by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 August 5, 2012 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(195)Thesis:The bondage of slavery to vanity is inescapable apart from the Gospel.
Introduction:In our studies of 4:1-7 we were impressed with Paul's insistence that God has made us heirs of His promise of Life. We were pointedly told that, as those who have crossed the threshold of the understanding of Grace, we have the capacity and privilege of exercising "lordship" over "Life" so that we now have the opportunity to "grow" our experience of the Joy of Life without boundaries. To the degree that we grow in our confidence in the grace of God and how He exercises it in our circumstances, to that degree we possess the peacefulness of soul that allows Joy to settle over us.
High sounding words.
But true words if we do not lose sight of God in His character as the gracious Abba Who has made us His heirs for no other reason than that He loves us.
This evening we are going to launch out into a consideration of the alternative that Paul sets before us: a reversal of course in which a person turns from Grace back to his/her former hardness of heart and mind. The occasion of this study is Paul's question to his readers: "How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
I. The Question Challenges "Reversionism".
A. The Galatians were Gentiles, for the most part.
B. The Galatians were turning to Jewish religion as a twisted form of Mosaic Law, a system of thought and practice the Galatians had never formerly understood or embraced.
C. But Paul calls it a "turning back".
1. It is such, not because the foliage is similar (Gentile paganism and Jewish legalism do not look the same to the casual observer), but because the roots are.
2. It is a well known fact that many different kinds of behavior can be caused by the same root.
3. The universal "root" of all forms of corrupt religious practices is one: a view of God as a hateful Judge Who will bring every man/woman to heel under the unyielding wrath of His form of Justice.
II. The Challenge Describes the Foundations of "Reversionism".
A. As a reality to which the Galatians are "reverting", "Reversionism" is a return to the ignorance that marks everyone outside of "faith in the Gospel".
1. This is an ignorance "of God".
2. This is a cumulative ignorance that forces distance between the "ignorant" and the One True God.
a. Paul's words are "when ye knew not God".
b. His choice of the word "knew" involves two factors.
1) In Galatians, this kind of "knowledge" is always "facts based" (Note particularly 2:7 and 6:11).
2) In Galatians, this kind of "knowledge" is also always "conclusions based" (as 2:16 reveals).
3) The link between "facts" and "conclusions" is called "interpretation", an extremely volatile factor that is hugely dependent upon "desire".
a) According to this apostle, there is noone on the planet that is "ignorant of God" in respect to the facts (Romans 1:20).
b) Also according to this apostle, the facts get skewed in terms of conclusions because of men's attitude of hatred toward God.
i. In Romans 1:32, Paul declares the universal knowledge, and aggression, of humanity.
ii. In Romans 8:7, Paul declares that the universal attitude of humanity is aggression.
iii. In Ephesians 4:18, Paul explains how aggression works against knowledge by the corruption of understanding, which is directly involved at the "interpretation" level.
iv. In this latter text, the corrupting issue is "the heart" where all values and desires have their point of origin.
c) Thus, because men do not "desire" the knowledge of God (Romans 3:11), it is impossible for them to have any "knowledge" of God at the level of "conclusions".
B. As a reality to which the Galatians are "reverting", "Reversionism" is a return to the "slave behavior" of people forced to do things that absolutely cannot bring them the results that they long for.
1. Paul says that everyone who "knows not God" engages in "slave-actions" that are designed to get "gods" to exercise their power to bring to the slave what the "slave" seeks.
a. The issue here is "gods", which is a word that turns on the axis of "the use of power to bring about certain results".
b. The fact is that every human being on the planet, at certain points of his/her experience, runs into circumstances that threaten their longings and are seen as overpowering: thus, the need for a "god".
2. In this light, it is critical for us to understand that Paul simply declares the ultimate futility: you cannot get "God" power out of a "not god".
3. This means that the "return" is to a method of getting longings fulfilled; and that method is absolutely doomed to fail.
4. This is the identity of "Death": slaves being compelled by their hatred of God to turn to "not gods" to get what they want and finding at the end that "not gods" cannot give Grace nor benefit.
5. Paul calls this "being alienated from the Life of God" in Ephesians 4:18 and it means that one's life is a constant pursuit of the impossible -- Solomon's famous "all is vanity".