From Galatians 4-6
Paul’s understanding of sonship means to be set free from the curse of the law. No longer do God’s people need the law of Moses to direct their lives. They are led by God’s Spirit. In the Galatians case their good beginning has deteriorated into a bad situation. Despite believing in Jesus through the gospel, they have reverted back to their former ways of Judaism and works of law.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Paul told the Galatians they are considered sons in God’s sight because of their faith. They are Abraham’s offspring and heirs of the covenant promises (Gal 3.23-29). In today’s passage he describes the implications of what it means to be a son and heir.
4 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.
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. 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. (Gal 4.1-7)
‘Heir’, ‘slave’, ‘guardians’, ‘father’. Paul alludes to a common Greek practice where a guardian (Gk. paidagōgos) or slave was charged by the master with escorting his sons to school and back so that they would not get into trouble. They were needed for a limited time before the young charge came of age.
‘Under the law’. Paul alludes to the Galatians former servitude to the law of Moses (elementary principles of the world) as a form of slavery. Being under the care and control of this guardian suggested they too were slaves. Though when they came of age they would inherit everything and stand over all those in the house.
‘Spirit of his Son’. This coming of age however was not necessary. Paul speaks of the redeeming work of Christ, which took them out of this servitude. Paul doesn’t say it here but Jesus did this through his death on the cross.
God adopted them as his sons. He adopted them by giving them the Spirit of his Son (Jesus Christ) which enabled them to call out ‘Abba Father’. The most intimate of expressions communicating love, honor and respect.
You are no longer a slave, but a son and heir.
Tom Wright has suggested Paul has in mind the Exodus narrative.
|Slavery in Egypt||Slavery to the Law (Gal 4.3-4)|
|Israel God’s firstborn Son||Adopted as Sons, Abba Father (Gal 4.5-6)|
|Israel led by the Spirit||Spirit of his Son in hearts (Gal 4.6)|
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. (Gal 4.8-11)
‘How can you turn back again?’, ‘Days, Months, Seasons and Years’.
This is why Paul has written the letter in the first place and why he is so distressed with their behaviour.
They again observe the works of law (Gal 3.1-6) which includes the Sabbath and yearly festival observances. They are even going so far as to consider circumcision at the request of others (Gal 5.2; 6.13).
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. 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. (Gal 4.12-20)
‘Bodily ailment’. Paul refers to the time they first met when he preached the gospel to them. He remembers it fondly. But things have changed. Now he is perplexed and deeply concerned.
What would you original teachers and mentors think of you now?
‘They make much of you’. These are the Judaizers who have come and tried to turn the Galatians back to Judaism. They have treated the Galatians with seeming respect (‘much of you’), but Paul believes all they really want is that they be the ones high esteemed.
Words for Believers
Paul’s understanding of sonship means that we have been set free from the curse of the law. We have moved from the Old Testament faith to the New Testament faith. No longer do God’s people need the law of Moses to direct their lives. We are being led by God’s Spirit.
We are sons of God because Christ, the Son of God, has made us part of his family by dying on our behalf.
But is this where we are now? In the Galatians case their good beginning has deteriorated into a bad situation. Despite believing in Jesus through the gospel, they have reverted back to their former ways of Judaism and works of law.
Have you reverted back to your former practices before coming to faith? If so repent.
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