by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 August 12, 2012 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(197)Thesis:Paul's astonishment is rooted in 'experienced reality'.
Introduction:We began a look into Galatians 4:8-11 in our last study. In that study we considered Paul's description of the Galatians before his arrival in Galatia with the Gospel. He basically characterized his readers as "slaves" who were ignorant of God and seriously committed to the service of "gods" that did not and could not address them in their real needs for the exercise of power.
This raises the issue of just what those "real needs" are and leads us directly into Paul's expression of astonishment in 4:9. That there are genuine "needs" for a "God", and that Paul's astonishment is real, indicates that the "knowledge of God" has some real and discernible experiences in the lives of those who are "known of Him".
This evening we are going to consider why Paul is so astonished by the Galatians' willingness to turn from grace to law.
I. The Reality of the Astonishment.
A. Proverbs 26:11 is a graphic illustration of what reverting to law is like and it is picked up by Peter in 2 Peter 2:20-22 and applied to the very same situation that Paul is addressing in Galatians.
B. At issue is the fact that a turn from grace back to some form of idolatry is not merely possible, but actual in the Galatians' case, and is an astonishingly ignorant tack in life.
C. Paul's question is intensive at the level of the "turn": the verb is intensified by "epi" and it is followed by another "epi".
D. Paul's question addresses the ultimate futility: turning from power to powerlessness: how astonishing is it to see people act as stupidly as a dog?
II. The Roots of the Astonishment.
A. One root of Paul's astonishment is the reality of what happens when human beings get into a "knowing/being known" relationship with God.
1. The bottom line in all of life is the relationship between what a person is experiencing and why.
a. The bottom line in all of the "whats" of a person's experience is one: is it "joy"?
1) At issue is the fact that "joy" is not "pain-free happiness", but that which a person experiences when he/she has a "conflict-free conscience".
2) At the very root of all joylessness is the presence of the guilt of causing conflict with God or some human being.
b. The bottom line is all of the "whys" of a person's experience is one: what are you "thinking"?
1) There have been, and will continue to be, multiple examples of people who exude joy in the midst of the most trying of circumstances; proving that circumstances are not the bottom line.
2) In every case of "circumstance-independent joy" there is one causal factor: the way a person perceives those circumstances in the light of all "others" that are involved.
2. It was both Paul's experience and the experience of the Galatians that the presence of "joy" is the result of an uncomplicated, open, guilt-free/blame-free, relationship with God.
a. Paul immediately addresses the issues of "knowing".
1) He claims, against the current reality, that the Galatians "have come to know" God.
2) He claims, again against the current reality, that the Galatians "are known" by God.
b. Those issues revolve around the kind of "knowledge" that is absolutely derived from what I just called "an uncomplicated, open, guilt-free/blame-free, relationship with God".
1) In 4:8 Paul claims that the former condition involved a kind of "knowledge" that is rooted in three connected things: facts, interpretations, and conclusions.
2) In Matthew 7:23 Jesus claimed that there is a kind of "knowledge" that God does not have.
3) It is this latter kind of knowledge that Paul says both the Galatians and God have of each other.
4) This means this: the initial experience of those who enter into this kind of knowing possess, at the time of the knowledge, "an uncomplicated, open, guilt-free/blame-free, relationship with God" and its side-effect: "joy".
5) Thus, Paul was pointing backwards to a real, historical, personal, experience of the Joy of Life.
B. The question, then, is this: why would anyone leave such "joy" in favor of a bondage to weak and ineffectual non-gods who cannot, and do not, produce such?
1. The fact is that everyone who departs from "joy" does so with a strong sense of self-righteousness and an equally strong sense of being mistreated.
2. No one loses the Joy of Life who allows God to be God and maintains a legitimate perspective in regard to His treatment of them within the large picture of His actions and revealed plans.