About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Chapters 3:26 through 4
Paul opens this
section in verse 27 by saying that "you are all sons of God through
faith in Christ Jesus". Paul
is not only saying that you are sons of Abraham, but he is actually saying
that those who trust Jesus are sons of God. He is making the point that it
is by faith, not by works of the Law that we becomes sons of God.
We should note
the words "you are all sons of God".
The pronoun "you" is clearly in reference to the Galatian
believers, who, for the most part were Gentiles.
Paul is saying that Gentiles are sons of God, just as much as Jews
are sons of God, and the Gentiles don't even have to be circumcised or
obeying the Law of Moses.
have the idea that we are "adopted sons of God" because of the
use of the word "adoption" in our English Bibles. (Romans
8:15,23, 9:4, and Galatians 4:5) I
personally don't believe that we are "adopted sons of God" as we
might think of it today. This
may be a minor point, but I believe we are real sons of God.
Paul clearly states here that we "are" sons of God.
We are not second class sons. Obviously
there is a difference between Jesus "the Son of
God" and us, mere "sons of God", but the Bible is
clear. We are all sons of God
and brothers of Jesus.
The Greek word
"huiothesia" is translated as "adoption" in our
English Bibles. It is made up
of two Greek words, "sons", and "to place".
When used in reference to people and God, "people have been
placed in a state of being a son to their Father God".
In John 1:12, Jesus said that those who believe in Him have been
given the right to become sons of God.
We have the same rights and privileges that Jesus has.
If you understand "adoption" in this light, then go ahead
and use the word, but I'm not sure all understand "adoption"
One last thing
about adoption. The thing that
seals this adoption for the Christian is the fact that we have been given
the Holy Spirit inside of us. You
might then say that we have the "seed" of the Father within us,
making us real sons, not just adopted sons.
In verse 27 Paul
says that if you have been baptized into Christ, you have clothed yourself
with him. The word
"clothes" in verse 27 denotes the putting on of something, or,
the entering into something, or, the enveloping yourself into something.
Paul appears to be comparing water baptism to us putting on Jesus.
When we are water baptized, we are enveloped into the water.
In like fashion, when we rely on Jesus, receive His Spirit, we are
enveloped into Jesus. This
tells me that we have a union with Jesus that is very real and very
special. It's not a figment of our imagination.
Paul is linking
water baptism with being united with Christ, or being saved. Practically
speaking, how and when are we united with Christ? We are united with
Christ when we receive His Spirit. This happens at initial salvation, when
we first rely on Jesus and receive His Spirit. It is my opinion that Paul
is not saying that water baptism is the way in which we are united with
Christ. What I believe he is saying is that he is simply comparing water
baptism with receiving Jesus into our lives through the Holy Spirit.
Anglican doctrine equates salvation with baptism, and that is why
Catholics believe one is saved when he gets baptized as a baby.
I certainly don't believe that.
something else to think about with verse 27. The NIV, 1973 version,
differs from later versions of the NIV. The
1973 version says, "..all of you who were united with Christ in
baptism have been clothed with Christ". This suggests as I have said,
that it is baptism that "unites" us with Christ, or gets us
saved. The newer NIV translations say, "for all of you who have been
baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ". The newer
translations omit the word "unite". This solves the problem of
baptism as a good work uniting us with Christ. It suggests that
when we are baptized, we are clothed with Christ.
Interlinear Greek – English New Testament says, "for as many as -
into – Christ – you were – baptized – Christ – you put on"
There is no Greek word for "unite" in this Greek manuscript.
Therefore the newer NIV translation seems to be more accurate. This too
may solve the problem, since the Greek does not suggest we are
"united" with Jesus because of baptism. It says we have put on
Christ because of baptism. There is a difference.
commentators feel that Paul is not talking about water baptism here, but
the baptism in the Holy Spirit that they say happens some time after
initial salvation. I
personally don't believe in such a second work of grace.
I don't think Paul is talking about what some call the Baptism in
the Holy Spirit here. Others
who do not believe in a second work of Grace called the Baptism in the
Spirit still believe this is speaking of the Baptism in the Spirit,
although they believe the Baptism in the Spirit takes place at initial
salvation. That's how I
Verse 28 is a well known verse.
It says that in Christ, there is no difference between Jew and
Gentile. This is important to
the context of Paul's letter. He
is speaking of Jewish issues, of obeying the Law of Moses. He is speaking
to people who are thinking about reverting back to Judaism, and making
Gentile Christians become Jews. Paul
says that when it comes to New Testament salvation and Jesus, Jew and
Gentile are alike. There is no
difference in God's eyes. He
says the same about slaves and free men, along with women and men.
Everybody is the same before God when it comes to salvation.
All that being said, when it comes to prophetic history,
there is still a distinction between Jew
and Gentile. I
elaborated on this in the last chapter.
You can refer to my notes there for further clarification.
Paul says a very
interesting thing in verse 29. He says, "if you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s seed". Once again note the word
"seed" is singular. Remember back in verse 18 Paul told us that
the Seed is Jesus. Now he says that the seed are those who believe in
Jesus. What verse is right? What is Paul saying? Is this doubletalk? No.
The point is simple. Jesus indeed is the Seed, but if we are united with
Him by His Spirit and are one with Him, then we have become the seed as
well. Therefore we are in Christ, and are Abraham seed along with Jesus.
We also are heirs of the promises God gave to Abraham.
"seed" is still singular because "we are in Christ".
Think of it this way. If
something is inside of something else, then all the things inside of that
something else becomes one with that thing.
So there is still one thing. All
believers are inside of Jesus in one sense of the word, therefore there is
still only one seed, the seed Jesus. That
being said, there is a hint of the word "seed" being plural
here. You can't get around
that. Therefore, we cannot
discount the plural nature of the word "seed" as Replacement
way of looking at the word "seed" here is that as we becomes
sons of God, like Jesus is the
Son of God, so we become the seed, even as Jesus is the seed.
In this sense of the word, seed is plural, and really, in English
seed can be either singular or plural.
The same is true with the Hebrew word "zera" that is
translated as "seed" or as "offspring" in our English
Bibles. Therefore, it's the
context of how "zera" is used that determines whether or not we
understand "zera" to be singular or plural.
This is where the controversy arises to whom the "zera",
or "see" refers to, Jesus,
Paul goes on to
say that if we are the seed, then we are heirs.
In this instance, seed, in the English is singular, while heirs is
plural. This tells me that in
this case, seed then can be seen as plural, meaning, all those who have
faith in Jesus. What is an
heir? An heir is someone who inherits something because he is a family
member. If a father dies and leaves all that he has to his son, the son is
considered an heir. By
trusting Jesus we also become heirs and are in receipt of the promise.
I believe in context, the word "promise tells me that Paul is
talking about the Abrahamic Covenant.
The word "promise" all the way through this section has
been in reference to the Abrahamic Covenant, so it would not be any
This is yet
another verse that those who believe in Replacement Theology use. Both Jew
and Gentile are one in Christ, so there is no such thing as a Jew any
more, at least in the sight of God, so Replacement Theologians say.
I distinguish between the fact that concerning salvation, there is
neither Jew nor Gentile. I
also maintain though that concerning prophetic history, there is still a
distinction between Jew and Gentile.
In verses 1 and
2 of chapter 4 Paul compares a minor son, with a slave. That is, there is
no difference between an under-aged son and a slave. They both have
someone looking after them. In
traditional Jewish culture, a child under the age of 12 or 13 was raised
by a designated person, normally a slave,.
In Greek and Roman culture a child also was raised by a slave
called a guardian up to the age of about 17.
From age 17 to 25, the child was cared for by a trustee.
At age 25, or an age stated by the father, the
child became an official son. In
all three cultures, the minor child was not considered a son, was not
considered and heir of the father's estate.
They were considered to be slaves.
This is key to what Paul will say in this section.
church consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, although there were probably
more Gentiles than Jews. So
what Paul was saying could be understood by both ethnic peoples. Paul says
Simply put, Old
was a child, similar to minor children, needing a guardian.
the minor child to a slave because in both the Jewish and the Roman
culture, practically speaking, they were slaves.
Yes, they were biological children, and yes, they would inherit
their father's estate, but as long as they were young, they were treated
as a slave. Again, someone
other than the parents would have complete charge over the child, pretty
well every moment of the day, making them a practical slave themselves.
Verse 2 explains
further what I just said. Paul
states that as long as a child is young he is subject to both guardians
and trustees. Because of the
words "guardian" and "trustees", many scholars suggest
that Paul had the Roman culture in mind here, not necessarily the Jewish
culture. Jewish children
reached adulthood earlier than Roman culture.
Roman culture had a two step path to adulthood.
As I said earlier, a guardian would raise the child to about age
17, then a trustee from age 17 to age 25, or, whatever age the father
"set time" are important as we will see in the next verse.
I am convinced, that as both the Jews and the Romans had set times
for children to become adults, so God has set times for everything He
does. You see this all the way
through Scripture. Simply put,
God has a time table of events.
In verse 3 Paul
says that when we were children we were enslaved by the basic principles
of the world". We need to
understand who the word "we" refers to here.
Paul is speaking to the Galatian Christians that were composed of
mostly Gentiles, but also Jews. This
is important in understanding what Paul is saying in this verse when he
speaks of the "basic principles of this world".
The words "basic principles" is translated from the Greek
word "stoicheion". "Stoiceion"
means "any first thing from which other things are derived".
The Roman Gentile society was built on paganism that had been
around for centuries. The
worship of angels and planets was basic or fundamental to their society.
Some suggest that this is what Paul is speaking of here. That is,
the Gentile Christians were once enslaved to their societal traditions,
but now it's time to grow up and move on from these traditions.
The same would apply to the Jews.
They should grow up and move away from their societal traditions as
well. Paul speaks more
of these things in Colossians 2. You might want to read that chapter.
Verse 4 states
that "when the time had fully come, God sent His Son".
I said this a couple paragraphs back, but God does have a time
table. When the time table
stated it was time for God to send His Son to the earth, He did just that.
This verse tells
us a few things about Jesus, God's son.
It tells us that He existed prior to being born into humanity.
The first few verses of the gospel of John elaborates on this. This
also speaks to the Deity of Christ. Christ
being God is fundamental to the Christian.
1 John 4:3 clearly states that if you don't believe that Jesus
Christ has come in the flesh, then you are of the anti-Christ.
When John speaks of Jesus coming in the flesh, he is saying the
Jesus existed prior to Him being born into humanity.
In verse 4 Paul
says that God sent His Son. Then
he says two more things. God's
Son was born of a woman, meaning, although the Son existed prior to His
birth, and we know from other passages that God and Jesus are one, He was
completely human. Understanding
the humanity of Jesus is fundamental to the Christian faith.
Paul goes on to
say in verse for that the Son
was born under law. There are
two ways to think about the Son being born under law.
Because the word "the" does not precede "law"
some suggest that this law is in reference to the "basic principles
of the world" mentioned in verse 3, and I would not be surprised if
this is what Paul is speaking about. Jesus
was born like any other human being, brought up in the world like other
humans, and therefore would live under the world systems.
Others suggest that "law" means "the Law of
Moses", even though the word "the" is not found in the
text. Paul might not be
speaking of the Law of Moses here, but Jesus did in fact live under the
Law of Moses. There is no
doubt about that.
under the Law, and obeying the Law perfectly is important to our
salvation, and especially so when it concerns righteousness.
God views us as righteous, even when we aren't righteous, because
Jesus lived the righteousness demanded by the Law on our behalf.
Again, we are in Christ, and Christ lived the Law perfectly, and
since He did that, we lived it perfectly too because we are inside of
In verse 5 Paul
says that Jesus came in order to "redeem" those under law.
Again, the text does not say "under the Law".
If law refers to the basic principles of the world, then Jesus has
redeemed us so we would not have to live under and be influenced by the
traditions of men. If this
means the Law of Moses, then Jesus redeemed us so that we don't have to be
under the Law of Moses. Whatever
the case, both are equally valid as Biblical thinking.
"redeem" means "to purchase".
Jesus purchased us from God, not the devil. God was ready to
destroy us all because of sin. Jesus stepped in and paid the price so God
would save us.
continues by saying the reason why Jesus redeemed us from God the Father.
It is so that we might have to full right of being sons of God.
This is yet another aspect of the cross of Christ. The cross is
more than about forgiveness and heaven.
The cross is a multi-faceted thing.
Jesus made it possible for us to be "sons of God, just as He
is the Son of God. There is
clearly a distinction between who Jesus is and who we are, or will be,
but, when it comes to sonship, we who have given our lives to Jesus in
faith, are just as much sons of God as Jesus Himself is.
Paul in his
logic, is in the midst of a progression in these verses.
He first said that Jesus redeemed us so that we could becomes sons
of God. He doesn't stop there.
In verse 6 Paul says that since we have become God's sons, God has sent
"the Spirit of His Son into our hearts."
Note here that the Spirit of God is called the "Spirit of His
Son", or, "the Spirit of Jesus".
The Holy Spirit is called many things in the New Testament.
He is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus. Christians
too often do not recognize the Holy Spirit is actually Jesus.
Note also in
verse 5 that the Holy Spirit enables us to call God our Father.
We see the word "abba" here.
It is a Greek word that suggests an affectionate relationship we
have with God. This word is
used only in two other places in the New Testament.
When Jesus was in the garden, pleading with Father to release Him
from the cross, the word Father is "abba".
In Romans 8 Paul says
the Holy Spirit enables us to call God our "abba", the same
point he makes here. Beyond
this three cases, the word "abba" cannot be found in the Bible.
I mention this because some Bible teachers go overboard on this
point. They say the modern
word for "abba" is daddy. Thus we can call God
"daddy". I'd just
suggest that if you call God "daddy", which I don't, just
remember , the same God who you call "daddy" must be feared
because He is a consuming fire. My
point is simple. We do have an
affectionate relationship with God the Father, or at least we should, but
that should never mean we lose our reverence, respect, and fear for Him.
Those who say we
should call God our Father daddy may miss one point here in this verse.
It is the Holy Spirit that calls God "Abba", or,
"daddy", not us. Also,
this is not a flippant use of the word "abba".
The Spirit "calls out", which speaks of intercession.
The word "abba" is also used in Romans 8:15, where Paul
says that the Holy Spirit enables us "to cry out".
Again, this is not a flippant use of "Abba".
The only other place in the Bible where "Abba" is seen is
in Mark 14:36 where Jesus calls His Father "Abba" as He cries
out to Him. The use of the
word "Abba" in all three instances concerns crying,
intercession, or one who is in pain. That
tells me that we should be careful how we use that word. That's
why I don't use the word "Abba" in my vocabulary.
In verse 7 Paul
gives yet another reason why we have become sons, and that is so we can be
heirs. Paul's use of the word "heirs" here in Galatians is in
reference to the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Both Jew and Gentiles, through Jesus, the Seed, can, have, and will
inherit the appropriate promises of the Abrahamic Covenant.
In verse 8 Paul
continues to direct his thoughts to the Gentile Christians. The
reason why I say this is due to the phrase, "you were slaves to those
who by nature were not gods". I
need to remind you at this point that there were more Gentile believers in
Galatians than Jewish believers, although there were Jewish believers.
