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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Returning to Slavery Again? (4:8-11)
Returning to Slavery Again? (4:8-11)

Paul began his rebuke for foolishness with a series of searching questions that called the Galatian believers to reexamine their experience of God's miraculous work by his Spirit in their lives (3:1-5). He ends this section of his rebuke for foolishness in the same way. He has just reminded them that in their experience of the Spirit they have begun to communicate with God as their Abba, Father (v. 6). Now he asks his readers questions that point to the contrast between their present knowledge of God as his children and their former ignorance of God as slaves. The essence of the father-child relationship that they now enjoy is reciprocal knowledge: the Father knows his child; the child knows the Father. But in their attempt to observe the law they are actually turning from their intimate knowledge of God as his children and returning to the slavery they experienced in their former pagan way of life when they did not know God.

To help them see the foolishness of their ways, Paul first reminds them of their former condition of ignorance when they were enslaved by pagan idolatry (v. 8). Second, he draws their attention again to the knowledge of God which they now enjoy in their new relationship with God (v. 9). Third, he asks them why they are returning to slavery by observing the law (vv. 9-10). Finally, he expresses his deep concern for them (v. 11).

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