Ten Commandments, Sabbath or Ceremonial Law?
All the various holy day festivals in Colossians 2:16 involved days that took place at various times of the year as well as yearly holy days such as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and monthly such as the New Moon celebrations already discussed. As these were all a shadow of things to come and those things have past and the shadows are now gone, to still observe these days would be putting us back into unnecessary bondage. This is what Paul is speaking of in Galatians 4:9-10 which says, “But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days, and months, and times, and years.”
Note that the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments of God that defines what sin is and the Commandments of God are never spoken of flippantly such as referring to the fourth Commandment as a day. It is always called “the Sabbath” or “Sabbath day” but it is never referred to superficially as just a day. Paul is not exhorting you can simply ignore anything that is a day, month or year in the Bible such as the Sabbath of the Lord as some have wrongly concluded. He is referring to something that includes all of these things, which is and only can be the ordinances of the ceremonial law. Galatians 4:9-10 is talking about bondage and servitude and the ordinances of the ceremonial law were exactly that, which Paul also states in Colossians 2:14 and throughout the book of Galatians. Note that the ordinances Paul speaks of in Colossians 2:14 are described in Colossians 2:16 and of course did have days [holy days], months [new moon] and years [sabbath days], which were yearly sabbaths. Compare the following two passages.
Galatians 4:9-10 “But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days, and months, and times, and years.”
Colossians 2:14-16 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; … 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink [offerings], or in respect of an holy day [holy day], or of the new moon [months], or of the Sabbath days: [years eg; Passover, Unleavened Bread, Day of Atonement, Pentecost and three others, which are all yearly sabbaths].” Parentheses are added.
Galatians 4:9-10 is just another one of many passages our adversary abuses to keep us from one of God's Commandments and he has also added further confusion by raising a minority group who insist we must still keep the sacrificial feast days that actually were nailed to the cross. They very conveniently exhort that these were pagan days, months and years, which unless God made a Covenant with Moses on Pagan days (would be blasphemous) is impossible. They also attempt to support this heretical teaching by saying that nowhere in the Bible are months mentioned and therefore must be pagan. Perhaps they do not know what the New Moon festival was and that these were in fact Monthly!
The Galatians had wandered from the truth that Paul had first taught them and began to follow some judaizing teachers from Jerusalem who insisted that they should still be observing all the rites of the Jewish religion such as circumcision etc. These teachers taught that Paul was inferior and insisted that the Law of Moses was still binding and was necessary for justification. This is where most of the confusion originates between the Galatians and the Law. Galatians chapter 4 is not referring to Pagan days as some believe as they were not part of the Mosaic Law and would be totally out of context with what Paul was explaining to the Galatians.
The Mosaic Law was indeed bondage but the Ten Commandments on the other hand are a law of liberty. James 1:25 “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” And for further clarity James 2:11-12 reads, “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” If we keep these points in mind when studying the Bible it will help us see more clearly what law is being spoken of. We should also check the context of the entire chapter. See also confusion between the ceremonial law and the Ten Commandments.
Below are three Bible Commentaries from famous theologians that had no trouble in understanding what Galatians 4:9-10 is referring to as you would expect.
The People's New Testament (1891) by B. W. Johnson
“Galatians 4:10 Ye observe days. These are specifications of how they were “turning back” to the Jewish law. Compare Col_2:16. The days are the Jewish Sabbaths. The months are the new moons; the times are the Jewish festivals; the years are the Sabbatical years. In observing these there was legal bondage to an obsolete system.”
Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832)
“Galatians 4:9 Now, after that ye have known God - After having been brought to the knowledge of God as your Savior.
Or rather are known of God - Are approved of him, having received the adoption of sons.
To the weak and beggarly elements - After receiving all this, will ye turn again to the ineffectual rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law - rites too weak to counteract your sinful habits, and too poor to purchase pardon and eternal life for you? If the Galatians were turning again to them, it is evident that they had been once addicted to them. And this they might have been, allowing that they had become converts from heathenism to Judaism, and from Judaism to Christianity. This makes the sense consistent between the 8th and 9th verses.”
“Galatians 4:10 Ye observe days - Ye superstitiously regard the [ceremonial] sabbaths and particular days of your own appointment;
And months - New moons; times - festivals, such as those of tabernacles, dedication, passover, etc.
Years - Annual atonements, sabbatical years, and jubilees.”
Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible (1798-1870)
“Galatians 4:10 Ye observe - The object of this verse is to specify some of the things to which they had become enslaved.
Days - The days here referred to are doubtless the days of the Jewish festivals. They had numerous days of such observances, and in addition to those specified in the Old Testament, the Jews had added many others as days commemorative of the destruction and rebuilding of the temple, and of other important events in their history. It is not a fair interpretation of this to suppose that the apostle refers to the Sabbath, properly so called, for this was a part of the Decalogue; and was observed by the Saviour himself, and by the apostles also. It is a fair interpretation to apply it to all those days which are not commanded to be kept holy in the Scriptures; and hence, the passage is as applicable to the observance of saints' days, and days in honor of particular events in sacred history, as to the days observed by the Galatians. There is as real servitude in the observance of the numerous festivals, and fasts in the papal communion and in some Protestant churches, as there was in the observance of the days in the Jewish ecclesiastical calendar, and for anything that I can see, such observances are as inconsistent now with the freedom of the gospel as they were in the time of Paul. We should observe as seasons of holy time what it can be proved God has commanded us, and no more.
And months - The festivals of the new moon, kept by the Jews. Num_10:10; Num_28:11-14. On this festival, in addition to the daily sacrifice, two bullocks, a ram, and seven sheep of a year old were offered in sacrifice. The appearance of the new-moon was announced by the sound of trumpets. See Jahn, Archae. 352.
And times - Stated times; festivals returning periodically, as the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. See Jahn, Archae. chap. 3. 346-360.
And years - The sabbatical year, or the year of jubilee. See Jahn as above.”
Page 3 - Romans 14:5-6