Galatians 4:8–20 (NKJV)
8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.Galatians 4:8–20 (NKJV)
12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.
In verses 8-11, Paul expresses his concern for the spiritual well-being of the Galatians. They once served idols, but now know God and are known by Him. Why, then, would they go back to the old bondage with which they were bound? They observe special days and festivals that have no spiritual meaning under the covenant of grace. Paul is fearful that his labor for them has been in vain.
In verses 12-20, Paul then admonishes the church to come back to the way of thinking and believing in which he had taught them. He applauded them for accepting him, physical infirmity and all, and receiving the gospel message. However, he wonders if they have now rejected him because he preached the truth. While this is laced with some sarcasm and accusation, it is a straightforward message of rebuke. He warns them that the idolatrous people who would woo them back to their sinful ways are evil, and long to draw them back to a passionate desire for sinful idolatry or useless observances of days. He reminds them of the virtue of being zealous for God rather than false and dead idols. He warns of a time to come when he may need to rebuke them personally and persuade them to change their ways back to an orthodox belief in Jesus. He posits his role with them as a spiritual father and disciplines them with his words out of concern and fear for their well-being.
Today, Christians are inundated with media that touts the virtues of ungodly lifestyles and actions. Sinful idols (people and groups) seem to leap off the screens as heroes and role models. Ideologies, some which have at least a good overall purpose, are fraught with attached evils that make their cause less right and more unBiblical. We need discernment today to be able to tell the right from wrong, the good from bad. Don’t be drawn in by something that sounds good on the surface, but actually reeks of sin in the details. Be discreet. Pray long and hard about competing thoughts and ideologies. Don’t be duped by false gods and religions. They can destroy your spiritual well-being. Make the one true God the only God for your life. Be true to Jesus and reject all others. Don’t let what Paul called the “beggarly elements” to draw you away from the one true God!