July 16, 2012
(Gal 3:1 ESV) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
1. What is Paul’s mood? Why do you suppose?
Paul is ticked! Furious! Why? Because the Galatians are in the process of buying into a gospel that is no gospel at all, a false gospel, a gospel that damns. They are destroying all that Paul built!
2. What does he mean “publicly portrayed as crucified”? (The NET Bible translates, “Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified!”)
Paul is summarizing the nature of his preaching when he was in Galatia. He didn’t preach the Law of Moses. He didn’t preach circumcision. He preached the crucifixion of Jesus.
3. What does this tell us about the content of Paul’s preaching? (1 Cor 1:23; 1 Cor 2:2)
Just as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, his preaching was based on the crucifixion
(1Co 1:22-24 ESV) 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
(1Co 2:1-2 ESV) And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
4. Why is the crucifixion so central to Paul’s preaching and gospel?
The gospel is about Jesus and culminates in the crucifixion. It’s because of the crucifixion that we’re saved. We live to carry the crucifixion in our lives. It defines who become as Christians.
Crucifixion isn’t just atonement. It’s not just how we’re credited with forgiveness that we don’t deserve. It’s how we live.
(Gal 2:20 ESV) 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Gal 5:24 ESV) 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
(Gal 3:2-3 ESV) by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
5. Verse 2 is a rhetorical question. What is the expected answer?
“Hearing with faith.” This is a BIG deal, because Paul’s argument refutes a common misunderstanding of Galatians.
It’s often been suggested that Paul is only speaking of justification and that “justification” only refers to how we initially become saved. The rules, it is is argued, change thereafter. So, yes, we’re justified by faith, but once we’re justified, our continued salvation supposedly depends on much more than faith. There are these rules, you see …
But Paul’s argument is based on the idea that the rules we begin with are the rules that carry us all the way to the end. Because we began with faith and the Spirit — as a gift — faith and the Spirit are enough to carry us all the way home.
Therefore, Paul can say, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” His point is that the rules don’t change. It was grace at baptism. It’s grace after baptism. It’s grace all the way to death.
6. Why do you suppose Paul leads his main argument by speaking of how the Spirit was received — before, for example, forgiveness and admission into the church?
That’s why we spent an entire week studying the Spirit. The Churches of Christ have a long history of denying the work of the Spirit. Even after we acknowledge that the Spirit does in fact personally indwells the Christian, we tend to minimize the Spirit’s role in our salvation because it’s just uncomfortable for a rational, scientific people.
But Paul begs to differ and insists that the Spirit be given his full place in the Godhead. Not only is it wrong to minimize the work of the Spirit, it grossly misunderstands our relationship with God and how God saves us and why God saves us.
The Spirit explains why and how God can save us by grace and yet expect us to be transformed into the image of Jesus. We aren’t alone. We submit to the influence of God in our hearts. We invite him in. We beg him to change us. We look forward to transformation, not as burden and command, but as invitation and opportunity.
When we’re called to serve, submit, sacrifice, and even to suffer for the sake of Christ, rather than being the price we pay for our salvation, it’s the reward we receive for being sons of God. And that sort of change requires divine help — by the Spirit.
7. What would be wrong with beginning with the Spirit and “being perfected” or “trying to finish” (NET Bible and NIV) by the flesh?
First, that’s just not how God chooses to do it, and to substitute man’s wisdom for God’s is always a really big mistake.
Second, if salvation could be earned, we’d have started by earning it. We start by receiving salvation as a free gift because that’s the only way it can happen. If we attempt to convert salvation into an earned reward afterward, we destroy salvation. No one can earn it because the price is too high for us to pay.
July 11, 2012
(Gal 3:4-5 ESV) 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith –
“Suffer” is an uncertain translation. The NIV says “experience.” In the Greek, “experience” is a perfectly good translation, but the Scriptures — and Paul — nearly always use the same word to mean “suffer.” But ”experience” fits better, because Paul isn’t changing subjects (toward persecution, for example) but is speaking of his sermons on the crucifixion and the church’s experience of the Spirit.
8. Why does it matter how the Spirit comes when the question is whether circumcision is necessary to be saved? (Rom 8:9-11)
Ah, but God saves by giving his Spirit to those with faith in Jesus. This normally happens at the same time we receive water baptism, as stated in Acts 2:38 and implied by Romans 6. But there have been exceptions, such as the outpouring of the Spirit on the 120 disciples in Acts 2, the conversion of the Samaritans, and the conversion of Cornelius and his household — where water baptism and Spirit baptism were separate. But that is not the normal way that God works, and Paul’s epistles closely associate water baptism with Spirit baptism.
