Here is what I have been saying. As long as your own children are young, they are no different from slaves in your house. They are no different, even though they own all of the property.
They are under the care of guardians and those who manage the property. They are under their care until the time when their fathers give them the property.
It is the same with us. When we were children, we were slaves to the basic things the people of the world believe.
But then the right time came. God sent his Son. A woman gave birth to him. He was born under the authority of the law.
He came to set free those who were under the law. He wanted us to be adopted as children with all the rights children have.
Because you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. He is the Holy Spirit. By his power we call God ""Abba."" "Abba" means Father.
So you aren't slaves any longer. You are God's children. Because you are his children, he gives you what he promised to give his people.
At one time you didn't know God. You were slaves to gods that are really not gods at all.
But now you know God. Even better, God knows you. So why are you turning back to those weak and worthless beliefs? Do you want to be slaves to them all over again?
You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!
I am afraid for you. I am afraid that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
I make my appeal to you, brothers and sisters. I'm asking you to become like me. After all, I became like you. You didn't do anything wrong to me.
As you know, it was because I was sick that I first preached the good news to you.
My sickness was hard on you. But you didn't put me off. You didn't make fun of me. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God. You welcomed me as if I were Christ Jesus himself.
What has happened to all of your joy? If you could have torn out your own eyes and given them to me, you would have. I can give witness to that.
Have I become your enemy now by telling you the truth?
Those people are trying hard to win you over. But it is not for your good. They want to take you away from us. They want you to commit yourselves to them.
It is fine to be committed to something, if the purpose is good. And you shouldn't be committed only when I am with you. You should always be committed.
My dear children, I am in pain for you. Once again I have pain like a woman giving birth. And my pain will continue until Christ makes you like himself.
I wish I could be with you now. I wish I could change my tone of voice. As it is, you bewilder me.
You who want to be under the authority of the law, tell me something. Don't you know what the law says?
It is written that Abraham had two sons. The slave woman gave birth to one of them. The free woman gave birth to the other one.
Abraham's son by the slave woman was born in the usual way. But his son by the free woman was born because of God's promise.
Those things can be taken as examples. The two women stand for two covenants. One covenant comes from Mount Sinai. It gives birth to children who are going to be slaves. It is Hagar.
Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia. She stands for the present city of Jerusalem. That's because she and her children are slaves.
But the Jerusalem that is above is free. She is our mother.
It is written, "Be glad, woman, you who have no children. Start shouting, you who have no labor pains. The woman who is all alone has more children than the woman who has a husband." #1(Isaiah 54:1)#2
Brothers and sisters, you are children because of God's promise just as Isaac was.
At that time, the son born in the usual way tried to hurt the son born by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the same now.
But what does Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman. Get rid of her son. The slave woman's son will never have a share of the family's property with the free woman's son."#1(Genesis 21:10)#2
Brothers and sisters, we are not the slave woman's children. We are the free woman's children.
Christ has set us free. He wants us to enjoy freedom. So stand firm. Don't let the chains of slavery hold you again.
Here is what I, Paul, say to you. Don't let yourselves be circumcised. If you do, Christ won't be of any value to you.
I say it again. Every man who lets himself be circumcised must obey the whole law.
Some of you are trying to be made right with God by obeying the law. You have been separated from Christ. You have fallen away from God's grace.
But we expect to be made completely holy because of our faith in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit we wait in hope.
Circumcision and uncircumcision aren't worth anything to those who believe in Christ Jesus. The only thing that really counts is faith that shows itself through love.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
The One who chooses you does not keep you from obeying the truth.
You should know that "just a little yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough."
The Lord makes me certain that you will not think in any other way. The one who has gotten you all mixed up will pay the price. It doesn't matter who that may be.
Brothers and sisters, I am not still preaching that people must be circumcised. If I were, why am I still being opposed? If that were what I preach, then the cross wouldn't upset anyone.
So then, what about troublemakers who try to get others to be circumcised? I wish they would go the whole way! I wish they would cut off everything that marks them as men!
My brothers and sisters, you were chosen to be free. But don't use your freedom as an excuse to live in sin. Instead, serve one another in love.
The whole law can be found in a single command. "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."#1(Leviticus 19:18)#2
You must not keep on biting each other. You must not keep eating each other up. Watch out! You might destroy each other.
So I say, live by the Holy Spirit's power. Then you will not do what your sinful nature wants you to do.
The sinful nature does not want what the Spirit delights in. And the Spirit does not want what the sinful nature delights in. The two are at war with each other. That's what makes you do what you don't want to do.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the authority of the law.
What the sinful nature does is clear. It enjoys sexual sins, impure acts and wild living.
It worships statues of gods. It also worships evil powers. It is full of hatred and fighting. It is full of jealousy and fits of anger. It is interested only in getting ahead. It stirs up trouble. It separates people into their own little groups.
It wants what others have. It gets drunk and takes part in wild parties. It does many things of that kind. I warn you now as I did before. People who live like that will not receive God's kingdom.
But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful
and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their sinful nature to his cross. They don't want what their sinful nature loves and longs for.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us march in step with the Spirit.
Let us not become proud. Let us not make each other angry. Let us not want what belongs to others.
Brothers and sisters, what if someone is caught in a sin? Then you who are guided by the Spirit should correct that person. Do it in a gentle way. But be careful. You could be tempted too.
Carry each other's heavy loads. If you do, you will give the law of Christ its full meaning.
If you think you are somebody when you are nobody, you are fooling yourselves.
Each of you should put your own actions to the test. Then you can take pride in yourself. You won't be comparing yourself to somebody else.
Each of you should carry your own load.
Those who are taught the word must share all good things with their teacher.
Don't be fooled. You can't outsmart God. A man gathers a crop from what he plants.
Some people plant to please their sinful nature. From that nature they will harvest death. Others plant to please the Holy Spirit. From the Spirit they will harvest eternal life.
Let us not become tired of doing good. At the right time we will gather a crop if we don't give up.
So when we can do good to everyone, let us do it. Let us make a special point of doing good to those who belong to the family of believers.
Look at the big letters I'm using as I write to you with my own hand!
Some people want others to think well of them. They are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do it for only one reason. They don't want to suffer by being connected with the cross of Christ.
Even those who are circumcised don't obey the law. But they want you to be circumcised. Then they can brag about what has been done to your body.
I never want to brag about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through that cross the ways of the world have been crucified as far as I am concerned. And I have been crucified as far as the ways of the world are concerned.
Circumcision and uncircumcision don't mean anything. What really counts is the creation of a new nature.
May peace and mercy be given to all who follow this rule. May peace and mercy be given to the Israel that belongs to God.
Finally, let no one cause trouble for me. My body has marks that show I belong to Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.