Is there truth in the statement “It’s not what you know but who you know”?

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the GALATIANS – Chapter 4

1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,
2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.
3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. – Galatians 4:1-3

This illustration shows us that, although we are heirs of the heavenly kingdom at this moment in time we are not in possession of our inheritance. Our heavenly position is this:

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, – Ephesians 1:4-5

5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:5-7

This is our eternal position. But, at this time we experience being enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. David Guzik notes that the term elementary principles are the “ABC of the universe”, the principle that you get what you deserve. From an early age we learn that we get what we deserve. Most major world religions teach this principle, be it do good works or be it karma. Paul teaches in Romans that as he struggles to do good he finds he does what he hates, he falls into sin. He never feels good enough:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. – Romans 7:14-17

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? – Romans 7:24

Well the good news is Jesus has. As Paul has said earlier in this letter: We have been made sons of god (Galatians 3:26) through faith in Christ, heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3.29) and we have the law as our guardian (Galatians 3:25). God has made provision for us so we are kept safe until we come into our inheritance. This means that we should confess our sins quickly and receive forgiveness so that our intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit is not disturbed.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9


4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5

When the time was right God sent Jesus into the world. The Roman Empire had developed transport links and the Greek konia (common) language was used across Europe and the near East. So within 50 years after Jesus was resurrected Paul was able to say the message of faith was spoken of throughout the world:

I First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. – Romans 1:8

Jesus was born of a woman. Two things to note here. Firstly the Jewish tradition was always to speak of “the son of…..”. Paternity was so important in their genealogies but Paul refers to Mary. Secondly Paul here refers to the virgin birth, no earthly father is mentioned. Paul accepted that Jesus was born of a virgin. Also, Jesus was born under the law, mentioned twice here. What does it mean to be under the law? It means to be governed, restricted, controlled, regulated and in fear of punishment. Jesus was subject to the law. He knew what it meant to be fully human. But he redeemed us from being under the law. He bought us back from the curse of the law and now we are adopted into the family of God. Roman law gave the same rights to an adopted child as given to a natural child. There was no difference. We are all accepted into the beloved:

to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 (NJKV)

This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. – Romans 9:8

that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, – Philippians 2:15

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:2

We are God’s children: accepted because of the promises of God; made righteous and without blemish; adopted into the family of God and we will be like Jeaus when we see Him face to face in heaven.


6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. – Galatians 4:6-7

As sons we are to receive the inheritance:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, – 1 Peter 1:3-4

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, – Ephesians 1:11

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14

God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. The symbol of a seal comes from the practice in Roman times to put a wax seal on packages and cargo that was transported by sea. The seal proved who the cargo belonged to. Proved ownership. The seal of the Holy Spirit on our heart proves that God owns us. We have need bought with a price:

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

God now dwells in us and we have become the temple of the living God:

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – 2 Corinthians 6:16

And the relationship to God is now so intimate that we can call Him “Father”. The word “abba” is the Hebrew word for “daddy” – the most intimate way a young child would refer to its Father. But here it says we “cry out” to our Father. We totally rely on Him crying to Him in our distress, laughing with Him in our joy. We have the Spirit of His Son in us as a seal, sonship being the issue here, the Spirit is not referred to as the Spirit of God but of the Son. We are the children of God:

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, – Romans 8:15-16

No longer slaves but free in Christ, able to receive all God has for us.


8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.
9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
10 You observe days and months and seasons and years!
11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. – Galatians 4:8-11

The key to being set free is to know God. There is a urbane proverb “it is not what you know but who you know” and that is the case here. To know God is the most important goal in our lives and He has made a way for us to know Him:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. – Ephesians 4:11-14

As we grow in understanding the scripture we get to know the Author of the written word. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1, John 1:14) and we get to know God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. We get to know the grace of God which gives us what we do not deserve – redemption. Paul refers again to the elementary principles, the ABC of life, we get what we deserve but we are not enslaved to that principle any more. Keeping religious festivals (observing the Jewish traditional festivals – days, months, years and seasons) does not give you favour with God:

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6

Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:13

God draws near to those who have a broken and contrite heart, a person who is not proud;

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:17

We need to realise our worthlessness and then, through getting to know God, learn that He has made us righteous by His grace, through faith in Jesus.


