Wednesday 23 March 2022

Bible Book:

For freedom Christ has set us free. (5:1)

Galatians 4:21 – 5:1 Wednesday 23 March 2022

Psalm 105:1-15


This is not an easy passage to read and interpret! There is plenty in it to make us uncomfortable as well as puzzled. As so often, Paul is using the Hebrew scriptures (what we usually call the Old Testament) to interpret the Christian faith and he assumes that his readers are very familiar with the book of Genesis. He is taking the story of Abraham’s two children, Ishmael (son of the slave, Hagar, Genesis 16) and Isaac (son of his wife, Sarah, Genesis 21) and using it as an allegory that serves his argument with the rival missionaries.

It's probably not helpful to get too involved in the details of Paul’s argument as modern readers come from a such a different background. "Ok," he seems to be saying to his opponents, "If you really want to base yourself on the Jewish law, you’ll find that, properly understood, it will bear witness to Christ and the life of faith."

All the time, Paul is focussed on the pastoral situation in Galatia and on the future of the Christian mission there. That’s why he puts an emphasis on freedom. In Christ we are free from a form of spiritual slavery that would tie us to a particular way of understanding God’s law. That doesn’t, of course, mean that anything goes in the Christian life. We are free to be the people we are called to be in Christ.

One of the difficulties with this passage is that it seems to suggest that, with the coming of Christ, the Jewish religion and its inherited law has become redundant. This is what is today called 'supersessionism' and it carries the danger of a negative and dismissive attitude to Jewish people. This should make us wary of taking this passage in isolation from the whole of the New Testament. Paul wasn’t always consistent, but he clearly has a genuine love for his Jewish heritage and believes that God is still faithful to the Jewish people.

To Ponder:

  • What does it mean to be genuinely free? What difference does it make to your life?
  • Can you think of any other stories that might illustrate God’s promise to us?
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