A. THE GOSPEL SETS FREE FROM THE LAW
- Paul now further embroiders on their state while under the Law.
- They were like minor children whose parents had died and had inherited all that was bequeathed to them in the will (testament) but though they were the rightful owners of the estate, they would only be allowed to control it, once they became of age.
- A minor child’s position is in fact no different from that of a servant for he is all the time being controlled by his guardian and prescribed what to do and what not to do.
- During that period they had been under the first (earlier) principles of life which consisted in lists of “Do’s and don’ts”.
- Most of them had not even served the one and only God but served idols of their own imagination.
- Israel’s coming of age was when, at the right time, Christ died and rose from the grave; that was the moment when they were liberated from the control of the Law to take, by faith in Christ, full control of their heritage in Abraham because of his covenant with God.
- Now they have come of age and those that have accepted Christ by faith, have been liberated by his death and resurrection, have received his Spirit by whom their hearts cry out “Abba Father” and have taken complete possession of their inheritance.
- Why then do they, the Galatians, revert to those first principles of poverty and bondage by observing the special religious days, months, times and years prescribed by the Law which came by Moses.
- In so doing, they are on the very verge of rejecting their salvation in Christ, thereby rejecting Christ himself and annulling all the effort Paul invested into leading them into liberty.
- When he had been with them there had been such an intimate relationship between them, he had been ill and they pampered him and were so concerned for him that they would have given their very eyes to assist him, they treated him as angel, as Christ himself; why are they now all of a sudden turning against them and that just because he is being quite frank with them regarding the truth of the Gospel?
- The fervour of those that are instilling this false teaching into them, is not for their good for what they are trying to do is to separate them from him so that they may have them for themselves.
- However Paul’s heart towards them is like that of a parent to a child that is not asking but giving, even more: like a mother in the pangs of childbirth, he is exerting his whole being in order that Christ may become a living, real person to them, filling their vision so that they would no longer be tempted to look at the old principles of the Law that was unable to save them.
B. THE SARAH AND HAGAR COVENANTS CONTRASTED
- Before his entering into his next argument, Paul reveals his personal emotion and the frustration he is experiencing in not being able to speak to them face to face; having to resort to this slow process of writing his thoughts down, word by word and then sending it by the hand of a person that will have to travel to them by ship or on foot, taking ever so much time to reach them.
- (Let us note how our frustrations are, in God’s wisdom, caught up in his planning: the fact that Paul had to commit the thoughts he received from God to paper, gave the Lord the opportunity of having his letters preserved for thousands of years afterwards, to be read and appropriated by millions of God’s people. Praise the Lord that we are always on the winning side, no matter how feeble our tools of ministry sometimes seem to be!)
- Paul now uses another piece of Old Testament history to further reveal these two opposites: on the one hand the Law, offering salvation by one’s works and on the other hand, the Gospel, offering salvation by faith based on the works of Christ.
- The historical event he uses, is the life stories of Sarah, her slave girl Hagar and their respective sons Isaac and Ishmael but commences with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.
- He had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael.
- God had promised Abraham and his wife a son that would be heir to Abraham’s estate and to all the promises God had given him as a firm covenant.
- Having waited for many years for the promised son without seeing the fulfilment of the promise, Abraham and his wife Sarah devised their own plan for birthing a child by having Abraham sleeping with Sarah’s slave girl Hagar. Hagar bore a son called Ishmael who, of course, was a slave like his mother as would all of his descendants be. Paul ties this event to the Law given to the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai, which they brought with them to their capital city, Jerusalem. The Law bears slaves, just as Hagar did. Whosoever tries to be saved or to live a life pleasing to God by keeping to the letter of the Law, is “sleeping with the Law” becomes a slave of the Law and bears Law slaves.
