“Trying to be justified by the Law is like counting money out of an empty purse, eating and drinking from an empty dish and cup, looking for strength and riches where there is nothing but weakness and poverty, laying a burden on someone who is already oppressed to the point of collapse, trying to spend a hundred gold pieces and not having even a pittance."
~ Martin Luther
If the first thing you thought of when you read the title above was the song Born Free, you have definitely dated yourself! "Born free / as free as the wind blows / as free as the grass grows / born free, to follow your heart..." But the Bible was talking about being born free a long time before that song came along!
Paul wants to illustrate to you the difference between being born a slave, and being born free. He uses an illustration from Abraham's life: Sarah vs. Hagar. Sarah was Abraham's wife, and Hagar was Abraham's servant (and, later, concubine). You find their story in Genesis --- which, ironically, is the first of the Five Books of the Law that the Jewish cultists were so fond of praising.
Abraham has two sons. One was Ishmael, born of the slave woman Hagar. There was nothing miraculous about Ishmael's birth. Abraham was still potent, and Hagar could still bear children. The other son was named Isaac, born of the free woman Sarah. His birth was miraculous. Abraham was a dried-up old man, and Sarah was well past menopause. Isaac's birth was the product of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, working through God's promise.
Paul says the two women illustrate two covenants. Paul isn't denying their historical realness, but he uses them to make a point. Hagar represents the law-covenant God gave the Jews at Mount Sinai, and that then sums up Jerusalem and its people. The Sinai covenant was a covenant of slavery.
But, Paul says, there is another Jerusalem. Not the one located on Mount Zion, the earthly one we know today. No, there is a heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly city of God. Paul says that believers are citizens ("children") of that Jerusalem. That is our "motherland." Not only that, but we are Isaac's brothers. How so? Because we too are born of a promise. The promise to save, by miraculous power, all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Jews were persecuting the Christians at the time Paul wrote Galatians, and in that way they were acting like their spiritual ancestor Ishmael. Just as the children of Ishmael persecuted the children of Isaac, the Jews persecuted followers of Christ. The Jews weren't descended from Ishmael physically, but they were his children in a spiritual sense.
Paul then gives a command: Cast out the slave woman and her son! For the son of the slave woman shall not inherit alongside the son of promise. Cast out of the church all those who preach salvation by law! For none of them shall be permitted into the kingdom of God when Christ comes for His people!
God's will is that there be a zero-tolerance rule in our churches for anyone who teaches that we must keep commandments to be saved. It is one thing to counsel confused Christians, as Paul is doing in this letter. It is quite another thing to know the Gospel of free grace, and then knowingly reject it and pollute it.
We Christians are not "of" the Sinai covenant, in any way, shape, or form. We are "of" the Abrahamic covenant -- specifically, the bit about God blessing the nations. God has reversed the curse in Christ! We have received the blessing of new life and everlasting hope! We are not subject to Moses' Law.
How Cult Teachers Try To Poison A Congregation's Mind Toward The Gospel Messenger. Galatians 4:12-17
The people behind bad doctrine don't just affect the intellect. They also set out to ruin good relationships.
Paul here reminds the Galatian believers how they first met. An illness caused Paul to either stop at Galatia, or stay there longer than he planned. We draw from Paul's words that he contracted some sort of eye-related disease, one that caused him great pain (v. 15).
The local people's reaction to Paul was very kind. Instead of treating this sick little rabbi as a nuisance, they saw him as a messenger from the Lord. The Jewish false teachers, who were trying to warp them, wanted them to regard Paul with contempt and scorn. But that was not the sort of relationship they originally had with Paul. Paul's presence had filled them with happiness, because he brought them the message of God's love and Christ's forgiveness, and the hope of life everlasting.
Paul appeals to this affectionate relationship that they had from the start. Should he be hated now, just because he was telling them the truth about the Gospel, and about the false teachers? Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
No one enjoys admitting they were duped, because it's embarrassing to the pride. But better to be saved from deadly error, even if it costs a brief sting of embarrassment.
Paul's passion was for the Galatians to be zealous for Jesus Christ. The cultist leader's passion is that you be zealous for him (or her). To achieve that end, the cult leader seeks to alienate us from the Word of God, and to poison our attitudes toward Biblically-minded pastors and teachers.
This is the pattern followed by every cult leader since time immemorial. Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Sun Myung Moon, L. Ron Hubbard, Muhammad, the Popes, they are all the same.
Stop listening to people who say they have a new revelation that adds to the Bible or supersedes Jesus Christ! There is only one Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The only Christian leaders whose words bind and free us were the original New Testament apostles, of whom there are no more. There is only one Bible, made up of 66 books, and no more. Do not allow these so-called "prophets", whether modern men or figures out of the past, to alienate you from Christ, and His appointed and anointed representative Pal, and the other original apostles.
Before a person becomes a child of God, that person is a slave. There are many levels to our slavery. We are God's slaves, even though we don't have a positive relationship with God, because we still live in God's world and he is Lord. An example of this slavery to God was King Cyrus of Persia, an emperor of ancient times. In the book of Isaiah, God calls Cyrus his servant and shepherd. Cyrus did what God ordained him to do, even though I'm sure Cyrus thought it was his idea.
A second way we are slaves is to Satan. Satan is called the prince of this fallen world. The human race marches to the beat of his disobedient drum (Ephesians 2:2). The human race lies in Satan's lap, like the play-thing of a child (1st John 5:19). Satan's sovereignty over the human race operates underneath the umbrella of the supreme sovereignty of God. God can interrupt and interfere with Satan's sovereignty anytime God wishes. For now, for many different reasons, God permits Satan to continue to operate on the earth.
A third way we can be slaves is to bond ourselves to empty religious ceremonies. The Galatians weren't Jews, they were Gentile idol-worshipers when Paul met them. While the Galatians were still pagans, they worshiped all manner of false gods and goddesses. These fictions -- Isis, Zeus, Artemis, Apollo -- were not gods. They did not exist, and the spiritual forces who stood behind the so-called gods were demons (1st Corinthians 10:20). Each of these cults had its various ceremonies, rules, and regulations.
One of the characteristics of these religions was "holy days." Every religion had them. The Law of Moses had them. Special days, special months, special seasons, and special years. Paul calls them "weak and miserable principles" (verse 3, 9) -- miserable in the sense that holy days are powerless to break the spiritual slavery of the sinner.
It is curious that Paul seems to describe a similarity between the Galatians' old religions, and the Law of Moses, at this point -- that they all have "holy days." The holy days of Moses' Law were mandated by God, where the pagan holy days were empty inventions of men. But they shared something in common: the holy days were weak, because of the sinfulness of the human heart. Even if you faithfully kept all the holy days of Leviticus, you would be just as much a slave of sin as ever you were.
Paul asks them a rhetorical question: Have I wasted all my time with you guys? Why are you emrboiled with this holy-day foolishness?
Part of our freedom as Christians is that we have no holy days. The New Testament does not teach holy days. We meet on the first day of the week, in imitation of the first Christians, because it commemorates Jesus' resurrection. But the Lord's day is not a holy day like the Old Covenant had.
There are no civil sanctions attached to it. You can't be stoned for missing it. It isn't part of a larger liturgical legislation that includes events like the Feast of Weeks or the Jubilee year. All the Old Testament holy days pointed forward, symbolically, to the person and work of Christ. Now that we have the reality to which the symbols pointed, God has freed us from the unbearable yoke of the symbols.
Do not allow yourself to become emotionally shackled to any sort of "holy day" system. That's obsolete. The reality is found in Christ.
God always intended to give His kingdom to the Jews. God set the Jews ahead of every other people-group in the world. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that salvation is of the Jews (John 4). The Jews were the chosen people.
But God also considered the Jews "under-aged", as far as the plan of redemption goes. Israel was God's people in its infancy. The Jews might have owned the whole estate -- they were promised the kingdom of God by the prophets -- but their time had not yet come. They were no better than the special slaves of God, however much He loved them. But God wanted more for them and us.
To confirm their "spiritually under-age" status, God put them under the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was the guardian, the trustee, the elemental principles of the age, that governed the Jews. The Jews were under-age in the eyes of God for about 1,400 years.
But then Christmas morning came. God sent His son, the Lord Jesus. He was born of the virgin Mary. He was born a Jew, born under the Law system of governance. But he redeemed those under the law -- Jews who put their trust in Him -- and as a result God adopted believers as sons. Salvation was always by grace, and always by faith, and always unto everlasting life.
But the status of the New Testament believer, and the depth of our daily experience of God's grace, is greater than any Old Testament saint. As Christ said, John the Baptist was the greatest of the prophets, but even the youngest member of the kingdom of God is greater than John. As they say in sports-talk, New Testament believers are on a whole 'nother level.
Then, because God adopted us as sons, He placed his own Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit cries out, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit of sonship. The Old Testament believers were born-again (or "circumcised of heart", to use Old Testament language), and they had the Spirit with them. What a blessing. We too are born-again, but we have the Spirit inside us! What a greater blessing!
We used to be nothing more than God's slaves. Better to be God's slaves than Satan's slaves! But now that the Savi, we become God's children. And as His children, we become God's heirs. We will inherit the kingdom. We will be welcomed in when Christ returns and sets up his throne. We will not be cast out, when Christ separates the believing sheep from the faithless goats.
Because of the redeeming work of Christ, we are no longer God's slaves. Why would you want to go backward to that status? Which is better -- to be a king's employee, or his child? Do you think of yourself as the Lord's servant, or as His affectionately-beloved kid? How do you answer that question?
God cursed Adam. He cursed Adam because of Adam's sin. The curse was death. So Adam returned to the dust from whence he was made.
God blessed Jesus. He blessed Jesus because of Jesus' flawless righteousness. The blessing was life. So Jesus returned to life on the third day. Easter Sunday.
This -- the blessing of life -- was the blessing God promised Abraham. God further promised that the blessing would embrace all the nations, not just Abraham's children. God added the Law 430 years later, to underscore the spiritual reality and severity of transgression, and as a system of civil law to govern the Jews until the Savior came.
So, according to God's own words in Genesis, the nations -- the Gentiles -- can enter into Abraham's blessing. This is why everyone, not just Jews, can become God's children. The means by which a Gentile can do this is by trusting in Christ.
Paul says that everyone who has trusted in Christ are baptized into Christ (3:27). We know that Paul did not mean water-baptism here, since Abraham was not water-baptized, and we are saved the same way he was. Paul also says that we are saved by faith, and water-baptism is not faith. Peter says plainly that this saving baptism is not the washing of the body with water (1 Peter 3:21), but the response of a cleansed soul toward God through Christ. We are each spiritually baptized in our souls when we trust in Christ.
Having been washed by the Holy Spirit in our souls and consciences, we have spiritually clothed ourselves with Jesus Christ! Our filthy rags have been stripped off us and burned by God, in the fire of our repentance. He outfits each of us with our new "team colors" -- Jesus Himself! Jesus is God's Son -- so are we. Jesus is highly favored -- so are we. Jesus was raised in glory from the dead -- we will be raised in glory as well.
This experience is common to every child of God across-the-board. It doesn't matter what ethnicity you are. It doesn't matter what status you hold in society. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman. We are all equally the children of God, equally washed by the Spirit, and equally robed with Christ.
This Gospel alone can heal the divisions of our society. Evil humanity is violently racist and violently classist by nature. The only reconciliation possible is Jesus himself. Jesus doesn't teach reconciliation. He is the reconciliation, and real unity can only be worked-out through faith in Him.
Do you belong to Christ? Then you are Abraham's off-spring, and you inherit the promise of eternal life alongside the patriarchs!
OK, so if the Ten Commandments and all the other laws of Moses weren't designed to give us eternal life, then what were they designed for?
The Law was added on to Abraham's covenant because of human sin (v. 19). Even the adding-on part was meant to be temporary. Once Jesus came -- the true Seed to whom God promised Abraham's covenant -- the Law was "peace, out."
God spoke the Law to Moses through angels, then entrusted the Law to Moses rather than give it to the Jews directly. You can see from this verse how superior Jesus is to Moses and the law! Moses brought us damnation, but Jesus brought us salvation. Moses was a sinful go-between, but Jesus was the one-and-only Son of God. Moses was handed the Law by angels, but Jesus came forth straight from the bosom of the Lord., who is one Lord.
Jesus and his Gospel is superior to Moses and the Law in every way.
Did the Law contradict the Gospel? Certainly not! In fact, if it was possible for any law to give a sinner everlasting life, Moses' Law would have been that law (v. 21). But the Law's role was that of a jailer, not a pardoner,
The Law defines sin. By doing so, it condemns sin. As a result, the Law locked up the whole human race under guilt and condemnation. That wasn't the Law's fault. That was our fault.
Like a prisoner being processed into prison (3:23), the Law empties out your pockets, strips off every stitch of your clothing, and leaves you standing there naked . It leaves you nothing. The Law leaves you with no other way to be saved than as a gift, received by believing the offer.
The Law was also like a set of "school rules", laid down on the school by the headmaster. God is the headmaster. The Jews were to live in Gods school, under Moses' system of rules, until Jesus Christ came and achieved redemption (24).
Christ fulfilled the Law's requirements. He did this by perfectly living it himself, then fulfilled its penalty for sin by dying. Now that redemption has been accomplished, the Law steps aside. Its work is complete. Christ didn't annul the Law, he fulfilled it.
Is someone who teaches that we must keep the laws to be saved ignorant of the Gospel? Yes. But they are also deeply ignorant of the Law! Those who claim to champion the Law are the ones who understand it the least. Such people are ignorant of what the Law required (perfection). They don't know why the Law was given (to define sin). They don't even know that the Law ended (when Christ died).
This is the ironic thing: the legalist doesn't really understand the Law!