Why Go Back Into Slavery?

Consider the story of Hans the tailor. Because of his reputation, an influential entrepreneur visiting the city ordered a tailor-made suit. But when he came to pick up his suit, the customer found that one sleeve twisted that way and the other this way; one shoulder bulged out an … More


The way of the Galatian Christians was not much different than many Christians today who get involved in various legalistic movements hoping to achieve certain goals. Children who are under age are no better off than slaves, even though everything their parents own will someday be theirs (v. 1). This is because children are placed in the care of guardians and teachers until the time their parents have set (v. 2). The motives may be right but the methods are wrong. The old nature has an attraction to the law because it makes provision for us to do things. This in turn allows us to measure external results which we like to do.

In this portion of scripture Paul is making a contrast between servants and sons. He says that you were once slaves but now you are sons (vv. 3-7). Historians tell us that in the Roman world a boy did not become a man until he reached a certain date set by his father which was sometime between his fourteenth and seventeenth birthdays. Until this time he lived under guardians and managers. At a special family ceremony he was introduced formally to public life as a man and entered into his full inheritance of manhood. Before this time he was viewed the same as a slave would be.

Paul could not understand why they would want to go back into the old slavery (vv. 8-11). When the Judaizers led the Galatians back into legalism, they were leading them not only into religious bondage but back into spiritual infancy. Legalism then is not a step toward maturity but a step back into childhood.  Warren Wiersbe put it well when he said “They were dropping out of the school of grace and enrolling in the kindergarten of law!”


I need to be more concerned about who I am than in what I do or do not do.

Galatians 4:1-11 (English Standard Version)

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

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