The Fork in the Road: Galatians 4 and Romans 14

Mario asked,

How does Galatians 4:8-10 figured into this?

8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.

Well in fact most of Galatians 4

Mario,

That’s an EXCELLENT question. Thanks.

You have to read Gal 4 in context, with Paul introducing the subject in chapter 2 and reaching his key conclusions in chapter 5.

In Rom 14, Paul speaks to treating some days as holy as a “disputable matter” and commands us not to condemn each other over such things. And in Rom 14, he doesn’t even tell the readers who is right. He tells us who’s right on the eating-meats issue, but doesn’t reach a conclusion on holy days — just “don’t judge.”

And yet, in Gal 4, he speaks as though we might lose our souls over the very same things!

He’s actually giving the same counsel but from two different perspectives. In Rom 14, he’s telling us how to treat those who bind or don’t bind where we don’t bind or bind.

(Rom 14:3 ESV) Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

Don’t pass judgment on those in Christ who are to your left or to your right — those who bind where you don’t bind or who don’t bind where you bind.

In Galatians, he’s telling us what happens if we judge over such things. When we violate Rom 14 by damning and refusing fellowship, we “teach another gospel” and “we fall from grace.” Oh, wow!

Remember, chapter 2 is about Peter refusing to eat with Gentiles because they weren’t circumcised. He didn’t overtly damn them. He might have thought that he’d just leave them to God’s judgment. But he wouldn’t eat with them.

(Gal 2:11 ESV) But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

The ESV translates, “Cephas … stood condemned” because of he separated himself over a disputable matter!!

Paul ultimately concludes,

(Gal 5:1 ESV) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

And I pray daily for my fellow members of the Churches of Christ, because we break fellowship over disputable matters

Now, Paul’s warnings against damnation are much more strongly stated against the teachers than those victimized by them. And so, I’d be very, very careful about breaking fellowship or damning someone over a question not central to the gospel.

You see, safety isn’t found in imposing rules and breaking fellowship over them. Safety is found in the grace of Jesus.

(Gal 5:6 ESV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

(Gal 6:14 ESV) But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

I just wish we’d trust Paul to be telling us the truth.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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3 Responses to The Fork in the Road: Galatians 4 and Romans 14

  1. Tim Archer says:

    Galatians 5:1 is a powerful verse. I asked a critic of mine what he thought the verse was saying we had been set free from, and he replied, "From Judaism, of course." When I pointed out that the Galatians weren't Jews before their conversion, he dropped out of the discussion.

    We have been set free from salvation via works. We are free to produce the fruit of the Spirit… "Against such things there is no law" (phrase which in and of itself is a powerful argument against the so-called Law of Silence).

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. Ray Downen says:

    How much we would be blessed if every member of our reformation read and understood this brief study. Those who hold to particular worship laws feel they are being true to "the faith once delivered." They feel that those who do not hold to those laws, none of which are found IN the Word, are not faithful and are to be shunned. They refuse fellowship because they so strongly love Jesus and feel that those who reject the laws they love do not love Jesus.

  3. Mario Lopez says:

    Romans 14:19-21

    Even if it's disputed, it's better to not do…

    On another note though,

    Let's say the weaker are the ones younger in the faith. And the stronger the more mature in the faith. Romans seems to be teaching Patience as we mature away from the former things. Not everyone will grow the same way.

    But it would seem that those in Galatia, should by then have a greater maturity and knowledge of the freedom in Christ able to leave behind the former things. (Which I would argue include IM from the Jewish tradition side.)

    Interesting use of 'condemned,' now were you meaning blame worthy, as in at fault in the instance, or as in damnation to the fiery furnace?

    And I do agree, it makes my stomach sink to think that there are some willing to break to break fellowship.

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