“Did you suffer so many things in vain, if indeed it was in vain?” (Gal. 3:4)
Turning from Judaism to follow Christ was a difficult path. It is possible that families were split and relationships strained to the breaking point. The cost of discipleship can be high and in the early days of the church, it often was. Brother against brother and father against son. Sometimes the wounds were so deep as to be irreconcilable. It is possible that physical harm may have come to some as they were driven from their homes and places of work.
Paul knows that making a decision to be a Christian in a Jewish/Roman world was not without danger and hardship. He knows as he writes the letter that many of the Christians suffered because of that decision. They had moved beyond it. Whatever the price, it had been paid and now they should be moving on to a joyous life in Christ. Instead, he finds they are moving back to their former life. To Paul, this meant they had suffered for nothing. Their agony had been in vain.
Was it in vain? That is the question I think he wants them to think about. Sure, they had suffered but it was for the most wonderful prize in the world, a close family relationship with God. Paul wants them to think about where they were before the gospel and where they now were. Before they were lost in a system of do’s and don’ts that were beyond their capability. Now they were in the arms of grace, sins forgiven, children of God, brothers of the Lord. Not in vain. Never. What was vain beyond words was the leaving of the true gospel of Spirit for the fleshly demands of the law.
It is always upsetting to meet someone who once was an active, serving, Christian who has gone back to the world. Sad to encounter a life that once knew the joy of salvation but now lost in a world of sin. To turn away from grace is frightening even to contemplate. When a person leaves the church and the fellowship of the saints it means they are choosing a route other than the gospel and thus all they had accomplished as Christians becomes vain.
What the Galatians did to become Christians and what we do today to become Christians was and is not in vain. When we think about the truth of that statement we wonder why anyone, Galatians or otherwise would reject the pure gospel of saving grace and abandon their first love. It is the price that must be paid when the voices of false teachers are listened to. It is also what happens when the world is listened to instead of the word.
Task for Today: Avoid living in vain. Do not leave the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Having begun your walk with Jesus do not be persuaded by other voices. The evil one desires you and will tempt you in every way to get you to renege on your commitment to the Lord. Open your ears to the Spirit today and close them to the Devil. Whatever it cost you to be faithful is nothing compared to the riches of Christ.