Good evening. It’s good to see you came back. Pastor Curtis came back too. That’s also a good sign I think. If you would, take your Bibles and turn to Galatians chapter three. We are in a, maybe three or four week study through the letter of Galatians and last week, we talked about the fact that this is a letter and we should approach it as a letter. I encouraged you to go home and find 30, 45 minutes. Sit and read through it in one sitting and I hope you did that. If not, it’s certainly not too late. I would take that approach when you come to any letter in scripture.
Now, we’re spending three or four weeks on this and that’s still really fast to go through this. My hope is that you’re getting a sense for the major themes and problems in both the letter to the Galatians and in the Galatian churches. When Pastor Curtis or someone else spends a week on maybe each of a paragraph or you’re in Sunday school and you spend time on a verse, you’ll understand the context that those things fit in.
Like I said last week, this is the probably oldest letter we have in our New Testament that was written by Paul. In chapter one, Paul defends his authority as an apostle, because if he can’t get the Galatians to understand that he has authority, well then anything he says after that is going to be meaningless and fall on deaf ears. He points out in chapter two that he was confirmed by the other apostles, the ones in Jerusalem. They didn’t add anything to his message. His “exhibit A” was Titus, who was a Greek Christian, who was not compelled to get circumcised. Thus, refuting what the Judaizers were saying in Galatia.
The Judaizers: those were the people adding works to grace, saying it’s not just faith, you also need to do some things like be circumcised or keep the Old Testament law. Also, in chapter two, Paul rebukes Peter publicly, not because they disagreed about what the Gospel was but because Peter wasn’t living in such a way that accurately reflected the truth of the Gospel. Then, at the end of chapter two, Paul makes the main point of his whole letter which is that Jews and Gentiles are both justified by faith before God. Now, he made that claim in chapter two and he’s going to spend the next couple chapters defending that.
It’s not enough for Paul just to make the claim. He needs to provide evidence for it and I think this can be instructive to us. A lot of times we want to make a claim like “God exists” and call it a day, but we need to support that. Paul is in a little bit of a unique circumstance here compared to us today. He doesn’t have the opportunity to sit and have a dialogue with someone or call them or iMessage them or Facebook them. He needs to get all of his points out in this letter because the very fate of the Gospel is at stake for these Galatian Christians. That takes us to chapter three.
He’s going to make three arguments here at the beginning for why justification is by faith. He’s going to make an argument based on the Galatians’ own personal experience in coming to Christ at the beginning. He’s going to make an argument from the Old Testament authoritative Jewish scripture, and then he’s going to make an argument based on scripture and just general reason.
The Argument from Personal Experience
Here’s what he says,
3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?
3 Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so many things for nothing? – if indeed it was for nothing. 5 Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?
We’re seeing Paul’s tone here is still quite harsh. There’s some passion. There’s some emotion there. He really cares about the Gospel and this Galatian Christians.
He finds in mind-boggling that anyone who’s been set free from the bondage of the law by faith would ever go back to it, and he use a six rhetorical questions here to help lead them to the truth of his claim that justification is by faith. The first is “who has cast a spell on you?” Now, he doesn’t think they were actually bewitched by some type of sorcerer but they are under this delusion as a result of the Judaizers preaching to them a false Gospel and when he says that “Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified to you”, that’s a short hand for his proclamation of the Gospel to them.
It does two things. One, it calls to mind that Christ did the work that was required for salvation all at once but it also should bring to their mind and their hearts the fact that their initial salvation experience was based on Christ and faith alone. He’s trying to bring to mind their initial spiritual revelation of realizing the truth of the Gospel. Another question: “The only thing I want to learn from you is this. Did you receive the spirit by doing the works of the law?” This question expects a negative reply. They know they didn’t received the spirit by doing the works of the law.
They’re going to be forced to agree with him in this. Once again, he’s bringing to mind their initial conversion experience. We now return to our foolish theme. “Are you so foolish? Although you began with the spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?” This question once again expects a negative response. They should know that they can’t actually gain their justification in God’s eyes by their works or by keeping the law. Paul’s pointing out once again that it was secured once and for all by Christ on the cross and it was applied once and for all to us at salvation.
Now, if I sound like I’m repeating myself a fair amount tonight, then I’m on the right track. Paul repeats himself a lot. You may read this and you might come away thinking, “Am I missing something? Is he just saying the same thing over and over again in different ways?” Yes, he is. He wants to pull out all the stops. He’s going to make every argument he can think of to try and convince these Galatians that the Gospel is justification by faith and by faith alone. We’re going to see him do that in multiple ways and they’re each unique and I think there’s an approach here and a method that we can learn from.
