Sermon: “Sons of the Free” (Galatians 4:21-5:1)
In Psalm 84:2 the psalmist exclaims, “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” In this verse, the psalmist expresses a virtuous desire: he longs to be in God’s presence. For the people of God, an identical desire should fill our hearts and govern our walk throughout the entirety of the Christian life. After all, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever (WSC 1). We enjoy God, and thus flourish according to our design, when we enjoy his presence as the Psalmist does.
This desire once occupied the minds and hearts of the churches in Galatia when they received the gospel that Paul ministered among them (see Acts 13-14). But in the intervening years since Paul’s departure, this noble and upright desire begot another desire: a desire to be under the law (Gal. 4:21). This newfound desire, massaged into their hearts by the Judaizers, led them to pursue righteousness through the law, rather than Christ alone. While the false gospel of the Judaizers gained more and more traction in the hearts of God’s people in Galatia, Paul is determined to loosen this ‘gospel’s’ grip by confronting the church with a sobering reality: while they now desire to be under the law (i.e. the body of commandments of Moses), Paul bluntly tells them that they haven’t even listened to the law (i.e. the five books of Moses).
Paul’s argument throughout this passage is intended to draw our attention to the media that informs our lives as Christians. Do we make our way in the world according to sight? Do we make our way in the world through uninformed carnal desire? Or do we make our way in the world by listening to the Scriptures? God’s people are pilgrims in this world; we walk the path of faith by the Spirit who brings light even when we walk in the presence of darkness. We live, move, and have our being in the metaphorical ‘present Jerusalem’ – the present age. But our citizenship belongs to the Jerusalem from above (Gal. 4:25-26). “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). As we live in the midst of these two clashing kingdoms, our desires are too often informed only by what we see rather than by what we hear. Yet Paul’s exhortation in this passage to the churches in Galatia is also an exhortation for us to heed. It is for freedom that Christ sets us free and God calls us to stand firm in freedom by hearing rightly.