Friday, June 28, 2013

Galatians 4 - Bondage to Freedom

LINK: Galatians 4


BACKGROUND


"It is doubtful if there is any greater joy on earth than the joy of being free. 
And the ecstasy is heightened if a person has once been in bondage, 
held captive by a power that is impossible to overcome. 
Being liberated from such clutches brings pleasure beyond description."
Charles Swindoll


In this chapter, Paul gives three more arguments to prove his case that justification by grace is superior to the Law. In review, here are the first six from Galatians 3:

1) The Galatians were saved by faith, not the Law. (3:1-5)


2) Abraham, who lived long before the Law, was saved by faith. (3:6-9)


3) The Law could never justify but only brings judgment. (3:10-14)


4) Abraham entered into a binding contract with God 430 year before the Law was given to Moses. The Law was temporary, but faith is permanent. (3:15-18)


5) The purpose of the law was to set a standard that would show us our sin and our need for the unmerited love of God through the gift of Christ. (3:19-25)


6) Grace by faith in Christ transforms us from children to adopted adult sons in living union with Christ, and we are all united as brothers and sisters. (3:26-29)  


Here are the next three in Galatians 4:


7) The Law means slavery but grace moves a person to all the rights and privileges of adult sons. (4:1-11)


This is really an elaboration of the previous argument in Galatians 3. Usually, a child does not come into his inheritance until he is an adult. In the meantime, he is like a slave with trustees in charge of his inheritance until he becomes an adult.  The Law was like the trustee, but the Galatians were now mature, adult sons. Under grace, they had the full rights and privileges that that entailed. 


Christ set them free from slavery. Why would they want to go back? The Gentiles were free from the bondage of paganism. Why would they want to be subject to another kind of slavery in the Law?  God sent the Holy Spirit as a down payment of their inheritance (Ephesians 1:14) so that they could be more intimate with God than they ever could be following the Law.  Because of this, Paul exhorted them not to let the Judaizers convince them to follow weekly Sabbaths and the festivals like Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles in order to gain God's favor. (They can be very helpful to understand our relationship with God, but they are no longer a "requirement" for those who are free in Christ Jesus.) Christ, as a Jew and born under the Law, kept the Law perfectly, fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17), and redeemed them from the curse of it (Galatians 3:13). There was no need to go back to it. 


8) The Law cannot lead them toward maturity because it had separated them as intimate friends. (4:12-20)


The Galatians had received him with joy. Now they treated him like an enemy for telling them the truth. They were turning against this good news of grace and its messenger. The Judaizers sought them out to compete with Paul and flatter themselves, but Paul's motive was pure love for them. He longed for their growth to full maturity. They could not reach it following the Law. 

9) A final argument by allegory. (4:21-31)


Click on the Genesis 21 post to have this allegory explained in context. Scroll down to Part II of the BACKGROUND section. 


REFLECTION


I looked legalism in the face recently, and it sort of blew me away. I do not make it a habit of hanging out with legalistic people. They are pretty unhappy, but sometimes I get caught thinking I will just love them right into the grace of God. Sometimes it is an utter failure. This time it sort of went that way.  


The person is not free and still lives under self-imposed legalistic standards of right and wrong. I saw it in the way that person talked disparagingly about others. There was a right way to live, act, talk, pursue God, etc, and those others were living the wrong way. I understand  that someone who belittles others is often deeply insecure and wants to elevate themselves above others to fill that deep insecurity. I think that legalism makes them feel better, but it is a trap.


I got trapped in listening mode to where I think that person thought I was agreeing with everything said about others. I made extremely feeble attempts to interject positive things about the other people or explain that their behavior was probably based on how God wired their personality or gifting (This helps me love people that rub me the wrong way, and I thought it might help this person too.), but sometimes I think it would have been better to just walk away and let it be known that I did not think it was OK to talk behind other people's backs. 

I hurt a friend deeply once because I did not stand up for her when others where crucifying her with their words when she was not there. I was paralyzed with fear. At that time, I took a walk with another person who was also very uncomfortable with the conversation, but I do not think anyone noticed. I do not know why I freeze up in those situations. I guess I am trying to avoid conflict. I try to justify it by saying that the person has valid points and is just venting because she has been hurt. Maybe it appeals to the legalist that still lurks in me at times too. I don't know. 



Listening to this person venting over a period of months got me in trouble. I do not think I was truly loving that person by letting it continue. Sadly, the legalism started getting directed at me. It kept coming until I thought the best thing I could do was to not be legalistic in return and extend a bit of grace and just pray. I want that person to be free. So, I can feel Paul's pain in Galatians 4. Grace brings believers together. The Law separates God's family. 


The whole thing made me really sad for that person and mad at myself. I think it is a process to really and truly understand the grace of God. When we are free, we can extend grace in every situation. It does not mean being lackadaisical about our or another person's sin, but it means abiding in Christ (John 15) and listening to the Spirit; letting Him make the call versus our own flesh. That is the movement of grace, and maybe it is not as complicated as we make it. I am still in process and understanding God's grace toward me in a deeper way through this situation. So maybe it was not an utter failure after all.


APPLICATION


Today, I am praying that God will reveal legalism that lurks in my own heart. I am praying for others to be free from their legalism (I have seen HUGE growth in this area with many of the younger people we are involved with lately, by the way.) 


I continue to recommend this book too:


Free for the taking: The life-changing power of grace

Free for the taking: The life-changing power of grace


My study in Galatians has made me realize that I need to read it again!

PRAYER


Thank You for the Good News that sets me free from slavery! Lord, reveal any legalism that lurks in my heart, and help me never to put my legalistic standards on others. Lord, teach us all to abide in You, listen to Your Spirit that You have given as a pledge of our inheritance. Help us to extend grace to others. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. 
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