He asked another question. “Have you suffered or experienced so many things for nothing?” Now, the word for “suffered” here can have a negative connotation. It can have a neutral connotation and it can even have a positive connotation . How helpful right? A lot of scholars think this is a positive thing. He’s calling to mind the works that the spirit did in their midst as a result of their faith, not as a result of their works. This would have been positive benefits to them as individuals and also as a church or group of churches. His sixth question summarizes his argument from their experience and it also expects a negative response.
He’s basically repeating himself here again but he wants them to realize that God initially gave them the spirit by faith. God continued to work in their midst, not by law observance, but by faith. Faith. Faith. Faith.
Bow would be a good time to talk about what Paul means and what I mean when I say the word “faith.” When you say faith in the non-Christian world today, most people hear “belief in spite of evidence”, or “belief where there’s a lack of evidence.” That’s not what the biblical usage of the term is. Biblical faith is _trust expressed in what you have good reason to believe is true. _
Consider, when you use that word with someone who’s not a Christian, defining it for them. Explain what you mean, maybe don’t use the word faith. Use something like convictions. People have convictions about things today that are very strong like “chickens should be in certain size cages or they shouldn’t be in cages at all”, or things like that. A lot of times, our convictions are based on evidence today, in the same way that the Christian has convictions about God and Christ and justification, should be based on evidence. Let’s use terms that communicate clearly what we mean.
Back to Galatians. Paul is strongly challenging their Judaizing tendencies. He has used six questions to lead them to the truth that the Gospel is by faith. Now, if they’re honest with themselves at this point, they’re going to have to agree with him, but maybe they aren’t going to honest with themselves.
The Argument from Scripture
There’s a lot of pressure here by outside influences. He’s going to go on and then make an argument from scripture also and then in argument from general reason, and then argument by allegory. Here’s what he says. Continuing on in verse six.
6 Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, 7 so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the Gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”
9 So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer. 10 For all who rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.”
11 Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith. 12 But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them.
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.
Paul makes the point once again that the law is not necessary for righteousness. The perfect example of this is Abraham. Abraham was counted righteous by faith at a time before the law was given, before circumcision was instituted. How could one’s righteousness and justification in God’s eyes be dependent on something when people were getting saved (or justified) before that? Well, it can’t.
That’s Paul’s point here and Paul leverages this point about Abraham to show that Abraham is actually the norm for everyone who is in Christ. Faith of the type of Abraham’s is the faith that brings righteousness. In verse eight, he continues on grounding his argument scripture, and here Paul interprets God’s promise to bless the Earth through Abraham as a spiritual look into the future for how salvation would work. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Gentile and Paul believes he functions as the prototype for all who will ultimately come to be in Christ.
In verse ten and continuing on, for the next few verses Paul is going to quote and probably refute the arguments the Judaizers were making. He points out that the scripture says the law doesn’t bring a blessing, but it only brings a curse and by extension, who would want to be under a curse? And then he points out that no one is justified before God by the law. Here he quotes part of Habakuk 2:4 in saying that “the righteous will live by faith.” This isn’t some new thing. This has been the way it has been all the way back to Abraham.
Paul is basically setting up two worlds if you will. He’s saying, “You need to choose which world you want to live in. If you live in the faith world, you get blessings. If you live the law world, you get curses. Which world do you want to live in?” The law was never intended to result in our justification but that’s what the Judaizers were teaching that it was supposed to, however. Law and faith are incompatible. Just like oil and water, they do not mix and stay together.
Last week, I used the example of a waffle about the Gospel. A waffle is good on it’s own. You add some syrup, it gets better. That’s not the Gospel. The Gospel stands on its own and if you add anything, it ceases to be the Gospel. If you take anything away, it’s not 99% of the Gospel – It’s not the Gospel. It must stand on it’s own without addition or subtraction.
He goes on to say that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. He’s basically finished his point here that justification is by faith, and he’s grounded that in Old Testament scripture. We see of a changing focus from curses to redemption. Paul demonstrates that Christ’s death did two things. First, it fit the demands of the law by Christ taking on our sin and second, it made it possible that the promise could be extended to all of us, just as it was to Abraham, since all who live by faith are in Abraham and in Christ in that way.
Everyone who exercises faith in Christ is justified but it’s not because they were sinless or we are sinless, it’s because he was sinless. He was able to pay the price for sin by his death on a tree, a reference to crucifixion.
