Whenever legalism rears its ugly head, slavery to the “basic principles of the world” is not far behind.
Once enslaved to the basic principles of the world, the joy of the knowing that Christ has died for the forgiveness of all our sins and that our Lord fulfilled the law for us so that we can be justified, inevitably disappears. Ask a slave if there is joy in slavery.
As we have seen, Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia is his response to an attempt by a group of Jewish converts to Christianity to infiltrate these churches that the apostle had helped to found, with the express intention of undermining the gospel that Paul had previously taught them. Preaching what Paul calls a false gospel, these false teachers–known as the Judaizers–were deceptively arguing that Paul’s gospel of free grace inevitably leads to license. They had secretly worked their way into the Galatian churches and were spying on those exercising their liberty in Christ, arguing that Paul’s gospel is dangerous because it supposedly encourages people to live their lives in utter disregard to the law of Moses and the traditions of the fathers of Israel. With this attack upon the gospel in Galatia, we see a clear example of the collision between a false gospel based upon human merit and obedience to the law of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ anchored in the free and sovereign grace of God, made manifest in the life and death of our Lord.
From the apostle Paul’s perspective, this is a battle about the fundamental nature of Christianity itself, a battle which determines whether or not Christianity is centered in the redemptive work of Christ, or in human merit, as in all the other religions of the world. Paul has just pointed out that through faith in Jesus Christ, even Gentiles become heirs to all the promises that God made to Abraham. It is through faith in Christ that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and are justified. None of these blessings come to us through good works. In Christ, all racial and social distinctions specifically related to our standing before God are removed (cf. 3:28). For in Christ, there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free. Through faith in the Savior, all of these disparate groups are now one. Baptism, which is the sign and seal of this amazing unity, is the means by which the believer “puts on Christ.” Once clothed in the robe of Christ’s glorious and perfect righteousness, the believer—who was formerly estranged, an alien and foreigner to the things of God—is now regarded as an adopted son or daughter and entitled to the full inheritance from his heavenly father. As such, all believers, whether they be Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, have the privilege of intimate fellowship with God, just as the true Son of God, Jesus Christ did. For as God’s adopted children, we too, cry out “Abba, Father.” Beginning in Galatians 4:8, Paul describes some of the continuing effects of the efforts of the Judaizers to infiltrate the Galatian Churches.
Read the whole thing as well as loads of other great sermons on Galatains here