May 24, 2015.
Daily Reading: Galatians 4-6.
Background: Galatians 1-3.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Heirs of the promise: Continuing on with his analogy from the previous chapter seeing the Law as a guardian until the time has come for the heir to take hold of the fortune that has been given to him, Paul makes it known that before this time, the heir is no different from a slave in terms of having the promise, though he owns everything, because he is unable to access it until the appointed time. This appointed time for those under the Law, and by extension any who would be called by His name, was after Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. With this sacrifice, He redeemed us, and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38) that we might be known as sons and heirs through God.
2. “Have I then become your enemy…?”: The Galatians, who had turned to God and received the blessing of being heirs with Christ, had turned back to their old bondage and elementary principles of the world to be enslaved in law and ritual once more, looking at salvation as a matter of one’s own merit and good will actions towards righteousness/God. Paul is writing this letter to the because he is concerned about them, even to the point where he fears that his labor for them has been in vain, if they had turned away and reached a point where they would not listen to him. He recounts the time that he had spend with them and the relationship that they used to have, so close that they would have done next to anything for him. However, now that he was telling them something that they didn’t want to hear, though true, it seemed that he had become their enemy. He had become their enemy because he told them the truth. He was confused by them, even longing to come to them so that he could change his tone, perhaps because he would know the situation a bit better and be able to reason with those who were causing strife.
3. Allegory of Hagar and Sarah: One of the problems with those who were trying to teach and bind the Law on others whom they should not have done so was that they weren’t even listening to their Law. Paul uses Sarah and Hagar as an allegory to show that the Scriptures taught what he was trig to tell them (see Genesis 16, 21). Abraham was given the promise of an offspring that would bless the world, but when he didn’t completely trust God, he tried to take matters into his own hand (it is noteworthy to mention that this actually seemed to be more of Sarah’s plan, though Abraham went along with it), taking Hagar, Sarah’s servant for a wife to have a child, Ishmael. This was not the child of promise, however, but rather the child of a bondwoman. She was representative of the old covenant, given on Mt. Sinai, that only produced children of slavery. The son of the free woman, however, was the son of promise, representing the new covenant through Jesus Christ. This is the Jerusalem above, the spiritual Jerusalem, and we are sons of the free woman. Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 to show that the physical Jerusalem is not what was of value, but rather the spiritual Jerusalem, for we are to cast out the bondwoman and her son (the old covenant/Paul’s present Jerusalem), being sons of the free woman (see Genesis 21:10).
1. Freedom in Christ: The Christians in Galatia (and all Christians everywhere) had been set free form the Law in Christ Jesus, yet some were trying to once again enslave themselves and others to the Law. By binding one part of the Law (such as circumcision) however, Paul said that they should then be obligated to the whole law. But even then, the Law could not bring about salvation, and joining themselves again to the Law would sever them from Christ and His sacrifice, for his sacrifice was specifically to do what the Law could never do. Christ came so that He might fulfill the law, and through this fulfillment, free us from the bondage of the Law. Some people were going back to this slavery, however, and in doing so, they were falling from the grace of God, for they were in essence rejecting this grace. Paul saw this as a bid deal, to the point where people were being separated from Christ. Let us all remember this in order to fight against assuming that our doctrine is correct and doesn’t matter to God.
2. Walking in step with the Spirit: Paul then goes on to give a contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. He lists a long list of people who would not enter the kingdom of heaven because of their lifestyle, and then goes on to give the fruits of the Spirit. If we are to be servants of Christ, we should have the Spirit within us, as made evident by the fruits that we produce through Him. The desires of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit are in direct competition with one another, and one of them will win out. Paul reminds us of the summery of the entire Law: Love your neighbor as yourself (see Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:36-40). Let us always walk in step with the Spirit.
Bearing one another’s burdens and conclusion: Finishing up his thoughts from the last chapter, Paul makes it clear that we should be looking after one another as opposed to bickering and fighting with one another. This is the law of Christ, that we bear on another’s burdens. We are to restore an erring brother with a spirit of gentleness (how often do we forget the qualification of gentleness for this restoration!). We are not to grow weary in well doing, and to do good wherever we have opportunity, especially those within the household of faith. Paul closes with a recap of circumcision not being necessary to please God, and that those who try to bind circumcision on others are not right in doing so. Let us not fall into the same thing that the Galatians did, binding where God does not bind.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 29-32.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.