Paul’s Footsteps #58

Footsteps # 58. Read Gal.4:8-20 

This passage closes with a plea from Paul to return from the “weak and worthless elements” v9 (NASB). For Paul, a return to legalism would be akin to going back to pagan worship. The observance of days, months seasons, and years(v10) was the ceremonialism of the Jewish calendar that included 7 annual Sabbaths (The feasts of Passover, Unleavened bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles.) These were the shadow Sabbaths (Col 2:14-16) inaugurated after the Exodus as types of Jesus work to come. Observing these after the cross subjected them to bondage. 

We should note however, that the Fourth commandment Sabbath was never a shadow of the cross. The 7 ceremonial Sabbaths looked forward to the work of Jesus, the weekly 4th commandment Sabbath looked back to and was a reminder of creation. It was given before sin entered the world and therefore cannot be linked to the “shadow” Sabbaths, that were teaching how God was going to deal with sin.  In fact, the greatest argument in favour of the fourth commandment Sabbath in the NT is that there was no argument! Paul caused a furore over circumcision and the ceremonial law, just imagine the debate, had he been advocating the shift of the 7th day of the week to the 1st? History is clear, this did not happen until the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries and for various reasons. The ‘converted’ Emperor Constantine, finally settled the argument when in 321AD he decreed “Christians will no longer Sabbatize on the Sabbath but shall keep Sunday in honour of the resurrection.”  

Paul’s letters always follow a pattern of theology, followed by pastoral council. Vs12-20 sees Paul “begging” (NASB) them as their spiritual father. This is a personal and emotional appeal. Unmasked error was undermining the gospel message and covering it with a haze of legalism. Christ, the true foundation of the faith, was being renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism. The apostle saw that if the believers in Galatia were to be saved from the dangerous influences which threatened them, the most decisive measures must be taken, the sharpest warnings must be given.

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