says “it is always good to be enthusiastic about good;” but he also says he is “suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” Paul strongly suggests to the church at Galatia that observing the Law does not and can not make them any more Christ-like!
15 What happened to this sense of being blessed you had? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They are enthusiastic about you, but not for any good. Instead, they want to isolate you so you will be enthusiastic about them. 18 Now it is always good to be enthusiastic about good—and not just when I am with you. 19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 20 I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you. 21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law?
Paul then tells them a story. He reminds the Galatians of the children of the free woman, Sarah and the slave woman, Hagar. Both children come from Abraham, but only one is the true heir.
Rid yourself of the yoke of slavery and take up the cloak of freedom in Christ.
Once we were “under guardians,” under and “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” (Galatians 4:2,3) Then, “God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law.” Jesus came “so that we might receive adoption as sons” and no longer be “slaves.” (Galatians 4:5,1)
Paul is weary. He laments, “Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Galatians 4:9) “Tell me,” he writes, “you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” (Galatians 4:21) Don’t you understand that you are now “free children of promise” rather than bond “children of the slave.” (Galatians 4:28,31)
“For freedom Christ has set [you] free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Paul warns, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” (Galatians 5:4-5) “Only faith working through love” “counts for anything” “in Christ.” (Galatians 5:6)
Christ set us free from the law of sin and death and we are “not [to] submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Since we have died to the world in and through Christ, Paul wonders why we “submit to regulations” of the world as if we were still alive to the world. (Colossians 2:20) “For [we] are called to freedom, brothers, only [we are] not [to] use [our] freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love [we are to] serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13) In love, we serve one another and so fulfill “the whole law.” (Galatians 5:14)
In our efforts to conform to regulations which “indeed have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but have no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23); sometimes we attack one another. “But if [we] bite and devour one another, watch out that [we] are not consumed by one another.” Instead, we are called to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Notice Paul calls us to “do good to everyone.”
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” Paul identifies the law as “our guardian until Christ came.” (Galatians 3:24) This guardian kept us under lock and key, safely shut up in a cell. Once Christ arrived, we became “sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26) Having been made new, and given our freedom; we “are no longer slaves, but sons, and if sons, then heirs through God.” (Galatians 4:7) We are suddenly able to “put on Christ” and step out of the purview of the law. (Galatians 3:27)
Once you leave the law behind you, once you throw off those chains that once bound you; you don’t usually “desire to be under the law” again. (Galatians 4:21) You are not of Mount Sinai, but of the Jerusalem above, says Paul. “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman. So, brothers we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:30-31)
“For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)