These Gentiles had a background of pagan worship of multiple gods.
Paul is saying that the gods they used to worship are not real
gods. These people would have
known this after meeting Jesus. Paul
is simply saying this to build on a point he is making. I'll get to that
"know' in verse 8 in Greek is "eido".
"Eido" is to know something as a fact, something that you
have learned. There is another Greek word that is translated into English
and that is "ginosko", which means, "to know
experientially". With the
word "ginosko" there is the idea of knowing by relationship
where there is some kind of intimacy.
These people knew of the pagan religious life they were once a part
of. It was all a matter of
facts and following certain doctrinal and theological positions.
word "know" in verse 8, Paul says that in former days they did
not know God. They didn't even
know the facts about the real God. All
they knew was a false form of worship, which these Galatian Christians
would agree to.
Note the word
"slaves" in verse 8. These
Galatians didn't just know about their pagan rituals, they were slaves of
the ritual. There was a
certain bondage associated with heir pagan religion.
Bondage is one of the main points in this letter, and in this
particular case, the bondage is to pagan religious rituals.
Christians were not enslaved by the Law prior to their salvation, but
enslaved by false gods and the principles they believed in. But
now these people "know God", that is the true God as verse 9
states. The word know in this
verse is translated from the Greek word "ginosko".
That means that prior to their salvation, these Gentiles knew
nothing about God, not one simple fact, but now. They know him, and not
only through facts about Him. They
know Him "experientially" since that is what the Greek word
"ginosko" means. There
is a major difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
That is a real concern to me in the modern church.
Many so-called Christians don't see the difference between knowing
about God and knowing Him experientially.
In verse 9 Paul
seems to stop abruptly when he inserts the phrase "but rather are
known by God". Paul was
probably making the point that God knows the Galatian Christians
experientially more than they know God.
I think this is a key concept.
Many Christians claim to know God, as in, knowing Him
experientially, as in, who He is, or, as in, knowing God as one would know
his wife, or, her husband. I
claim that we don't know God as well as we think we do, but He sure knows
us. He knows us better than we
know ourselves. So Paul was
simply making the point that even though the Galatian Christians do know
God to a degree, they don't know Him as well as they could or should.
In verse 9 Paul
can’t understand that once meeting the God of the universe, once being
free from pagan bondage, why would these people want to contemplate
entering a different kind of bondage.
This is an extremely key point here and many of us miss it.
The reason why I reminded you that Paul is speaking about the
former life of Gentile Christians is key to understanding this verse.
believers were enslaved by paganism. Now
they want to be enslaved again, but not by paganism, but by Judaism and
the Law of Moses. Think about
this for a minute. Paul is
comparing paganism to obedience to the Law of Moses in terms of being in
bondage. That would be
blasphemy to a Jew, and this is why Jewish Christians had so much trouble
with Paul. These are extremely
powerful words written by Paul. No
wonder he was in so much trouble.
The key thing to
understand here is that when Paul speaks of "returning back to weak
and miserable principles" in verse 9, he is not talking about
returning to paganism. The
context of the whole book of Galatians tells us the "weak and
miserable principles" in verse 9 is the Law of Moses.
In verse 9 Paul
asks, "do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again"?
The word "them" refers to the "weak and miserable
principles", which in turn refers to the Law of Moses.
Both Jews and Gentiles were slaves and only Jesus could set both
free from their own particular brand of slavery.
In verse 10 Paul
gives some examples of how these people are beginning to revert back to
their old ways, which in ones sense wasn't their old ways, but the Jews
old ways. They are observing
special days, weeks, and years. IN fact, they were obeying and being
enslaved by the Law of Moses. The
language Paul is using now is Hebrew language.
The Law of Moses provided for such special days, weeks, and years.
In verse 11 Paul
says, "I fear for you that somehow I have wasted my effort on
you". Do you see Paul’s
feelings coming through here? He
had spent much time with these people, and it was looking like his time
might be wasted. Paul was
always concerned about not wasting time.
He said, "redeem the time for the days are evil "in
I know Paul was speaking about wasting his efforts in
this verse but he was also fearing for the salvation of these Galatian
Christians. We will see this
in a few verses down the line. Paul
was a man of strong feelings. If
you read his second letter to the Corinthians you will quickly see how
emotional he gets. His
feelings really come through in that letter.
In verse 12 Paul says, "I
plead with you, become like me, for I became like you…" We
must take note of the word "plead" here.
Paul is expressing great passion as he always does.
This letter is far more than a teaching lesson.
It is a personal plea by Paul for these people to stop and think
about what they are doing. At
this point, Paul steps back a bit from theological issues and gets
personal. We cannot leave the
personal out of Bible teaching, but many do.
Paul is a great teacher, partly because he does a good job at
combining doctrinal truth with heart felt passion and feeling.
Note the word
brother in verse 12. This is
yet another way for Paul to be personal with these people.
He calls them brothers, and by so doing, he still acknowledges that
they are true brothers in Christ. They
have not yet gone too far in this false doctrine.
words "become like me because I became like you", Paul was a
Jew, but in one sense of the word, he became like a Gentile.
He left Judaism behind, which included the Law of Moses, and in
that sense Paul became like a Gentile.
As strange as it sounds, Paul is actually saying that these
Gentiles should become like Gentiles, that is, Christian Gentiles.
Also in verse 12
Paul says, "you have done me know wrong".
There is debate to what this exactly means.
I think we should just take it at face value.
These Galatian Christians had not done any harm to Paul.
He will explain what he means.
You might think that the thought of leaving the faith which really
bothers Paul would be considered as being done wrong by Paul, but that's
not what he is talking about here. He
is talking about in days past they have not done him wrong.
In verse 13 Paul
said that he actually got to preach the gospel to these people because of
some kind of illness he had. This is interesting, in light of some present
day teaching that states that we can be free from illness. Paul seemed
very sick. His sickness was a "trial" to these people. They must
have had to look after him for a period of time. The Galatians did not
seem to be bothered by this. Even though it was a trial for them, they
took pleasure in helping Paul. They welcomed Paul as if he was Jesus
Himself. These people had a great love for Paul. It is thus clear that
even the best of Christians can get sick, and I view Paul as the best
Christian who ever lived. The
Hyper-faith movement is wrong when they say we don't have to be sick.
It appears that
Paul got sick and was unable to continue on his journey.
He had to stay in Galatia. Therefore, because he was
sick, that gave him the time to preach the gospel to these people where if
he wasn't sick, it appears he would not have stayed in this part of the
In verse 14 we
see that the Galatians did not treat Paul with scorn and contempt.
Certain diseases, like leprosy carried severe social consequences. People
did scorn those with leprosy. They stayed away from them and treated them
as second class citizens. I am
not saying that Paul had leprosy, but whatever he had seemed to have
carried some social consequence. Instead
of shying away from Paul, these people treated him like an angel, or even
like Jesus Himself. These
people had great respect for Paul and he was counting on this respect to
help convince them of the error of their ways. It's hard to believe that
those who had such great love and respect for Paul would now be leaving
what he taught them. The false
teachers must have been very persuasive.
the years have tried to figure out what Paul's illness was.
Many believe it had something to do with his eyes.
What Paul says in verse 15 gives some support to this thinking.
He said that if these people could have, they would have torn out
their eyes to give to Paul, suggesting Paul had an eye problem.
Another allusion to eye problems can be seen in chapter, 6 verse
11, where Paul points out that he has written with "large
letters". There is
historic evidence that around this time in the
If you remember,
in my introduction, I gave what many Bible teachers suggest is a
description of what Paul looked like.
Part of that description was that he had eyes that protruded out of
his eye sockets. The above
mentioned disease causes this to happen, so the portrayal of Paul in my
introduction might well be correct.
In verse 15 the
words "torn out", as in, "torn out your eyes", is yet
another passionate word that Paul uses. From
the Greek, one could use the words "dug out", or, "gouged
out". That doesn't paint
a pretty picture, but Paul
isn't really trying to soften over what he is saying.
He is using very descriptive language to make his point in the
attempt of winning the Galatian Christians back to him and the gospel of
population would have thought of Paul's illness as being God's judgment
against him, and in the present situation, that's probably what they
thought. It would have made a
good excuse for them to try to discredit Paul and his ministry.
Of course that thinking is not correct.
Paul was in God's will. His
sickness was clearly God's will. Sickness
can be God's will, even in our lives today, despite what hyper-faith
In verse 15 Paul
asks, "what has happened to your joy".
Paul would not have asked this question if they had not lost a good
measure of joy. I would suggest that if you were leaving the freedom found
in Jesus and reverting to rules and regulations, you would certainly lose
a good measure of joy. Legalism
always dampens joy. Yet, we
need to remember, freedom from law doesn't mean a license to sin, because
when Christians sin, they lose there joy as well.
Verse 16 says,
"have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth".
In Paul's mind, these brothers, as he calls them, have become his
enemy. This is in contrast to
what he has just said in the prior verse.
Those who would have gouged their very eyes out for Paul have now
become his enemy, and I would say, the enemy of Christ as well.
You can see by these words that the rebellion that Paul speaks of
in chapter 1, verse 6, is a rebellion against Paul.
A great divide has arisen between Paul and the Galatian Christians.
This has devastated Paul.
In verse 17 Paul
speaks of the motives of the false teachers who are trying to win the
Galatians over to them. They
want to do this in order to bring a separation between Paul and his
company and themselves. Then
the false teachers will have their own followers.
They simply wanted a following of people.
Paul really didn't care about a following of people.
He cared that these Galatians would follow Jesus.
Paul could care less about himself and being popular.
He cared most about Jesus and these Galatians.
More Christian leaders today need to be like Paul.
We have too many who care more about a following and their bank
account than for Jesus and God's people.
I suggest that
the false teachers were attempting to build what we would call a cult.
When people emphasize obeying rules, whether the Law of Moses, or
their own home made rules, what they are doing is in fact building a
following. They are dictating
to people's lives. An
over-emphasis on rules pretty well always leads to cultishness.
In verse 18 Paul
commends these people for their zealousness.
That is a good character trait.