We talked about this great exchange last week. He took our guilt and we got his righteousness. The least fair transaction that has ever occurred in history. People want to say that God’s not fair. Well, praise God that God’s not fair. Right? What Christ got on the cross? Very much not fair. What I got as a result of that? So much better than I deserved.
But that’s the sacrificial love that Christ expressed and that’s what we are called to do also. He got the cursings in Paul’s two worlds here and we get the blessings.
The Argument from Human Experience
15 Brothers and sisters, I offer an example from everyday life: When a covenant has been ratified, even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” referring to one, who is Christ.
Now, we’re not really sure which legal code he’s specifically referring to here in saying that contracts and covenants can’t be changed, but there is this general agreement (and there has been for millennia) that you make a contract and you just don’t get to willy-nilly change things.
Paul’s arguing from the lesser to the greater here. He’s saying, “This is how covenants work between men, so how much more so does it work like this with God? If man can’t change his covenant, how much less can the immutable, trustworthy, always right and holy God, not change his covenant?”
Now, in Judaism, they had understood Abraham’s seed or descendant to be a group, a group of people, but here Paul says it’s a reference to one singular individual and that person is Christ.
Christ is the seed through whom all the nations will be blessed. It’s not just exclusively for Jews. It’s for Gentiles. It’s for everyone, for all who have faith.
17 What I am saying is this: The law that came four hundred thirty years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to invalidate the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise, but God graciously gave it to Abraham through the promise.
The law came 430 years after Abraham and it does not break the original agreement God had with Abraham, which is justification is by faith. The law was added for a period of time.
It did not somehow supersede or negate faith. Justification has always been by faith, from before the law, in the middle of the law and after the law. That has always been the covenant because God cannot break his word and does not break his word. This concludes his three arguments from their personal salvation experience, from scripture, and this last one while being from general reason about human contracts and covenants, also is very based in scripture and the nature of God. Paul is pulling out all the stops to convince them but he’s not done.
The Purpose of the Law
Paul might have had a problem if it stops here though. He might have done such a good job convincing them that they didn’t need the law that they might ask, “Why did we ever have it to start with?” Hopefully he convinced him that well up to that point in the letter. Now, he needs to address this question. This is what he said,
19 Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.
Now, I’ve heard in church, not this church, that the law didn’t work. That was God’s plan A. It failed. God had to go to plan B and he sent Jesus. Well, the truth is that there was never a time when Christ was not going to go to the cross. God does not learn information. He has always known that he would always go to the cross. We must affirm that.
Then, what was the law if not a mistake? Well, the law was a tutor. It was a guardian. It was a protector. It’s job, which it did very well and continues to do to this day, is to point out our sin and our depravity, to point out that we cannot earn our own justification, that it must come from something external to us, like Christ.
Paul makes it very clear that the law was added to the promise, alongside of it, not instead of it. Salvation was always by faith and the law did not change that. He continues on in verse 20.
20 Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.
21 Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
The law and the promise of salvation by faith are not opposed. They are not in conflict. Far from it actually, the law illustrates our need for salvation by faith. The Jews had divided up and categorized the Old Testament 613 regulations into heavy and light things. These are the big ones you need to try hard on today, and if you get to it, try to work on these others. Because they understood that, from the very moment they woke up in the morning you could not keep the law, you could not be righteous on your own.
That was what the law pointed out. It accomplished its desired purpose, and when we read it, it should illustrate the same thing to us today. We are utterly incapable (and we should be very aware of that) of fulfilling what God expects for us, a part from him doing it and helping us do it.
In verse 22, we see a very succinct summary of the Gospel. The depravity of man and the promise of faith in Christ are both present. When you present the Gospel and you share Christ with people, it must have those two components. If you do not speak about man’s inability to obtain salvation on his own, if you do not speak about his spiritual stake accurately, you have done him no favors.You certainly can’t portray Christ as a solution to a problem. Someone doesn’t think that they have.
What does the law do? It brings light to the state of humanity. It takes it out of the dark and it exposes it for what it is, and continuing on in verse 23, Paul says
23 Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 Thus the law had become our guardian [tutor] until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith.
One purpose of the law we covered last week was to be a reminder to Israel and every area of life that there was supposed to be a set apart in a different, a holy people.
