Saturday 06 October 2012

Bible Book:

"So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." (v. 7)

Galatians 3:23 - 4:11 Saturday 6 October 2012


Imagine you are a refugee, and living with a family who havetaken you under their roof free of charge and welcomed you intotheir family life. This has been for you a complete joy, and youare immensely grateful. It is the new start you've been longingfor. It was through friendship with one of the sons of the familythat you were invited in. But after a few months, your friend hasto go away, and soon afterwards a couple of other children returnhome for the summer vacation to find you living there scot-free.You are still getting on well with the family, but the returningchildren tell you that (as well as the normal good manners) thereare certain other things you need to do if you are to be trulyaccepted by the parents. They insist you get your hair cut likethem, you should stop eating sweets and sugary drinks, except onweekends, and you must be in bed with lights off no later than10.00pm. They tell you that their parents are very upset you're notdoing this and want you to sit in another room during meals, untilyou've learned the family way. The friendship that got you into thehouse was only the beginning - now come the conditions. Of course,with nowhere else to go, you accept the conditions as 'reasonable'- it is, after all, about being part of a family.


This, roughly speaking, is what happened to the Galatians! (Nothaircuts and curfews, but circumcision and food laws…) The jealousand confused "false-believers" have been saying the new Christiansare not 'children of Abraham' unless they behave and look like therest of Abraham's family. Paul, meanwhile, was the friend whoinvited them in to God's family in the first place, and now he'strying from afar to put an end to this confusing and divisivenonsense. His argument so far has been that they are part of God'sfamily only through faith in Jesus Christ, and Christ'sfaithfulness to them. This is the same whether you've been part ofthe 'old family' or whether you were previously an outsider; theethnic marks of Judaism are irrelevant. It is faith that's thebasis for the true relationship with God. And now he gets to theheart of the gospel (the good news of Jesus) - the actual (andamazing) nature of that relationship.

First, Paul speaks about life in the 'old family': the childrenwere "imprisoned and guarded" (v. 23) by the law, like a babysitteror a housekeeper, or the rules of parents to discipline children.The arrival of Christ into the family has meant that the age ofmaturity has dawned - now there are new possibilities for thefullness of relationship with God that was never achieved in those'childhood' days - 'faith' has come into the equation. Then Paulswitches quickly to the non-Jews of Galatia: "for in Christ Jesusyou are all children of God through faith" (v. 23). (The word'children' doesn't mean a state of immaturity, like 'minors', butis rather 'sons' - they have the status of being sons anddaughters.) This is the amazing good news: those who werepreviously his children now have a renewed relationship with God,and those who were previously outsiders are now adopted aschildren: baptized into Christ; clothed with Christ; one in Christ(verses 27-28). And so, with faith in him, regardless of what theywere in the past, their identity(which is what this letter is allabout) is now the same as that of God's previous 'chosen family'.All of the old distinctions have been dissolved; the barriers havebeen broken. The refugees are welcomed to the table as sons anddaughters, and the old children have grown up too - all sharing thesame new relationship: They are not merely children of Abraham, butchildren of God!

"When in the fullness of time had come" (v. 4), God's only trueSon was sent into the world, coming among his younger brothers andsisters to set them free from their childish ways. At the sametime, Christ opened up the family to others who were far off andslaves to all sorts of strange things. By trusting in him, they toocould find that mature relationship with God. And, wonderfully andironically, faith opens the way for the Spirit to enter and to fillthe human heart with love, so that we cry out like infants in ourparents' arms: "Abba, Father" (v. 6) - 'Dadda' - wholly dependentand trusting, and ready to receive love, almost like a new bornbaby. You could say mature faith is about being child-like, notchild-ish.

There is still much more to this letter still to come, but wepause now on our journey with the passionate and fiery young Paul,now hopefully well-on-the-way to rescuing the Galatians from theblind alley they were heading down. May his timeless words serve toalways remind the Church of what is truly important, as we walk onas God's people, with faith in Christ alone.

By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.
(StF 169, Charles Wesley)

To Ponder

  • Can you think of a time when you have been welcomed into agroup or family? What made the biggest impact for you?
  • In what ways do we sometimes, as God's family the church,welcome people into our fellowship 'on condition'?
  • What does it mean to you to call God "Father"?
  • How can we nurture a child-like faith and dependency on God?And how do we recognise when we're being child-ish instead?

Previous Page Friday 05 October 2012
Next Page Sunday 23 September 2012