from slaves to sons

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Galatians 4:1-7 (JDV)

Galatians 4:1 But I am saying that as long a time as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave, although he is the master of everything.

Galatians 4:2 Instead, he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father.

Galatians 4:3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world.

Galatians 4:4 When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born from a woman, born under the law,

Galatians 4:5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might get back1 adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God sent the Breath of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”

Galatians 4:7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir by God.

from slaves to sons

Remember that the context of Paul’s letter is a group of heretics trying to take over the congregations in Galatia. They taught that in order to get on God’s good side, the Gentile Galations had to conform to their traditions about the Mosaic law.

But Paul and his team argues that the Mosaic law imposed a temporary status of slavery due to the people’s immaturity. But Jesus came to do two things. First, he abolished this slavery by redeeming all believers through his death on the cross. Then, he breathed his animating breath (the Sacred Breath) into our spiritually lifeless bodies, so that we could get back the Father/son relationship we had lost during our “under the law” period. Now we can go to God personally without the need of a priest or a ceremony.

Lord, thank you that we are no longer slaves, but sons.

1ἀπολαμβάνω

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you together

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Galatians 3:27-29 (JDV)

Galatians 3:27 You see, however many of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.

Galatians 3:28 There is no Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free person, there is not male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:29 But if you together have this relationship with Christ, then you together are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

you together

I translated the second person plural ὑμεῖς in verse 29 as “you together” to accentuate the fact that the whole congregation has been baptized into Christ, clothed with Christ, and will inherit an equal share in the promise of Abraham.

Paul mentioned these things because a heretical group had invaded Galatia, teaching that God was primarily interested in their differences. To these heretics, a person’s ethnic makeup, social status or gender was what mattered to God. If the Galatians wanted to please God, they would have to become more Jewish, and keep slaves and women in their place.

But Paul said that the whole congregation together was in Christ. The gospel is not about accentuating our differences, but enjoying our unity – one redeemed body of Christ.

Lord, thank you for the unity we now share – bought with your precious blood. Show us how to respect each another as equals.

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set free, and given life

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Galatians 3:19-26 (JDV)

Galatians 3:19 Why then was the law given? It was added for the sake of the oversteppings until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come. The law was put into effect by angels by means of a mediator.

Galatians 3:20 But a mediator is not required just for one person, and God is one.

Galatians 3:21 Is the law therefore against God’s promises? Not going to happen! You see, if the law had been granted with the ability to give life, then righteousness would certainly be on the basis of the law.

Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe.

Galatians 3:23 Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.

Galatians 3:24 The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.

Galatians 3:25 But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

Galatians 3:26 because by faith in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God.

set free, and given life

What freedom and joy comes to us when we learn that God’s word is not a set of shackles to bind us, but a declaration that we have been set free because of what Jesus did! The Galatians had learned that gospel truth. But then a group of heretics came along and were convincing them to lock themselves back up in prison! No way, you say. But that was what Paul had to argue against. The result was a treatise on freedom from the constraints of tradition because of God’s grace.

Lord, thank you that we have been set free from a law which could not give life, and given life freely by your grace.

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what the law was not

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Galatians 3:14-18 (JDV)

Galatians 3:14 The purpose was that the endorsement Abraham received would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit by faith.

Galatians 3:15 Brothers, I’m speaking human language. No one sets aside or makes additions to a validated human covenant.

Galatians 3:16 But the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.

Galatians 3:17 My point is this: The law, which came 430 years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously established by God and thus cancel the promise.

Galatians 3:18 You see – if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise; but God has done a favor to Abraham by the promise.

what the law was not

Paul is saying that the law of Moses was not a new dispensation that made null God’s promise to Abraham. Seekers of salvation through Christ do not have to go through the law to find him. That is what God intended. His promise to bless the nations through Abraham had been narrowly defined by the circumcision group to only include those who joined ethnic and religious Israel. No, Paul’s team declares that anyone can receive the promise the same way Abraham did – by faith. The only thing new in the gospel is that the focus of that faith has become more clear. The blessing of Abraham is free to all who put their faith in the Seed of Abraham – whom we now know is Christ Jesus.

Lord, thank you for your unmerited favor, received by faith in your promise to Abraham.

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half the law

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Galatians 3:10-13 (JDV)

Galatians 3:10 You see – all who insist on the achievements of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed.

Galatians 3:11 Now it is clear that no one is justified in God’s presence by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.

Galatians 3:12 But the law is not about faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by doing them.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse in behalf of us, since it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.

half the law

The commandment aspect of the law was designed to be a standard no one could reach. It was intended from the very beginning to focus believers on the law principle of substitutionary sacrifice (the other half of the law). That is why so much of the Mosaic law contained details of the sacrificial system. Our universal failure to live up to the moral and ceremonial standards of the law was a given. It is in that sense that we can speak of God’s righteous law as a curse. If an adherent sought only the commandment aspect of the law, she would fail.

But if an adherent put her faith in the righteous commandment and the coming compassionate atoning sacrifice, she would be found faithful. All of the sacrificial principles of the law were prophetic, and pointed to the finished work of Christ. He was the only human being who ever obeyed the law to the fullest – including fulfilling its prophetic aspects of substitutionary atonement.

Lord, thank you that the gospel shows us how to respond to the whole law.

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already Abraham’s sons

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Galatians 3:7-9 (JDV)

Galatians 3:7 You have discovered, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons.

Galatians 3:8 Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and proclaimed the gospel ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.

Galatians 3:9 Consequently those who have faith are endorsed with Abraham, who had faith.

already Abraham’s sons

Long before Moses initiated his Mosaic Law, the gospel was proclaimed. It is this gospel which is the key to being blessed by God with his unmerited favor. This gospel says that God has chosen to save those who will put their faith in him, like Abraham did. The many sons God promised Abraham will include these believers, no matter what their physical lineage is.