But the Scriptures emphasize the receipt of the Spirit as the key element. For example
(Mar 1:8 ESV) 8 “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
(John 1:33 ESV) 33 “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’”
(1Co 12:13 ESV) 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
The point is not at all to minimize water baptism – which is scriptural and commanded by Jesus — but to restore the Spirit to his rightful place in our understanding of our salvation.
The point of water baptism is not that we get wet. Nor is it quite that we are forgiven. Water baptism pictures and corresponds with Spirit baptism — and the power is not in the water but in the receipt of the Spirit.
The Spirit brings not only forgiveness but a personal indwelling and hence a new relationship with God himself. It begins a transformative process that can reshape the convert to become more and more like Jesus.
(2Co 3:18 ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Paul could have made his argument by asking, “Did you receive [water baptism] by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” but Paul knew that the real power and real change that the Galatians had seen was from the Spirit. After all, all the Old Testament prophecies we studied last week are about the Spirit and say nothing about the coming of water baptism.
Again, this is not to dismiss or ignore water baptism, but rather to acknowledge who it is that makes water baptism matter so very much.
(Gal 3:6-9 ESV) 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
9. This passage is filled with surprises. For example, why bring up Abraham when Paul is talking about how Christians are saved?
Paul makes an argument nearly always ignored from our pulpits — that we’re saved because of the promise God made to Abraham to credit faith as righteousness. Our covenant — the new covenant — is the covenant God made with Abraham as seen through the lens of Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled God’s promise to honor that covenant.
The new covenant is not a repeal of the Abrahamic covenant but an enrichment and expansion on it — with even more blessings than those promised to Abraham.
10. And, for example, why does Paul refer to “In you shall all the nations be blessed” as “the gospel”? That’s not the normal gospel sermon, you know.
And that’s our fault for preaching an incomplete gospel.
Part of the gospel is God’s promise to bless all nations through the offspring of Abraham. This is not merely a messianic prophecy that proves God can see the future. It’s part of the blessing given by God to Abraham. It was a promise to be fulfilled.
Israel itself was called to be a light to the nations –
(Isa 42:6-7 ESV) 6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
(Isa 60:3 ESV) 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
God vision was that Israel be his people and, eventually, be the means by which the nations are invited into covenant relationship with God.
This gives new power to the familiar –
(Mat 5:14-16 ESV) 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus was speaking to Israel, which was in the process of failing at this mission. Jesus was speaking to his disciples, who were being called to be the means by which God would honor his promises to Abraham. Jesus was speaking to the church not-yet-founded, showing them their place in God’s story — to be like God by participating with God as he keeps his promise to Abraham.
This is very good news indeed. It’s gospel.
(Gal 3:10 ESV) 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
11. Why does Paul say that all who rely on works of the law are cursed, when the curse he quotes only applies to those who don’t abide by the law?
He assumes his readers understand that no one keeps the law well enough to deserve the blessings it promises.
He was writing to a congregation of largely Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, that is, to a congregation that had studied the Torah. They knew how truly difficult it had been to keep the Law.
(Gal 3:11-12 ESV) 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
12. Why is it that no one is justified by law?
Because no one keeps the law.
13. But isn’t it possible to be circumcised? Obeying the entire law may be impossible, but adding circumcision is just one command. How is that a problem?
That’s the rub. Many wish to privilege a few commands as being outside of grace. Yes, yes, yes, maybe God will give grace for most commands, but surely he won’t forgive something as terrible as X!! Pretty soon, X becomes X + Y + Z. And then all sorts of commands are too very important to be covered by grace.
After a while, those who preach grace are sneered at as “soft on sin” and “liberal” because grace seems to excuse sin. And then we’re back in a works-salvation system that can only damn. How sad.
If you look at the history of denominations and congregations, you find that the commands that get treated as too important to be outside grace aren’t the ones that the Bible says are the most important — such as “Love your neighbor.” No one would argue that grace can’t cover that one, because we all violate that one too often!
No, it’s the commands that separate us from our rival churches — the boundary markers. The “tests of fellowship.” Thus, the Judaizing teachers treated circumcision as outside grace, not because it’s God’s highest command, but because it plainly marked Jews as distinct from Gentiles. And because it was a command that could be kept perfectly.
It’s the yes/no commands that we treat as outside grace because those are the commands we can keep. We can take the Lord’s Supper every single Sunday and only on a Sunday for our entire lives. We don’t need grace because we think we can do it.
Of course, we might not truly remember Jesus’ death every time. And we might fail to properly discern his body — our fellow Christians — every time. But we can get the externals 100% right — and so look down on others for getting this one wrong.
But, when it comes to the “weightier matters of the law” — evangelism, caring for the poor, showing hospitality — well, it hardly matters that someone else is better at those. These commands are within grace!
Thus, we create a system where the sins we’re guilty of are covered by grace and the sins they’re guilty of are not, and as a result, we feel superior and saved and look down on noses on the others for not caring enough to get the rules right and for being damned.
And this is exactly contrary to the gospel of grace.
(Gal 6:14 ESV) 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
What’s wrong with adding commands to faith as requirements to be forgiven? Why not add just the first one? Because it turns Christianity from a religion of grace to a religion of boasting over others. And when we do that, we not only destroy the gospel, we make the church repugnant in the eyes of those around us.
July 12, 2012
(Gal 3:13-14 ESV) 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” — 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
14. Why does it matter that Jesus became a curse by being hanged on a tree?
This seems very strange to modern ears, but it’s a major theme of Acts (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29) as well.
The curse is found in Deuteronomy 21:23, and was evidently used by opponents of Christianity to dispute the claim that Jesus is the Messiah. After all, how could God’s Messiah be accursed by God?
Rather than object, the church adopted the irony of the argument: Yes, he was accursed, but it was for us. He took upon himself the curse that we deserve! Which is a thought that runs deep in Christianity.
Paul extends the argument by speaking of the “curse of the law” — the penalties the law pronounces on those who violate the law. Deuteronomy is written in the form of an ancient treaty, and therefore includes blessings for obedience (Deuteronomy 15; 28:1-14) and curses for disobedience (especially Deuteronomy 27 – 28, other than 28:1-14).
Thus, Paul argues, that by becoming accursed under the Law, Jesus suffered the very penalty that is prescribed for us as lawbreakers.
15. What is the “blessing of Abraham”?
The promise to count faith as righteousness. The invitation of the nations into God’s blessings.
16. Why does the argument culminate with receipt of the Spirit? Why not forgiveness? Or entry into the church?
As before, because it’s the Spirit that gives the power to these other things. Salvation is not merely about our legal status before God. It’s much more about being transformed into the image of his Son — becoming like God.
(Gal 3:15 ESV) 15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.
17. Modern American law is very different, in that modern contracts can be amended or rescinded for any number of reasons. However, under Roman law, certain kinds of contracts — “covenants” (the same word is used for a will or “testament”!) — were considered absolute, performable even if the other party fails to perform. How is that like God’s covenant with Abraham?
Paul compares God’s covenant with Abraham to a will (a last will and testament — “testament” in Greek is the same word as “covenant”). Unlike a contract, where performance is conditioned on the other party keeping its end of the bargain, a will is unilateral. If the will says Jane gets $1,000, Jane need do nothing. She receives the $1,000 even if she is living in outright rebellion to the maker of the will.
Ancient treaties made no pretense of being between equals. Rather, the stronger nation set the terms and the weak nation acquiesced. Treaties were unilateral in that sense.
Paul sees God’s covenant with Abraham as unilateral — a gift by God, not a contract. It’s terms depended on the faithfulness of God to his promises, not on Abraham’s ability to keep the terms.
Of course, the treaty/covenant was made with a nation, not the individual members, and some individuals may be cast outside the camp or fall away due to rebellion, but as to the nation, the promise is irrevocable.
(Gal 3:16 ESV) 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
The NIV translates “seed” and “seeds,” which is the literal Greek, but “seed” was a common ancient metaphor for offspring or descendants.
(Gen 12:7 ESV) 7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
Paul’s argument hinges on there being but a single “offspring,” who is Jesus — showing that God promised to honor the covenant through a single individual.
N. T. Wright argues, however –
If, as would accord with good exegetical practice, we approach the difficult passage about the “seed” in 3.16 in the light of the quite clear reference in 3.29, where (as in 3.15–18) it is found within a discussion of the Abrahamic “inheritance”, we might suggest that the singularity of the “seed” in v. 16 is not the singularity of an individual person contrasted with the plurality of many human beings, but the singularity of one family contrasted with the plurality of families which would result if the Torah were to be regarded the way Paul’s opponents apparently regard it.
Agree or disagree, Paul’s point is that the sons of Abraham and sons of faith are all one nation, one people, one body. There is no room in Paul’s gospel for division among God’s people.
