The Foundry Church | Jeff – 11/4/16
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Jeff – 11/4/16

S: Galatians 4:9-11

“9 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.”

O: When I looked in to “elemental things,” I found that a better translation is fundamental principles. The Galatians learned the truth and went all the way back to the feeble or powerless fundamentals that are destitute in nature. They are giving up the strength and power of truth for the weak and powerless falsehood.

Verse 10 made me wonder, “what’s the problem with observing things like days and years?” It turns out that Paul’s using the word παρατηρέω (par-at-ay-reh’-o). This word means to watch or observe scrupulously. It’s only used 6 times total in the New Testament. Four times in the Gospels to describe scenes where the Pharisees are closely watching Jesus, and once in Acts to describe the Jews watching the gates like a hawk, plotting to kill Saul. This “observing” is almost obsessive, an observing you do because you think your livelihood and success depend on it.

So Paul is really hitting the point hard saying that the Galatians have learned the truth and turned away from it to put their faith in feeble fundamental principles of powerlessness. They’re not just going through the motions either – they’re really going to great lengths to observe the rituals to a “T” as if the rituals themselves are the most important thing.

In the past, I’ve always read verse 11 as Paul chastising the Galatians for making him waste a lot of labor on them without yielding any fruit. This time, my attention was drawn to the first part of the verse. I realized that Paul’s saying that he fears for them. They’re under his authority and he fears for them out of his pastor’s heart. He wants the seed of his labor to yield a harvest, sure, but he also cares for his flock. He knows that what the Galatians are doing is stunting their growth and is harmful for them.

A: Three applications stood out to me.

1. Our fundamental principles need to be the truth of God’s word. Nothing else has power and life.
2. Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love people. These things should be our focus: nothing should be prioritized higher.
3. Our spiritual health can be endangered if we neglect the word of God or if we prioritize anything higher than loving God and others. Furthermore, we can’t expect our seeds of discipleship to to bear fruit if we don’t instill these same priorities and values in those under our authority.

P: God, we come back to this time and time again, but your Word is the only truth. Thank you for your word, God. Help us to seek nourishment from that word daily for ourselves and for those under our authority. Even when our intentions are good, we sometimes get hung up on ritual or other things, and we lose sight of the greatest commandments. But that’s not where our priorities need to be. We need to love you and love others, seeking truth and strength in your word. Help us to do this in Jesus name. Amen.

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