Monday, May 23, 2011

Galatians Part 8: Paul defends the gospel (c)—2:15-6:16

IV. Paul defends the gospel—2:15-6:16 continued...

7. We are no longer in need of a tutor (Law)—3:23-29

3:23—But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed—The Greek of this verse gives us an idea of what Paul meant. The first four words of the Greek pro tou de elthein ten pistin (προ του δε ελθειν την πιστιν), simply mean "but before came." The question is before what came? The next two words in the Greek above make up "the faith." These words are translated as: "Now before this faith came" (ISV); "Before this faith came" (NIV); "But before the aforementioned faith came" (Wuest). The NASB, ASV, KJV and the RSV treat faith here as if without the article, making Paul’s words indefinite. However, Paul wanted to make a point by saying "before the faith" came. When he wrote these words he was pointing back to verse 22, to the words "that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." Paul is referring to the faith here as personal faith in the historic Jesus that brings salvation.

The law, which is not based on faith, kept those under it in bondage as a jailer would, until the faith—the Christian faith—was revealed. The law could not bring salvation but only bondage, and it was not until Christ came that salvation from this bondage could be effected.

3:24—Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith—How could the law be our tutor to lead us to Christ? The law as a ministry of condemnation showed no grace and therefore laid down the rule, "do or die!" It became self-evident to those who came to know their own condition and sought justification that righteousness was not attainable via the law. Therefore, now that Christ has come we can by faith and by this gracious ministry be declared as righteous.

3:25—But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor—Now that this faith—the Christian faith in Christ as Saviour—has come, we are no longer in need of a tutor or guardian. We have moved on from the tutor to the Master.

3:26—For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus—It is by faith in Christ Jesus that we become sons of God. Paul is saying to his readers that they—Jew and Gentile—are all sons of God by their faith in Christ Jesus.

3:27—For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ—It is by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13) that Christians are baptized into Christ (Rom 6:3ff). It is the Holy Spirit that puts us into a vital union with Christ. When we are in this vital union with Christ, we have in effect clothed ourselves with Him.

3:28—There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus—Under the Old Covenant there were Jews and Gentiles who were called "dogs" by the Jews. Under no circumstances were the Jews to mingle with the Gentiles. In terms of salvation through Jesus Christ all in Christ are one in Christ. In Christ, all are equally saved. There are no categories in Christ. No levels of people. One in Christ. There is only one body; the body of Christ.

3:29—And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise—"Abraham enjoyed God's inheritance of justification by faith in the gospel promise concerning Christ (Gal. 3:6-9,18), and you and I, who believe the same gospel message today, enjoy the same inheritance of justification because by faith we are Abraham's true seed, and the true ‘heirs with him according to the promise’ (Gal. 3:29)."1 It is not the physical seed that enjoys the promises to Abraham, but the spiritual. The physical promises—the type—have been fulfilled (Josh 21:45). The spiritual promises—the antitype—have now been fulfilled in Christ. "[9] By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; [10] for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Heb 11:9-10) All those who received the promises in the Old Testament desired "a better country, that is, a heavenly one." (Heb 11:16) By faith Abraham looked beyond the physical toward a city with foundations built by God and not with human hands. He was looking forward to a heavenly country, not a physical country. In Christ, we are the descendants of Abraham because of that promise made to Abraham.

8. From slave to son—4:1-7

4:1—NOW I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything—Israel, under the Old Covenant, was treated as a child. As a child Israel needed a tutor—a guardian—to restrain her. As a child she was under the bondage of the law in the same as a slave would be under bondage.

4:2—but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father—This condition of the child under a guardian remained as long as the father deemed fit.

4:3—So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world—Before Christ came we were all children, whether Jew or Gentile, trying to achieve salvation by the elemental regulations of the world without Christ. These elemental things kept us away from Christ. These elemental things point to the system of thought we had before Christ. If a Gentile, then the mere world-view of a Gentile in non-Christian humanity. If a Jew, then Judaism and its own regulations and legal enactments.