Paul was pretty zealous himself, but zealousness must be directed
in the right way. The Law was
not the right way. Jesus was
the right way. Being zealous
is good, but clinging to the truth is more important than being zealous.
In verse 18 Paul
says it is "fine to be zealous".
The reason why he says this is because in the last verse he pointed
out the zealous behaviour of the false teachers. There is nothing wrong
with being zealous as long as it is directed in the right direction, and
for the Galatians, that wasn't the case.
So, you can't judge a man's ministry by his zeal.
You also cannot judge a man's teaching by his zeal.
All the zeal in the world is good for nothing if the ministry and
teaching of a man doesn’t fall in line with the Bible.
In verse 18 we
see that Paul says that being zealous is good, but these people should be
zealous when he isn't around. This
tells us something about the Galatians.
It appears that when Paul was with them they were full of zeal, but
after he left, there zeal slackened off.
This is human tendency, especially if you want to impress an
important person. Express the
zeal when the important person is with you, but slack off when he leaves.
This might well be one fault of these people that help lead them
astray into serious false teaching.
In verse 19 Paul
says, "my dear children, for whom I am in pains of child
birth…" See the pain in Paul’s life here. He equates this pain to
a woman giving birth to a baby. Women can certainly relate to what Paul is
trying to portray here. This was no small matter for Paul.
Paul uses the
word "pain" here. Paul
had given himself to these people, as he always did with those he led to
Jesus or helped along the way. The
move towards the Law of Moses and away from Jesus caused Paul great pain.
If you want to learn more about Paul's pain, read the second letter
he wrote to the Corinthians, because in that letter you will see Paul's
emotions boiling over. You
could easily say that Paul was in "great anguish".
At times, Paul was not a happy man.
He was weighed down with caring for God's people.
I wonder how many Christian leaders feel the same pain that Paul
felt. Not many I suppose.
There is something here for every pastor to learn.
Notice the words
"my children". Up to
this point Paul was calling the Galatian Christians "brothers",
but here, he calls them "my children".
This is probably because of what he is saying in this verse.
He compares what he is going through with birth pains that a woman
has when giving birth. Paul
gave birth to many of these people in a spiritual sense.
He led many of them to the Lord.
He birthed them into the
Note also the
word "again" in verse 19. This
tells me that he has already gone through this with these people before.
This would be when they first came to Jesus. The
battle with the world these people were used to would have been a fight to
be fought when they first came to the Lord.
Their entrenchment in paganism probably took a while to over come,
and Paul most likely felt the pain back in those days.
In verse 19 Paul
says the words, "until Christ is formed in you". The
Greek "morphoo" is translated as "formed" in this
verse. We derive our English
word "metamorphosis" from this Greek word. This tells you
something to what this word means. We
use the word "metamorphosis" in relation to a caterpillar
turning into a butterfly. There
is a complete transformation from one existence into another.
This is what Paul is speaking of here.
These Galatians were once pagan sinners, far away from God.
They came to Jesus, received
His Spirit, and began transformation from being a pagan to being like
Jesus. We talked about this in
the first part of chapter 3. This
transformation has now been interrupted.
By reverting to the Law of Moses, they would be leaving Jesus, and
thus the transformation into Jesus likeness would end.
Christian metamorphosis, the final stage of our transformation will take
place at the return of Jesus when our bodies will become like Jesus'
present day heavenly body. The
problem I see with present day "hyper-faith" people is that they
want to bring that which is only found in the next life into this present
life, and that's not Scriptural.
This tells us
one very important thing. When
we come to Jesus, receive His Spirit, it is in order for the
transformation of being a sinner into the likeness of Jesus to take place.
Our life as a Christian is not about just getting saved and waiting
for heaven. It is expected of
us that our lives will be transformed, day by day, to be more like Jesus,
but we cannot be transformed simply by following laws, whether the Law of
Moses or man made traditional Christian laws.
There is much
talk in Christian circles today about so-called "positive
thinking" as a means to make one's self better.
This is no different than the Galatians adopting the Law of Moses
to live by. Biblical
transformation comes only one way, and that is through Jesus, via the Holy
Spirit and the living Word of God. Besides that, there is no real
In verse 20 Paul
closes this section by saying, "...I am perplexed about you".
The Greek word "aporeo" is the word translated as
"perplexed" in the NIV. the KJV says, "I stand in doubt of
you. "Aporeo" literally means, "to be without a way". To
me Paul was beside himself. He
just couldn’t figure these people out. Why would they want to give back
their inheritance? Why would they even think of living by the Law of
Moses, especially when they never lived that way before. If you had
inherited one million dollars from your father and put it in your bank
account, that would surely make you happy. Then after having all that
money for a while you decide that you don’t want it any longer, so you
took all the money out of the bank and burned it. Now that doesn’t make
any sense does it. This is exactly what the Galatians were doing with
their inheritance. They were throwing away their inheritance.
Paul wished that
he could be with these people "so he could change his tone'.
"Changing his tone" means the way he is talking. He
thought that just maybe, if he could be their he could persuade these
Galatian Christians to stop heading towards living by law.
If he could be with them, and convince them of the error of their
way, he'd be so happy, and his tone of voice and speech would be so much
different. I often wonder how
Paul would feel if he had phone service, email, and all the other high
tech things we have today. I
can see him constantly writing emails and making phone calls.
