Choosing Slavery is Perplexing Back to all sermons

In Christ Alone - Galatians

Date: February 25, 2018

Speaker: Pastor Chris Bruce

Series: In Christ Alone - Galatians

Category: Expository

Scripture: Galatians 4:8–4:20

Tags: truth, Freedom; Pastors heart, example, perplexed

Synopsis: Paul is perplexed as to why anyone would give up their freedom in Christ, he has spent the last three chapters showing them the error of their ways to their intellect and now in these verses he wants to appeal to their emotions, from his heart to theirs.


There is a psychological problem in the world today called the Stockholm Syndrome. Have you ever heard of it? The Stockholm syndrome is when people who have been taken hostage develop a strange trust and care for those who took them hostage; it has been so named because of this incident:

"The Stockholm Syndrome first occurred in 1973 at an attempted bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. A man tried to rob a bank, and the police caught him. He took three female hostages and one male hostage and held them for 131 hours. During this time he terrorized them, firing his Russian automatic assault weapon at them and threatening to kill them. He put nooses around their necks and threatened to hang them, but when it was all over, he hadn't harmed any of them. When he finally surrendered, something unusual happened. The police expected the hostages to be antagonistic toward the hostage taker. Instead, they said they feared the police more than the hostage taker. They also said they didn't hate the hostage taker. They refused to testify against him. One of the ladies actually became engaged to him.”

Can you imagine that, they loved the person who enslaved them for those 131 hours, after 5.5 days of hell, they preferred that captor over those who gave them freedom. This is confusing to me, I would say perplexing.

In our text Paul is writing to the church in Galatia that was suffering a kind of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome. They had once been spiritually oppressed, spiritually enslaved in their previous religion, but even after Jesus set them free, these Galatian Christians want to go back to their slavery. They have an error in their theology. This strange error is found in verses 8-11:

8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once  more?  10You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. 

Paul is torn by what he sees in the Church in Galatia. These people were enslaved before by a false religion, which caused them to believe that by their salvation could be earned by prayers and sacrifices and honouring these elementary principles on special days and seasons. He had taught them the gospel each time he had visited the area.
He had taught them that Salvation is by GRACE alone through FAITH alone in CHRIST alone. They had believed the message and repented of their sins, yet now they are returning to a works-based religion and even worse. They thought it was Christianity, no wonder he is perplexed, afraid that he had laboured over them in vain.

We see how what the false teachers had taught was not only about following circumcision but also about following the days and months and seasons and years of the Jewish faith, bringing these Christians back to the bondage of the religion of works to save themselves. The truth was found in verse 9:

9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God,

One Theologian said “Relationship with God does not have its basis in [human] seeking (mysticism), or doing (legalism) or knowing (gnosticism), but it originates with God … and is carried on always by divine grace.” 

Our faith is never about stuff that we do but about God’s Grace, He saves us, sets us apart and adopts us into His family. God is the one who has allowed us into His family, He sent Jesus to die on the cross, He called us by name, He did it all, and our only role is faith to believe it.

How often do we fall into the same trap? How often do we believe that coming to church on Holy Days: Christmas; Easter or even New Years Eve; are more important than regular weekly meetings.

We want to create rules and regulations that make Christianity more about what we do; or even what we don’t do that the world does. The church I come from in South Africa used to have rules forbidding going to movies and playing cards, you were not allowed to drink any alcohol or have a tattoo. If you did any of these you were immediately excluded from eldership.

Maybe some of you come from churches like that or others where women have to wear dresses especially when they come to church. Men have to wear ties or suits. Children should be seen and not heard.

We believe that if we give the right amount or fast the right amount or serve the right amount we will have extra favour with God.

These are legalistic traps that are holding us hostage, yet like those hostages in Stockholm and in the Galatian Church, we base our faith on these religious ties that keep us in bondage.

We see the error that the church has made part of their doctrine and so now Paul wants to remove that error with his own example. He wants them to recognise the truth of the gospel. Let’s look at verses 12-16:

12Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.  13You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first,  14and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.  16Have I then become your
enemy by telling you the truth? 