4:4—But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law—It was at God’s appointed time that He sent Jesus into the world. In fact God had planned the coming of Christ from eternity. Christ was "delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" (Ac 2:23) "before the foundation of the world." (1 Pet 1:20) God had Daniel prophesy that Christ would come and die. Daniel prophesied that from the time of the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem until the coming of Christ would be 483 years (Dan 9:25). At the time Christ came the Roman Empire had extended far and wide and there was relative peace all around. This made it a perfect time for the coming of Christ, since roads extended all over the empire which made it relatively easy for missionary work.

Jesus, being born of a woman was also born under the law. While Jesus lived on earth before His death, he was still living in the Old Testament, under the demands of the Old Covenant.

4:5—so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons—Paul uses a chiastic style of writing here since this verse is inverted to the order found in verse 4. Jesus was "born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law." He was "born of a woman" so "that we might receive the adoption as sons."

When Paul speaks of "those who were under the Law" he does not mean Jews alone as opposed to Gentiles who were not under Law. He states it clearly that "[14] when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, [15] in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." (Rom 2:14-15) Before Christ we were all judged by the standards of the Law. Since Christ saved us we are now judged by the merits of Christ and His alone.

We have already learnt before that "redeem" comes from exagoradzo (εξαγοραζω), which means to buy back. Christ was born under the Law, so that He would be found worthy under the Law to pay the ransom to redeem us from the Law.

We are not only redeemed or freed from the Law, but we are also consequently adopted into the household of God. As a result we are "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." (Rom 8:17)

4:6—Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!—Since we are adopted as sons, God sent forth the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It is by the Spirit of the uniquely begotten Son of God that we are made sons.

We see in verse 4-6 that the Trinity is involved in the salvation of God’s people. In verse 4 Paul writes that God sent forth His Son. Here in verse 6 Paul tells us that God sent forth the Holy Spirit. In this way we see the whole Trinity involved in our salvation. "Moreover, this salvation is both objective and subjective. God the Father sent the Son in order that believers might have the position of sons and daughters, and he sent his Spirit so that they might have the experience of the same reality."2

4:7—Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God—Paul now puts it in a nutshell. Formerly, Christians were slaves, but now they are children of God and heirs of God.

9. Observing days are weak and elemental—4:8-11

4:8—However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods—At the time before their salvation, at which they came to know God, the Galatians were slaves to their pagan gods, which weren’t gods at all.

4:9—But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?—How is it that since you had gone through the adoption by God and receiving the Holy Spirit that you are turning back to the very things that enslaved you before Christ came into your lives?

Paul, by writing "or rather to be known by God," makes it clear to the Galatians that they do not know God out of themselves, but that they know God simply because He knew them in a saving way. How could they be so utterly foolish to want to be enslaved again?

These elemental things are indeed weak and worthless and unable to bring salvation or deliverance from bondage.

4:10—You observe days and months and seasons and years—Paul now explains in what way the Galatians are enslaving themselves. He tells them what the weak and elemental things are. It is the observing of days, months, seasons and years. When Paul refers to "days" he refers to sabbath days and other feasts that fell on specific dates. On the other hand "months" refers to observances that were attached to the recurring monthly cycle. "Seasons" refers to seasonal events which would include the passover and the feast of tabernacles. Finally, the year of Jubilee is referred to by "years."

"[T]he Judaizers had pursued the adroit3 course of presenting to [the Galatians] only part of the requirements of the Mosaic law, those parts which might be least repulsive to them as Gentiles."4 Naturally, if you could get people to accept the least repulsive elements of your religious system like Sabbath days, Passover and others, then you can start preparing them for the next level, such as circumcision.

4:11I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain—Even Paul had difficult days in the ministry thinking that it was in vain. That Paul recognised that the Galatians were wavering in no way equates with the losing of their salvation. As we have said before, the Galatians have not gone back to the point of no return. They have simply started leaning that way. John wrote of those who fall by the way side that "they went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." (1 Jn 2:19)

End Notes

[1] Reisinger, John, Abraham’s Four Seeds, Crowne Publications, Southbridge, Mass., p1.
[2] Barker, Kenneth L. & Kohlenberger III, John R., Consulting Editors, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Volume 2: New Testament, Premier Reference Series, An Abridgment of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, p729.
[3] Very skilful and quick in the way you think and move.
[4] Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Volume One, Galatians in the Greek New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1973, p122.

For more on this series, simply visit the Galatians label.
The next part in the Galatians series will be available next Monday!

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