How Turn You Again?

Galatians 4:8-18 Howbeit then, when you knew not God, you did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as you are: you have not injured me at all. You know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh you despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness you spoke of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that you might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. 

‘When you knew not God, you did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?’ This is proof that they not only were one-time idolaters but were proselytes to Judaism (4:9-12). They ran well for a while (5:7), but later left Christ and the gospel to go back under the law (1:6-7; 3:1-5; 4:9-10; 5:4-9).

‘Beggarly elements’ – they are the observance of sabbaths and special days of the law (4:10; Col. 2:14-17; Rom. 14:5-6); observance of months – new moons of the law (4:10; Col. 2:14-17); observance of times or certain seasons of the year, as the feasts of Israel (4:10; Lev. 23:1-44; Col. 2:14-17) and the observance of years – annual atonements, sabbatical years, and jubilees of Israel (4:10; Lev. 23:1-44 and 25:1-55).

‘I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.’ All observances of days, months, times, seasons, years, etc. tend to make men feel religious and justified because they are doing religion and not necessarily living godly. Such is a substitute for the gospel and in vain.

‘Infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.’ This refers to some of Paul’s sufferings for the gospel, recorded in 2Corinthians 11:23-28.

‘Temptation’ [Greek: peirasmos] any kind of temptation or trial (Matt. 6:13; 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 4:13; 8:13; 11:4; 22:28, 40, 46; Acts 20:19; 1Cor. 10:13; Gal. 4:14; 1Tim. 6:9; Heb. 3:8; Jas. 1:2, 12; 1Pet. 1:6; 4:12; 2Pet. 2:9; Rev. 3:10).

‘Plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.’ This is an expression of great affection, like saying, “I would give my right arm for you or lay down my life for you.” It does not indicate that Paul had an eye disease.

‘Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?’ Is it because I tell you the truth that your affections have so changed toward me?

‘They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that you might affect them.’ Your false teachers are zealous to work themselves into your good graces and to win your love. They would turn you against me so that you might love and abide by their decisions only. It is always good to be zealous for good things (4:17-18).