v. 8. Howbeit, then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
v. 9. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
v. 10. Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
v. 11. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.
The apostle here interrupts his doctrinal exposition to rebuke the Galatians for their strange conduct in turning back to a slavery of legal observance from which he had rescued them long ago: But at that time indeed, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to such as really are no gods. The Galatian Christians, Gentiles for the most part, had in the time before their conversion, before they had come to the knowledge of the true God, been in servitude to what they thought were gods, but which, as they now knew, were mere figments of their imagination. The thought implied in the apostle's rebuke is: In the days of your ignorance there was some excuse for bondage to imaginary gods, to such as had no real existence. Now, however, the case is different: But now, having known God, having come to the knowledge of the true God by the grace of God in bringing them to such knowledge, how was it possible for them to turn back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, with the deliberate intention of serving them again, from the beginning, all over again? By being brought to the knowledge of God, by being converted, the Galatians had turned from their futile bondage, from their attempt to keep the Law, as they understood it, Rom_2:14-15. That was a work of God's mercy alone; the knowledge of God which is by faith comes without a man's merit and desire. Having been saved on the one hand, however, they were backsliding on the other; they were turning their attention and themselves to the rudiments of which Paul had spoken in v. 3, to the demands and statutes of the Law. Under the influence of the Judaizing teachers they were going so far as to believe that they could-merit something in the sight of God by observing the weak and beggarly statutes of the ceremonial law. Weak they were, because the Law cannot work righteousness and cannot even assist in obtaining it; and beggarly, empty, poor they were, because, instead of bringing true spiritual riches, they continually render a person poorer in true worth. The Galatians were thus beginning their heathenish life, with its futile efforts of appeasing a righteous and holy God, all over again. For in listening to the admonitions of the false teachers, "they were not only given to the celebration, but, precisely like the Jews, were already scrupulous also as to the correct reckoning of time for their holydays. Days, with reference to the Sabbath; months, probably with reference to the new moons; seasons, within the year, with reference to the feasts; years, with reference to the Sabbatical year."
This situation filled the apostle with consternation and sorrow, for he cries out: I fear concerning you, lest I have done all my hard work for you in vain. Disappointment, bitterness, loving appeal: they all are expressed in these words. As Luther says: "These words breathe the tears of Paul. " It is not only their sin, their ingratitude, to which he has reference, but also the great danger in which they had placed themselves. And all the hard, assiduous labor of the apostle was coming to naught.