When you get up in the morning and you can’t wear a shirt that has multiple fabrics, it must be one thing and then you go to work in the field and you can’t plant crops that are different in the same field. All of this reminds you (because you’ve been taught) that God expects you to stay a pure and undefiled people, to not intermingle with other nations and their religions – that was really the problem. It wasn’t some type of Xenophobia or fear of strangers. It was “stay away from their religion and their false teaching and their idolatry.“
When you get up and every area of your life includes a reminder of what God expects for you. It’s a tutor. It teaches you to be pure. It reminds you to be holy but it also protects you. When you read the Old Testament, you see that Israel didn’t do very well a lot of times, but what would have been like if they hadn’t have the law? If they hadn’t have that guardian? It would have been far worse.
The word for tutor here is paidagōgos in Greek and we get our word pedagogy from it, which means “the practice of teaching.”
In ancient Rome, a paidagōgos was a slave who was entrusted with a child, generally from age 6 to 16. They were supposed to guard this child, to be responsible for the child, to keep it safe and maybe there would have been some teaching responsibility too.
Paul, with that word and concept, is pointing out two things. He is reinforcing that the law was a tutor and a guardian. and he’s reinforcing that it was for a brief time. Not just ten years, like the pedagogic relationships in Rome, but nonetheless, it was not designed to be forever.
It had a purpose that it accomplished. Here’s what he says. Continuing on verse 25.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Now, that Christ has come, we don’t need that law and that guardian in the same way that we did before and he says that like Abraham, we are children of God. He uses two metaphors to describe that the total transformation in a spiritual sense that occurs in salvation. The first is baptism.
What is baptism a picture of? Death to self, raising to life with Christ and then he uses this phrase that you’ve been “clothed in Christ.” We have put on the very righteousness of Christ, so when God the father looks at us, he does not see our guilt because Christ took it upon himself. He sees Christ righteousness because that is what we wear as sons of God and daughters of God.
In verse 28 he says,
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
First, I want to say what this doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean they’re ceased to be slavery and it doesn’t even mean in the New Testament times, the early church, that there ceased to be slavery in the church. That still existed. That is not what Paul is speaking to here. That’s a talk for another day.
It doesn’t mean that suddenly every one becomes gender-neutral. “There are no men and there are no women.” That’s not what it means either, but what it does mean is that nothing about oneself besides their faith matters when it comes to your justification in God’s eyes.
Your job doesn’t matter. Your wealth or lack of wealth doesn’t matter. Your height, your weight, your skin color, your heritage, where you’re from, where you live now, none of that matters when it comes to being right in God’s eyes.
And how much of a breath the fresh air could that be to much of the wold today, where status, and in certain cultures, how you were born, dictates how you will live and ultimately receive favor in God’s eyes. The true Gospel is one of freedom and Paul will make that point in about chapter and a half.
That happens by faith. If you are in Christ by faith then you, even though you’re not a Jew, are a descendant of Abraham.
When I was young, we learned a song and you might know it.
“Father Abraham, had many sons and many sons had father Abraham.
(All together now!)
I am one of them and so are you
so let’s all praise the Lord.“
I never understood what that meant. I’m like, “Okay, maybe long, long ago Abraham was my great, great granddaddy.” I didn’t get it, but I get it now and I understand the richness of it.
I am a son of Abraham in that I had have faith in Christ, and I’m an heir because of that. That’s the true rich spiritual meaning. Our children are learning that concept and then they can come to incorporate an even greater richness of truth later on. Hopefully, it doesn’t take them 20 years like it did me.
He’s going to continue on making his point here.
4:1 Now I mean that the heir, as long as he is a minor, 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 So also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basic forces of the world. 4 But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights.
6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.
Paul sets up a situation where a minor who stands to inherit a large states is functionally equivalent in a household to that of a slave.
Now, one day their role will greatly change but at that point and for Paul’s purposes, they’re both under authority and neither really own anything. Then, he goes on to say that Israel was actually the minor who, while standing to inherit much, had not matured enough.
In the same way that the inheritance is given at the father’s discretion so too it was with salvation which was given by the father by sending Christ at the proper time, when the law had accomplished it’s good and full purpose. Christ came to usher in our inheritance as sons of Abraham.
Christ was born fully human so as to be the human representative for us before God, in the same way that Adam was our representative. Everything Adam got wrong, Christ got right. Adam brought sin into the world and Christ took it out of the world. That’s why he’s called the second Adam. They both acted as a representative but Christ obviously brought the blessings and Adam brought the cursings.
He was born fully human so he could represent humanity and he was born and lived under the law so that when he fulfill the law, both in the letter and in spirit, his sacrificial death could bring about our redemption. Paul says, “And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls ‘Abba! Father!’”
