Galatians 4:10
St. Paul considers the observing of days, and months, and seasons, and years as so gross an instance of relapse to the weak and beggarly rudiments that he fears on that account that he may have bestowed labour in vain on the Galatians. So grave a judgment on the observance of seasons may startle us if we do not consider what the apostle really is condemning.

I. THERE IS A RIGHT REGARD FOR SEASONS. The sabbath was made for man, and it is therefore good for man that he should make use of the one day in the week that is set apart for rest and worship. Clearly if other seasons, such as Christmas, Easter, the coming of the new year, the harvest, etc., can be utilized profitably, the recognition of them may be justified on good grounds.

1. The profitable arrangement of time. There is a time for everything. Christ did not utter his parables of judgment at the wedding least in Cana. We need time for worship. Though we should ever live in the spirit of prayer, we must still have distinct seasons of undistracted devotion if our religious life is to be deep and vigorous. It often happens, moreover, that what can be done at any time is not done at all. As it is well to set aside a definite portion of one's income for charitable purposes, lest too little or even none should be left after satisfying innumerable personal claims - though really if we love our neighbour as ourselves we shall count nothing wholly our own - so, while God demands all our time, and while any season is suitable for devotion, some time must be set aside for worship, or the busy work of life will absorb the whole.

2. The exigencies of public worship. The social requirements of worship make set seasons necessary when all the worshippers can mutually agree to assemble themselves together. The same principle requires definite places of worship.

3. The influence of association. We are all more or less affected by sentiment. Birthdays, wedding-days, and death-days, days of joy and days of sorrow, are chronicled in our almanacs, and the recurrence of them naturally raises sympathetic emotions. The same applies to the great Christian anniversaries, and the power of association may help us to profit by the lessons of the Incarnation at Christmas and of the Resurrection at Easter.

II. THERE IS A DANGEROUS OBSERVANCE OF SEASONS.

1. Regarding the mere observance of the seasons as a virtue on its own account. The means receives the credit due only to the end. Mere "sabbath-keeping" is no good thing. The question is, "What good do we do or gain through use of the privileges of the day?"

2. The idea that the holy season sanctifies what would be otherwise common.

3. Making the sanctity of the day an excuse for neglecting duty. This was the fault of hypocritical Pharisees in the time of our Lord. Charity was sinned against that the sabbath might be respected.

4. Treating the religious observance of the holy season as an excuse for irreligion at other seasons. How many in Roman Catholic countries seem to think that attendance at Mass in the morning gives an indulgence for attendance at the theatre in the evening! How many Protestants seem to think that cessation from business on Sunday shows so much respect for religion that all the work of the week may be carried on in utter worldliness! Surely it is best not to put up the shutters on the first day of the week, if this act is only a piece of hypocrisy intended to cover the sin of using false weights and measures and selling adulterated goods on the other six days. In conclusion, let us remember that each man must draw the line between the harmless use and the dangerous observance of seasons for himself. It depends much on natural constitution and on early habits. If some Christians seem rather over-observant of days, those who with St. Paul regard all days, the sabbath included, as in themselves equally holy, are not to judge their weaker brethren, but to reverence their devotion and to be charitable to their failing (Romans 14:5, 6). - W.F.A.







To observe days and months
I. NATURAL. When days are observed according to the course of the sun and moon. Thus night follows day, and every year hath four seasons.

II. CIVIL. When set times are observed in husbandry, for household affairs, for matters of the common. wealth, and for business.

III. ECCLESIASTICS. When set days are observed for order's sake, as days of thanksgiving, and days of humiliation.

IV. SUPERSTITIOUS.

1. Jewish: when made compulsory on the conscience.

2. Heathen: when good and bad success are dependent on them. From this last the Sabbath is excluded because

(1)it is the Lord's day, and

(2)a moral commandment.Apply against —

1. Romish festivals.

2. Lucky or unlucky periods.

(W. Perkins.)

The apostle is dealing with some of the difficulties which had arisen out of their former heathenism. The Galatian had worshipped "them which by nature were no gods," the powers of nature and celestial objects, which indicate and influence the changes of seasons, months, and days, and were returning to these "weak and beggarly elements." They were in danger not only of taking up with the Judaistic doctrine of justification by works, but also of relapsing into the heathen custom of calculating lucky and unlucky days and auspicious seasons by methods of astrology. Against this the apostle enters his protest. There is no evidence that he had any idea of the Jewish Sabbath in his mind.

