“But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods”
Paul now appeals to the Galatians not to revert to the slavery of religion. They were under slavery to the religion of the Greco-Roman pantheon. Now legalists want to take them back to the slavery of the law, the slavery of religion. Paul appeals to them to stick with the grace principle and not revert to legalism (4:8-20).
But then, indeed, when you did not know God,
There was a point when the Galatians did not know the true God – life before Christ. The Jews were enslaved to the law, and the Gentile Galatians enslaved to idols of the pantheon. Why should the Gentiles go back into legalistic religion? They already knew something about slavery to religion before the gospel came to them.
you served those which by nature are not gods
The polytheistic gods of the first century were not, by natural endowment, characteristics, or condition, true gods. The very constitution of the plethora of gods in the Roman Empire was nil. Aphrodite and Zeus could not help them because they were not real. The Galatians themselves were in slavery to Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:11-13), so they understood something about slavery to false gods. This sad form of slavery put them in subjection to dead gods utterly unable to help them. How can something that does not have any existence help anyone?
Sonship is free, but religion is slavery. Pity those in slavery to religion. This is a great contrast to those who live in the glorious liberty of grace.
It is folly to revert to legalism.
It is an amazing and alarming thing to watch Christians who came to grips with the grace principle revert back into legalism. To embrace the gospel of grace of no works and no effort for salvation and then go back to a merit system is to lose sight of the work of Christ.
When we revert into legalism, we relapse into a religious straightjacket. Many want to sell this bill of goods today. The purpose of Satan is to blind our minds to the finished work of Christ on the cross.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians11:13-15).
Satan’s mission is always to convince us to leave the beauty of grace for the sadness of legalism.