Our Savior Lives (John 20:1-10; 1 Cor. 15:55-57)

Resurrection Sunday

Our Savior Lives (John 20:1-10; 1 Cor. 15:55-57)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, April 21, 2019

Let’s think about children and joy. A number of years ago I was cutting the grass when all of a sudden I saw my then two year old, almost three year old, run out the back steps, get on her tricycle and ride up and down the drive way with a huge smile on her face. I saw joy, I saw excitement on her face. [This was not Meagan not paying attention] Now, at that time, we had a somewhat large yard and I was on a riding mower and I know her mother would not have let her out by herself. I was looking for Meagan but she was nowhere to be found which meant that Mercedes had found a way out. Mercedes loved and loves to play outside. I love seeing joy on her face. This made me think of the numerous moments of joy on a child’s face. I have seen it for almost 8 years now. But I think of holidays.

As Mercedes gets older she is really able to understand what is going on. One particular Christmas we carefully set out the gifts so that she could see them. She came out of her room and let out a happy scream and said “Presents!”

Do we have excitement in the Lord? Do we have joy in the Lord?

Let’s read John 20:1-10

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

Theme: In the next few minutes I want to explain the resurrection and the significance of the resurrection.

  1. Let me start by explaining the Easter Rush.
    1. For the last 20 years or so the Christmas rush has been a bigger and bigger deal. Stores were opening earlier and earlier the day after Thanksgiving. Now, they are even opening Thanksgiving Day. I realized this when I served as a shift manager at a McDonald’s in a commercial area. We were working the day after Thanksgiving and it was a new store. We did not know how busy we would be. The rush began at about 6:30 am and did not end until after 11 am. But before the Christmas rush there was an Easter rush. Let me tell you about the Easter rush.
    2. Jesus has been crucified, the disciples are in mourning. But they do not realize that Jesus cannot be kept down.
    3. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb to see Jesus.
    4. She was the first to the tomb and she sees the stone rolled away.
    5. Mary did the logical thing, she goes to Peter and John. This is likely John, usually when we read, “The disciple whom Jesus loved” we believe it is John. She runs to Peter and John. She was in a hurry.
    6. Do you think Peter and John would have believed her? I would hope so, but she may be the one whom Jesus casts 7 demons out of in Luke 8:2. She could easily say, “I saw the tomb empty and they may say, “You saw something…” “Come on Mary…”
    7. Peter and John run to the tomb, but John ran faster. Funny thing about running, we don’t need to run fast, just faster than the one we are running with. It is like when I have been running with others and a dog comes after us. I don’t need to outrun the dog, I just need to outrun the other people. This is the Easter rush.
    8. They get to the tomb and see the tomb empty.
    9. John saw and believed.
    10. Verse 9: They had not understood the Scriptures that He must rise from the dead.
    11. Notice that Mary was the first to the tomb and the last to leave (verse 11). She was very devoted and faithful, we can learn from Mary.
    12. This Easter rush preceded any Christmas rush. The Easter rush was a big deal because our Savior Lives! No one can keep Jesus down! He had been resurrected!
  2. The disciples learned the same thing we learn– Our Savior Lives
    1. What is the significance of the resurrection? As I make each of these statements I would like you to respond with Our Savior Lives!
    2. We can have a relationship with Jesus because He lives. If He was not resurrected we would not have a relationship with Him. Our Savior Lives!
    3. Christ is our Savior who cannot die again. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again (Romans 6:9).[1] Our Savior Lives!
    4. Because of the resurrection we have new birth: According to his great mercy, [God the Father] has caused us to be born again to a living hopethrough the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).[2] Our Savior Lives!
    5. We have forgiveness of sins because of the resurrection. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).[3] Our Savior Lives!
    6. Because Jesus is raised we have no condemnation. Who is to condemn?Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34).[4] Our Savior Lives!
    7. Because of the resurrection we have the Lord’s personal fellowship and protection.[5] “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Our Savior Lives!
    8. Because of the resurrection of Jesus we know that we will also be raised from the dead: [We know] that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesusand bring us with you into his presence. (2 Corinthians 4:14; also Romans 6:4; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20)[6] Our Savior Lives!
    9. If Jesus was not resurrected there would never be a Christianity. Our Savior Lives!
    10. The Romans would have shown the grave and it would be over. Our Savior Lives!
    11. Jesus’ resurrection shows the grave could not contain Him. Our Savior Lives!
    12. Jesus’ resurrection shows that He is the victor. Our Savior Lives!
    13. Jesus’ resurrection shows again, the miracles are true. Jesus has the power and authority over all nature. It’s not hard to figure out: He can break out because he wasn’t forced in. He letshimself be harassed and black-balled and scorned and shoved around and killed.[7] Our Savior Lives!
    14. No one can keep him down because no one ever knocked him down. He lay down when he was ready.[8] Our Savior Lives!
    15. And all God’s people responded with Amen—AMEN!
  • The resurrection is of the utmost importance in the Christian faith.
    1. The resurrection gives us hope. We have hope eternal, but we can also have a relationship with Jesus because of the resurrection.
    2. Tennent, the President of Asbury Theological Seminary said the following: “Buddhist travel to the remains of Buddha, Muslims travel to Medina for the remains of Muhammed but there is no place in the world you can travel to worship the remains of Christ!” (1 Cor 15) We cannot do that because Jesus arose.
    3. The Bible also says that Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection. This means that we, if we trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior, will also have a future perfect and eternal body with Christ in His Kingdom.
    4. In 1 Cor 15:3-8 the Scriptures write about Jesus appearing to the disciples and later over 500 people all at the same time. Again, Jesus showed many that He has been resurrected.
    5. Later on in 1 Cor. 15:13-15 the Scriptures tell us that if Christ was not raised from the dead our faith is in vain! This means that our faith is useless. Later on in that same chapter the Scriptures write about our hope in the resurrection. You see, because Christ rose from the dead we have hope. We have hope that when we die it is not the end. We have hope that when our family members and friends who are Christians die they are not gone, but with Christ in eternal paradise. We can see them again because they will have resurrected bodies as Jesus did. Paul wrote, “Where O death is your sting.” (1 Cor. 15:55) There is no sting because we have eternal life in perfect bodies.
    6. Also, Christ’s resurrection shows that this is not simply His normal body coming back to life. No, this is a renewed body. In John 20:11-18 Jesus enters a room when the doors are locked. It seems as though our resurrected bodies may not be as limited as our current bodies. Jesus’ resurrected body will not die. Neither will yours. If you are a believer in Christ, you will have an eternal, perfect body.

I am going to read the words to Because He Lives

 Because He Lives

Think about it:

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

 When I was a child, on Christmas, my birthday and Easter I received gifts (probably too many definitely too many). On Christmas and Easter we would go to my grandparent house in the afternoon and I was always eager to share the news of what I received. After my birthday, I could not wait to share with my friends what gift I received.

When we have joy we share it. Joy is the gift that keeps on giving if we allow it to.

Share Jesus He has risen!

Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross paying the price for your sins? Sins are the wrong things we do.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him. (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.


Let’s pray


[1] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/can-t-keep-jesus-down

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.


Palm Sunday, The Savior Enters Jerualem (Mark 11:1-10)

Palm Sunday, the Savior Enter Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, April 14, 2019 

The Savior Enters Jerusalem

Humility and Royalty, we like both don’t we? We like both of them. For example, many, many people watched when Prince William was married a few years ago. Remember Princess Diana. I think people liked Princess Diana because she was royal and humble. We like those things. We like strength with humility. We like someone who can save us, but also not act better than us, right? In Science fiction this is Superman, but in reality this is Jesus.

I grew up under Superman played by Christopher Reeve.

Clip from superman II when superman flies and you hear the music and then he says “Zod, you care to step outside?”

I love that clip, that is so awesome! The next few minutes in the movie are great! It is exciting, we know that they are about to be rescued. I see the same idea when Jesus enters Jerusalem.

As I looked at this passage I was trying to think of a different theme, but I kept coming back to what I had talked about before. Today, I see the same idea. He enters in humility, but is worshipped. Later, Jesus is humble all the way to the cross.