I'm sure he would be carrying his laptop everywhere.
You should note
in this section that Paul takes a literal historical event and gives it a
present day spiritual meaning. We can only conclude that God Himself has
given Paul the right to do this. I
suggest that we as normal Christians should not allegorize, and if we do,
we must clarify that we are in fact allegorizing with the possibility of
being wrong. If all of us used
allegory, we would have thousands of interpretations of Old Testament
events. Paul can allegorize,
but I question if we can. I at
least say that we should be extremely careful in this matter.
We need to realize that Paul was an Apostle above all other
apostles. For those who believe in modern day apostles, you have to admit
that any modern day apostle is not on the same level as Paul. The modern
day apostle takes what Paul has already said and repeats it to others. He
does not say anything new. He does not preach his own gospel but Paul’s
gospel, which is in fact Jesus’ gospel.
What Paul will
do in this section is what is known as "allegorizing".
Allegorizing as it pertains to the Bible is to take an historical
event and make it mean more than just an historical event.
Another way to say it is to take an historical event and
spiritualize it. Good
hermeneutics states that we should first understand historical events to
be historical events without applying any secondary meaning to it. Evangelical
preachers have allegorized Old Testament passages for decades, and I've
always had problems with this. If
you take an historical event and then preach that it "really means
this", then who is to say that you are right or wrong.
We should do our best to understand the Bible as it was written by
the particular writers who wrote it. To interpret what the original
writers wrote and make it mean something else is dangerous.
Just because Paul did this, doesn't mean we can.
In verse 21 Paul
is suggesting that these people who want to revert back to the Law really
don't understand what the Law of Moses and the Old Testament is all about.
I would say the same for most Christians today.
How New Testament Christians should view the Old Testament is one
of the most misunderstood things in Christian circles today.
Many say they are New Testament Christians, but in reality, they
live more like Old Testament Jews than New Testament Christians.
Paul asks in
verse 21, "are you not aware what the Law says"?
He answers this question in verse 22 and 23 by relating an
historical event found in the book of Genesis.
Paul speaks of Abraham having two
sons, one son (Ishmael) born from a slave woman named Hagar, and another
son (Isaac) born of a free woman named Sarah, who was Abraham’s wife.
The first thing
we should note write away concerns Paul's thinking to what books of the
Old Testament consisted of the Law of Moses.
They weren't just Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
The rabbis, Paul included, understood Genesis was part of the Law
of Moses. This is often called the Pentateuch by Christians and the Torah
by Jews, that is, the first five books of the Old Testament.
The story of
Abraham is well known. He and
his wife Sarah were very old and they never had children, for which they
weren't happy about. In
Genesis 15 God promised Abraham a son, and of course, this would be a
miracle son because Sarah was too old to have children.
Sarah eventually did have this miracle son named Isaac, but it took
13 years of waiting. In the
meantime, Abraham and Sarah got impatient and so Abraham has sex with
Sarah's slave named Hagar, and she had a son born to her named Ishmael.
So, in verse 23
Paul says that the son that was born from Hagar was born the ordinary way,
or, the natural way. He then
says the son that was born by Sarah was born by a promise.
That is, the promise that God spoke to Abraham in what we call the
Abrahamic Covenant. The
word promise has been important in Paul's thinking and theology all the
way through his discourse, and it still is.
In verse 24 Paul
says that these things can be "taken figuratively". By this Paul
is saying that you can take this literal event and give it a non-literal
meaning for us today. In short, Paul is spiritualizing this historical
event. Or, another way of
saying it is that Paul is taking this historical event and giving a
secondary meaning to it. Again, I believe Paul could do this, but we
can't, or least we should be careful if we do so.
Verse 24 says
that "these things can be taken figuratively".
What things is Paul speaking of?
He is speaking of the birth of Sarah and Hagar's sons. The
word "figuratively" is another word for "allegorize".
The historical events surrounding the birth of these two boys are
"figures of speech" that suggest a greater meaning than them
just being born.
Paul says that
both of these women represent two covenants.
This is where Paul allegorizes.
We might ask how Paul would come up with this.
Well, there is some logic to what he will say, but besides that, we
believe he was inspired to make this allegory.
Again, I say, "if Paul is wrong on this point, then Christians
are in serious trouble. Because
if he is wrong, we are preaching the wrong gospel.
One thing we
learn here about the two covenants, which are as we will see, are the
Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant, is that they are two separate
and distinct covenants. This
is something that many Bible teachers miss.
The Mosaic Covenant is not an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Verse 24 states
that Hagar represents "
In verse 25 Paul
says that Hagar, the slave woman, stands for Mount Sinai, and Mount Sinai
stood for the city of Jerusalem
in Paul's day. Again, this is
pure allegory. We have to
believe that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to say this, because
there is no place in the Old Testament that says this.
Paul does have
some logic in what he says. Hagar
was a slave, and that meant her son Ishmael was a slave as well.
We know Paul's view on the Law of Moses.
It was something that enslaved Israel. So, it only makes sense that
he compares Hagar and Ishmael to the Law of Moses.
