Galatians 4:1-20: Characteristics of the True Gospel
May 21, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
2 Samuel 16-17, Psalm 114, Mark 15:1-15, Galatians 4:1-20
Paul’s concern that the Galatians are deserting the one true gospel for an entirely different, and false, gospel continues to animate his prose with passion and conviction. What are the characteristics of the true gospel?
First, you are no longer a slave but God’s child. The gospel frees us from slavery to sin, and from a bondage to a legalistic view of the law, so that we are now in a new relationship with God. By the Spirit we call out “Abba, Father.” We have a relationship with God the Father, through Christ, that is now characterized by that of Son-Father, even calling God by the intimate familial name of “Abba.” Abba is roughly equivalent to our contemporary “Daddy”, or the French equivalent “Papa.” It is not disrespectful. But it is informal and intimate. If you put your trust in Christ, then you can have that kind of relationship with God. You can talk to God in prayer as your Father. You can cry out to him when you are in need. Look at the Psalms for examples of how true believers make the most of their relationship with God to tell him when they are in trouble, when they are in pain, when they have sinned, when they are being tempted, when they are being attacked, when they are emotionally discouraged. Think of your prayer life with God as something so intimate and so precious that by the Spirit of Christ you cry out “Abba Father!”
Second, you are no longer enslaved to special religious days and seasons and months and years. There is something about the “religious” legalistic spirit that multiplies rules and regulations around high days and holy days. You need to follow this particular ritual at this time of the year. You must behave in this sort of way during this month. You must act like this on this very special day. Now, there is nothing wrong with setting aside special days to celebrate God in a particular way! But the multiplicity of such “days” and “seasons,” the enforcement of them when they are beyond the biblical necessity of gathering together each Sunday for worship, and the utilization of them to regiment bondage to legalism—all this is sign of a legalistic religious spirit. The gospel is not like that! That is not how you came to know God—you came to know God by faith! And it is through the exercise of that faith, and the discipline that is the fruit of that faith, that the truth gospel is expressed in the Christian life.
Third, you are passionate for the gospel, for the preaching of the gospel, and for the progress of the gospel. Paul records the Galatians’ passionate regard for him as a preacher of the gospel. But now, because they are in danger of moving beyond that pure gospel to a false doctrine of legalism, all their passion for Christ and the gospel is dissipating. Who could be passionate for legalistic religiosity? But when the gospel is pure—the gospel that calls for repentance and exalts grace—who when they understand that gospel and receive Christ by faith, simple pure faith, could not be passionate then for the gospel!
Fourth, the true gospel generates gospel zeal for the good purpose of the gospel—not for the partisan, warring, legalistic spirit that these legalistic religious leaders were encouraging the Galatians to pursue. When you know Christ, you want to follow Christ. You want to tell other people about Christ. You want to love those who love Christ. You don’t long to establish a different party, a new religion, a different set of rules that set apart these new religious legalistic leaders who were so troubling the Galatians’ faith.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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