- At a much later date, God fulfilled his promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah, the free woman, bore him a son named Isaac. Since Isaac was born of a free couple, he was likewise free since birth. He was not born because of Abraham and Sara’s own physical ability and effort, but by God’s miraculous supernatural intervention. As the two of them but their total faith in God, He did a miracle and Isaac was conceived. It can therefore rightly be said that Isaac was born from a heavenly source from the New Jerusalem above.
- Sometime later, Ishmael mocked Isaac upon which God ordered Abraham to send away the slave girl and her son, for He would not allow the slave, Ishmael, to inherit part of what He had promised to the free child, Isaac, that was born of faith.
- Paul now points out that likewise, there is no possibility of a person trying to save himself by trusting his own ability to keep the Law of Moses and at the same time trusting in Jesus to save him by grace. It is the one or the other. You are either a son of Hagar (a slave trying to inherit eternal life by working very hard to keep every bit of the Law) or you are a son of Sarah (a child of God inheriting eternal life without working for it by accepting it by faith in Christ.)
- Every Christian is conceived and born from above from the heavenly Jerusalem from which the Spirit of freedom flows and not from the earthly Jerusalem from which the Law of bondage reigns.
C. STAND FIRM IN THE FREEDOM OF CHRIST
- Having explained the reasons for not reverting to the principles of the Law, Paul now encourages and admonishes the Galatians to treasure their freedom in Christ and not bend down and allow others to put the heavy yoke of the Law onto their necks as you do with an ox which you want to work for you.
- If a person reverts to keeping certain provisions of the Law such as circumcision, he will benefit nothing whatsoever by Christ, he must go all the way and keep every iota of the Law to earn his salvation.
- A person that wants to be justified by the Law, unties himself from Christ and loses his salvation; he not only cuts off a portion of his body but cuts himself loose from Christ; he has fallen away from the grace of God.
- Once you are in Christ, it counts for nothing whether you are circumcised or not, but your faith and the Spirit living within you, will result in deeds of love, not to earn salvation, but as a result of salvation. Isaac would live like his father Abraham, not to earn his inheritance but because he was born of Abraham he had Abraham’s vision and nature.
- They had been walking so well in the path of righteousness by faith, who was it that confused their minds: certainly not the God that had called them to freedom.
- Just a few words of false teaching works within a person’s mind like a mite of yeast that turns the whole lump sour; it swallows the sweet communion with Christ and turns the person into a sour, grumpy servant of the Law, slaving to save himself by his own efforts.
- May he that put this bad yeast into their minds, not only circumcise, but also castrate himself and bear the judgment for his evil deed.
- If Paul himself had not completely distanced himself from adhering to the requirements of the Law and accepted the free gift of salvation offered by Christ, why then was he facing such heavy opposition both from the Jews (those that totally reject Christ) and the Judaists (those that teach that it is good to accept Christ but that you also need to still keep the old Jewish laws.
- Christ’s free gift of salvation is the very stumbling block for which Paul was persecuted so severely.
D. LIVING BY THE SPIRIT
- Having dealt with the negative effects of bondage, Paul now turns to the positive side which concerns walking in the freedom of the Spirit.
- If bondage entails trying to please God by your own efforts and keeping the endless laws, what does the freedom of walking in the Spirit entail?
- Firstly this freedom does not offer your sinful flesh freedom to indulge in all its wicked desires.
- It actually sets you free from your evil desires of hatred and revenge and enables you to love and serve everybody else like yourself.
- It certainly does not offer you the freedom to bite and devour your neighbour; he may then to the same and bite and devour you!
- The bottom line is to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to respond to his promptings and cautioning (his whispered guidance) for then you will never succumb to the base desires of the flesh.
- The flesh and the Spirit have opposite goals and they oppose one another so that you will be caught in between and find it hard to go either way: the flesh will want you to either walk under the unbearable burden of the Law or to succumb to unbounded desires of the flesh; the Spirit on the other hand will empower and guide you to love and walk in purity of heart and in fellowship with God.