Verse 25 ends
with "she is in slavery with her children".
I believe the pronoun "she" refers to Jerusalem. Paul is simply saying that
the Jews of Jerusalem, those Jews he once help lead, were slaves, and
slaves to the very centerpiece of their religion.
In verse 26 Paul
speaks of another Jerusalem. It is the
Abraham’s wife stands for a spiritual
As stated in
verse 26, the earthly
When Paul says
in verse 26 that the heavenly Jerusalem
is "our mother", the word "our" refers to the Jews who
had given their lives to Jesus, along with the Gentiles.
The word "mother" would be figuratively referring to
Sarah, the mother of the promise.
In verse 27 Paul
quotes from Isaiah 54:1 to further enhance his allegory.
Isaiah praises the barren woman.
That's Abraham's wife Sarah. In
the long run, Sarah, who had no children for a long time, would have more
descendents than Hagar.
Note the words
"than she who had a husband".
This is in reference to Hagar, but did Hagar have a husband?
What does that mean? I
believe this simply means that Hagar, through Abraham had a man to give
her a son. It's not that
Abraham was Hagar's husband, other than in the sense it was through him
that she had a son.
We know that
Sarah having more descendents than Hagar came true because Jesus would be
born in the lineage of Isaac, Sarah's son.
All those who have given their lives to Jesus, both Jew and
Gentile, can be considered as Sarah's children.
This is exactly what Paul says in verse 28. So
the number of children of Abraham and Sarah by faith will logically
outnumber the children of Abraham that do not have faith in Jesus.
Verse 28 begins
with, "now, you brothers". Again,
as Paul has done earlier, he says these 3 words for emphasis sake.
He is still calling these Galatian Christians brothers because they
have not gone all the way in obedience to the Law of Moses.
Paul says that
the Galatian brothers are like Isaac, born of a promise.
Again, the word promise refers back to the Abrahamic Covenant and
not the Mosaic Covenant. Paul
is simply saying that those who have given their lives to Jesus are
recipients of all the promises of God, and that includes the Holy Spirit
who is often referred to as a promise in the New Testament. (Acts 1:5 –
8) Christians are thus children of promise, not children of slavery, that
is, slavery to the Law of Moses. The
Law of Moses has been laid aside forever.
In verse 29 Paul
compares the days of Abraham to his own day.
As Hagar and Ishmael persecuted Isaac and bugged Sarah, so the Jews
in bondage to the Law in Paul's day persecuted Paul and those who were
free from the Law so they could live for Jesus. This
may be hard for some to take, but I don't believe you can serve the Law
and Jesus at the same time. It's
one or the other. Jesus said
that you cannot serve two masters. I
know He was speaking of money, but His statement applies here as well. You
cannot serve the Law and Jesus at the same time.
Notice the words
"born of the Spirit" in verse 29.
This is a play on words. Isaac
was obviously born because of the Holy Spirit.
Paul and the followers of Jesus were also born of the Spirit.
That is what Acts 2 is all about.
It is the Holy Spirit that comes to live in the body of the
believer that breaks the chains of slavery.
In verse 30 Paul
quotes Genesis 21:10 where it says, "get rid of the slave woman and
her son, for the slave woman‘s son will never share in the inheritance
with the free woman’s son". Paul
is spiritualizing this event. It was Sarah who actually said these words.
Sarah was very angry with Hagar and so she wanted to vanish her and her
son from her presence. So
Abraham did send away both Hagar and Ishmael.
Paul is saying that the present day meaning of this is that those
who follow the Law will not share in the promise of the Spirit. You cannot
mix Judaism and Christianity. You cannot mix law and faith. Throw out
anything that has to do with Law and embrace Jesus and faith in His grace.
This is one
verse the those who believe in
Replacement Theology often quote. They
say that this verse clearly states that the Jews have no more prophetic
and historic significance in the sight of God because this passage says
they were thrown out. Again, I
have to say that the Abrahamic Covenant had 3 recipients, Abraham, Jesus,
It is very
important to understand that the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant that
were spoken to Abraham must be understood in the same way that Abraham
understood them. I believe
that is good hermeneutics. To
go back and redefine the promises is bad hermeneutics. And, Abraham
understood that his descendents Israel
would receive the promises God spoke to him about.
Paul is using
very strong words when he says, "get rid of the slave woman".
Everyone knew what he was saying.
He is saying, "get rid of the Jews and those who are committed
to the Law of Moses". No
wonder Paul had his critics.
Paul ends this
section in verse 31 by simply saying again that the true believers in
Jesus are children of the free woman, not the slave woman.
That means they live under the promises of God, which include their
salvation and the reception of the Holy Spirit. True believers and no
longer under the domination of the Law of Moses.
Paul takes a
historical event from the Old Testament and turns it into something like a
prophecy for his day. This
historical event is more than history.
It symbolizes a great New Testament truth.
Sarah represents Christians who are free from the Law and Hagar
represents the Jews who were still in bondage to the Law.
Sad to say, some parts of the church today are still in bondage to
parts of the Law, tithing and Sabbath laws being two such examples.
Besides, the Jewish orientated movement today among Christians,
depending on how far they go with the Law, is dangerous.