The Gentile Galatians knew about this from the gospel preaching of Paul’s missionary team. But the heretical group came along and convinced them that God would only bless those who followed a strict obedience to the Mosaic Law – as they interpret it. These Gentile Christians who were already endorsed because of their faith were now in danger of apostasy. They were already Abraham’s sons.

Lord, keep us from the false gospel that we have to replace our faith in order to please you.

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a brainless proposal

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Galatians 3:1-6 (JDV)

Galatians 3:1 You brainless1 Galatians! Who has hexed you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was placarded as crucified?

Galatians 3:2 I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Breath by the achievements of the law or by believing what you heard?

Galatians 3:3 Are you so brainless? After beginning by the Breath, are you now finishing by the flesh?

Galatians 3:4 Did you experience so much for nothing– if in fact it was for nothing?

Galatians 3:5 So then, does God give you the Breath and achieve miracles among you by your doing the achievements of the law? Or is it by believing what you heard –

Galatians 3:6 just like Abraham who believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness?

a brainless proposal

My translation gets a bit experimental sometimes, and today’s text is a good example. The second person of the Trinity is usually designated the Holy Spirit. Our English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, with a core meaning of breath. That is the same denotation of the Greek πνεῦμα in verses 2 and 5. Often the term is just part of a title, so its translation is not so important. But there are a number of key texts where biblical authors draw attention to the Breath as a key element in a physical or spiritual resurrection.

Today’s text is one of those key texts. The Sacred Breath is the new life breathed into the dead flesh, reviving it and making conversion possible. To introduce the law into the equation is to try to do what the dead flesh couldn’t do in the first place. That was what the different gospel proposed, and it was a brainless proposal indeed.

Lord, thank you for the new life we have through your Sacred Breath!

1ἀνόητος

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his faithfulness is enough

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Galatians 2:15-21 (JDV)

Galatians 2:15 We are Jews by nature and not “Gentile sinners,”

Galatians 2:16 and yet because we know that a human is not justified by the achievements1 of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus. This was so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by achievements of a law, because all flesh will not be justified by achievements of a law.

Galatians 2:17 But if we ourselves are also found to be “sinners” while seeking to be justified by Christ, is Christ then a promoter of sin? Not going to happen!

Galatians 2:18 If I rebuild those things that I tore down, I show myself to be a lawbreaker.

Galatians 2:19 You see, because of a law I died to a law, so that I might live to God.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life that I currently live in the flesh, I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself in behalf of me.

Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the favor of God, because if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

his faithfulness is enough

Not everybody gets the message of Galatians today because – frankly, there are not too many of us who are tempted to get circumcised and obey the Jewish Law as a means of salvation. Properly applying this text in our context means looking for any act of the flesh that a person might do in order to get on God’s good side. Any of those apparent good things could become a new law for us if we are not careful. Any new law would oppose the gospel of deliverance by the favor of God.

To prevent that from happening to him, Paul considered his flesh dead on a cross and resurrected. Every aspect of his life was now being lived out by Christ himself. Any act of faithfulness Paul performed was just part of Christ’s faithfulness. Christ’s faithfulness is enough.

Lord, we surrender our lives to you, because you are the source of our potential permanent lives. Thank you for being enough.

1ἔργον

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his faithfulness is enough

white dog with stick

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Galatians 2:15-21 (JDV)

Galatians 2:15 We are Jews by nature and not “Gentile sinners,”

Galatians 2:16 and yet because we know that a human is not justified by the achievements1 of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus. This was so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by achievements of a law, because all flesh will not be justified by achievements of a law.

Galatians 2:17 But if we ourselves are also found to be “sinners” while seeking to be justified by Christ, is Christ then a promoter of sin? Not going to happen!

Galatians 2:18 If I rebuild those things that I tore down, I show myself to be a lawbreaker.

Galatians 2:19 You see, because of a law I died to a law, so that I might live to God.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life that I currently live in the flesh, I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself in behalf of me.

Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the favor of God, because if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

his faithfulness is enough

Not everybody gets the message of Galatians today because – frankly, there are not too many of us who are tempted to get circumcised and obey the Jewish Law as a means of salvation. Properly applying this text in our context means looking for any act of the flesh that a person might do in order to get on God’s good side. Any of those apparent good things could become a new law for us if we are not careful. Any new law would oppose the gospel of deliverance by the favor of God.

To prevent that from happening to him, Paul considered his flesh dead on a cross and resurrected. Every aspect of his life was now being lived out by Christ himself. Any act of faithfulness Paul performed was just part of Christ’s faithfulness. Christ’s faithfulness is enough.

Lord, we surrender our lives to you, because you are the source of our potential permanent lives. Thank you for being enough.

1ἔργον

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unity, or meddling

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Galatians 2:11-14 (JDV)

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came into Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he was the culprit.

Galatians 2:12 since he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. Yet, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he was afraid of those from the circumcision party.

Galatians 2:13 Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they were deviating from the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews?”

unity, or meddling

Peter was the one who saw the vision of the impure animals (Acts 10:9-16). He – of all people – should have known not to give in to peer pressure. It took Paul, the outsider, to confront the Jerusalem hero in Antioch. Paul also recognized the heart of the matter. It was not about preserving truth as much as trying to establish a superficial norm. When we have to establish a tradition to establish unity, there is something wrong with our unity.

There were some common Gentile behaviors that Paul objected to, because they were sinful. But he reminded Peter that there are some Gentile things that are not sinful, and the church has no business meddling in those things.

Lord, give us discernment – the ability to distinguish between different behaviors and wrong behaviors.

1 All instances of the second person (you) are plural except for 2:14; 3:8, 16; 5:14 and 6:1.

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