My theme today is that our Savior Enters Jerusalem

Application: worship Him as Savior

Read Mark 11:1-11: 

As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.” They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

  1. I know this is a familiar story, but try to think about it with fresh eyes.
    1. We need to try to read the Bible as if we have never read it before. When this happens we will notice all kinds of new things.
    2. I like how John MacArthur sets up this passage:

The week begins with His arrival in Jerusalem. The year is 30 A.D. by the best chronology. The month is the first Jewish month, Nisan, and the arrival is on the tenth and the crucifixion is on the fourteenth and that all matters because God has established a very firm time table.

Importantly, it is the Passover week of that year and Friday will be the day when tens of thousands of Passover lambs will be slain, none of which can take away any one’s sin. However, on this Passover, there will be one sacrifice made for sin that will take away the sins of all who have ever believed through all of human history and it will be the sacrifice of the true Lamb.

This is neither the heavenly coronation of Christ, nor is it the earthly coronation of Christ. It is not a coronation of Christ at all, it is a mock coronation. It is a false coronation. It is a fraud. There are no formalities here in this coronation. There are no dignitaries. There is no regalia. There is no fanfare.

This really is very similar to His birth. In His birth, His mother arrives in Bethlehem in humble obscurity riding on a donkey. Here He arrives in Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Yes, He is the true King, King of kings, Lord of lords, Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah, Savior, and no monarch in all human history remotely compares to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is none so magnificent, powerful, wise, sovereign, just, pure and holy and all the elite and all the monarchs of all human history collectively together stacked on top of each other wouldn’t go high enough to touch the hem of His all-glorious garment. This is a true King, but this is no coronation.[1]

  1. As we look at this passage, we notice where Jesus was coming from being Bethphage.
  2. We can notice that in the first few verses Jesus’ disciples obeyed Him and went and got a colt.
  3. Then we see the parade in the following verses.
  4. Before we get there, it is important to make note that in this Gospel Jesus’ Divinity is called a “Messianic secret.” Jesus would tell them not to tell anyone. An example of this is Mark 8:29-30. Peter had confessed Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus told him not to tell anyone about this (Mark 1:43-45 is another example.).
  5. However, in this case Jesus allows people to worship Him. In this case He allows Himself to be known as King.
  6. Jesus is the authentic King, He is the True King. When I was twenty years old I was looking for a car. I was at a dealership and my dad showed up. I thought, “This is great, my dad is here and can co-sign.” I did not realize that that was not why he was there. My dad came to the dealership because a few weeks earlier my older brother bought a car at this dealership and traded in his old car. But when my brother traded in his old car he gave the dealership a fake title. Really. What happened was that my brother was making payments on his car to my dad and mom. When my brother turned 21 my dad declared the debt paid and gave him a title, but it wasn’t the real title. The real title was in my dad’s safe. My dad made a simple title on the computer. What is funny in this mess is that the dealership did not figure it out. My dad realized this was the case and brought in the real title.
  7. There are a lot of fake Messiahs. In fact, there had already been fake Messiahs in Judaism. But Jesus is authentic. There are people out there who promise eternity and all the answers. Just watch politicians. Jesus is Truth and He has the answer to eternity. When He came into Jerusalem the people recognized this.
  1. In verses 8-11 we find the parade. Jesus now makes His entrance.
    1. But He is going to enter riding on a donkey. Come on, you and I know that no one of importance rides on a donkey!!! A donkey! Well, to the Jewish people it was quite royal to ride on a donkey. In fact, in 1 King 1:33 we see David having his son ride into town on his donkey.
    2. Now, to the Romans the donkey wouldn’t be anything of royalty. In fact, a few years ago I heard that while Jesus is riding into one end of Jerusalem on a donkey, Pilate of Rome was riding into the other end of Jerusalem on a war horse with soldiers. What a contrast. But Jesus is the real King.
    3. There is another reason he is riding a donkey: Mark doesn’t really tell us why this happened, but Matthew does.  Matthew 21:4: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet.” What prophet? Zachariah, 500 years before Zachariah 9:9, Zachariah said, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your king is coming to you gentle and mounted on a donkey, not even a donkey but even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden…the foal of a donkey.’”[2]
    4. Now, they put coats on the donkey for Jesus to sit on and then they put coats and leafy or palm branches on the road. Spreading coats under a person was recognition of royalty.
    5. Now, this happens during Passover and Jewish hopes of a Savior ran high, so Rome, not wanting any trouble, had extra soldiers around.
    6. People in front and all around Jesus were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” This comes from Psalm 118:26. Hosanna is Hebrew and means “save us.”
    7. Someone wrote:

On Palm Sunday, my 5-year-old niece, Stephanie, sat on my lap while we listened to the pastor’s sermon. He described Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem and how the crowds cried, “Hosanna, Hosanna!” At that, Stephanie perked up and began to sing, “Oh, Hosanna, now don’t you cry for me!”[3]

  1. The people are ready for a Savior. They are worshipping Jesus as King. Now as they shout and worship the Lord this bothered some. It’s not listed in Mark, but John’s Gospel chapter 19:39-40 adds: Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
  2. Jesus will be worshipped one way or another. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
  • The people worshipped Him then, are we worshipping Jesus now?
  1. The Romans weren’t worried and they shouldn’t have been. For less than a week later Jesus would hang on the cross and say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
  2. Jesus, the King comes into Jerusalem, the people worship Him, the people were eager for a Savior.
  3. A few years ago, okay, maybe like twenty-two years ago, ESPN believed Vinny Testeverde was the Savior for the Browns. He wasn’t and couldn’t have been. There is One Savior and He is not a sports player.
  • Let’s apply this a little more. We must think about the following:
    1. We must also worship Jesus as King.
      1. He is your king as well. The Romans missed this, the Jewish elite missed this. They missed that the King and Savior of the world is making His entrance. They missed it, you don’t have to.
      2. When you leave this place, leave in worship and leave in excitement. Praise God that He did enter Jerusalem on a donkey for if He hadn’t we wouldn’t be saved. He had to come to Jerusalem to die in our place. Worship Jesus as King!
    2. They were excited about Jesus entering Jerusalem, am I excited about Jesus in my life?
    3. Think about Jesus’ example. Jesus enters in humility and He goes all the way to the cross in humility. Live this example.

Author and educator, Howard Hendricks, sat in a plane that was delayed for take off. After a long wait, the passengers became more and more irritated. Hendricks noticed how gracious one of the flight attendants was as she spoke with them. After the plane finally took off, he told the flight attendant how amazed he was at her poise and self-control, and said he wanted to write a letter of commendation for her to the airline. The stewardess replied that she didn’t work for the airline company, but for Jesus Christ. She said that just before going to work she and her husband prayed together that she would be a good representative of Christ.

Doing it for Christ’s sake adds another dimension to submission. You are submitting not just to your employer or husband or parent, but to the Lord, because of your love and gratitude for him.[4]

Can we humbly bow to Jesus in this way?

In reality, later during Holy Week they think that they defeat Jesus, by killing Him, but in killing Him we all win.

Jesus, our King, Our Savior, hailed as royalty right now, will humbly go to the cross and win on our behalf. He did this for us.




[1] https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/41-56/the-false-coronation-of-the-true-king

[2] https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/41-56/the-false-coronation-of-the-true-king

[3] Brenda Fossum, Duluth, MN. Today’s Christian Woman, “Heart to Heart.”

[4] Lorne Sanny, “The Right Way to Respond to Authority,” Discipleship Journal (March/April 1982)

The Law of Love (Gal. 5:13-15)

The Law of Love (Galatians 5:13-15)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, April 7, 2019

Recently, I watched a documentary about Billy Graham. I am fascinated by the way God used Billy Graham. When I lived in Cincinnati, I would watch his sermons on Saturday evening. Long before that I saw Billy Graham in 2002. I have read a biography of Billy Graham and I also read the autobiography titled, “Just as I am.” There are many things I respect about Billy Graham. One of them is his humility, another is his courage. Let me explain. Billy Graham was preaching during the race riots and segregation of the south. Yet, he refused, yes, refused to preach where the people were segregated. In fact, he saw ropes setup to divide the people. Graham asked the usher what was going on and they explained how the ropes separated the whites from the blacks. Billy told him to take it down. The head usher said no. Billy Graham told him again and the head usher said he would quit. Billy Graham then walked over and took the ropes down himself. After that Billy Graham spoke out against racism and segregation. Billy Graham was a true servant of the Lord. He united with Martin Luther King Jr. and included blacks in his crusades. Listen, we do not do good things like that to others if we do not start with good thoughts about others.

In the passage today, Paul calls us to love others.

My theme today is:

The Law of Love

Let’s read Galatians 5:13-15:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

  1. You are called to freedom.
    1. Notice how Paul begins this section. We are called to freedom. Paul had said this in verse 1 of this chapter.
    2. In context, Paul had just wrapped up a section encouraging them not to go backwards. Paul had talked about how they were doing so well in their Christian walk and then they backed up. They reversed course and now he picks up from that.
    3. There is a strong change in the rest of this letter.
    4. Some people think of this next section like an appendix to the letter.
    5. Paul has written much on doctrine and now he switches to ethics. He now writes about Christian living.
    6. Paul exhorts them of this idea of “freedom” but then uses the pronoun translated as “brothers and sisters.”
    7. We are called to freedom: A story is told of a town where all the residents are ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place, and then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible. He reads to them: “Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings, and you can fly like birds!”
    8. All the ducks shout, “Amen!” And then they all waddle home.[1]
    9. We are called to leave our churches, be free and serve. We are called to be the best people. The most loving teachers, the most loving citizens, the most loving lawyers, the most loving coaches, the most loving managers, the most loving waiters and waitresses, the most loving servants.
  2. Don’t use your freedom for sin, but instead serve.
    1. Paul exhorts them not to use their freedom for the flesh.
    2. Using your freedom for the flesh would be doing worldly and negative things with your freedom in Christ.
    3. Whereas the conventional wisdom calls for killing your neighbors with kindness, resident Bryan Stewart took the idea to its literal extreme.

According to the Pensacola News-Journal, Stewart was approached by neighbors about unpleasant yelling and other noises emanating from his home. Stewart responded by exiting the house with his hand in a strike position, wielding a machete with the word “kindness” scrawled across. One of the neighbors stepped in to block the oncoming blow, and in the ensuing fracas, suffered a cut on his left hand.

Police eventually responded and arrested Stewart, who was booked on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill.[2]

  1. The people of Galatia could face two temptations. One would be legalism. The other would be libertarianism. Paul had talked negatively about the law, but he certainly did not want to see them use their freedom for sin. One writes: This was an extreme form of antinomian teaching that held that freedom from the law meant release from all moral restraints. Paul wrote about and rejected this kind of perverted theology in Rom 6:1–2: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” The logic of libertinism was appealing to many who had reduced the message of salvation to cheap grace. They must have argued something like this: “Why worry about moral rules and guidelines or even the Ten Commandments? We love to sin. God loves to forgive. Why not indulge our natural appetites so as to give God all the more occasions to display his grace?”[3]
  2. Instead, Paul gave them a good use of their freedom.
  3. Rather, use the freedom through love to serve one another.
  4. Instead of sinful ways, serve.
  5. The English word “serve” does not adequately translate the Greek verb douleuete behind which stands the common Greek noun for slave, doulos. Through love, Paul said, you should make yourselves slaves to one another. Thus freedom and slavery are not simply mutually exclusive terms; they stand in the closest possible relationship to one another and can only be adequately defined in terms of object and goal: what we are slave to and what we are free for.[4]
  6. Luther insisted that a living faith expresses itself in works of love, in service to the neighbor. That such good works are done in freedom is a consequence of justification by faith. Believers who have been made right with God by faith no longer labor under the compulsion of the law or the self-centered need to serve others as a means of enhancing one’s own status before God. In a sermon on 1 Cor 13 Luther asserted: “One does not love until he has become godly and righteous. Love does not make us godly, but when one has become godly love is the result. Faith, the Spirit, and justification have love as effect and fruitage, and not as a mere ornament and supplement” (quoted in G. W. Forell, Faith Active in Love [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1954], 84, n. 27).[5]
  7. Of course this is cross referenced throughout the New Testament:
  8. 1 Co 8:9 But be careful that this liberty of yours does not become a hindrance to the weak.
  9. 1 Pe 2:16 Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves.
  10. Mt 7:12 In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.
  11. Ro 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
  12. Jn 13:34 “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
  • The law is summed up in one word, love.
    1. Verse 14: the whole law is fulfilled in one word… the implied word is “love.”
    2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself is from Lev. 19:18
    3. Paul’s ethical argument throughout this entire passage is based on the premise that the moral law of God, far from being abrogated by the coming of Christ, remains the divinely sanctioned standard for Christian conduct and growth in grace.[6]
    4. Paul did not mention the first part of the greatest commandment: Love the Lord. I like what one scholar writes about this: Why did Paul call the selfless love of neighbor the fulfilling of the whole law? Not because it is superior to the worship and adoration of God, but rather because it is the proof of it.[7]
    5. Martin Loyd Jones shares: We see them now, no longer as hateful people who are trying to rob us of our rights, or trying to beat us in the race for money, or position or fame; we see them, as we see ourselves, as the victims of sin and of Satan, as the dupes of “the god of this world,” as fellow-creatures who are under the wrath of God and hell-bound. We have an entirely new view of them. We see them to be exactly as we are ourselves, and we are both in a terrible predicament. And we can do nothing; but both of us together must run to Christ and avail ourselves of his wonderful grace. We begin to enjoy it together and we want to share it together. That is how it works. It is the only way whereby we can ever do unto others as we would that they should do unto us. It is when we are really loving our neighbor as ourselves because we have been delivered from the thralldom of self, that we begin to enjoy “the glorious liberty of the children of God.[8]
  1. If you fight you will destroy each other.
    1. We see this interesting idea in verse 15. In my words: if you fight you will destroy each other.
    2. Paul is saying, but… in contrast to love if you fight you will destroy each other.
    3. This verse is a window into the churches of Galatia. It shows that they were back biting and harming each other.
    4. So Paul is essentially saying if instead of loving one another and serving one another they are harming each other then they will consume each other.
    5. I think of this like the threat of nuclear war, we end up destroying each other. Think about it. If a nuclear war breaks out no one wins.
    6. After this verse Paul will jump into the section on walking by the Spirit.

Let’s apply:

  1. We must live out Phil 2:3-4 as we serve Christ. Phil 2:3-4: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
  2. We are saved freely, but we cannot use that freedom for bad.
  3. If we are harming other people in our freedom then we must understand it is a circular effect of negativity. It is like the fish chasing each other down in a fish tank, no one wins. Or, the school fights where one fights and then another, etc. Or, a football rivalry, only this is bad.
  4. We must do good to those who are mean.
    1. This means that we must think loving thoughts about others.
    2. We must think of others as more important than us (Phil. 2:3-4).
    3. We must not meditate on bad things about people.
  5. We will think of ways to win people with love. We must pray for others. We must love our enemies (Matt 5:43-44).
  6. This helps the Christian witness.
  7. This helps the Christian.
  8. This helps the world.
  9. This worships God.

So, can we be like Billy Graham? Can we love when others hate? Can we love when others dehumanize? Can we assume the best? This starts with our thinking. Can we live this passage? Can we serve one another?

None of us can, but Jesus can and He lives within us.

Walk by the Spirit.



[1] Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story (Word, 2000); submitted by Debi Zahn

[2] Jelani Greenidge, pastor, Portland, Oregon; source: David Moye, “Florida Man Threatens to Kill Neighbor with ‘Kindness’–The Name of His Machete,” Huffington Post (1-14-19)

[3] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 375.

[4] Ibid

[5] ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

Receive grace, give grace (Galatians 5:1-12)

Receive grace, give grace (Galatians 5:1-12)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 31, 2019

We are going to talk about Galatians 5:1-12, so please turn there as I introduce it.

When I was training for my first marathon, I would try to run a really, really long route each week. I am not really sure how far it was. A car tracked it at 26 miles, but that may not have been accurate. I only made it all the way through that route one time and my mapmyrun app did not work properly so I did not get a final reading on the distance. Technology and running can be a real bummer because it makes it like the run does not count if the technology does not track it. I would run down these country roads and it was quite enjoyable. Many times, I would get up in the morning and not really feel like going on this long run, but by 11:30 am I was ready to go. I most always started out really good. I felt good, I was running fast and I was in the best shape of my life at about 35 pounds less than I am now. But though I started out good, I did not finish well. My first 10 miles would go really well. Then between 10 and 15 miles I started to slow down. Then, almost every week, at about 18 miles, I would run up one particular big country hill and the wind would hit me at the top of the hill, then as that wind hit me I would think, “why am I doing this?” I would then stop, pull out my cellular phone and call Meagan. I did this from January through early April of 2013. It was funny because by late March Meagan would answer her phone and say, “where are you at?” She knew, regardless of how I started I could not finish this route. Meagan would come and get me and I would keep running until I saw her and end at about 20 miles.

Funny as it is, I would beat myself up for not finishing the route. I wanted to finish. I started so fast. But I did not end well. After I finished, I would get home and start stretching only to experience Charley-horses in my side and calves.

In the passage we are going to look at today Paul encourages the Galatians that they were running well. Paul encourages them to keep going.

My theme and application today is:

Receive grace, give grace

Let’s read Galatians 5:1-12:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

  1. Paul tells them “You are called to freedom.”
    1. Let’s look at verse 1.
    2. Paul had just finished talking about how we are children of the free woman, children of Sarah.
    3. Now, in verse 1, Paul says we have been set free for freedom.
    4. The New American Commentary shares: If Galatians is the Magna Carta of Christian liberty, then Gal 5:1 has reason to be considered one of the key verses of the epistle. With the language of freedom and slavery still ringing in their ears from the analogy of Hagar and Sarah, the Galatians are now told by Paul: “Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery” (Phillips).[1]
    5. They are set free from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations BUT NOT from obedience to God’s moral standards.
    6. Paul gives an application, “Therefore…”
    7. This is a command: keep standing firm, do not be subject to the “yoke” of slavery.
    8. The law is described as a yoke. A yoke would be used to control animals and animals are NOT free. Here the yoke figuratively represents the burdensome nature of slavery.[2]
    9. We are commanded not to be subject to the Law which would be slavery.
    10. Jn 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
    11. Jn 8:36 So if the son sets you free, you will be really free.
  2. Now, Paul gives the consequences of the law, severed from Christ.
    1. Look at verses 2-6
    2. Verse 2: Paul specified that he is the one writing this.
    3. Paul essentially says, if you receive circumcision… in other words, if you follow the Law, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
    4. I think Paul is meaning if they are trusting in the law for salvation then Jesus is of no benefit.
    5. Verse 3: Paul repeats: if you receive circumcision you must follow the whole law. Again, I think what is meant is if you receive circumcision for salvation you must follow the whole law (see Rom. 2:25 as a cross reference).
    6. Verse 4: Those who are seeking to be justified (declared righteous) by the law have been severed from Christ. They have been severed: broken off, abolished, alienated from Christ.
    7. The Moody Bible Commentary believes that alienated is a better word.
    8. “The Greek word for “severed” means “to be separated,” or “to be estranged.” The word for “fallen” means “to lose one’s grasp on something.” Paul’s clear meaning is that any attempt to be justified by the law is to reject salvation by grace alone through faith alone.”[3]
    9. In this verse Paul specified that he is applying this to those who wanted to be justified by the law. This is a strong warning.
    10. Paul adds that they have fallen from grace.
    11. Luther interpreted this expression to mean “You are no longer in the realm of grace” and illustrated it graphically in the following way: For just as someone on a ship is drowned regardless of the part of the ship from which he falls into the sea, so someone who falls away from grace cannot help perishing. The desire to be justified by the law, therefore, is shipwreck; it is exposure to the surest peril of eternal death. What can be more insane and wicked than to want to lose the grace and favor of God and to retain the law of Moses, whose retention makes it necessary for you to accumulate wrath and every other evil for yourself? Now if those who seek to be justified on the basis of the moral law fall away from grace, where, I ask, will those fall who, in their self-righteousness, seek to be justified on the basis of their traditions and vows? To the lowest depths of hell!27[4]
    12. Wow! There are severe consequences for trusting in your own merits for salvation. We must trust in the grace of Christ.
    13. Verse 5: Paul begins explaining more “for” is an explanatory conjunction.
    14. Paul is explaining how they are waiting for the hope of righteousness:
    15. They are waiting by faith and through the Spirit
    16. ESV Study Bible: [this] means that Christians do not attempt to produce perfect righteousness in their lives by their own efforts (as Paul’s opponents were futilely trying to do), for their hope is not in themselves; instead, they wait for God to complete righteousness in them—either when they die and are with the Lord ( 12:23) or at Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:49; cf. Rev. 21:27). An alternative explanation is that “the hope of righteousness” refers to the believer’s hope and expectation that God will declare that the believer is in fact going to be judged righteous at the final judgment.
    17. Verse 6: In Christ what matters is faith and that faith is working through love.
    18. The ESV Study Bible shares: Paul is not opposed to circumcision in and of itself but only if it is required for salvation. True faith is a living and active thing and produces love.
  • Paul says essentially “you were running well, pick up where you left off…”
    1. Look at verses 7-12
    2. Verse 7: Paul seems to be trying to encourage them. He says they were “running” well. They were living the Christian life well.
    3. Paul asks who hindered them and then he adds detail, they were hindered from obeying the truth.
    4. In verse 8, Paul adds, this did not come from Jesus. In other words this teaching did not come from Jesus.
    5. Verse 9: A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Paul will copy and paste this for 1 Cor. 5:6. “Leaven is often used in Scripture to denote sin (Matt. 16:6, 12) because of its permeating power.”[5]
    6. So, we come to verse 10: Paul encourages them again. He has confidence in them, IN THE LORD. He has confidence in them, but only in the Lord. He has confidence in the Lord working in them.
      1. This is the way it should be for all of us. In the Lord we have an awesome future, but we do not live our Christian life in our own strength.
      2. Live in Christ.
    7. He has confidence that they will adopt no other view besides the correct one.
    8. Paul is also saying that the one disturbing them must bear his judgment.
    9. So, we come to verse 11, Paul is saying if he preaches circumcision, in other words, the law, why is he persecuted.
    10. Apparently, Paul has been persecuted and apparently, he is also accused of preaching the law. Paul says if this were the case the stumbling block of the cross is gone. The stumbling block is salvation by grace. The NET Bible notes: That is, if Paul still teaches observance of the Mosaic law (preaches circumcision), why is he still being persecuted by his opponents, who insist that Gentile converts to Christianity must observe the Mosaic law? The offense of the cross refers to the offense to Jews caused by preaching Christ crucified.[6]
    11. 6:12: Those who want to make a good showing in external matters are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do so only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.[7]
    12. Verse 12: is a simple, yet provocative, statement.
    13. Paul is essentially saying if you are going to believe in the law don’t stop at circumcision, castrate yourself. “The Greek word Paul used for mutilate was often used of castration, such as in the cult of Cybele, whose priests were self-made eunuchs.”[8]
    14. The Moody Bible Commentary shares: Paul sarcastically dismissed the legalists as troublers. As with Jesus’ command in Mk 9:43-45, Paul’s words calling for legalists to mutilate themselves were not to be fulfilled literally. Rather they were meant to stir the Galatians to cut off relations with the legalists.[9]
  1. Let’s apply this:
    1. We are set free, we must know that we are saved by God’s grace.
    2. We must respond in worship of Christ.
    3. Since we are saved by God’s grace, we must not think we are better than any other Christian.
    4. Since we are saved by God’s grace we must give others grace.
      1. We must not be judgmental.
      2. This does not mean we do not call out sin, it just means that we must be full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14).
      3. We must love and support people even when they fail. That is what grace is.
    5. We must recognize the strong consequences of living under the Law, alienation from Christ (5:4).
    6. We must wait expecting Jesus and His future Kingdom (verse 5).
    7. We must continue living for Christ as we started, we must keep the faith (verse 7).


Sometimes the Christian life is described as a run (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 5:7). Other times the Christian life is described as a walk (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 4:1). We must keep moving in the Christian life. We must keep growing in the Christian life. We must stay the course. We must “hold fast.” We must not give up.

I told you about the many times that I could not finish that long running route. There was one time I did finish the route. Here is how I finished. I ran to the end. I did not give up. I had pressure to finish. Meagan was in Dayton so I could not call her to pick me up. I knew a few people I could call, but I did not want to call them. This pressured me to finish.

Some of us need to be challenged in our walk with Christ. We need challenged. I watch a show called “A Football Life” which is about various NFL players. I watched the episode about Bill Cowher, the former Steelers coach. It is interesting because you see him motivating players on the sidelines. He is telling them in a very strong way, “Your job is to rush the quarterback.” His motivation is yelling. But it works for the football players. Some of us need challenged. We need the Word of God to challenge us like a football coach. “Your job in Christ is to sack the enemy.” “Your job in Christ is to be contagious Christians and this sacks the enemy.”

Some of you have beat yourself up enough. You are giving yourself standards that are not from the Holy Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, you must lessen the pressure. After those long runs, I ran the 2013 Cincinnati marathon. Then in 2014 and 2015 I ran two more marathons. I ran a second Cincinnati marathon and in 2015 I ran the Pittsburgh marathon. But in my training in 2014 and 2015 I lessened the pressure. I could not finish that long running route. I wanted to but could not. So, I did not try to run longer than 20 miles straight. Remember the grace of God.

Receive grace and give grace.



[1] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 352.

[2] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 5:1.

[3] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195?mt=11

27 LW 27.18.

[4] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 359.

[5] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195?mt=11

[6] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 5:11.

[7] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005), Ga 6:12.

[8] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195?mt=11

[9] The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 75968-75970). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Children are Children of the Free Woman (Galatians 4:21-31)

God’s Children are Children of the Free Woman (Galatians 4:21-31)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 24, 2019

We are going to be turning to Galatians 4:21-31, if you would like to turn there while I introduce it.

J.D. Greear writes:

Believe it or not, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the Apostle Paul agree on one thing: Religion can turn you into a really bad person. Religion caters to the worst parts of us—pride, self-centeredness, condescension, self-righteousness, and bigotry—which is why religious people can be (in the words of our generation) the worst.

Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher, told a story about a man who dies and goes to hell. He doesn’t think he should be there, so he makes an appeal to the Apostle Peter, who is standing on the edge of hell.

Peter asks him, “Why do you think you don’t belong here?”

“Because I did so many good deeds in my life! One time I gave a carrot to a poor, hungry man.”

“OK,” Peter said. “Let’s see if that’s good enough to get you out of hell,” and he lowered a carrot over into hell by a fishing line.

The man took ahold of the carrot. Well, lots of other people in hell noticed what was happening and grabbed onto the line as well. The man was afraid the line was going to break, so he started kicking and punching other people, screaming, “That’s my carrot!”

This, Kierkegaard said, is a picture of religion.

When you do religious deeds to try to save yourself or exalt yourself, they’re actually done from self-interest. Religion done to distinguish ourselves from others or set us apart inevitably leads us to insecurity and cruelty.

The gospel teaches the opposite of religion. It teaches that God offers salvation not to those who earn it as a reward but to those who are unworthy and receive it as a gift.[1]

This is Paul’s theme in Galatians as well as Romans and the rest of the New Testament. Actually, the whole Bible is about God’s grace.

Today, my theme is:

God’s Children are Children of the Free Woman

Let’s read Galatians 4:21-31:

Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”

28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?

“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”

31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

  1. Listen to the Bible (law).
    1. Verse 21 is about this.
    2. Notice Paul switched back to a more accusatory tone. He says that they want to be under the law, but they don’t listen to the law.
    3. Paul used a play on the word translated as “law.” Law could mean the law of Moses, or the first 5 books of the Bible. In this case Paul means the first 5 books of the Bible. He is going to talk about Genesis.
    4. There are some strong applications from that one sentence.
    5. Do we listen to the Bible? Do we listen to the whole Bible, or just the parts we want?
    6. Do we surrender to the Bible?
    7. There is something called eisegesis. This is interpreting a passage to make it say what we want it to say.
    8. In contrast to eisegesis is exegesis. Exegesis is letting the Bible speak for itself.
    9. Sometimes we go around a table and we say, “What does the Bible passage mean to you?” That is not correct. What is correct is, “What does the Bible passage mean if you were not even born?” We need to let the Bible say what the author wanted it to say. We need to dig into the text itself for this.
    10. We must listen to the Bible.
    11. In listening to the Bible we must listen to the Lord.
    12. A few weeks ago I quoted Invictis. Today I quote a response written by Dorothea Day:

My Captain Out of the light that dazzles me, Bright as the sun from pole to pole, I thank the God I know to be For Christ the conqueror of my soul. Since His the sway of circumstance, I would not wince nor cry aloud. Under that rule which men call chance My head with joy is humbly bowed. Beyond this place of sin and tears That life with Him! And His the aid, Despite the menace of the years, Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid. I have no fear, though strait the gate, He cleared from punishment the scroll. Christ is the Master of my fate, Christ is the Captain of my soul.[2]

  1. Isaac versus Ishmael
    1. Verses 22-23 are about the two sons of Abraham.
    2. verse 22: Paul now uses an allegory story.
    3. Abraham had 2 sons, 1 from the slave wife and one from the free wife.
    4. One source points out: As a matter of fact, Abraham had eight sons, six of them by Keturah (Gen 25:1–2), whom he married after Sarah’s death. Paul did not mention Abraham’s latter progeny because they were irrelevant to his present purpose. It does not follow, however, that Paul was not interested in giving “an historically accurate account of the Genesis narrative.Ishmael and Isaac represent the two lines of descendants that sprang from Abraham. According to Gen 25:13–18, Ishmael begot twelve sons who became the ancestors of the Arab tribes, which occupied the territory “from Havilah to Shur,” that is, the desert lands between Egypt and the Euphrates River.245In time the descendants of Ishmael became identified with the Gentiles in general, while the sons of Isaac were regarded as “a holy seed,” the unique possession of God and cherished above all nations on the face of the earth.The birth of Ishmael was the result of the outworking of the philosophy that God helps those who help themselves.Both Abraham and Sarah were childless in their old age, and it appeared that they would die that way. So they decided to “help God” fulfill his promise. The result was the birth of Ishmael, who was a source of contention and suffering for the rest of his life. Then fourteen years later God’s promise was at last fulfilled in the birth of Isaac, so called because of the laughter, first of unbelief and then of joy, which greeted his birth. Ishmael was Abraham’s son by proxy, according to the flesh; Isaac was his son by promise, a living witness to divine grace.[3]
    5. In verse 23 I like how the NLT words it. The son of the slave woman was born from a “human attempt…”
    6. The son of the slave woman was born “according to the flesh,” that is, by the normal means of human procreation; conversely, the son of the free woman was born “through the promise,” that is, in direct fulfillment of God’s word to Abraham. Luther correctly observed that the principal difference here was the absence of the word of God in the birth of Ishmael: “When Hagar conceived and gave birth to Ishmael, there was no voice or word of God that predicted this; but with Sarah’s permission Abraham went into Hagar the slave, whom Sarah, because she was barren, gave him as his wife as Genesis testifies.… Therefore Ishmael was born without the word, solely at the request of Sarah herself. Here there was no word of God that commanded or promised Abraham a son; but everything happened by chance, as Sarah’s words indicate: ‘It may be,’ she says, ‘that I shall obtain children by her.’247[4]
    7. The verse further says, the son of the free woman was God’s way (my translation).
    8. Abraham and Sarah tried to do things their way rather than wait on God.
    9. I am amazed at Abraham and Sarah, just because they were nearing 86 and 76 years old they doubt God. I mean, people of that age have babies all the time.
    10. No, really, we act before God can answer prayers too, don’t we?
  • The explanation
    1. Verses 24-31:
    2. Verse 24: Hagar is Mount Sinai= the law and the law enslaved them.
    3. The NET Bible shares:Paul is not saying the OT account is an allegory, but rather that he is constructing an allegory based on the OT account.[5]
    4. About allegory I have one source that shares:
    5. In its root meaning, to speak in an allegory means to “say something else.” Allegorical interpretation seeks to discern a hidden meaning in a given story or text, a meaning that may be entirely divorced from the historical referent alluded to in the narrative itself.[6]
    6. A good example of an allegory in English literature is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. This famous story is a Christian fantasy that Bunyan said came to him “under the similitude of a dream” and in which he depicted the various stages of the Christian life through a series of coded characters, events, and places—Pliable, Faithful, Hopeful, Giant Despair, Doubting-Castle, Hill Difficulty, City Beautiful, and so on. Allegorical exegesis was a common form of literary analysis in the Hellenistic world.[7]
    7. Verse 25: Jerusalem (Jewish people) are like Mount Sinai because they are enslaved to the law.
    8. Verse 26: Sarah is the Heavenly Jerusalem; what an application.
    9. Verse 27: Isa 54:1: a prophesy about gentiles in the covenant. Isaiah 54:1 looks to the millennial reign when the current barren women of Jerusalem will no longer be barren. This famous passage of Scripture likens the city of Jerusalem to a barren widow sitting at the gates of Jerusalem. She is covered in sackcloth and ashes because her husband has been carried away into captivity and she has no children to care for her in her old age. In the midst of this desperate situation, the voice of God breaks in: “Be happy, you childless woman! Shout and cry with joy, you who never felt the pains of childbirth! For the woman who was deserted will have more children than the woman whose children never left her.”[8]
    10. In Verse 28: the Christians are like Isaac.
    11. Verse 29 has quite an application: The persecution of Christians by the Judaizers is compared to the persecution of Isaac from Ishmael. In Galatians 5:11 Paul referenced being persecuted for his preaching.
    12. There is only one short reference to Isaac being persecuted by Ishmael: The only biblical basis for this tradition stems from the statement in Gen 21:9 that Sarah saw Ishmael “playing with her son Isaac” during the festivities surrounding the weaning of the younger boy. The KJV gives a more sinister translation to Ishmael’s activity, “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian … mocking.” Later traditions identified Ishmael’s behavior as sexual immorality, the worship of false gods, and murderous sporting activities directed against his brother after the pattern of Cain and Abel.[9]
    13. Verse 30 comes from Gen 21:10 and 12.
    14. Verse 31: we are free

A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.

