Saturday, September 19, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 4, verses 4 & 5

Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, (5) to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Two verses today – two for the price of one!

“But when the time had fully come” “Time” here could mean two things – the generally accepted concept of “fullness of time” (as one translation puts it), as in the fulfillment of God’s perfect wisdom and plan. More likely, Paul is connecting this to verse 2 – to the child who was subject to his deceased parents’ last will, under the authority of and bound by guardians and trustees until the time set in the will. The coming of Jesus into our lives frees us, so we are no longer subject to the rules that bind us as slaves.

“God sent His son” The rest of verse 4 reads like a doctrinal creed. This is basic to the faith – but a vital, basic truth, to be sure. Across the panoply of New Testament scripture, this basic truth is elaborated – John 1:14 (“the Word became flesh”); John 3:16 (“he gave his one and only son”), Romans 1: 1-6 (explaining Christ’s pedigree in the plan of salvation); I John 4:14 (“the Father sent His son to be the Savior of the world”).

“born of a woman” Jesus was truly human – (while also being truly God) -- a concept that both the ancient Jews and pagans had difficulty with.

“born under the law” As Jesus walked the earth as a man, He was subject to the Jewish law. Of course, Jesus, as the one man who never fell short of the law’s standard, was sinless!

“to redeem those under the law” “redeem” means to buy back, to exchange. All of the examples Paul has given – the “curse” of 3:10-14, the “prisoner” of 3:32, the “pedagogue” overseer of 3:26, or the child under the testamentary trust her in Galatians 4, all of these examples involve a person being under some sort of bondage. All of those bondages are directly connected to our sin natures – we are inclined to sin, and cannot please God through our own efforts. The law was designed to guide us in or relationship with God, but, as Paul demonstrates here and throughout his letters, it is impossible to fulfill the law. Thus, the law itself becomes a bondage. The law, as an end in itself, cannot give life. Only a RELATIONSHIP with the living God can do that. Christ’s life and sacrifice fulfills the law and frees us from that bondage, and brings us into that relationship.

“that we might receive the full rights of sons” The testamentary trust of 4:2 had been fulfilled by Jesus. The property, riches, and rights withheld by the terms of the trust because the beneficiary was underage are now fully in the hands of the heir. We can now claim our rightful inheritance. As Paul will emphasize in 4:7, the state of slavery is gone – we are now truly “sons.”

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