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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Galatians 3:2629; 4:820comment (0)

June 18, 2009

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Galatians 3:2629; 4:820


Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

LIVING BY THE GOSPEL
Galatians 3:26–29; 4:8–20
Now I Belong to Jesus (3:26–29)

All true believers are “sons of God.” Both Jews and Greeks and men and women are characterized as having the rights of “sons,” because with sonship comes the right of inheritance. The term “son” is a legal term used in the adoption and inheritance laws of first-century Rome. The apostle Paul used this term here and elsewhere in his letters (Gal. 4:5–7; Rom. 8:14–16, 23) to refer to the status of all Christians, both men and women, who having been adopted into God’s family, enjoy all the privileges, obligations and inheritance rights of His children. All “sons,” Jews and Greeks as well as men and women, are equal partners in Jesus Christ.

True disciples of Christ have “been baptized into Christ.” For Paul, baptism was more than an initiatory rite of passage. Rather it involved a decisive transition from an old way of life to a new way. It was an act of radical obedience in which a specific renunciation was made and a specific promise was given. Believers had “put on Christ.” The language of “putting on,” as used of clothing, suggests taking on a new life and purpose through being spiritually united to Christ.

In the new covenant, the distinction between Jew and Greek has been broken down (Eph. 2:11–22). Contrary to what the Judaizers had been teaching, the Galatian believers did not have to become Jews in order to be Christians. Paul was not advocating the elimination of all distinctions nor the acceptability of same-sex “marriage” or homosexual relations. Instead he taught that old divisions and wrongful attitudes of superiority and inferiority are abolished, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul did not take away the distinction between men and women but said they are united, joined together in one body — the Church.

In verse 29, Paul stated his main point to counter the Judaizers. He declared those who belong to Christ are part of Abraham’s family and do not need to be circumcised to become part of God’s people.

Since I Have Been Redeemed (4:8–14)
Paul was frustrated with the Galatians, and the tone of rebuke came through loud and clear. At the same time, his love for them was as strong as ever. He was seeking to win them back from the brink of apostasy. He was not writing as an armchair theologian discussing philosophy but rather as an evangelist with a pastor’s heart whose overriding concern was to protect his sheep from an imminent danger. 

Paul drew a sharp distinction between the pre-Christian past of the Galatian believers and their present status as adopted sons in the family of God. He did not provide any details concerning the precise character of the Galatians’ former religious commitments. Whatever they were, it was demonic spirits that had controlled religious practice. How could they even consider going back to their former religious ways that had left them empty and unfulfilled since they now had intimate fellowship with the living God through Christ?

Observing “special days, months, seasons and years” were all part of the ceremonial laws of the Mosaic covenant (Lev. 23:5, 16, 28; 25:4). To require Christians to follow Old Testament laws is to forfeit the gospel of justification in Christ by faith alone. Paul wrote that he was free from following Mosaic ceremonial regulations and living by faith. He had become like the Gentiles in that he did not live under the Jewish law while ministering to them. 

More About Jesus (4:15–20)
The blessedness in Galatians 4:15 probably refers to the sense of joy and divine approval the Galatians had when they believed Paul’s gospel preaching and received the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:2). The Judaizers wanted to form an exclusive club of people who observed Jewish ceremonial laws, keeping out any who would not give in to their demands. 

Though Paul chastised the Galatians for being “foolish,” he, nonetheless, had deep emotional feelings of anguish for them, because they, like little children, had not been growing but needed almost to be delivered again, and his feelings about them were as agonizing as birth pangs. 

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