“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”

“What’s that, sir?”

“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them all free!”

With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.

Until you give yourself permission to be the unique person God made you to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows you to do . . . you will be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom.[10]

  1. Let’s Apply
    1. In verse 21, Paul asks if they listen to the Law. We must listen to God’s Word.
    2. We must let God bring about His will. In verse 23 Paul refers to Ishmael as the way that Abraham and Sarah tried to do God’s job. We must trust God.
      1. We must not get ahead of God. We must trust the Lord and do what is right.
      2. This means that we must be ethical in business practices and moral in everything.
      3. We must have integrity and responsibility even when it does not make sense.
      4. We must not cheat numbers, or “cook the books.”
    3. We will trust and follow God’s promises.
    4. We must repent where we have not been trusting God. Have we rushed ahead of God like Abraham and Sarah did?
    5. We must recognize that these two covenants don’t fit together. Paul says that we are free. We cannot be free and slave at the same time.
    6. Worship God.


One writes:

One of my good friends, Clayton King, has a guy on his pastoral team whose pregnant wife and young child were involved in a terrible accident. An EMT worker fell asleep at the wheel and hit them head on and killed the wife and her unborn child.

At the sentencing of the EMT, who was facing felony charges and harsh time, the pastor showed up and pleaded for a more lenient sentence. That gesture began a friendship between the two men that has lasted eight years. They meet every couple of weeks and have become like family.

I didn’t hear this story from Clayton. The story was carried on the Today show, and the pastor was asked why he did such a thing for a man who was responsible for the death of his wife and child. He said simply, “This is what Jesus did for me. After I wronged him, he brought me close. It just makes sense that I do this for others.”

Religion doesn’t do that to you. The gospel does.[11]







[2]—Dorothea Day, quoted in Hazel Felleman, The Best Loved Poems of the American People

245See F. F. Bruce, “ ‘Abraham Had Two Sons’: A Study in Pauline Hermeneutics,” in New Testament Studies: Essays in Honor of Ray Summers, ed. H. L. Drumwright and C. Vaughan (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1975), 72.

[3]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 338.


[4]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 337.

[5]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 4:24.

[6]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 338.

[7]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 338–339.

[8]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 344.

[9]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 346.



Paul’s Personal Appeal (Galatians 4:12-20)

Paul’s Personal Appeal (Galatians 4:12-20)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 17, 2019

I like to hear stories of how God’s Word works in someone’s life. Recently, that hit home for me as I read this story from Chuck Swindoll.

He writes:

When I served overseas in the Marines many years ago, I had a bunkmate named Eddie. When he found out I was a Christian, he told me in no uncertain terms:

“Hey, I want to tell you something, Swindle. I didn’t come over here to Okinawa to be evangelized. So just back off, okay?”

“Sure, that’s no problem,” I answered. So, I’d lie up on my top bunk and I’d try to figure out how I could get Eddie interested in the Lord Jesus. One day I said, “Hey Eddie, can you help me with some of these words?” I dropped down about forty of my verse cards, and I said, “Let’s see if I can do these.” They were verses like John 3:16 and other verses on salvation. So I began: “For God, uh . . .”

“SO,” Eddie added impatiently.

“Oh, okay,” I’d reply, “For God so . . . uh . . .”


“Yes, yes, that’s it. For God so loved the world.” We went through dozens of verses just like that.

Fast-forward thirty years . . . and the phone rings one day in my study.

“Hey, Swindle!”

I said, “This can only be a guy named Eddie.”

“Yeah,” Eddie answered, “Hey, you know that trick you played on me in Okinawa? Well, it worked! I’m loving Jesus now.”

Isn’t God good? The power of the Word of God never fails to amaze me. It’s just as the prophet Isaiah recorded:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:10–11)

God’s Word will never return empty. It will always serve a purpose—primarily in the lives of those of us who digest it, who apply it, who memorize it, who meditate on it, who ponder it, who declare it, and by God’s grace, who live it out.

That’s our calling. God’s Word will never return void.[1]

We are about to open up the Bible. The Bible is an inspired book. That means it is “God breathed.” We must not read this like we read the TV Guide or the Newspaper. We are going to continue our trek through Galatians. Today, we are going to look at a personal appeal from Paul to the people of Galatia. Let’s jump into it.

My theme today:

Paul makes a personal appeal to the Galatians based on their past relationship.

Let’s read Galatians 4:12-20:

I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

  1. This is a different type of writing
    1. Do you notice how different this is than what we have been talking about?
    2. One writes: This section of Galatians forms a personal parenthesis in Paul’s overall argument for justification by faith, which he resumed and concluded in vv. 21–31 with one additional proof from Scripture. Chrysostom observed that whereas Paul in the preceding verses had stretched out a hand to his tempest-tossed disciples, he now brought himself into the very midst of the storm.208In his 1519 Galatians commentary, Luther observed, “These words breathe Paul’s own tears.”209When he revisited this text in his 1535 Galatians commentary, Luther sought to penetrate further into Paul’s mind: Now that he has completed the more forceful part of his epistle, he begins to feel that he has handled the Galatians too severely. Being concerned that by his harshness he may have done more harm than good, he tells them that his severe rebuke proceeded from a fatherly and truly apostolic spirit. He becomes amazingly rhetorical and overflows with sweet and gentle words, so that if he had offended anyone with his sharp denunciation, as he had undoubtedly offended many, the gentleness of his language would set things right again. He also teaches by his example that pastors and bishops should take a fatherly and motherly attitude, not toward the ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15) but toward the miserable, misled, and erring sheep, patiently bearing their weakness and fall and handling them with the utmost gentleness.210
    3. I like that. I don’t know if you notice, as I notice, the tender words of Paul. Paul is pleading with them in this section.
    4. Look at verse 12: I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have becomeas you are. You have done me no wrong…
    5. Paul became a gentile to minister to them. not literally, but he did sacrifice the Jewish law to minister to them. Now, he is asking them to recognize they are saved by grace through faith.
  2. Now, let’s talk about how Paul met them (verses 13-14).
    1. Paul says that it was a bodily illness which made him meet them. It was a bodily illness that led to him preaching the Gospel to them.
    2. Think about that.
    3. Paul is on a missionary journey and then he gets sick. While being sick he preaches the Gospel to them.
    4. I don’t know how this happened, but that is a Divine appointment if I ever saw one.
    5. If Paul did not get sick would we have the letter of Galatians?
    6. Who would not be saved if Paul did not get sick?
    7. We must never miss what God is doing, even in our sickness.
    8. People speculate about his sickness.
    9. Three major theories have emerged about what the nature of this illness may have been (the following comes from the New American Commentary):
      1. Malaria is one. Paul may have contracted malaria when he first came into the swampy region of Pamphylia in southern Asia Minor. This was the occasion when John Mark became disillusioned with missionary life and returned home to Paul’s great consternation (Acts 13:13). It may have been that Paul’s original plan was to travel westward toward Ephesus and Greece but that he was redirected because of his illness toward the higher terrain around Pisidian Antioch. There, high above sea level, he found a more congenial place to recuperate. On this theory Paul may still have been in the grips of a terrible fever when he first began his preaching mission in Galatia.
      2. Epilepsy: The verb in v. 14 translated “you did not … scorn” literally means, “you did not spit out” (ekptuō). A common belief was that the evil demon that caused epilepsy could be exorcised or at least contained by spitting at the one thus possessed.218On this reading, Paul was commending the Galatians for receiving him with courtesy and favor even though they may have witnessed the unpleasant sight of his epileptic seizures.
      3. Ophthalmia [inflammation of the eyes, conjunctivitis]: In v. 15 Paul praised the Galatians for their willingness to tear out their own eyes and give them to him. This, together with Paul’s reference in 6:11 concerning writing such “large letters” in his own hand, have led many scholars to believe that Paul’s illness was some kind of serious eye disorder. But as F. F. Bruce has noted, “there can be no certain diagnosis” of Paul’s ailment here, nor of his “thorn in the flesh,” assuming the two are not to be identified.219
    10. Regarding the illness being something to do with the eyes, that may be unlikely. One commentary shares: Sacrificing one’s eye for someone else was a figure of speech for a great sacrifice (Petronius attributes it to some rhetoricians). Thus Paul’s statement that the Galatians “would have dug out your own eyes to give them to me” need not mean that his infirmity (4:13–14) was an oozing eye sore, as some commentators have suggested. In Greek culture, friendship was especially demonstrated by sacrifice; Paul here reaffirms the bond that exists between himself and the Galatians.[2]
    11. We cannot know for sure what Paul is dealing with, we do know that God used it for the good. We also know from 2 Cor. 12 that Paul wrote about a “thorn in the side” which could be this illness.
    12. Paul met them through this illness, and they were willing to sacrifice for his needs. They helped him out. His bodily condition was not good, yet they still helped him.
  • Notice Paul’s concern for them (verses 15-20)
    1. Look at the next five verses.
    2. Paul asks them what happened to their blessing, or their joy. This could have to do with the joyful spirit they had, or the blessing they offered to Paul.
    3. Either way, let’s talk about joy for a moment.
    4. Could it be that they had great joy in the Lord and that was taken from them? Maybe they had joy recognizing their salvation in Jesus and now they have lost the joy because they are discouraged trying to live by the Law.
    5. I like what the Life Application Study Bible shares:
    6. Have you lost your joy? Paul sensed that the Galatians had lost the joy of their salvation because of legalism. Legalism can take away joy because (1) it makes people feel guilty rather than loved; (2) it produces self-hatred rather than humility; (3) it stresses performance over relationship; (4) it points out how far short we fall rather than how far we’ve come because of what Christ did for us. If you feel guilty and inadequate, check your focus. Are you living by faith in Christ or by trying to live up to the demands and expectations of others?
    7. In verse 16 Paul questions if he has become their enemy for telling them the truth. Think about it. They had these super-apostles come in and change the message of the Gospel. These Judaizers who thought they had to keep the whole law came in and changed the message. However, Paul tells them the Truth and so he becomes their enemy.
    8. Have you ever faced that? Have you ever lost a relationship for pointing out the truth? If so remember that happened to Paul as well. You are in good company. But also remember Paul fought for the relationship and so should we. In this short New Testament letter he is pleading with them for them to recognize proper doctrine. We must be careful about trying to win an argument but losing a person, but we still must point out the truth.
      1. This is especially true if you are a parent, or grandparent, or mentor, or spiritual parent over someone. Paul planted this church in Galatia and so he had a spiritual obligation to correct them when they went wayward.
      2. This is true of you too.
  • I understand that my children are young, so I have not faced this yet, but the Truth is the Truth. Parents are called to be spiritual leaders to their children and that does not change when they get older. I see too many parents neglecting this high calling or quitting when their children get older.
  1. Sometimes you quit and you do not even realize it. How important is it to pass on a high calling of worship to your children? Some of you will say, “Oh yea, that is very important.” To which I will say, then why do you skip for silly reasons. Here are some of the reasons:
    1. sports,
    2. family coming into town,
      1. to which I say, invite them to church.
      2. Luke 14:26: If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
      3. Jesus does not mean literally hate family. He just means that Jesus must be Lord.
      4. You neglect worshipping Your Lord and Savior for things like this, I dare say it could be likened to denying Your Savior and you just wait until your children do too.
    3. Other reasons for skipping church: family were in town yesterday so I am tired,
    4. my children are in town so we are going to spend time together;
      1. again, bring them to church.
      2. You talk about the Gospel with them and you want them to be in church, but you don’t model it.
    5. Other reasons for skipping church: scouts;
    6. Sleeping in;
    7. Don’t have anything to wear;
    8. And you know the rest.
  2. We could go deeper with this. How do you value worship when you are in church? Do you model a value of worship? Do you show up late and leave early?
  3. How are you being a spiritual parent to your children or those you disciple? Do you model daily devotions? Do you model prayer? Do you repent? That is big one. We think, “I am not going to repent to those who are “below” me. Listen, no one is below you. Do you model humility? Are you approachable? Do you get angry at people for correcting you or trying to correct you?
  • Are you telling the Truth? Are you modeling the Truth? This whole letter is about Paul doing that.
  1. Verse 17 is simply saying that these Judaizers, these Jewish Christians who want them to follow the whole law, they are trying to get them to seek them instead of Jesus. The New Living Translation says: 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.[3]
  2. Verse 18: is clear: these people of Galatia were zealous when Paul was with them but not anymore.
  3. Verses 19-20 are Paul’s heart. He calls them children and then later he gives a maternal illustration. Thus, in one verse he uses a paternal and a maternal illustration to talk about his concern for them.
  4. I like what one source shares: The anguish of his labor over them had to continue, he said, “until Christ is formed in you.” The Galatians who a moment ago were described as being formed in the womb were now spoken of as expectant mothers who themselves must wait for an embryonic Christ to be fully developed (morphoō, a medical term for the growth of the fetus into an infant) within them.
  5. That is how much he cares for them.
  1. Applications:
    1. Notice, just as Paul really rebuked them, he did this out of love. Sometimes we are hurt by a rebuke but we are not realizing the reason for the rebuke. Paul was quite clear in rebuking them but that is because he was concerned for their salvation.
    2. Paul preached the Gospel to them, we must also preach the Gospel (verse 13).
    3. Paul preached the Gospel to them because he ended up with them as a result of illness. We must also watch for Divine appointments to share the Gospel (verse 13).
    4. They cared for him, we must care for others (verse 14).
    5. They cared for him and did not despise or loathe him, we must do the same.
    6. They were willing to give up for Paul, we must be willing to give up as well (verse 15).
    7. We must not lose our sense of blessing and joy (verse 15).
    8. We must speak the truth to people even when it hurts (verse 16).
    9. We must also be willing to accept the truth even when it is unpopular or hurts (verse 16).
    10. We must labor for people as Paul did for them (verses 19-20).


I did not write the following but I thought it was good:

I was at the grocery store this morning and heard a loud crash and something shattering. Being nosy, I walked towards the sound and saw some people whispering and looking back to the end of the next aisle. When I walked down that aisle, I saw an older lady had hit a shelf and many things had fallen to the ground and broke. She was kneeling on the floor embarrassed, frantically trying to clean up.

I felt so bad for her, and everyone was just standing there staring at her. So I went and knelt beside her and told her not to worry and started helping her pick up the broken pieces. After about a minute, the store manager came and knelt beside us and said, “Leave it, we will clean this up.”

The lady, totally embarrassed said, “I need to pay for all this first.” The manager smiled, helped her to her feet and said, “No ma’am, we have insurance for this, you do not have to pay anything!”

Close your eyes, and imagine God doing the same for you!

Collecting the pieces of your broken heart from all the blows life has thrown at you. God will heal all your wounds. He wants to heal you! He wants to take care of your soul!

We can have that same insurance and it’s called Grace.

I would only add, God is not healing common blows, but He is healing sins.




208NPNF 13.31.



218See H. Schlier, “ὲκπτυω” TDNT2.448–49. While the act of spitting had demonological associations in the Hellenistic era, by the time of Paul it was more commonly viewed merely as a gesture of disrespect, hence the derived meaning “despise.” Galatians 4:13–14 is frequently cited as evidence by those who identified Paul’s physical ailment with epilepsy (C. J. Klausner’s, From Jesus to Paul[London: SCM, 1944], 325–30).

219Bruce, Galatians, 209.

[2]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 4:15.

[3]Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Ga 4:17.

