by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 August 5, 2012 Dayton, Texas
8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
1901 ASV Translation:
8 Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods:
9 but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.
I. But You Were Slaves.
A. In high contrast to their identity as heirs through God, Paul points backward to their former activities as slaves.
B. Paul clearly puts the vast majority of his "issues" under the "knowledge" umbrella.
1. When all is considered, biblical Christianity is rooted in "knowledge" and people who are going to participate in its impacts will only do so on the basis of "knowing". There is no "bypassing" of the mind and its innate preeminence in the makeup of humanity and, indeed, the entire creation by God of a relational universe wherein "Life" is the ultimate objective and its most critical and basic instrument is "knowledge".
2. "Then" ... Before the Gospel came by way of Paul's preaching in Galatia.
a. Having not known God ...
1) The issue of "knowledge", by this particular choice of words, is the issue of "coming to a conclusion because of the presence of evidence taken in". In Paul's uses of this term in this letter, there is always an indisputable set of facts arising from the use of the senses (sight, sound, etc.) or from the use of legitimate logic (2:16). In any case, the result of "not knowing" equals being without the capacity to enter into whatever reality the facts support. Ephesians 4:18 claims that it is "ignorance" that causes a person to be "alienated from the Life of God". It further claims that such "ignorance" is caused by "the hardness of their hearts" ("hardness" is mistranslated as "blindness" in the AV).
2) In this case, the object of "knowledge" is "God" (anarthrous; emphasis upon essence).
3) This ignorance is not without consequences: the Galatians were enslaved. Paul continues his polemic against "slavery" [against the backdrop of his own "bondslave" of God identity] by making it clear that "slave-service" is a bad thing because it is "vain-service" -- serving "gods" that do not exist. In other words, being a "slave" in a bad sense is being compelled to do "vain" things by the master. This is huge in that it points out that the "slavery" of Death is being subjected to futility and, ipso facto, that means that the "slavery" of Life is being driven to do "good" things that result in "good" for those affected by that doing.
b. You did service as slaves to "not-gods".
1) The objects of the "slave-service" were "not-gods" -- i.e., entities proclaimed to be "gods", but having no capacity in that arena (the exercise of power).
2) Paul is unhesitating about declaring that they were "slaves-to-gods". This means that he assumed that the Galatians were "religious", an assumption that cannot be made unless there is a universal "god-serving" gene in humanity.
a) Everyone is involved in the exercise of "power" (the automatic outcome of "spirits" indwelling bodies) in a cause/effect universe that has a habit of bringing consequences into play that no man can anticipate, nor effectively "handle".
b) Given the fact that everyone, at some point, faces the "overwhelming" and, in the face of it, seeks some "god" to give aid.
3) That they "did slave service" to "not-gods" means that there is a direct and distinct difference between the knowledge of God and the inherent ignorance of all of those who are outside of the Gospel's proclamation. Note Daniel's declaration to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:28 as a direct declaration that the gods of the Babylonians were "not-gods", a fact that the king indirectly acknowledged in 3:15 by exalting himself over them all.