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01/14—Freedom or Bondage (Galatians 4:16-25)

Good parents raise their children to become responsible citizens who are free to choose pathways that lead to prosperity and purpose in life. However, when those children (of good parenting) choose paths that not only hinder their growth and maturity but threaten to destroy the fundamental principles instilled from birth, their parents are brought to irreconcilable and inconsolable anguish. This is the anguish the Apostle Paul had for his ministerial children of Galatia.

False teachers used flattery to undermine the faith Paul labored to instill in the church at Galatia. As their father in the faith, Paul pointed out that while flattery may have felt good (temporarily) the motivation behind their flattering doctrine would destroy the faith he labored to instill and would ultimately bring them into a bondage and a ruin that was never intended for their experience. He posed the question (v.9) that essentially asked, how could they revert to the worthlessly enslaving principles of the world after experiencing the joy of freedom in Christ? The implication was that they were not only being made to look foolish, but the prolonged work they endured together may have been for nothing (v. 10-11)! The Days, and months, and seasons, and years (v.10) point to the ceremonial law of the mosaic covenant (cf. Leviticus 23:5, 16, 28; 25:4). To revert to the law is to forfeit justification by faith alone, in Christ alone (a fundamental truth of the gospel).

In an effort to reason with the church, as parents so often do with wayward children, Paul reminded them of their initial encounter and appealed to their experiential knowledge of him and his demonstrated motives. Paul relied on their moral sense of fairness and unity to lead them to the conclusion, “You did me wrong” (v. 12). Even though he was detained in Galatia due to illness (v. 13) and because he took that opportunity to preach Christ (in his physically weakened condition) they received him as though he were a messenger sent from God (or Jesus Christ Himself) in spite of his detestable condition. Their connection was so strong, Paul says (v. 15), “if it were possible you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.” Perhaps his physical condition had something to do with his eyesight. He asked, what became of that connection (the sense of joy and divine approval they had when they believed Paul’s gospel and received the Holy Spirit)?

Paul contrasted his ministry with that of the false teachers’ and called upon the church to render a reasonable conclusion. His leading question highlighted his pure motive (v.16), “Have I then become your enemy by telling the truth?” His unspoken admonition here is: don’t exchange the truth that hurts for a moment (but eternally helps), for a lie that feels good now (but destroys eternally), don’t be an enemy of truth! The contrast is that while Paul preached hurtful truth leading to life, the false teachers espoused placating flattery to the exclusion of those who rejected the bylaws of their social club (v. 17, 18). Paul reminded his Galatians Christians that he continued to brood over them as a father to his dear children and that while the tone and tenor of his letter was stern, he wished he could be there in order to confront the perplexing situation personally (v. 20).

Like a parent, Paul had one more example to clarify his point that life under Old Testament law leads to enslavement to sin, while new life in Christ leads to freedom from sin and eternal life with God. He pointed to Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and their two sons Isaac and Ishmael. Ishmael was born to Hagar because Abraham and Sarah’s faithlessness suggested an alternative to God’s plan. The law allowed Sarah to give her property (Hagar, a slave-girl) to her husband to sire a son. Thus, through no fault of his own, Ishmael became the representative child of Abraham and Sarah’s disobedience. But Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah because God is faithful to His promise. Isaac thus, represents the children of promise. Paul led them to make a reasonable conclusion: if the law produced an heir of disobedience and slavery, while faith in God’s promise produced an heir of obedience and freedom, they should choose faith in God.

The dilemma between enduring faith that takes the narrow path leading to everlasting life and enslaving doctrine that takes the broad highway leading to bondage and destruction still exists today. Even when we choose the narrow path (and experience the joy of covenant relationship with God) the temptation to change directions does not dissipated. We should be thankful for the parental figures of faith who steadfastly point us in the right direction, especially when the lure of disobedience is tantalizingly strong. We face daily choices and the challenge remains: to obey or not to obey. When we revert to the flattering ways of disobedience that undermine foundational faith we are not only made to look foolish, we bring irreconcilable anguish to those tasked to lead us on to live prosperously in the purpose of God’s will. Although the labor invested in us may appear to be misplaced, our faithful mentors realize that their work is not in vain in The Lord. But the choice between freedom or bondage remains with the children of faith. Which do you choose?

2 Responses to 01/14—Freedom or Bondage (Galatians 4:16-25)

  1. Joseph / Reply

    January 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you Teacher-Preacher. I love how you compared and contrasted bondage and freedom with Ishmael and Isaac. Especially taking into consideration that, looking from the top down, Ishmael’s lineage produced the Muslim ideology that is so prominent today. Conversely, when we follow Isaac’s line of descendants, we are led directly to the birth of The Savior Jesus Christ who literally freed those of us who believe upon Him from bondage. And the best part is that freedom is ours for the asking not just prominently today but for all eternity…as you so eloquently presented. 🙂 Thanks again and God bless.

  2. Frances sandes / Reply

    January 14, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    This was so powerful and so true it’s like God knows when the influence around you is drifting you away from him and you will receive an unexpected phone call, text message, or visit and that is his sudden way of getting you back in line. The hardest thing as a parent is allowing your child to have the freedom to choose

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