- So, as you continually choose to follow the guidance of the Spirit you will never fall into the bondage of the Law.
- The following are some of the desires of the sinful nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties and the like.
- As pointed out before, those living that kind of life, will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
- The fruit of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, against which there is no law.
- Those that belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its base passions and desires.
- If then, we have received God’s life, imparted to us by his Spirit, let us consciously and continuously seek the guidance of the Spirit and depend totally on him to empower and enable us to keep in step with our holy God.
- Let us not become seekers of personal glorification, being jealous of others that prosper more than us or braggers that provoke others to be jealous of us.
E. WALKING THE WALK IN THE SPIRIT
- Paul now gives advice on how to practice the walk in the Spirit.
- Knowing the truth is no guarantee that you will never stumble and momentarily land up in a ditch.
- The other travelers to heaven, those walking in the Spirit, must then stop and lend a helping hand in a spirit of tenderness while watching their step so as not to get stuck in the mud themselves.
- Christ’s law of love requires of you to take up the burden of the fallen one onto your own shoulder until such time as he has recovered his strength and is once more able to carry it himself as he is supposed to do, for he must not become dependent on other Christians to carry his responsibilities.
- Do not boast of your own spiritual strength in counseling and praying for others; you are deceiving no-one but yourself by making out as if you are a super saint.
- Concentrate on fulfilling your own obligations to the best of your ability, then you will have little time to inspect critically what others are doing, comparing it with, and boasting about your own performance.
- When someone is assisting you on the spiritual level, be generous to him and give him of every good thing you have available.
- Do not deceive yourself and belittle God by convincing yourself that He is unaware of your actions, He knows full-well what you are doing and will cause you to harvest exactly the same kind of things as that which you have sown.
- He that sows seeds (thoughts, attitudes, words and deeds) that are born by his flesh (sinful nature), will reap an evil character, decay and eventual destruction of his life, but he that sows seeds that are of the Spirit, will reap eternal life.
- Therefore, let us never grow tired, sow with a lazy hand or even stop doing good, for if we persevere, in God’s perfect time, the seeds we have sown will sprout and mature into a rich crop of blessing, ready to be harvested.
- In doing good deeds, let us first sow into the lives of fellow Christians for we are all brothers and sisters of God’s household.
F. PAUL’S PARTING WORD AND ADVICE
- It seems that the letter was, up to this point, written down by someone else with Paul dictating, but now he is taking up the pen himself to authenticate the document and also to give it a personal touch.
- Before conveying some generalities, he once more presses home the main issue of this letter, namely not to return to the yoke of the law but to retain the freedom in Christ.
- For this purpose he speaks specifically on the main issue on which the Judaists were insisting namely, that the Galatian Christians be circumcised.
- He expose their evil motives being:
- To escape being persecuted by the Jews.
- To total up the number of Galatian Christians that were persuaded to be circumcised, then go around boasting about the success of their ministry.
- The tragedy of it all however was that they themselves could not do what they expected of others and that is to keep every stipulation of the law.
- To bring glory is good, but then it must be brought where it is due namely to the cross of Christ by which we died to the sinful lures of this world and the pull of the world died to us and that, says Paul is how he would boast.
- For neither circumcision nor non-circumcision is of any value, but what is of value is what circumcision stood for and that is the spiritual circumcision of the heart of man, by which he becomes a brand new spiritual being.
- In closing, Paul speaks God’s peace and mercy to be upon everyone that walks according to this rule of teaching, that is over everyone that has by faith in Christ become a member of the spiritual Israel of God.
- And, as a last argument, Paul implores them to look at the scars on his body which he received for preaching this very message; let them see in what earnestness he is about it, and let them no longer give him cause to grieve his soul for fear that they may lose their salvation.
- He started his letter by pronouncing God’s blessing over them and now closes it by again speaking words of comfort laid upon his lips by the Spirit, namely: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit brethren, ”
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