Living by the Gospel
Explore the Bible Series
June 21, 2009
Background Passage: Galatians 3:26-4:31
Lesson Passage: Galatians 26-29; 4:8-20
Galatians Four reinforces Paulís arguments against the Judaizers.† They insisted that Gentile believers submit to the ceremonial law of Moses (as a means of salvation), especially circumcision, but Paul remained equally insistent that Godís people receive salvation by grace, through faith in Christ.† The text reflects Paulís convictions in the form of two wonderful, instructive analogies.
First, the apostle employed the analogy of an immature son (vv. 1-7).† Those who keep the law are like an under-age son who, though he is heir to his fatherís estate, remains under guardians and tutors until he reaches maturity.† In Verse Five, Paul took some liberty with his analogy by introducing the idea of adoption, one of the apostleís favorite themes.† A believer, Paul argued, is like an alien child, adopted by a loving family, thus becoming heir to all the affection, status, and riches shared by natural children.†
Second, Paulís inventive mind (under, no doubt, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) drew a contrast between the son of Sarah and the son of Hagar (vv. 21-31).† Genesis Sixteen records the story of Hagar and Ishmael.† Abraham and Sarah could not have children, and Sarah, in period of frustration and impatience, coerced her husband to have relations with a slave woman named Hagar.† The slave conceived and bore a son, Ishmael, but her delivery did not bring the family peace Sarah hoped for.† Instead, Sarah grew jealous and sent Hagar and Ishmael away from the family settlement.† Some years later, you will recall, Sarah and Abraham had a son, Isaac, and family conflicts redoubled.† Paul compared the Judaizers to Hagar and Ishmael, enslaved to the covenant established at Mount Sinai.† People of faith, according to Paulís gospel, are like Isaac, sons of faith.
In between these poignant analogies, Paul made an earnest personal appeal.† Clearly, the apostle took these attacks as a personal affront.† He understood that his character reflected on the integrity of the gospel.† We might imagine that Paul approached his ministry in a stoic, ďSpock-likeĒ manner, but that does not reflect the passion of this text.† During his sojourn in Galatia, Paul suffered from a serious malady, and the Galatian believers, he concluded, would have done nearly anything to help their apostolic friend.† Had he now become their enemy?† Paul found this inconceivable.† He, furthermore, compared himself to an expectant mother in the throes of labor.† He had given birth to these churches, at great cost and anguish; yet, these malleable, vacillating people now seemed to reject their spiritual ďmotherĒ. Again, Paul found this inconceivable.
I. The Analogy of the Immature Son (vv. 1-7)
A. The nature of Judaism (vv. 1-3):† The Judaizers, Paul reasoned, were immature sons, under guardians and tutors.† The Jews, for centuries, had lived under the law, but, with the coming of the Messiah, they could leave behind the restrictions of immaturity, and they could assume the position as full-grown heirs to the fatherís name and estate.† Interestingly, Paul stated that the father appointed the time of the sonís ascension to full manhood.†
B. The believerís status (vv. 4-7): In the fullness of time, at the moment appointed by the Father, the Lord Jesus, born under the law, came to redeem the sons from the elementary principles of the world.† Here, Paul somewhat changes the analogy.† The Gentile believers were like adopted sons; that is, they were naturally born to an alien family, but, by a compassionate act of the Father, they had been adopted into wonderful sonship.† Adoption implies:
1. The alien birth of the child: Adopted children are often born to an underprivileged, alien status.† In the ancient world, many children were deprived of their parents, relegated to a life of hardship and poverty.† Ancient cities teemed with disinherited children.† Gentiles were like disenfranchised children, helpless and hopeless.
2. A compassionate father: In the case of adopted children, the father chose to bring the little one into a stable, loving family.† Naturally-born children may be unwanted and unplanned, but adopted sons enjoy the knowledge that the parent earnestly desired to have a child.† The choice of the adopted son made him particularly beloved and cherished.† Adoption highlighted the choice of the son, by the father.†
3. Elevated status of the adopted son: In the ancient world, adopted sons held special status.† They, of course, enjoyed the same legal standing of naturally-born children, but, under ancient law, they could not be disinherited.† Natural sons could displease the father and, thus, find themselves cut off from the fatherís estate, but the law protected adopted children from this disgrace.† Adopted relished a special place of grace, compassion, love, and legal status.
II. Paulís Personal Appeal (vv. 8-20): As stated earlier, Paul took the charges of the Judaizers personally.† I do not suggest that Paul evidenced a touchy, abrasive character, but these charges wounded the apostle.†