Paul rebukes the Galatians for their return to legalism (Galatians 4:8-11)

Paul rebukes the Galatians for their return to legalism (Galatians 4:8-11)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, March 10, 2019

Christ saves us, Christ rescues us, Christ changes our lives. Think about the change in John Newton:

Perhaps no one since Paul has grasped the meaning of this tremendous transition more completely than John Newton, the former slave trader whose remarkable conversion is reflected in his famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” As John Stott tells the story of Newton:

He was an only child and lost his mother when he was seven years old. He went to sea at the tender age of eleven and later became involved, in the words of one of his biographers, “in the unspeakable atrocities of the African slave trade.” He plumbed the depths of human sin and degradation. When he was twenty-three, on 10 March 1748, when his ship was in imminent peril of floundering in a terrific storm, he cried to God for mercy, and he found it. He was truly converted, and he never forgot how God had had mercy upon him, a former blasphemer. He sought diligently to remember what he had previously been, and what God had done for him. In order to imprint it on his memory, he had written in bold letters and fastened across the wall over the mantelpiece of his study the words of Deut 15:15: “Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee.” Stott, Only One Way, 110. Far from leading Newton to a life of quietism and inaction, the doctrine of sovereign grace propelled the former slave trader into one of the most remarkable ministries in the history of the Christian church. In his sermon on the “Sovereignty of God,” Newton exclaimed: “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God almighty! Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints! This is the God whom we adore. This is he who invites us to lean upon his almighty arm, and promises to guide us with his unerring eye.… Therefore, while in the path of duty and following his call, we may cheerfully pass on regardless of apparent difficulties, for the Lord, whose we are, and who has taught us to make his glory our highest end, will go before us. And at his word, crooked things become straight, light shines out of darkness, and mountains sink into plains. Faith may and must be exercised, experience must and will confirm what his word declares, that the heart is deceitful and that man in his best estate is vanity. But his promises to them that fear him shall be confirmed likewise, and they shall find him in all situations a son, a shield, and an exceedingly great reward” (A Burning and a Shining Light: English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, ed. D. L. Jeffrey [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 438).[1]

Christ changes all of us. Christ keeps us from falling into sin as well. Today, we look at Galatians and we notice how Paul rebukes them for going backwards. They were saved and now they are going backwards. They were saved from paganism and ritualism and now they are going back to legalism. Let’s look at the passage.

My theme:

Paul rebukes the Galatians for their return to legalism.


Serve Christ and rest in His grace, don’t be a slave to anything or anyone other than Christ.

Let’s read Galatians 4:8-11:

However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 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.

  1. Notice in verses 8-9 Paul rebukes them for going backwards.
    1. In verse 8 Paul says that they “at that time” did not know God.
    2. This was a previous time. This was before they were sons and daughters. This was before they knew God. This was when the Jewish people were living under the “guardians” or “managers” or “tutors” (3:24 and 4:2). This was when the Jewish people were living under the law. They were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
    3. They were gentiles so they were not enslaved to the law, they were enslaved to pagan gods.
    4. They are going backwards. Christ has set them free and why would they go backwards? Why go backwards?
    5. Paul says that they were slaves.
    6. Now, in their case they were not slaves to the law. They were slaves to false gods.
    7. Look at these other passages:
    8. 1 Co 8:4f With regard then to eating food sacrificed to idols, we know that “an idol in this world is nothing,” and that “there is no God but one.” 8:5 If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)…
    9. 1 Co 10:20 No, I mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.
    10. Ga 4:3 So also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basic forces of the world.
    11. Take note, here, everyone is a slave to something. Even today, if you are not serving Christ you are serving someone or something else. They were slaves to paganism.
    12. In verse 9 there is a transition, “but Now…” Now, they know God. Or, the passage specifies, they are known by God.
    13. The biggest deal is that they are known by God.
    14. This is true for us. Don’t miss this, the biggest deal is that God has made Himself known and saved us. He has saved us! God has intervened so that we are known by Him.
    15. But they are turning back to something “weak” and “worthless.”
    16. Why would they turn back to something “weak” and “worthless”?
    17. That is exactly what Paul is asking.
    18. Col 2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world?
    19. Notice the emphasis on enslavement continues. The repetitive nature continues. Paul says they want to get into these “elemental things.” These would be the Jewish law for Jews and the paganism for gentiles. Paul says they are enslaved all over again.
    20. Listen, we must not go backwards in our faith. Serve Christ and rest in His grace, don’t be a slave to anything or anyone other than Christ.
    21. We will come back to that.
  2. Notice in verse 10 Paul gives an example of how they are going backwards.
    1. Verse 10: They observe days and months and seasons and years. This is an example of how they are going backwards. They are going back to legalism.
    2. This is current, so I think it is Jewish days and months and seasons and years. One source shares:
    3. Paul linked four measurements of time, each of which likely refers to certain aspects of the Jewish system of religious feasts. Thus days could refer to the weekly Sabbath observance as well as to other feasts celebrated for only a day; months, to the new moon rituals mentioned in Num 10:10; seasons, to the great annual feasts such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (cf. 2 Chr 8:13; Zech 8:19); and years, to the Year of Jubilee, the Sabbatical Year, and the New Year celebrations.[2]
    4. Further: It is quite possible, of course, that the expression “days, months, seasons and years” was a kind of double entendre referring at once to Jewish calendar dates and pagan cultic observances. Thus Paul would have been saying to the Galatians, “If you fall prey to the lure of the Judaizers, you will find yourselves just as captivated by the oppression of the astral deities as ever you were under the old paganism.”[3]
    5. In another text Paul says Col 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—
  • Let’s talk about some applications:
    1. There is no salvation in legalism, we must only trust in Christ (verse 10).
    2. There is no salvation in days, months, years, etc, only Jesus (verse 10).
      1. We must understand that our salvation is not in attending Sunday worship or even taking communion.
      2. We must understand that our salvation is not in Christmas and Easter worship, but only Jesus.
    3. We must not turn back to things which Jesus has delivered us from (verse 9).
      1. Jesus has saved us, why turn back?
      2. Jesus is making us more holy, why turn back?
      3. We must rest in Christ allowing Him to deliver us from sin and sins.
      4. We all are delivered from past sin, don’t turn back. Maybe you were delivered when you were saved, don’t turn back. Maybe you were delivered since you have been saved, don’t turn back.
        1. Were you a slave to alcohol? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
        2. Were you a slave to pornography? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to drugs? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  1. Were you a slave to self and self absorbed? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  2. Were you a slave to materialism? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  3. Were you a slave to fear? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to worry? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to another religion, wicca? Secret societies? Islam? Buddhism? Hinduism? Mormon? Jehovah’s Witness? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  1. Were you a slave to sports? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  2. Were you a slave to atheism? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  3. Were you a slave to agnosticism? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • Were you a slave to work? You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  • You are free in Christ, don’t turn back.
  1. We must understand that we all serve something and we will serve Christ. We must understand that apart from Christ we are a slave to sin and sinful ways. We will not be slaves to anything other than Christ. (verse 8)
    1. We must not be a slave to a political ideology.
    2. We must not be a slave to sports.
    3. We must not be a slave to materialism.
    4. We must not be a slave to knowledge.
    5. We must only be a slave to Christ.
  2. We must stay true to Christ and only serve Him.

Don’t return to past sins:

In 1999, 25-year-old Christopher Miller was arrested after he forced employees into the back room of the Stride Rite shoe store on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, New Jersey. After a 15-year sentence, on Friday, March 21, 2014, Miller was released from South Woods State Prison in New Jersey. The very next day, Miller, now 40 years old, took a bus from Atlantic City to Toms River and went to the same shoe store.

Employees tell police that he entered the store and demanded cash, telling two workers to go to the back room. When the employees refused, Miller became agitated and took the cash register drawer, which had $389. He then took the workers’ cell phones and fled on foot. Police say he was found a few blocks away, with the cash stashed in a gutter and the phones in a garbage can.

Toms River Police Chief Mitchell Little speculated, “Maybe [prison life is] the only life he knows, and the only thing he could think of was going back to the same store and doing the same crime again—getting caught and going back where he was taken care of and told what to do and getting meals and shelter and everything else.”[4]



[1]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 314–315.

[2]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 317.

[3]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994).

[4]Adapted from Brian Thompson, “Man Leaves Prison, Robs Same New Jersey Shoe Store 15 Years Later: Police,” NBC News (3-26-14)