Galatians 4:9
But now that you know God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and worthless principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
God's Knowledge of UsT. T. Lynch.Galatians 4:9
How a Faithful Minister Seeks to Recover the ErringJ. Lyth.Galatians 4:9
Knowledge of GodJohn Smith.Galatians 4:9
The Difficulty of not BelievingNewman Smyth, D. D.Galatians 4:9
The Folly of Returning to the WorldJ. Lyth.Galatians 4:9
The Use and Abuse of OrdinancesW. Perkins.Galatians 4:9
Weak and Beggarly ElementsBishop Lightfoot.Galatians 4:9
Majority and MinorityR. Finlayson Galatians 4:1-11
Beggarly RudimentsW.F. Adeney Galatians 4:8, 9
The Return of the Legal SpiritR.M. Edgar Galatians 4:8-11

Having spoken of the majority which it is intended we should realize through the gospel, Paul proceeds next to speak about the return to legalism which had characterized the Gauls. Before Paul's advent to Galatia and his gospel message, they had been idolaters, but his preaching had brought them face to face, so to speak, with God. Into this Divine knowledge they had dipped, but, alas] it had only been a swallow-flight, for, after tasting the liberty of the gospel, they had flown back to bondage. They had skimmed the surface of salvation, and had winged their way back to the old legalism which had characterized their idolatrous days. Here, then, we have suggested -

I. THE LEGALISM WHICH NECESSARILY CHARACTERIZES IDOLATRY. (Ver. 8.) The philosophy of idolatry is a most interesting inquiry. Nowhere is it more succinctly set before us than in Psalm 115. The idols are there shown to be after the image of their makers (ver. 8), and, conversely, their worshippers become assimilated to them. The stolid idols which the poor artists make are simply copies of the stolid life around them; and the worship of the idol makes the stolidity perpetual. It is the apotheosis of inaction and of death. Hence it will be found that idolatry can secure nothing higher than ritualism, that is, the performance of rites and ceremonies for the sake of achieving a religious reputation, and not for the rake of communion with the object of worship. For in the case of the idol there can be no communion of mind with mind or of heart with heart. The form consequently is everything and the fellowship is nothing. If there be no self-righteousness promoted by the ceremony, it promotes absolutely no interest at all. Hence the whole genius of idolatry is legalism. If men are not achieving some religious reputation, they are achieving nothing at all. Paul consequently was looking back to the idolatrous life of the Galatians, and carefully analyzed it when he recognized in it the expression of a purely legal spirit.

II. THE GOSPEL PROMOTES ACQUAINTANCESHIP WITH GOD. (Ver. 9.) It seeks to bring about an interview with God. Paul's experience on the way to Damascus is typical. lie there became acquainted for the first time with Jesus Christ as his Divine Saviour. He there felt that it was nearer the truth to say that Jesus had found him than that he had found Jesus. It was true that he had come to know God in Christ, but this was the consequence of God in Christ in the first instance knowing him. Now, Paul's missionary life was to promote the same acquaintanceship among men. He wanted these Galatians to know God through realizing that God previously knew them. And he had hopes that they had entered the charmed circle of the Divine acquaintanceship. He hoped that they had experienced the truth, "Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace." This is the essence of the gospel. "This is life eternal, to know [i.e. to be acquainted with] thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

III. THE RETURN TO LEGALISM. (Vers. 9, 10.) The false teachers had come from Jerusalem to preach up the virtue of Jewish rites and ceremonies. Hence the fickle mountaineers of Galatia fell into their superstitious observances, and fancied that, if they kept carefully the Jewish calendar, with its weekly, monthly, annual, and septennial feasts and fasts, they must hereby propitiate the Supreme. Accustomed as idolaters to the making of religious reputations, they could enter the more easily into the legal spirit for which the false teachers called. And indeed there is nothing so insidious, because there is nothing so palatable to the natural heart. To be in a position to achieve a religions reputation, to win by our own hands certain characters and certain rights, is wonderfully flattering and grateful to human pride. We need to be constantly on our guard against the temptation.

1. One way is by remembering how "weak," as Paul here puts it, the elements out of which we would manufacture our reputation are. They do not bear analysis. Once we touch them with honest thought they stand in felt helplessness before us. Ceremonies which do not lead to communion with God, ceremonies which are simply to add to human pride and foster self-righteousness, are weak as water, and can only harm us.

2. We should remember also how "beggarly" they are. They can minister no wealth of thought or feeling to the superstitious soul. They are merely the instruments of bondage.

IV. THE DANGER OF THE LEGAL SPIRIT. (Ver. 11.) If Paul's preaching only resulted in such an outbreak of legalism, then he would regard his mission among them as "love's labour lost." There is no difference between the legalism of Judaism and the legalism of idolatry. Both are mere phases of self-righteousness. The gospel has missed its aim altogether if it leave people in legal bondage. The gospel is the great scheme for overthrowing self-righteousness. It emancipates the soul from the delusive hope of establishing any claim before God. It shuts us up to the acceptance of salvation as God's free gift. It deposes self and makes free grace supreme. Hence Paul's anxiety to see the Galatians brought back from legal bondage to gospel liberty. Unless they gave up their helm from ceremony, and betook themselves to hope in the Saviour alone, then they must be lost. It is most important that the exceeding danger of the legal spirit should be constantly kept in view, that we may maintain our standing on the footing of free grace. - R.M.E.

But now, after that ye have known God.
That is not the best and truest knowledge of God which is wrought out by the labour and sweat of brain, but that which is kindled within us by a heavenly warmth in our hearts. As, in the natural body, it is the heart that sends up good blood and warm spirits into the head, whereby it is best enabled to perform its several functions; so that which enables us to know and understand aright in the things of God, must be a living principle of holiness within us.

(John Smith.)


1. His omniscience.

2. His intimate connection with us through all the st.ages of our life.


(2)Spiritually: as our Maker, Preserver, Redeemer, Sanctifier.


1. God knows every one of us

2. Our innermost thoughts.

3. Our secret wants.

4. Under all disguises:

5. In all circumstances.Conclusion:

1. A warning to the sinner;

2. An encouragement to the believer.However doubtful may be our estimate of ourselves or that of others, there is no doubt as to God's estimate of us being the right one

(T. T. Lynch.)

I. WEAK, because they have no power to rescue man from condemnation.

II. BEGGARLY, for they bring no rich endowments of spiritual treasures. A passionate and striking ritualism, expressing itself in bodily mortifications of the most terrible kind had been sup. planted by the simple spiritual teaching of the gospel. For a time the pure morality and lofty sanctions of the new faith appealed not in vain to their higher instincts, but they soon began to yearn after a creed which suited their material cravings better, and was more allied to the systems they had abandoned. This end they attained by overlaying the simplicity of the gospel with Judaic observances. This new phase is ascribed to the temper which their old heathen education had fostered It was a return to the "weak and beggarly elements" which they had outgrown, a renewed subjection to the "yoke of bondage" which they had thrown off in Christ. They had escaped from one ritualistic system, only to bow before another. The innate failings of a race whom Caesar (Bell. Gall. 6:16) describes as "excessive in its devotion to external observances" was here reasserting itself.

(Bishop Lightfoot.)

Ordinances may be considered three ways.


1. As types and figures of Christ to come.

2. As signs of grace of Divine institution.

II. WITHOUT CHRIST. As mere customs whether before or after Him.

III. AGAINST CHRIST. As meritorious causes of salvation.

(W. Perkins.)

I have been thinking how difficult it would be for us not to be Christians. It is hard, we say, to have faith; but do we realize what a task a man imposes upon himself if he attempts to live without faith? Is not some faith one of the first vital necessities of the human reason and heart? I wish, then, this morning, to invert a very common way of reasoning about religion among men. Instead of treating a religious faith as though it were a good thing to be added to a man's moral capital in life, I would raise the question rather, whether a man will have capital enough for life left if he lets a Christian faith go from him?


1. There is a large part of every man's self-conciousness which is bound up with faith in realities beyond this present world of sights and sounds. It would be almost an impossible task for us to disentangle all faith in things Divine and eternal from the elements of our self-consciousness. Our reasons have their roots in the Divine. If these primal beliefs in God and immortality were simply results of argument, we might reason ourselves out of them: but they are elements, rather, of our rational and conscious life, so that we cannot separate them wholly from ourselves. Atheists, after all, can only make believe not to believe.

2. There is another tremendously present thing which would have to be put away from us in order that we might be able to live without faith, and that is the Divine imperative of conscience. Something higher and better than we lays hold of us in conscience. There are several other vital elements which must be sacrificed in the vain effort to live without faith.

