For the second time in this letter Paul expresses concern that his labor in Galatia might be a total loss. He addresses the Galatians as brothers but seems freaked out about them observing "days, months, seasons and years". He seems to see this as a return to "weak and beggarly" basic principles which characterize the lost world and a return to slavery:

Gal 4:7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Gal 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. Gal 4:9 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? Gal 4:10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! Gal 4:11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

"OSAS" ("once saved, always saved") teaches that one can forfeit temporal benefits and rewards but never can lose one's ultimate justification. Does Paul suggest in this passage that the Galatian brothers might lose their ultimate justification? Or is he only concerned that they might forfeit temporal benefits and rewards?

The phrase "I may have labored over you in vain" seems to me to suggest that he was concerned his work among them would have no lasting effect but he doesn't seem to make that explicit.

Does this passage allow for a "temp and rewards only" loss? Or does it warn against actual apostasy and loss of ultimate justification?

Does the passage leave any room for the idea that if they returned to Torah that they never were regenerate to begin with?

  • 1
    You do seem here to have a good grasp of what Paul is saying in Galatians 2-4, but I think that leaves too little to exegesis, so that your question could then be a search for opinion. (I'll leave that to others) Jun 20, 2016 at 21:54

3 Answers 3


This passage does not explicitly imply warning against apostasy but it indicates that. Verse 9 mentions that they might turn back to worthless things. This turning back to sinful things is turning against grace. If you are looking for warning against apostasy, then the whole epistle repeatedly makes that clear. The main concern of Paul is Galatian's apostasy.

(Galatians 1:6-9 ESV) 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The strongest reference of the warning against apostasy is this:

(Galatians 5:1-4 ESV) 1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

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    (+1) for answering the question with primary sources. I'm also going to mark this as an answer.
    – user10231
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:34

Salvation, as Paul states elsewhere, is a process and not an event:

1 Corinthians 1:18 (RSV)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (RSV)

Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain.

Philippians 2:12 (RSV)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling

What Paul writes here (Galatians 4:7-11) is consistent with his other writings, as well as the teaching of the Lord Himself:

Matthew 24:10–13 (RSV)

And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

  • (+1) I think the 1 Cor 15:1-2 is the strongest of the the verses you cite.
    – user10231
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:38

I don't read in this passage that Paul is concerned at all that they might loose their salvation, but rather that his (Paul's) labors to help them grow beyond initial salvation would be in vain. The Galatians were wanting to go back to an obsolete religion based on law that had been completely replaced by the reality of knowing God in spirit, through the work of Christ. (OSAS is really a different discussion, and there are many passages better than this to consider regarding that topic.)

  • Why do you limit his concern to what followed after their initial salvation, especially seeing that it would have been Paul that had evangelized them?
    – user10231
    Oct 15, 2016 at 20:46
  • Tman, I just noticed that this was your only post. I hope you were not overly discouraged by the down vote given with no explanation. To understand why it was not well received though you might want to take the "tour": stackexchange.com/tour
    – user10231
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:42

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