Paul is introducing the third member of the trinity, God the Holy Spirit here and that member is going to feature very heavily in the future, but it is that Spirit within inside of us that calls out and enabled us to cry out Abba Father. Now, this is not a casual or colloquial term like “daddy.” This is a term of great reverence and intimacy and respect.
A lot of times, I don’t think we think about intimacy with God. I tend to be much more left-brained, often to my detriment. Intimacy with God is often lost on me in an emotional sense, but consider another passage which says, “all scripture is God breathe and is useful for teaching, for reproof, correcting and training in righteousness.”
Where’s the intimacy in there? Well, put your hand up to your mouth. Do you feel your breath? When you get close enough to someone to feel their breath, that is an intimate encounter. Scripture is the very intimate breath of God and his revelation to us.
While that might not always emotionally connect, you need to understand that the very truth of God has been breathed out in that intimate way in his scripture and it’s his Spirit that comes to and dwell us as a result of being preached the truth of the word that also intimately allows us to call out Abba Father, the most intimate and respectful of terms.
As a result of being made a son, we’re not slaves to the law anymore. We’re not slave to sin either as Paul points out. We are sons and heirs.
You, as a Christian, have been adopted into the family of the King, though you were wretched on your own, living only for yourself, not fit to stand in his royal court, The King, full of loving kindness, took you out of the gutter, clothed you, redeemed you, loved you, and made you a son and an heir, not due to anything about yourself, due to nothing you could earn on your own but totally out of his loving kindness and generosity.
That’s Paul’s point here but what would it mean to say, “I want to go back to the gutter”? Paul’s going to say, “No. Heirs of the promise are not to return to the law. They’re not to throw away what has been so graciously given.” While he’s finished supporting his argument here, he’s not done.
Heirs of Promise Are Not to Return to Law
He makes the point that as a result of their justification, those who believed by faith have a new relationship with God and are given the Holy Spirit. Now, he’s going to express some fear about the Galatians returning to a life of spiritual slavery and idolatry.
Here’s what he says,
8 Formerly when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods at all. 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 basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?
Paul points out how they used to live in slavery to beings that weren’t even real gods. That could be kind of insulting. He’s saying, “Now, you’re putting yourself back in a form of slavery again.”
In light of what Paul has said previously, it isn’t just like walking away from someone you’ve met. It’s like walking out of the King’s courts after being made a son and an heir. The very active devalues what you had been given.
10 You are observing religious days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you that my work for you may have been in vain.
You’re observing religious days, and months and seasons and years. He’s most likely referring to the Jewish festival calendar to observing Sabbaths and festivals and feasts.
They’re not all the way into applying Judaism and the Old Testament law, but they’re heading that way. Now, he’s going to make a personal appeal. This letter has already been very personal. I hope that has been evident to you. I hope I brought that to life. Just a raw emotion that we see in Paul’s writing should make it clear that this is very personal, but it’s going to be much more clear here.
Personal Appeal of Paul
He’s going to plead with them to remember their shared experiences that he had with them when he first preached the Gospel to them. Here’s what he says,
12 I beg you, brothers and sisters, become like me, because I have become like you. You have done me no wrong! 13 But you know it was because of a physical illness that I first proclaimed the gospel to you, 14 and though my physical condition put you to the test, you did not despise or reject me. Instead, you welcomed me as though I were an angel of God, as though I were Christ Jesus himself!
It would have been very easy to disregard Paul, a sickly guy with a crazy message. Maybe they thought he was sick and they had some type of superstition or thought it was demonic activity, but no, they listened and he goes on to ask,
15 Where then is your sense of happiness now? For I testify about you that if it were possible, you would have pulled out your eyes and given them to me! 16 So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?
We’re not really sure what ailed Paul, maybe it was his eyes. We do believed his eyesight was going and maybe that’s what he’s talking about here.
That they were even willing to give him their eyes if they could. That’s how much they cared about each other and now he’s basically saying, “You’ve become my enemy because I’m telling you the truth? Hopefully, not.” He says,
17 They court you eagerly, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you would seek them eagerly. 18 However, it is good to be sought eagerly for a good purpose at all times, and not only when I am present with you.
We all like that people pursue us and want our affection and affirmation and want us to buy in to what someone else is selling or sharing.
He’s saying it’s good to be sought for a good purpose but the purpose of these Judaizers is not good. Don’t just go along with them, even though they’re seeking you and courting you eagerly.
19 My children – I am again undergoing birth pains until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be with you now and change my tone of voice, because I am perplexed about you.
