Gal 4.1-7 goes back to our understanding of the Dual Nature of the Torah. The Torah “watched over” his people until the heir (Yeshua) appeared. In Gal 4.3 it says they were “held (in custody) in bondage under the elemental things of the world” and this tells us he is not talking about the Torah, it is sin. It is the things devised by man, the customs and traditions of works righteousness, the “works” of this world, the outwardly, fleshly things (2 Pet 3.10). In Gal 4.5 it says that Yeshua came so that he might “redeem those who were under the Law that we might receive the adoption as sons.” This talks about the fact that the Torah was a guardian over us, it had us “under arrest” and revealed sin and gave us boundaries. It also gave the people instruction, pointing to the Messiah who could redeem us. Because we are sons, he gave us the Shekinah (v 6) and so we are now sons and no longer slaves, held in custody and bondage.
Gal 4.8-10 are verses that, again, get misinterpreted by Replacement Theology so they will need to be explained. Where it says they “did not know God, or rather to be known by God” it means they were involved in pagan worship and practices of the religions around them and “unsaved.” As a result, they were separated from the Lord and he did not “know them” (Matt 7.23; Eph 2.12). They served “those” (men and idols) and they had not been brought near to God yet. They were seeking salvation from those “gods” that were not “gods.” Then they found Yeshua as Messiah and Redeemer and turned away from those things that they thought brought redemption, or the “weak and worthless elemental things.” This also alludes to what Beit Shammai and the 18 Edicts was presenting to them. The “plan of salvation” of Beit Shammai said two things. Keeping the Torah and that they had to be ritually circumcised and become a Jew (to become a full proselyte) in order to be saved.
So, the weak and worthless elemental things are what the Pharisee’s from Beit Shammai were teaching the Galatians. Paul is not calling the Pharisee’s overall “weak and worthless elemental things” because he was a Pharisee (Acts 23.6) from Beit Hillel. But, some were bringing a false teaching, or another plan of salvation. They desired to be in bondage “under” this teaching, or believed it and thought they needed it. Now, Paul believed in the Torah and taught it. He believed that the Jews needed to be Torah observant, as does a non-Jew as it applied to the non-Jew. However, the Torah can never be used for justification before God. If anyone teaches that, they are in error. You might as well say Buddha can give you life, or any other false god. This would be considered “weak and worthless elemental things.” It doesn’t matter whether they are saying it “in the name of the Torah”, it is still error and it contradicts the Torah.
Paul is not attacking the Torah in these verses, he is attacking the false message of “another gospel” brought by believers from Beit Shammai. To believe that salvation comes by doing anything is what they believed when they were involved in paganism. This concept is still taught in Christianity. For instance, if you don’t tithe then you are not a believer (lost). If you don’t go to church, or are baptized in a way that is not agreeable to certain groups, you are lost. It is bondage to say that you can have salvation and merit from God by doing anything. The Torah can be made into “bondage” also. That is what v 10 is saying where it says, “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” They thought that by observing these things that it brought merit. Paul is attacking the false narrative of these teachers from Beit Shammai, who took the Torah away from its purpose.
In Gal 4.11-12, Paul is saying “become as I am” because Paul wanted them to see that salvation does not come by works. Then in Gal 4.13-17, he says “they (the false teachers from Beit Shammai) wish to shut you out (from the kingdom, from being saved because they have not been ritually circumcised,and to shut them off from what Paul was teaching them) in order that you may seek them (to be on their side, to accept their teachings on this).” He began to have doubts about them in Gal 4.18-20. In congregations today, many are not believers and this is the norm, not the exception. You can go through the motions of being “on fire for God” but if your heart is not turned towards God and righteousness as defined by the Torah (Rom 7.12) then you are not in the Kingdom of God (because my sheep hear my voice, and Yeshua taught the Torah). In other words, if someone comes and they say they are a believer, then they will agree with the Torah. They might not at first, but they will eventually come to that conclusion. They might not “come around” to the same level of walk as you are, but they will be “moving towards the Torah.” On the other hand, if a person is not a believer they will reject the Torah. There are people in churches (in Christianity in general) who “cast out demons” and “perform miracles” and “prophesy” in the name of “Jesus.” They also say the “Torah is not for today” and it has been “done away with” and “nailed to the cross” and that makes them “free from the Law.” You will have to discern whether this person is just misinformed and will eventually come around, or they are totally against the Torah. If they are, then they fit into the people Yeshua was talking about in Matt 7.21-23 and are “you who practice lawlessness (no Torah, Torah-less-ness).
People like to be seen. They have a “profession of faith” with their mouth but they do not have a “true walk.” This is what Matt 7.21-23 is talking about. Many will say “in that day” (when Messiah comes, the Day of the Lord) that they prophesied, cast out demons and worked miracles in Yeshua’s name, but Yeshua says “I never knew you.” He doesn’t say “I once knew you but now I don’t” but he “never” knew them. This means they were never believers. They looked like one, spoke like one and did some things that would be identified with believers, but they were never “born again” in the true biblical sense. He goes on to say, “depart from me, you who work lawlessness.” The word “lawless” is “anomos” in Greek and it means “without the Torah” or “Torah-less.” So, lawlessness (no Torah) is a factor in an unbeliever. To the Jewish audience hearing him say this, they knew exactly what “lawlesness” was. When Paul says he had “doubts” (4.20) about them, he is saying that if they cannot understand his message to them, then he isn’t sure they were ever a believer. Yeshua said, “My sheep hear my voice.”
Now, let’s establish a few more things. We know that Paul instructed the non-Jews (among the Galatians) to keep the Sabbath, understand the festivals and to eat kosher. We can establish this in Acts 15.1-29. We can also establish this from Col 2.16-17. The “food and drink” mentioned there are the food and drink permitted in the Scriptures (Lev 11). When he says “in respect to a festival” he means the biblical festivals (Lev 23) or the “moedim.” The “new moon” is a festival called “Rosh Chodesh” every month (Num 28.11-15; Isa 66.23) and the “Sabbath day” is the seventh day Sabbath (not Sunday). These things are a shadow, or a “tavnit” (pattern/blueprint) of the “things to come” (eschatology, which is the study of the Messiah and the Redemption). They are “prophetic (1 Thes 5.1). He is saying to the Colossians that they were not to let anyone outside the faith act as their judge because they were observing these things, and since they were complete, they were to be judged by “the body is of Messiah” only (other believers). In other words, if an unbeliever criticizes you for observing the Torah, don’t give a concern about what they say. We are accountable only to the body of the Messiah (other true believers). Each of the things mentioned above are found in the Torah, and he taught these things to the Colossians (and every other place he went). They understood these things and were to be like the Sons of Isaachar in 1 Chr 12.32, who “understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” Paul is not criticizing the Galatians about keeping “days and months and seasons and years” (the Sabbath/festivals, the biblical calendar, the festival seasons). He is criticizing the concept that they believed that they had to be ritually circumcised (to become a Jewish proselyte) according to the halakah of Beit Shammai in order to be saved. This was the number one controversy in the first century, and dealt with in Acts 15.
In Part 21, we will pick up here with Gal 4.21-31 where Paul develops two concepts with a metaphor, the Torah and emunah (Sarah) and the Torah and works (Hagar).