“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:8-9
When we come to the eighth verse of Galatians 4 we find that the Apostle Paul intensifies his appeal for the Galatians to return to the gospel truth by making a personal appeal to them. He has given them a history lesson on the error that they are currently embracing, followed by a demonstration of the Biblical truth that the LORD Jesus Christ is, in fact, the crucified one. Paul points the Galatians to the plain truth of the Word of God which reveals the inability of the law to save us, and of the fact that the LORD Jesus Christ has borne the curse of our sin by becoming a curse for us by being hung on the cross. On account of this precious gift God has given us by the grace of the cross the full rights of Sonship in the LORD Jesus Christ. We are no longer a slave of sin, because we have become the children of God through faith in the LORD Jesus Christ.
In Galatians 4:8 Paul begins an intense personal appeal to the Galatians. Isn’t it interesting that Biblical appeals often combine a focus on knowledge as they work out logically the truth as it is found in the Word of God with an additional appeal to our hearts by drawing our attention to the communion we share with God in Christ and with other believers in Christ. We often call this a warm hearted Christian faith. Both things are necessary. We must know the logic of the Biblical Gospel. We also must be moved to rejoice in the communion that the Gospel created. Nothing is more precious than to share tears of joy with a brother or sister who has just discovered the freedom that we share in Christ. Such things must move us. To be engaged in the joyful work of evangelism is the responsibility and the joy of every believer.
There are several other things that Paul reveals to us here. His use of the word translated by the NIV as “formerly” tells us about the approach we must take to the Gospel proclamation. Several Greek lexicons tell us that this word is often used to add intensity to a sentence or a paragraph. Paul is not proclaiming the Gospel here in a passionless way. It has gripped his life and it moves him deeply. So too must it grip and move us. Second he points us to the mechanism by which the Gospel saves us. This is by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul writes, “But now that you know God – or rather are known by God.” From our perspective we heard the Gospel and we believed it and as a result we have come to know God. We begin to engage in Bible Study. We learn about the attributes of God. We find ourselves growing in our understanding about the living God. Knowledge in our heads, however important, and glorious it might be does not save us, however, if it is not joined with real spiritual life. This is what the Apostle Paul points us to when he writes that we have come to be known by God. The word used here is an interesting one because it is a Greek word for knowing something or someone, often in a personal way, which is tied in to an Old Testament Hebrew word which focuses upon viewing something with favour. What Paul is telling us is that the first and most important part of our salvation is that God has looked upon us with favour or grace. We have come to faith, loving and knowing God because He first looked upon us with grace. As the Apostle writes to the Church at Rome, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). What comes first in our salvation? God loved us in the cross of Christ while we were still sinners. He looked upon us in grace and made us alive in Christ. What a precious truth. Surely it moves you to know that God has loved you so much.