The promise is “this land,” meaning the Promised Land. The Torah repeated refers to the Promised Land as Israel’s “inheritance.”
(Gal 3:17-18 ESV) 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
18. If the Law of Moses didn’t supersede God’s covenant with Abraham, then what is the promise on which we rely for our salvation?
God’s covenant with Abraham — which promises that faith will be credited as righteousness.
This argument, of course, raises the next question: Where does the Law of Moses fit in?
(Gal 3:19-20 ESV) 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
Why add the law of Moses? Well, “because of transgressions.” It was in place to instruct God’s people about the will of God. Remember: while Moses was on the mountain receiving the Law, the Israelites were worshiping a golden calf!
The reference to the Law being put in place by “an intermediary” is likely a reference to Moses, who represented the Israelites. The Israelites needed a representative because so many could not have otherwise spoken with one voice. But God, being One, needed no intermediary. He dealt directly with Moses. And one God implies one seed, that is, one family, one nation.
“Through angels” is likely an allusion to Deuteronomy 33:2 –
(Deu 33:2 ESV) He said, “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand.”
In the Septuagint, “holy ones” is translated “angels,” which is a very reasonable interpretation. And this is how the Jews understood the passage.
(Gal 3:21-23 ESV) 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
19. How did the law imprison those who had the law “under sin” and make them “captive under the law”?
Because they could not obey it. Indeed, the more of God’s law we know, the more accountable we become to obey it — unless we receive grace.
(Gal 3:24-25 ESV) 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
20. “Guardian” translates paidogōgos, from which we get “pedagogue.” Thayer’s explains,
Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood. … The name carries with it an idea of severity (as of a stern censor and enforcer of morals) … .
In what sense was the Law of Moses like a paidogōgos?
This is a very unfamiliar role to us. We might better translate “nanny.” And nannies are for the young and immature — those not ready for adulthood.
The role of the Law was to educate the people about God and their role in his story — to call them into covenant relationship with God and away from idolatry.
And these are all good things, but the Law proved inadequate — not because it was wicked or flawed — but because a law is not the best tool to form a relationship. That requires a change of heart.
And while humans can do some of that on their own, it ultimately requires God’s own Spirit to transform us into his image.
July 13, 2012
(Gal 3:26 ESV) 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
21. According to Paul, what is the opposite of circumcision?
Faith in Jesus.
22. Why isn’t the opposite of circumcision “a new set of laws like the Law of Moses except better”?
Any set of laws, whether coming from Moses or Paul, would still be laws. And as Adam and Eve prove, we can’t keep even one law perfectly! The solution isn’t easier or better laws but grace — and the transforming power of the Spirit to reshape our hearts.
23. Does Paul’s position open him up to criticism as approving sin?
Yes, which is why he defended himself from that accusation at the end of chapter 2.
24. Why would such criticism be mistaken?
Grace doesn’t condone sin. It recognizes that we humans cannot be made perfect and sinless. It allows us to come to God as we are — broken, flawed, imperfect — and submit to God’s Spirit so that we can be transformed into his Image.
The transformation won’t happen all at once — and won’t be truly complete until Jesus returns. But the transformation will be real and potent. It will be visible. It will mark us as God’s children as surely as circumcision — indeed, much, much more so.
“Sons of God” means that we’re brothers of Jesus. Indeed, it also means that we’re among God’s elect nation (Deu 14:1; 32:8). And that means we are heirs of God’s promises.
(Gal 3:27-1 ESV) 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
25. We’re going to consider verses 27 and 28 in more detail next week. They’re important, but must be understood in the context of the overall argument, which culminates with v. 29.
Why is it that if we are Christ’s (belong to Christ), then we’re Abraham’s offspring (or “seed”)?
“Christ” includes those who “in Christ” or have “put on Christ” per v. 26. Christ is one, and because we’re incorporated into Christ, we are one — one “seed” or “offspring.”
In other words, we’re Abraham’s seed because Christ is Abraham’s seed, and we are part of Christ.
26. Why does belonging to Christ make us heirs according to promise? Heirs of what? Why “heirs”? What promise?
Paul doesn’t explain this in Galatians because he assumes we’ve read the Prophets. The Promised Land is the original inheritance. And all of Israel – all of Abraham’s sons — are heirs of the Promised Land.
At the same time, the idea of an “inheritance” was expanded –
(Psa 111:5-6 ESV) 5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
In later years, the Prophets began to speak of the New Heavens and New Earth, being the renewed creation to come about once God destroys his enemies –
(Isa 65:17; 24-25 ESV) 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. … 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
(Isa 66:22-24 ESV) 22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. 23 From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.
