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Studies In Galatians

Standing Fast In The Liberty By Which Christ Has Made Us Free (See 5:1)


After reading what the undersigned wrote on Galatians 3:5-15 (The ‘Nanny Service’ of the Law), a thoughtful subscriber wondered if it might suggest that there is no place in the life of the Christian for divine law. The technical term for that view is antinomianism. It must be firmly rejected.

The article meant to draw a sharp line between divine law as it is found throughout the Bible on the one hand, and The Law which was given through Moses at Sinai for a temporary function and purpose (“The Nanny Service”). The Apostle would have that completely removed. “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of The Law” (3:25). The Law of Moses has served its temporary purpose. Divine law expressing the will of God for human conduct, however, remains.

An Example

We hear Jesus speaking on matters of moral conduct to His disciples (who had grown up under the Law of Moses): “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Mt. 5:21-22a). Note how Jesus displaced Moses as the teacher of divine law. With Jesus divine standards or moral conduct reached depths and heights not imagined before. So He taught divine law. At the same time He kept Moses in his proper, respected place. In the following little study the importance of this should be manifest.

Chapter 4:21-31

The Two Covenant Mothers

Unless we are familiar with the account of Abraham’s two sons (Genesis 21:8-20), the points Paul makes in 4:21-31 are hard to come by. Do read it again.

There is a powerful argument to keep the Lord’s people from the temptation to take refuge under The Law again after having been redeemed from it by God’s Son (4:5). For Gentile Christians like us, it is more a matter of securing us from trusting in our own presumed righteousness for justification, rather than being justified by faith in Christ.

Hagar, The Slave Mother

She was a slave, one of Sarah’s maids, and the human “solution” to the problem of a childless, aged couple. She could bear a son to Abraham, but that son would be a slave like the mother. The best that their wisdom could produce was only a slave.

There it is. A perfect illustration for the Law Covenant of Sinai. And for Jerusalem, where the sons and daughters of that Law for the most part still labor under its heavy yoke (see them at the wailing wall!). This do and thou shalt live! Slave labor! None could ever fulfill the demands of that covenant and be free of servitude. Mother Sinai/Jerusalem can only give birth to slaves with no right of inheritance.

Sarah, Mother Of The Free

She was the privileged wife of great Abraham, to whom God had promised many descendants, including the One through whom the world would be blessed. She was very old, and barren. Hopeless.

But the Lord did what nature and human scheming could not. According to His promise, she bore Abraham a free son with the right of full inheritance. She and Abraham believed the promise, and the miracle happened.

In Sarah Paul sees the likeness of the Jerusalem that is above, the City of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. This mother gives birth to children who are free–“children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God!” (Jn. 1:13).

How Could You!

Given a choice, would you ever wish yourself in the place of Ishmael, the slave son of Hagar, driven with his mother out of the household and into the wilderness?

There can be no sharing under the same roof with the freeborn son of the promise. Could any thoughtful person want to be under the Law covenant with its enslaving yoke?

Paul shows the alternative that God’s grace has provided in Christ. The covenant of faith carries the power of the Spirit that gives birth to free children, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.

The Scriptures urge us to be forthright and decisive. Out with the slave woman and her son!

Those of us who were never under the old covenant may not be much drawn to it. But we are constantly tempted by our sinful nature to factor some kind of human activity or wisdom into the equation of salvation. Human pride would love to have at least a bit of the credit for our justification!

But that is a subtle kind of slavery, inappropriate for those who have been set free by the redemption in Christ Jesus. Out with it! Away with it! It is by grace alone, through faith alone.

May we always be found happily in the good company of Isaac!

Pastor Rollin A. Reim