In Galatia, the Judaizers had begun to disseminate the idea that in order to be truly converted, those who believed in Jesus would have to also obey the law of God perfectly. In their misguided understanding, the believers at Galatia were simple and under-taught. They had been told of faith, but they had not grown in their spiritual understanding to see that God’s approval and acceptance hinges on obedience to the law. In their estimation, you could not truly be a Christian unless you also were fulfilling all the things commanded in the law.
In a way, they sought to use verbal intimidation to convince people to turn from faith alone to a life of faith plus works. They could explain that the reason that the Galatians were not following the law was because they were immature, and had not learned the full truth. They could explain that God offered salvation to those who came in faith, and wore the right kind of clothes, and went to the right places, and were able to meet the standards that they themselves held. The intimidation came when they disparagingly derided the believers that believed that God’s grace was extended through something as simple as “faith.”
In addressing this false idea, Paul explains that the truly immature thinking is not the one that views faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ alone as the means by which we receive God’s grace and forgiveness. Rather, those who think that belief must be coupled with following the law were the truly spiritually immature ones. To express this condition of immaturity and spiritual underdevelopment Paul uses the analogy of being a child in a wealthy man’s home.
Just as a child in a wealthy man’s home does not get to fully enjoy the benefits of the wealth while the child is still immature, those who were spiritually immature under the law of Moses did not fully enjoy the riches of God that came in Christ. Christ has come and offers a great deal of blessings in His coming. Paul continued his explanation that when Christ came, those “elements” from the Jew’s spiritual childhood under the law were now matured and could be understood. This meant that the Judaizers coming in and trying to get people who have matured and grown by the truth of the gospel in Jesus to return to the law was actually not further maturing them, rather it was dragging them back into childish things.
Paul argues that there is no sense in coming back under the bondage of immaturity that was found in the law. He explains that while the law was there, it served as a good tutor or teacher in educating and maturing the people of God. But just as no one goes back to elementary school when they are 45, no one who has become a spiritually mature adult through faith in Christ should return to the elementary school teacher, the law. In Paul’s estimation, returning to law-following for salvation is not just unnecessary, it is a sign that you are spiritually immature. The immature and underdeveloped were not those who viewed faith alone as the means to God’s grace. No, the immature and underdeveloped were the ones that viewed their obedience to the law as necessary to receive God’s grace.
Food For Thought: Who is acting like a spiritual child, the one who believes in faith alone or the one who believes in faith plus works?