24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Thus, the Prophets point to a time when God’s people will inherit the entire earth — not just the Promised Land –
(Mat 5:5 ESV) 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
More generally, Jesus speaks repeatedly of inheriting “eternal life” — meaning life in the next age, being the age of the New Heavens and New Earth. This fulfillment of this promise is found in –
(Rev 21:1-5a ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
What is our inheritance? Well, it’s what the meek inherit. It’s the New Heavens and New Earth. It’s God descending from heaven to dwell with man.
And, of course, the descent of the Spirit into us precedes, anticipates, and is a down payment assuring us that this will happen.
(Gal 4:1-2 ESV) I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, 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.
27. Are we an “owner of everything”? How could that be true?
Because we’ll inherit the earth.
28. “Manager” translates oikonomos, meaning, according to Thayer’s –
the manager of a household or of household affairs; especially a steward, manager, superintendent (whether free-born, or, as was usually the case, a freed-man or slave) to whom the head of the house or proprietor has intrusted the management of his affairs, the care of receipts and expenditures, and the duty of dealing out the proper portion to every servant and even to the children not yet of age
When is the date set by the father for his sons to be freed from the paidogōgos and oikonomos?
Pentecost. Pentecost is the moment of adulthood, when God’s children were expected to grow up enough to stand on their own two feet.
But think of it like this. Our children aren’t really grown up until they’ve learned to be enough like us to make it. We want them to be in our own images before they leave the nest. We want them to make decisions the way we make decisions.
God dealt with this by replacing law with the Spirit. Leaving home is, for a child, a moment of freedom. But it’s a freedom given to those who are enough like their parents to make good decisions.
July 14, 2012
(Gal 4:3 ESV) 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
29. “Elementary principles of the world” translates stoicheion, meaning “elements” (and from which the chemists get stoichiometry — the mathematics behind chemistry). Paul uses the word again in Gal 4:9. Also in Col 2:8,20.
The word carries a pagan flavor here, because the pagans often spoke of their religions in terms of the “elements” — earth, wind, fire and water; the planets and the stars; the foundations of the earth were all called stoicheion.
Why might Paul use this term to refer to salvation by works of the law?
Seeking salvation by rule-keeping is like magic. The pagans saw the gods as beings who could be manipulated by saying certain words and doing certain rituals. Get the ritual right, and the god would grant your wish!
Law-based religion is like that. We think that if we’re good, if we go to church, if we worship by the right rules, God will be forced to love us and do good things for us. It puts us in control.
As a result, we’re deeply disappointed when God lets bad things happen. We thought we had a deal! Our faith is sometimes destroyed because God doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain!
But that’s not Christianity. It’s paganism and magic. It builds our comfort and safety on our ability to manipulate God by giving him what he wants — a certain kind of worship, a certain church organization, a certain set of rules scrupulously kept.
God doesn’t want ritual and ceremony. He wants our hearts — in toto.
(Isa 1:11-17 ESV) 11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
(Mic 6:6-8 ESV) 6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
(Gal 4:4-5 ESV) 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
30. Why does it matter, in the course of Paul’s argument, that Jesus was “born of a woman”?
In Hebrew, “born of a woman” has as its primary meaning “human” (Job 14:1, 14; 25:4). I think it goes deeper, but that’s for next week.
31. Why does it matter that Jesus was “born under law”?
Jesus is, of course, the key transformational figure in world history. His life opens the door from being mere humans to being humans recreated in the image of God by the Spirit and to escaping the slavery of the law to the freedom of the Spirit.
32. “Adoption as sons”! How does this contrast with what has gone before?
Up to this point, Paul was speaking of life under the law as slavery or childhood. It is the very opposite of freedom. But to be the son of a King is to be a prince — and to enjoy the greatest of privileges and freedom.
Better yet, rather than being raised by a nanny — a substitute parent — we are in relationship with the actual parent — our Father.
You see, in a rules-based religion, the relationship is with the rules — the nanny. But God is looking to give us something far better.
(Gal 4:6-7 ESV) 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
33. Again, Paul culminates an extended argument with the Spirit. In this case, what does the Spirit do that’s so important?
The Spirit gives us a new relationship with the Father — an Abba relationship. Abba is the word used by family for the father — “Dad.” It’s an invitation to crawl into God’s lap and let him love on you.
And that sure beats slavery to rules.