8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
In today’s passage, Paul is reminding the reader of his purpose in writing. The Galatian churches are straying from grace and allowing religious leaders from Judaism to convince them that the law still matters and that Christ isn’t enough. The law demanded that people strive to know God through diligent adherence to its stringent standards. But under the New Covenant, having received adoption, we are known by God. What a precious truth.
Because of this truth, Paul is incredulous that believers would trade this relationship with their Heavenly Father for a return to observing religious rules. Verse 10 refers to the strict observance of religious holidays and seasons under the law or even due to pagan customs. This is another picture of rule-keeping to relate to God.
When we refer to the law, performance-based relationship, and rule-keeping, we are speaking of relating to God through works, plain and simple. Any time we believe that because of something we did or failed to do that our relationship with God is compromised, we are returning to the law. When we feel condemned because we messed up, that is the law knocking on our doors. When anyone, even we ourselves, tries to convince us that we must do something or stop doing something in order to relate to God, that’s a form of law. Understanding this truth will set you free.
“How is it,” Paul asks in verse nine, “that you return again to the weak and beggarly elements to which you desire again to be in bondage?” Religious thinking is bondage. Performance-based belief is bondage. Legalism is bondage. And all of these things are “weak and beggarly.” Trading our position as God’s children for law and condemnation is like choosing to be street beggars when we could be living in our Father’s amazing house.
This is the level of deception that attempts to take hold of us. Unfortunately, it is successful in leading many people backwards into bondage. But you, dear reader, are learning the truth that braving grace means pushing back against this deception and choosing to live in freedom. Don’t trade the finished work of Jesus for religion. You don’t need legalism. You are known by God.