These false teachers have come into Galatia and have turned the church against Paul; they have taught that Paul was the false teacher, that you needed more law to be a Christian. You had to become like them, circumcised and following the law, but Paul says No! The truth is that Paul became like them in order to reach them. He told the Corinthians the same thing in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 

20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

Paul, and God don’t want these Gentiles to become Jews. He says they should now return to where they were. You were Gentiles, I became like you to teach you the truth, You become like these false teachers to follow the Law, come back to your original state where I am now, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.

In the past they loved Paul so much that, even though he had some bodily ailment likely some issue with his eyesight, that they would have given him their eyes, now they see him as an enemy. It is no wonder he asked before in 3:1, O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?

Just like those bank hostages who feared the police more then their captor, these Galatians have been blinded from the truth. They have freedom in Christ, with all its blessings, yet they choose bondage to religion. We look at them and think how foolish, but lets take a closer look at ourselves, we too have freedom in Christ but we go back into bondage with all kinds of teachings and practices.

Let me pause there for a moment. Think about your own Christianity, what teachings and practices do you have that are man-made, that define if you are a child of God. What errors are in your own life? Whose example do you have to follow?

Remember we are talking about your basis for salvation. There may be some lifestyle changes you have made to please God because you are His child, but are there any laws you think if you break will cause you to lose your salvation?

Remember what we have been saying throughout this teaching through the book of Galatians: Salvation is by GRACE alone through FAITH alone in CHRIST alone.

We love God but sometimes the rules of religion are more important then loving our neighbour. We love God but sometimes give more attention to our careers. We love God but sometimes question Him when we get sick.

Remember that Paul has shown this church, in the previous chapters, proofs of his teaching and now after showing them their Error, after giving them his Example, he now shows his Emotions, he loves them, and desires them to repent. Paul loves this church, he loves the members of the church, he gave himself for them, but now these other teachers have come with different motives to his.

4:17-20: 17They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.  18It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you,  19my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!  20I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Paul was a pastor to this church, he had come and founded them, he in a sense he gave birth to them, and now he shows that as the pain of childbirth shows a mother’s love, he has the same pains, he desires them to come to true faith, for Christ to be formed inside of them, he knows that a letter cannot show his emotions, he desires to be with them for them to hear his tone, his plea, to help remove this perplexity of change.

Here we see love, deep pastoral love. Hebrews 12 5-6:

5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

and Proverbs 3:11-12 says:

11My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Paul desires this church to grow and so he lovingly disciplines them, he brings correction to them. His motive is love for them and love for the truth of the gospel.
The other teachers make much of the people of the church for another motive, they want to be seen as great teachers, the teaching is all about them and how pious they live. How well they follow the rules.

Their purpose is to make the Galatian believers look like second class Christians who don’t know the full gospel, but in reality they are adding to already complete gospel to make people see them greater.

Unfortunately 2000 years later, people are still doing the same thing, look at me! Look at my faith! You can’t receive answers to your prayers because you don’t have my kind of faith. Ask the pastors to pray because they are closer to God, as they live holier lives. Call a special speaker to give the blessing because God will hear their prayers over our prayers.

Why would ask the pastor to bless the food in your own home if God has called you to be the head of that household? True biblical leadership will speak the truth in love, maybe even hurting your emotions in the process of disciplining you because they love you and want you to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

We have learned doctrines that teach us to make more of our leaders then we ought to. Paul was teaching these Galatians and us in turn to not to follow people who make much of us, who flatter us, in order that they in turn may be flattered. Preaching messages that sound good in their ears but the real truth about Salvation is that it is by GRACE alone through FAITH alone in CHRIST alone.

We have said that many times in the last few weeks but what does it mean? God created humans and we have all failed Him, we are sinners, we choose to separate ourselves from God, but by God’s Grace, He made a way of salvation that included Jesus being sent to die on the cross for our sins as a perfect sacrifice for our sins, our response is to have faith in this sacrifice that it pays the price for those sins that separate us from God. It is only this sacrifice of Christ that is able to meet
the requirements to be with God, all our works are as filthy rags, so we are saved by the Grace of the Father by our faith in this sacrifice of Christ dying on the cross.

Let us pray.