12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.
13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first,
14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. – Galatians 4:12-15

There is a suggestion that the condition Paul suffered from could have been malaria which can affect a person’s eyes. Others have suggested it could have been a chronic conjunctivitis.m, or a result of studying and reading so much possibly in poor light. What ever the illness the people in Galatia did not dispise him but would have done anything to relieve his suffering. Culturally the Roman people who were sick were considered weak. But the Lord used this situation so that Paul was able to preach the gospel to them. And they must have received the word gladly as they treated Paul as if he were and angel from God. We never know how the Lord may use a situation, that we consider to be dreadful, to reach out to someone. Just before Jesus healed a blind man He said:

1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:1-5

Sometimes situations we see as dreadful God has a purpose for that will reveal His glory. Job after all he went through saw God in a new and wonderful way:

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; – Job 42:5

Paul asks “what then has become of your blessedness?” They received him with joy when he brought the good news of salvation. Now he brings the message of freedom from the works of the law and they are less enthusiastic. What has changed?


16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.
18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you,
19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. – Galatians 4:16-20

There are times when we become people’s enemy by telling the truth. John the Baptist told Herod that he was sinning by marrying his brothers wife. Consequently John was inprisoned and then beheaded (Mark 6:14-29). Jesus was the Truth, He healed many people and taught about the Kingdom of God but the religious rulers plotted against Him, how they could kill Him:

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,
4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. – Matthew 26:3-4

However Paul is asking “have I become your enemy?” He says that the false teachers have made much of them, in other words they puff up the listeners egos but end up ensnaring them with the false teaching. Paul made much of the church by building them up, loving them greatly and shared the gospel of grace that would set them free. But the false teachers want to exclude (shut you out) the people who follow them so that they receive the people’s praise and adoration. Paul just wanted to see Christ glorified. He wanted to see the church grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. As Peter put it:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. – 2 Peter 3:18

Paul felt like a woman giving birth, in the throws of pain until the church is born in Christ. Born again into the spiritual life received through the living word of God:

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; – 1 Peter 1:23

Paul was perplexed but all he wanted to do was love them. How often we find that people we are discipling fall, fail, turn to other beliefs, embrace bad teaching because it has the veneer of a Christian way but is not the gospel of grace. Jesus invested in the apostles but they all fled and denied Him when he was arrested, just as He predicted they would:

But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. – Matthew 26:56

God’s grace is sufficient and all those who repent He will receive back into fellowship with Him. Just as Peter was forgiven and restored so anyone who turns to God and repents is their sins will be forgiven:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9


21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. – Galatians 4:21-23

Paul sets the scene here for the next illustration he uses. He is going to try to get across the difference of living by the law and living by the promises of God:

Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. – Joshua 21:45

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. – 2 Peter 1:3-4

We are all “born of the flesh”. None of us chose to be born. It was decided by the actions of our parents. However God knew us before we were born physically:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

Being known by God is the most important aspect of living. That is why we need to be born again into the Kingdom of God. So that we may know Him as we are known. We can live in the flesh and never get to know God or we can repent and receive the promise of God, the Holy Spirit, to live in us:

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49


24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.
25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” – Galatians 4:24-27

I find what Paul is saying here a little confusing. He uses the two wives of Abraham and equates them to two covenants: the law given on mount Sinai (Hagar) and the promise of salvation given through Jesus Christ (Sarah). But then goes on to equate them with the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem. He try’s to highlight the differences. The earthly Jerusalem is in bondage to the law, the centre of the Jewish religious system where acceptance before God is based on our performance which always fails. The heavenly Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God, brings freedom and will bare many more children than the ‘desolate one’ (Hagar who was cast out). Legalism verses compassion. Works verses grace. Slavery verses freedom. Jesus came that we could be set free:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36

and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. – Acts 13:39

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. – 2 Corinthians 3:17

Freedom is precious and we should guard our hearts so that we can live in that place of freedom that Christ gave us by His precious blood. Freedom from sin and death m, to live eternally knowing God and being known by Him.


28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.
30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”
31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. – Galatians 4:28-31

So Paul likens the people who want to obey the law to Ishmael and those who want to follow the promises of God to Isaac. Sarah became upset because Ishmael despised Isaac and she demanded that Hagar and Ishmael were sent away.

9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing.
10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” – Genesis 21:9-10

However God protected them and Ishmael continued to be blessed as a son of Abraham. Today we see the antagonism between these brothers still played out between the Arab nations and the Jewish people. We also see it played out: between unbelievers and believers; between those who live by the flesh and those who live by the Spirit; between those who want to live by the law and trust in self righteousness and those who trust in Christ as their righteousness and trust in God’s grace; and between those who are slaves to sin and those who are slaves to righteousness. Jesus spoke of this:

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:33-36

Paul sums it up in Romans:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? – Romans 6:16

We have been made free through the redeeming blood of Jesus. Free to share the gospel and open the eyes of the blind and set prisoners free, to see the light of the truth shining in Jesus.

6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. – Isaiah 42:6-7 

 

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