Sunday, 3 February 2013

Galatians 4

Galatians 4

“This point comprehends a single consolation – that the children of God are gentiles, for they are children of Abraham, not by carnal means, but because of promise”.

Having clarified the nature of God’s work through Christ being the fulfilment of the covenant promise and the law therefore having a subservient role to this, Paul now reminds the church of the ramifications of what Christ has done, and the dangers of loosing sight of the prize of faith.

There was indeed a time when we were outside of the splendour of the riches of Christ, even though God had made these ours in His Son, when we were awaiting the good news of our adoption, and still being ‘schooled’ (the law confirming our poverty) and entangled (sin keeping us in our misery) without that amazing inheritance (Vs 1-3), but that has now ended. God’s Son, seen in kind amidst past times, came and subjected himself to human nature and the burden of the Law to abolish what stood against us and truly makes us those free from such slavery (Vs 4 & 5).  This marvellous adoption has raised us from the abysmal mire of sin and death, broke the shackles of the law, and clothed our dying humanity with the royal splendour of the son ship of Christ Himself, who has become our righteousness and our justification. Nothing more, notes Paul, is required for us to be seen as heirs of an astonishing inheritance (Vs 6). Because of this wonderful achievement of pure grace, the Spirit of Christ is now within us, allowing us to truly begin to see and know God once again as our Father (Vs 7).

It is in the context of such abounding grace that Paul asks why, knowing how dark life is outside of such mercy (Vs 8), why would we choose to discard such a rich and precious work of God and rather place our confidence in something as pathetic and as paltry as an incarceration to those things which merely confined us to a state of exile and alienation from God’s love and kindness (Vs 9). What is the point, says Paul, of all your religious obligations and duties if they have effectively removed you from the riches of grace given in Christ (Vs 10)?

Paul reminds them that there had been a time when they had truly felt a deep affection for him because he had come amongst them in need and weakness, but bringing the richness of Christ (Vs 12-15). Those who now mark him as their enemy, he notes, do so only so they can exalt themselves at your expense, and make you demeaned by their control (Vs 16 & 17), but Paul, who loves them, is like a mother in the pains of childbirth, longing to see Christ alone as the completion of their faith (Vs 19).

Ears to hear

It is here, from his deepest longing to be with them, so he could personally assure them regarding the truth (Vs 20) that he asks them if they truly understand the ramifications of what the law requires (Vs 21). Returning to Abraham, he reminds them of the Patriarch’s other son, Ishmael, who was born purely ‘according to the flesh’ (Vs 22 & 23). He uses this to illustrate two different covenants – the one of promise, from above, and one of bondage, entirely of us (Vs 24-26). Only those born truly free, according to God’s covenant are truly free, for they, like Isaac, will inherit what has been given by God, and escape the rejection of being enslaved to what is only enslaved to the present – to a realm which is in reality more barren than the apparent futility of our present suffering for the message of grace  (Vs 27-31).

No comments: