Paul shared a parable with the Galatians that equated them with a child heir, who before maturity was no more than a servant. As he was explaining how this applied to the Galatians he was about to describe what happened in the fullness of time.
Galatians 4:4-11 (KJV)
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
When the time was right, God sent his Son, Yeshua the Messiah, as a baby, subject to the same Law that all mankind was subject to, the Torah (verse 4). God's purpose in sending His Son was to redeem those that are under the Law so that they might receive the adoption of sons and daughters (verse 5). Paul made this personal as he changed "them" to "we." As believers the Galatians were indeed sons and daughters of God and through the Spirit of God's Son they were entitled to call God, "Abba" meaning father (verse 6). As these Galatians came to faith they were no longer servants (remember the child heir), but sons and daughters, and therefore heirs of God through Messiah (verse 7).
In verse 8 Paul began to describe what had been going on with the Galatians. He acknowledged that before faith (when they didn't know God) they served them which were not really gods. This is the state of the unbeliever. Even if someone is an atheist and claims that they don't follow any religion, they serve Satan and the forces aligned against God. In the case of the Galatians they were primarily pagans, serving the Great Goddess Mother (see previous post). But now the Galatian believers were saved. In verse 9 Paul related something about the Galatians that he was surprised at, that even though they were believers, they had turned again to the weak and beggarly elements that they had served before. He asked, "Why do you desire to be in bondage again?"
Again, traditional Christianity has tried to interpret verse 9 as stating that the Galatians were turning back to weak and beggarly elements, meaning the Torah, but this is not possible. These elements are the same as those in verse 3, the occult, spiritual forces that characterize life before faith. By returning to these pagan practices the Galatians were placing themselves back into bondage. Paul couldn't understand why they wanted to do that.
Verse 10 confirms that the practices that the Galatians were involved with were not Torah practices. They were observing days, months, times, and years. The Jews were specifically forbidden to observe times in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Leviticus 19:26 (KJV)
Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
Deuteronomy 18:10 (KJV)
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
Deuteronomy 18:14 (KJV)
For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.
God was warning his people about engaging in occult practices. This ties in with verse 8's summary of what the Galatians had come out of. Again, since the Galatians had primarily been pagans, any return could not be to Judaism, since they had not come out of Judaism.
Then in verse 11 Paul ended this section by saying that he was afraid that he had labored amongst them in vain. Imagine how Paul's heart must have ached, knowing that he had sown the Gospel message, that it was received, and yet, the Galatians were turning back to paganism?
Today in Christianity we are a lot like the Galatians. Many have been saved mightily and have committed their lives to Yeshua, but have returned to paganism without even knowing it. Most of us know that occult practices like horoscopes, seances, and tarot cards are wrong, but there are other practices that are just as bad that are slipping into the church in the guise of good practice. Contemplative prayer, walking of labyrinths, and lectio divina are just some of them. But perhaps even more insidious are the practices that we have participated in for hundreds of years, not realizing that they come from paganism. These are practices that Paul would have denounced based on this chapter of Galatians. They are the observance of pagan holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Lent, Advent, and Sunday Sabbath. We have Christianized them, but slapping a Christian theme onto a pagan holiday doesn't make it Christian.
Instead, God gave us feast days as stated in Leviticus, which many Christians push aside because they don't want to be Jewish or they have misunderstood various writings in the New Testament. Besides, if a person wants to celebrate Yeshua's birth or His resurrection, the Lord's feasts in Leviticus already point to Messiah. The Feast of Tabernacles, likely when Yeshua was born, reflects His dwelling (or tabernacling) with us. The Feast of First Fruits (right after Passover), when Yeshua was raised from the dead, reflects His resurrection. We don't need pagan holidays as replacements, nor do we want to find ourselves in the same place as the Galatians. Let us commit to pure Christian practices!
In the next post, Paul continued speaking to the Galatians in a personal way.