3. One will have to leave out some of the most marked experiences of his life. The simple fact is, that the invisible powers are constantly laying hold of the life of man in the world. It would be an impossible task for us to account wholly for our own lives simply and solely upon natural causes. Super-sensible influences do mingle and blend with the sensible; providences are realities of human experience.

4. There is another side of our experience, which I will just mention, from which one must cut himself loose, if he would have any success in not belonging to a Christian world; he must break off his fellowship with the truest and best life of humanity. The history of man is not merely, nor chiefly, political; it is religious. The history of the kingdom of redemption is the paramount part of human history. Other history, what we call profane history, is the form and shaping of events only; the substance of history is its spiritual progress; the issue of it, and the main thing in it all along, is redemption. If, then, one wants not to be a Christian believer, a citizen of a world becoming Christian, he will have to begin by denying himself a goodly fellowship.

II. Let us consider further HOW MUCH ONE WILL HAVE TO BELIEVE IN ORDER NOT TO BE A CHRISTIAN, in relation to some particulars of the Christian life.

1. One vital element of the Christian life is trust in the goodness of the heavenly Father. We do not conceal from ourselves, we cannot, that this is a trust written often across the face of events in our lives which seem to contradict it. As Christians we believe in the sunny side, that is, in the Divine side, of everything. We say it is only our present position in the shadow, or under some cloud, which prevents our seeing the bright and eternal side of it. Wait, and we shall see the goodness of the Lord. We were sailing one afternoon with the broken coast of Maine in the distance projecting upon our horizon. A black thundercloud gathered in shore over the hill-tops. We could see the play of the lightnings, and the waters breaking from the cloud. That was all that the villagers and the fishermen along the shore could have seen. But we, at our distance, beheld also the untroubled sun in the clear sky above; its beams struck the edges of that heavy mass of vapours, and above the darkness and the lightnings we could see the upper side of the cloud turn to gold; and, even while it was blackness and fear to those below, its pinnacles and towers were shining before our eyes like the city of God descending from heaven. Thus Christian faith beholds also the heavenly side of this world's storm and darkness.

2. Take as another instance the Christian belief in our personal sinfulness and need of forgiveness. How many thoughts of the heart must one forget not to believe that? I pass to two other examples.

3. Men say it is hard to believe in an atonement. Perhaps it may be in some of our human philosophies of God's method of reconciling the world; but not to believe in Jesus' word that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sin, would require us to believe some things about God which it would be very hard for us to hold of the Creator of our hearts. Even a human government would be incomplete unless, in some hand, there should be lodged some power of pardon. Not to believe in the authority of God Himself over the execution of His own law is to believe that God's government is not so perfect as man's. Or, to take the subject up to a higher plane, where I much prefer to study it, our human love can sometimes find for itself a way of forgiveness which it will follow without dimming its own purity, or losing its own self-respect, though it be for it a way of tears. To believe, then, that the God of love can find no way of atonement for sin, though it be the way of the Cross, is. to believe that man's heart is diviner than God's.

4. The other remaining point which I will mention is the Christian belief in the last judgment. Surely everything in this world would be left at loose ends, and all our instincts of justice, righteousness, and love thrown into confusion, if we should attempt to wrench the substance of this Christian faith in the judgment to come from our experience of this present life. Not to believe in it requires a great task of reason and conscience; for then one must believe that there is no moral order, as there is plainly a natural order of things; one must then believe that the one constant undertone of justice in man's consciousness is a false note of life; that the first laws of things are but principles of eternal discord; that man's whole moral life and history, in short, is meaningless and worthless. You say it is a terrible thing to believe in the judgment to come; yes, but it is a more fearful thing not to believe in it.

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

He appeals —

I. To the conscience — reminding them of the gracious change God had effected in them (vers. 8, 9).

II. To the understanding — remanding the reason of their instability — exhibiting its folly (vers. 9-11).

III. To the heart — by affectionate entreaty — tender and happy reminiscences (vers. 12-15).

IV. To their regard for the truth — which he faithfully preaches — others have perverted — should be zealously maintained (vers. 16-18).

V. To his own sincerity — he is anxious for their happiness — to have the assurance of it.

(J. Lyth.)

I.It is to act in opposition to knowledge.

II.To abuse the grace of God.

III.To seek happiness in that we have already proved unsatisfactory.

IV.To subject ourselves to a new bondage.

(J. Lyth.)

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