Thursday 19 June 2014

Bible Book:

"God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children." (vv. 4-5)

Galatians 4:1-7 Thursday 19 June 2014


Paul's letter to the Christians in Galatia wrestles with anumber of ideas simultaneously, not all of them very accessible tocontemporary readers. But this is a passage that has been dwelt onand interpreted by countless Christian commentators over thecenturies.

In a way it is like an early form of the creed, and among otherthings this statement highlights the role of Mary, Jesus' mother("born of a woman").

But the heart of this passage is about how we ourselves areutterly transformed by the grace of God; Jesus was "born under thelaw" in order to redeem us from the discipline of the law. Pauluses a controlling image about inheritance and adoption to try andexplain what has happened to us through the intervention of Godthrough Jesus in time and history. He says (verse 7) that we werepreviously 'slaves' but now are 'children' who inherit all thatbelongs to God.

In the ancient world, where the practice of keeping householdslaves was seen as completely normal, the system was not withoutsome humane limits. Sometimes masters or mistresses would set free(redeem) their loyal slaves after a period of time, and often theywould provide for them to be set free as a condition of their will,so that they literally inherited their freedom. This would go alongwith a financial package enabling some freed slaves to live ascomparatively rich people. They would take the surname of thefamily they had served at this point, thereby becoming almost likea child of that family. Another practice that seems strange tocontemporary readers is that 'adoption' of adults sometimes tookplace, where a wealthy family without heirs would choose to 'adopt'a young man as their heir. In this case he again took the newfamily surname and inherited the family's status and wealth.

So Paul is saying that each of us is redeemed from slavery,whether from the law (the Jews) or from devotion to pagan gods or"elemental spirits" (Galatians 4:9), and made full heirs of a lovingGod whom we can now call "Abba! Father!" (v. 6).

To Ponder

  • Do you feel there is anything that you are currently a 'slave'to? This does not have to be a habit that is traditionally seen asan evil temptation; it could be - like the law - something good orneutral in itself, or it could be a legacy of painful memories.Pray to be given a sense of the utter freedom of God's grace,available for you.

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