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? You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Gal_4:9-10)
In our last meditation, we saw that the Lord’s promise of liberating truth includes truth to deliver us from the law. If we are going to be justified (declared not guilty and pronounced righteous in Christ), we must be delivered from the law (which condemns us, pronounces us guilty of sin). This rescue from the law is secured by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus, enjoying His justifying grace. “We have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law” (Gal_2:16).
Through this exercise of faith, we come to know the Lord. At this point, many Christians return to a religious striving under law performance, assuming they can grow in sanctification by their own dedicated efforts. “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.” These words from Galatians repeat a major theme of that revolutionary book: the power and richness of grace contrasted with the weakness and poverty (“the weak and beggarly elements”) of the law. The grace of God, that was powerful enough to bring us justification, is the only option powerful enough to bring us progress in sanctification (growth in godly living). The grace of God, that was abundantly rich unto the saving of our souls, is the only resource rich enough to effect the transforming of our heart and character. God’s law was never intended to be the means of providing the heavenly power or riches needed for justification. Neither was the law intended to do such for sanctification.
The futility of the law in producing godliness can be seen in the Galatians’ vain hope that observing the religious holy days of the law could empower them spiritually. “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” Far from liberating lives, this was a return to religious enslavement. “You desire again to be in bondage.” God’s people are certainly free to celebrate days that may have spiritual significance to them. “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom_14:5). We are not to require or prohibit the observance of days. Nevertheless, if our hope is in religious observances, we are heading into religious bondage, not into spiritual liberty.
Dear Lord, I rejoice in the power and richness of Your grace that has brought me justification from sin! I humbly cry out to You for a daily supply of Your powerful and rich sanctifying grace. Convict me when I am leaning upon the weak and beggarly elements of law performance, in Jesus name, Amen.