The Galatians had been told they must keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul worked to persuade them that the power of the gospel was sufficient and was, in fact, negated by keeping the Law for salvation. His argument in 4:9 startles us when it equates keeping the Law of Moses with idolatry, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” These Galatians had never been under the Law of Moses; how could they “turn back again” to it, or be “slaves once more”? They had been idolaters with various rules for worship and finding God. Since the gospel became the power of God to salvation, seeking justification by keeping the Law of Moses is no different than seeking justification by keeping the ordinances of idolatry. Both involve various outward rules one meticulously keeps in order to come to God by things men do rather than by faith. To turn from the gospel to the Law of Moses would be no different that turning from the gospel to idolatry. [Those who were justified during the dispensation of the Law of Moses were justified by faith as noted in Hebrews 11 as men were in every dispensation.]
It would be appropriate to apply this passage to those who turn to the O.T. to justify their practices: incense, instrumental music, priests, tithes. But, it may be more useful to search within ourselves, “Has my service become a matter of rituals instead of a living sacrifice?”
When attendance becomes a measure of faithfulness and Hebrews 10:25 is a club to enforce it, does it really even matter whether one attends or not? Where is the heart? Is one serving God or his own rules? Attendance is not a “rule;” it is the opportunity one has to “provoke unto love and good works” his brothers and sisters. Checking a duty off the list is self-serving and does not follow the example of Christ to serve others.
When one prays to fulfill a duty it maybe has a limited value. But, it does not even approach prayer that opens the heart to God, prayer that draws one closer to God, prayer for others, prayer for service.
Some give on the first day of the week only because it is one of the “5 acts of worship.” Others first give themselves to the Lord and then give beyond their means of their own accord.
Eph 5:19 has been relegated for a proof text against instrumental music in the worship assembling. Paul wrote it in the context of everyday living as a primer for filling oneself with the Spirit. (The Greek does not say “one to another” but is a totally different word that is reflexive, “speaking to yourselves”). Is it any wonder that we struggle in our daily lives since we are empty of the Holy Spirit because we do not sing in our hearts all the time?
Many have turned the grace of God into rituals, rituals that no longer have the N.T. purpose and heart. There seems to be little difference between a will-worship by means of idolatry or one by means of Old Testament rules, or even by means of instructions of grace to help in time of need which have been turned into a checklist.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Gal 5:1,13
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