The Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers. Instead of continuing to follow God’s Word, they allowed a group of people to convince them they needed to add something to God’s Word regarding salvation in order to experience salvation. The Judaizers told them salvation wasn’t found in Jesus alone. Rather it was found in Jesus plus works. In this instance, it was the work of circumcision.
Paul is shocked they would submit themselves to the law. He lets them know in his letter to them.
What contributed to their deception?
One reason the Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers was their inability to listen to the Law.
“I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” (Ga 4:20–21)
What does it mean to “listen to the Law”? Why is it important we listen to the Law?
BDAG Defines it as:
to hear and understand a message, understandArndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 38
Listening to or hearing the Law implies more than hearing it read aloud or preached. It implies understanding the message the text is attempting to convey.
The Galatians Misunderstanding and Paul’s Clarification
The Galatians did not understand the message of the OT Law, namely, one cannot earn salvation through works. Over and over again the Law points to our inability to keep the Law to gain salvation. Incase the Galatians did not understand the laws application, Paul makes it clear in chapter 5:
“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Ga 5:2–4)
It is important we listen to the Law, it tells us we cannot keep it and we need a Savior, so that we are not “obligated to keep the whole law” and end up “severed from Christ”.
The Law cannot justify us. Only Christ can provide justification through His work on our behalf.
How can we be better listeners to the Law ourselves?
Work on being better Bible readers
(1) Association – Find a way to associate the text to an experience you have had in the past, or something you are going through right now.
(2) Pray for Understanding – Before you read, pray the Lord would open the text up to you.
(3) Pray the Text – After you read, pray through the text. Praying the text isn’t rocket science. Start with the first verse you read and pray whatever comes to mind. When you have milked that verse dry, move on to the next, and then the next, until you have prayed all the verses you read. If you want further ideas and reasons why praying the text is helpful, Donald Whitney has written an excellent book Praying the Bible, which I highly recommend.
(4) Meditate on the Text – If all you do is read a chapter, close your Bible, and go about your day, chances are you aren’t going to remember much of what you read, which means you probably aren’t going to apply much of what you have read to your life. In comes meditation. By meditation, I don’t mean sitting with your legs crossed, arms out, palms up, trying to clear your mind. I have in mind just the opposite. Instead of trying to clear your mind, you should fill your mind with the text. There are several ways to do that:
- Think through the key words in the text.
- Write out the text.
- Journal the text.
- Memorize a key verse(s).
- Visualize the text by drawing it (probably more for you artsy types).
- Think of how the text applies to your life, your family, or your community.
- Formulate the main idea of the text. Think about what the text is telling you is true, and then ask what you should do, think, or believe based on that truth.
- Ask yourself how the text points to Jesus.
By employing these tips, you should be able to read the Bible in a way that allows you to hear what God’s Word is saying.
Understand the purpose of the Law
The Law points to Jesus.
How does the Law point to Jesus?
- The Law also shows us we cannot keep the Law – The continual sacrifices are meant to show us that we are incapable of keeping the Law. That in and of ourselves, we would remain under God’s judgment.
- The Law shows us we need a substitute – We don’t atone (make right) for our own sin. In the OT Law an animal is sacrificed in our place. The sacrificial animal is meant to point to another sacrifice to come.
- The Law points to Jesus through its ineffective nature – Sacrifices have to continually be made. The sacrifices are not sufficient to provide us with salvation from God’s wrath.
If we want to keep ourselves and others from being deceived by faith teachers, we must be students of the Word reading it for all it offers. We cannot pick and choose which verses to read, nor can we read it in isolation from the other texts in Scripture. Rather, we must read it in context and in a faithful manner.