Thursday 28 March 2019

Bible Book:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit to a yoke of slavery. (v. 1)

Galatians 4:21–5:1 Thursday 28 March 2019

Psalm: Psalm 105:1-15


Paul wrote Galatians after the Council of Jerusalem (c. 50CE), which decided that gentile (non-Jewish) Christians did not have to observe the Mosaic Law of the Jews and be circumcised before baptism. This was controversial. Here Paul argues from the story of Abraham in the law of Hebrew Scripture (first five books) to suggest that Abraham had ‘free’ heirs and ‘slave’ children.

(v. 21) Paul is addressing the Jewish Christians who are uncomfortable with allowing Gentiles to let go of the provisions of the law. Ironically, Paul builds his case by arguing from the very law they want to observe. (The first five books of Hebrew Scripture.)

(vs. 22-23) Paul argues Abraham had two sons – Ishmael, born of the gentile slave woman Hagar, and Isaac, born through God’s promise to Abraham to his ‘free’ Jewish wife Sarah.

(vs. 24-26) Paul suggests these women represent two covenants:
The ‘present’ Jerusalem, the present Jewish Christians who are children born into slavery (because they are under the Jewish law) and who are demanding that other converts also be subject to Jewish law.
And the ‘heavenly’ Jerusalem: gentile Christians who are born metaphorically of the free woman, Sarah. The provisions of the law are no longer relevant, which releases them into freedom.

(v. 27) Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1 to demonstrate that the free children of the heavenly Jerusalem are more numerous than those of the present Jerusalem.

(v. 28-31) Paul suggests that in the Hebrew Scriptures, Ishmael (Gentile) gave Isaac (Jew) a hard time and was driven out because Isaac was not to share Isaac’s free inheritance.

There is irony here because the Galatians are predominantly gentile Christians and yet, here, they are the ones receiving the promise of the free inheritance. This is difficult news for many Jewish Christians.

(5:1) The climax of the argument is that Christ has set us free. Do not then submit to the enslaving restrictions of the law.


To Ponder:

  • Imagine you had spent your whole life faithfully keeping the Jewish law, as best you can, but you now believe Jesus is the Messiah. What sort of worries would you have when you listened to Paul arguing from the law to be free from the law?
  • If Paul had lost the argument, what would that have happened to the gospel of Christ?
  • Why is it so difficult to let outsiders in, and especially unconditionally? What is to stop you being a very sloppy Christian?
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