(W. Spiers, M. A.)

If it be objected that we are accustomed to observe certain days — as, e.g., the Lord's Day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer that, to the perfect Christian — who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds, serving Christ — all his days are the Lord's, and he is always keeping the Lord's Day. He, also, who is unceasingly preparing himself for the true life, such an one is always keeping the Preparation day. Again, he who considers that "Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us," and that it is of his duty to keep the feast by eating of the flesh of the Word, never ceases to keep the Paschal feast. And, finally, he who can truly say: "We are risen with Christ," and "He hath exalted us, and made us sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ" is always living in the season of Pentecost. But the majority of believers are not of this advanced class; but from being either unable or unwilling to keep every day in this manner, they require some sensible memorial to prevent spiritual things from passing altogether from their minds.

( Origen.)

The superstitious belief in good and evil days has prevailed in all ages and countries. No season of the year, no month, no week, has been free from them. From Egypt unlucky days have received the name of Egyptian days. The Romans had their dies atri, which were pointed out on the calendar with a black character denoting a day of bad luck, and their dies albi, pointed out with a white character denoting good luck. In commenting on the text says: "Those whom the apostle blames are those who say" "I will not set forward on my journey because it is the next day after such a time. or because the moon is so; or I'll set forward that I may have luck, because such is just now the position of the stars. I will not traffic this month because a star presides, or I will because it does." Lodge (1596) tells us of those "who would not eat their dinner before they have lookt in their almanacke." Aubrey, the antiquarian, later on, in dealing with the same subject, says: "I shall take particular notice here of November 3rd, both because 'tis my own birthday, and for the remarkable accidents that have happened thereupon. Constantius, son of Constantine the Great, died on this day, Exveteri calendaris penes me. Thomas Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, that famous commander under Henries IV., V., and VI., died this day from a cannon shot received at Orleans. So also did Cardinal Borrhomes, and Sir John Perot, Lord deputy of Ireland, son to Henry VIII., and extremely like him; grief of the fatality of the day killed him. Stow in his annals says, November 3rd, 1099, the sea broke in on Scotland and England, drowning divers towns, and much people and cattle, submerging the lands once belonging to Earl Godwin in Kent, now called Godwin Sands, My father died in 1643, and within a year and a half of his decease such changes came upon my marsh lands in Kent by the influence of the sea that it was never worth one farthing to me; so that I often think this day being my birthday hath the same influence upon me that it had five hundred and eighty years since upon Earl Godwin and others. The Parliament so fatal to Rome's concerns here in Henry VIII.'s time began on November 3rd. The 3rd of November, 1640, began that Parliament so direfully fatal to England and its King." After the Reformation the unlucky day seems to have been Friday; fishermen and sailors would not go forth on that day, or servants take a place. No one on that day would get married, or begin a journey, or open a house of business on that day A similar superstition prevails among the Brahmins. In Japan a particular table is employed by travellers, which, it is said, has been observed to hold true by a continued experience of many ages, and wherein are set down all the unfortunate days of every month. A copy of this table is printed in all their road books. The Siamese observe the feasts of the new and full moon, and think the days that from the change precede the full are more fortunate than those that follow it. Their almanacks are marked with lucky and unlucky days. Neither prince nor any one who has means of applying to the astrologers will undertake anything without consulting them The Mexicans predicted the good or bad fortunes of infants from the sign under which they were born, and the happiness or misfortune of marriages, the success of wars; and of nearly everything from the day on which they were undertaken Nor are these notions confined to heathen countries. The newspapers frequently bring to light the credulity of Englishmen. "Such an extravagant cast of mind," truly says The Spectator, "engages multitudes of people not only in needless terrors but in supernumerary duties, and arises from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the soul of man. Wise men concern themselves to retrench the evils of life by the reasonings of philosophy; fools seek to multiply them by the sentiments of superstition. God's providence overrules all things. We should do our part faithfully, and leave the event with Him."

There are two distinct grounds on which works in religion are appraised at a low or rather worthless valuation in the Bible, and either rejected or denounced accordingly. The first is when they are offered as the price of our justification in the sight of God; as an equivalent upon which the Lawgiver is challenged for the honour and the regard that are due to righteousness; then does the Bible utterly hold at nought the most laborious, and, perhaps, when looked to in another view, the most holy and estimable of all human performances. The other ground on which works are computed at a low valuation in the Bible, is where, either in themselves they are devoid of tree moral excellence, or serve not in their tendencies to refine and to strengthen the principles of our moral nature. But let a good work be delivered of both these ingredients — let there be neither an arrogated merit nor an inherent meanness in it — free of all pettiness and abject timidity — And we say of works like unto this, that, so far from the gospel lifting a voice of hostility or casting a look of discountenance towards them, the very aim of the gospel is to raise and to multiply them over the face of a new moral creation. Now, in the text there is a certain scrupulous observation referred to by the apostle, which his converts adhered to as a duty, but which he charges them with as if it were a delinquency. They observed days and months and times and years, annexing a religious importance to the stated acts and exercises of stated periods; and we have no doubt, labouring under distress of conscience, at any misgiving from the prescribed and wonted regularity. It is likely enough, that both of those ingredients which go to vilify a work, and to render it null and worthless, entered into this outward formality of the Galatians — that it gave them a feeling of security as to their meritorious acceptance with God, which nought but the Redeemer's merits ought to inspire; and that it further degraded the character of man, by reducing morality to the level of mechanism, and substituting for the obedience of a rightly strung and rightly actuated heart, an obedience like that of a galley-slave who plies at his unvaried oar, and moves in the one and unvaried circuit that is assigned to him. But there is another side to this question, which must not be left out of sight; for, though it be true that man was not made for the Sabbath, yet let it never be forgotten that the Sabbath was made for man. Man was not made to move in a precise orbit of times and seasons; yet times and seasons may be arranged, so as to subserve his use, and be the ministers of good both to his natural and moral economy. Were the keeping of the Sabbath a mere servitude of the body, which left the heart no better than before, it would be a frivolous ceremonial and ought to be exploded. But if it be true that he who sanctifies the Sabbath sanctifies his own soul, then does the Sabbath assume a spiritual importance, because an expedient of spiritual cultivation° It is not that the virtue of man consists in these things, but that these things are devices of best and surest efficacy for upholding the virtue of man. If it be true of man, that he can attain a loftier communion with his God, at those hours when the din and urgency of the world are away from him; and that a season of reading, and contemplation, and prayer acts as a restorative to the embers of his decaying sacredness; and that the voice of a minister, when prompted by the Spirit from on high, and aided by the sympathies of all who are around him, can often send the elevation of heaven into his soul; and that it is on those evenings of deep and lengthened tranquility which the footstep of intruding companion-ship does not violate, when the nurture and admonition of the Lord can descend more abundantly on the hearts of His children, and when the calm and the unction of a holy influence may be most felt in His dwelling-place — then Sabbath, which, from one end to the other of it, teems with these very opportunities, instead of ranking with the holidays of idle superstition, will be dear as piety itself to every enlightened Christian; and to it, in the most emphatic sense of the term, will he award the obeisance of a Divine and spiritual festival. And on this principle, too, may the Sabbath be rescued from that contempt which the text, in denouncing the observation of days and of times, would appear to cast on it. It is true, that it is a periodic festival, and. that. man was not made for periods. But this does not hinder that periods may be made for man. Does sacredness so keep at all times its undisturbed place and pre-eminence, amid the turmoil of those many secularities by which you are surrounded, that any one set and specific time is not needed, on which, at a distance from the besetting world, you might relume that lamp of heaven in the soul which was ready to expire? Or if the time were left to your own discretion, are such your longings after a spiritual atmosphere, that you would be ever sure to make your escape to it, when like to be lulled or overborne in an atmosphere of earthliness? It is true you may lift up your hearts to God when you please — and even amid the thickening occupations of the market and the counting-house, is it possible that many a secret aspiration may arise to Him. But how often is it that you would so please; and tell us, on your experience of the past what, if all days were alike, would be the fervour or the frequency of such aspirations? To whom much is given, of them much will be required; and on this principle your Sabbaths, these precious gifts of God to man, will have to be accounted for. And oh, forget not, that if these have been nauseated in time, heaven, if you e'er were admitted there, would be nauseated through all eternity. Sabbath is that station on the territory of human life, from which we can descry with most advantage and delight the beauties of the promised land; and it is there, as if at the gate of the upper sanctuary, where we can command one of the nearest approaches whereof our nature is capable, to the contemplations and the doings of the saints in blessedness.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

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