There’s a softer sense of language here. He’s more warm and affectionate and he probably wants to remind them about their previous relationship so that it’s not just this old crotchety guy telling them they’ve got everything wrong.
He really cares about them and he wants them to understand that. Of course, he would prefer to be able to speak with him in person. Writing letters is hard. Texting is bad but it can’t be as bad as writing a letter. He’s doing the best with what he has available.
An Appeal from the Sarah — Hagar Allegory
His last appeal on this chapter is going to be an allegory. He’s going to demonstrate the superiority of freedom that comes by faith as opposed to the slavery that comes from what the Judaizers are pedaling. Here’s what he says,
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not understand the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.
23 But one, the son by the slave woman, was born by natural descent, while the other, the son by the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 These things may be treated as an allegory, for these women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar.
25 Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
He does something interesting here. It’s a little hard to understand at first but he ties Hagar to Mt. Sinai, which is where the law was given, and he ties that to slavery. Then he ties the other son, the son of promise, which he’s already tied the justification by faith, to the Jerusalem from above, to heaven, to spiritual goodness.
The children of Sarah are the free children whereas the children of Hagar are in bondage and the question now isn’t “which world do you want to live in?” It’s “which mother do you want?” Do you want to be a child of Hagar? Or do you want to be a child of Sarah? He says,
27 For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren woman who does not bear children; break forth and shout, you who have no birth pains, because the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband.”
28 But you, brothers and sisters, are children of the promise like Isaac. 29 But just as at that time the one born by natural descent persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so it is now.
In the same way that Abraham was their spiritual father, Sarah is their spiritual mother (if you will), and in the same way that Ishmael persecuted Isaac, the Judaizers are persecuting the children of Sarah – the children of the promise, the Christians.
30 But what does the scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the son” of the free woman. 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.
5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.
In his conclusion to this allegory, he encourages the Galatians to get rid of the slave woman. Get rid of the Judaizers, send them packing, do not entertain them even though they’re courting you. It’s not for a good purpose. Their Gospel will not lead to inheritance and blessings. It will lead to cursing and death.
Paul ends here once again by ringing the bells of freedom that he’s been playing for quite a while now. There are two Gospels, two ways of life, two worlds, two mothers and they need to choose which set of those do they want.
Choosing correctly leads to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… and he’s going to make that point in a few chapters, but choosing incorrectly leads to death, despair, to slavery. That is the choice. That was the choice then and that is the choice today.
In summary, Paul pulled out all the stops here in defending his premise that justification is by faith. He made an argument from their personal salvation experience. He made an argument from scripture. He made an argument from just general contracts and scripture. He used an allegory and he’s not done. All to support one point.
Gosh, could that point be important, I wonder? Yes. It’s the most important point of any that could ever be made.
We’ve seen his passion and his frustration with those he’s come to care for as children or babes in the faith and they desperately need to grow up. Now, Paul ultimately makes his application in the next couple chapters but there are a few things and one in particular that we should garner here.
We need to be passionate about safe-guarding the Gospel and safe-guarding the weaker brother or sister. Now, who might there people be, you may ask? Well, perhaps your most important mission field is the one that lives at your address…
We talked last week about how we lived and what that reflects about the Gospel. The answers we can give or do not give can help someone in their disbelief or even reinforced it.
I haven’t made this point so far which might be interesting since I’m know around here as the “apologetics guy” but this whole letter or at least the first four chapters is all apologetics. You might be wondering why? “I didn’t hear anything about the age of the Earth or the problem of evil or theism or pantheism or those other terms that I don’t remember from last summer”, but all of it is apologetics.
Paul is giving a defense of the Gospel. A defense of himself. and ultimately in chapter six, a defense of Christian liberty. He’s just using the tools at his disposal then and he’s addressing the issue of the day. The age of the Earth and the problem of evil, those are still secondary issues today. The primary issue of concern is the very one Paul deals with here. The very nature of the Gospel.
Now, we can’t force someone to accept the truth but we can make good arguments. Paul makes excellent arguments here and that can be a good demonstration for us. He’s giving a defense and we need to do the same thing.
God has given us the honor and also the heavy responsibility of knowing, living, sharing and defending the Gospel. The most important thing that we could ever know, live, share and defend. It’s not a physical reality that you can touch but it is so much more important than that because it will exist much longer than any physical reality ever could and it’s of much more value than any physical reality ever could be. That is what Paul is doing here. He is defending, incredibly passionately, the very truth of what Christ came to do on the cross.