Galatians--Part 16--Slaves and Sons
Aug 24, 2010
In Galatians 3 Paul had focused upon the two paths of salvation set forth in the two covenants, showing that the first could not work, while the second could not fail. In Galatians 4 Paul discusses the differing effects of the two paths to salvation. The Old Covenant is a time of bondage and slavery, while the New Covenant is a time of liberty and freedom.
Seen in the context of chapter 3, this liberty does not mean that a person is free to sin without consequence. It is the freedom of knowing that our righteousness is in Christ, and we share in His righteousness by being part of His Body--or, viewed in another way, by being one of His sons. His righteousness is imputed to us ahead of time, so that we do not "fall from grace" every time we sin or manifest some imperfections.
Underlying this entire discussion is the two-step process of salvation. First we are imputed righteous by faith, as Paul explains fully in Romans 4. In step one we are considered to be righteous in the eyes of the law, because when the law sees us, it sees only Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. We enjoy a positional righteousness, not an actual righteousness.
The second step is the actual attainment in our persons of the righteousness of Christ. This is where our position in Christ is matched equally by our personal righteousness, as we attain the full image of Christ.
The first step is attained through the feast of Passover; the second is through the feast of Tabernacles. In the interim we see Pentecost, which is the training ground, whereby God trains us and teaches us of His righteousness by writing the law in our hearts. Pentecost, of course, is the feast celebrating the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.
Galatians 4:1-3 says,
(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, (2) but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. (3) So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
Paul was showing the divine plan for the Old Covenant time frame. The heirs of the Abrahamic Promise were children in their spiritual understanding, and so, even though they were already heirs of all things through Abraham, they were in need of training in the principles of righteousness.
So also it is with us, both personally and in the bigger picture. For this reason, God called Moses to mediate the Old Covenant for the heirs. Its purpose was good, not evil, for it was designed to show the children how to live equitably with each other, treating each other with love and with equal and impartial justice toward all. Ultimately, the righteous standard was given also to define the righteousness of Christ that would be our inheritance by the time we matured spiritually.
Moses and the Law itself, then, was our God-ordained guardian and manager, our "tutor" in 3:24. Those who lived from Moses to Christ were technically placed under the Old Covenant through the vow of their forefathers at Sinai. However, it is evident that faith was a way of life for Moses, David, and all the prophets, as well as for many others. Hence, the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk recognizes this, saying, "the just shall live by faith" (2:4).
It is NOT the case that men were saved by works prior to the Cross, while men are saved by faith after the Cross. There has always been just one way to be saved when viewed on a personal level. But in the big picture, the heirs were under the Old Covenant constraints, because, corporately speaking, the national heir was yet a minor.
Paul does not take the time in chapter 4 to discuss the personal aspect of this, focusing only on the national. But we can see that on a personal level, in the Church under Pentecost, we too are still minors until the feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled in us. Israel's Pentecost began at Sinai and continued throughout their 40 years in the wilderness. So also it is with us. Our Pentecost began at the Upper Room (Acts 2) and has continued for 40 Jubilee cycles.
During this time, many have come to know Christ as their Passover, having faith in the blood of the Lamb. It is as if each individual believer were just coming out of their own "Egypt," and were then in need of training as a minor. For this reason, God has given us our own Pentecostal experience, known as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in order that we too might learn of His ways until we grow up into Christ.
But Paul focuses upon the corporate heir here, rather than the personal application.
(4) But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (5) in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons [huiothesia, "Son Placing"].
Paul is appealing to the Galatians by reminding them that they are supposed to be grown up now. Paul had labored in their midst already. They had come out of the bondage of religious attempts at self-perfection. They had found the freedom that is in the New Covenant. The righteousness of Christ had been imputed to them by faith. Yet now they were in danger of returning to the path of bondage, as if they had regressed in their maturity. Having grown up earlier, had they now returned to being minors under tutors and managers?
(6) And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" (7) Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
The Galatian problem itself reveals something that is very important. It is possible for us as individuals to progress or regress in this area of Sonship. In fact, in looking at the big picture, we see much of the Church today regressing into "Christian Judaism," largely through the influence of 19th century Dispensationalism, but more recently through the "messianic" movements and Christian Zionism.
Hence, there are two types of "children" in the Church today. There are those who believe and advocate a Judaistic future with Jews ruling the world from a physical temple in Jerusalem, led by Levites making animal sacrifices. These are doing precisely what Paul argued against in his letter to the Galatians. Such Christians have returned to the bondage of the Old Covenant--or at least believe that the Church will return to Old Covenant practice in the Age to come. In fact, they believe that they will be slaves to the Jews during that time, even as the Talmud itself teaches.
Paul's appeal is that we are to grow up and begin to act like Sons, rather than slaves. This gets into a whole set of laws about the slave relationships that contrast with that of sons. Likewise, the law speaks of slave-wives in contrast to free-wives. There is no doubt that Paul knew these laws intimately, though he assumes the reader is already familiar with them and thus does not explain them.
But before we get too far from Gal. 4:4, I want to comment on Paul's statement that Christ came "born of a woman, born under the Law." The reference is obviously to his mother, Mary. She is a very good illustration, because she conceived by the Holy Spirit while the Old Covenant was yet in effect--and yet she exhibited great FAITH. She is an example of a New Covenant woman living in the time of the Old Covenant.
Luke 1:38 says,
(38) And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Born under the Law, she was a "bondslave." Yet her statement reveals her New Covenant faith as an individual. Paul has much to say about this later.
This is the sixteenth part of a series titled "Galatians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones