23 July Galatians 4:1-31

23 July. Followers of Jesus are set free from Jewish religious laws

"I want to tell you this: while those who will inherit their father's property are still children, they are [treated] no different from [a family's] slaves. It does not matter that the children own everything. While they are children, they must obey those who are chosen to care for them. But when the children reach the age set by their fathers, they are free [and therefore no longer treated like slaves]."

"It is the same for us. We were once like children, slaves to the useless rules of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son who was born of a woman and lived under the [Jewish] law. God did this so he could buy freedom for those who were under the [Jewish] law, and so we could become his children."

"Since you are God's children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and the [Holy] Spirit [in us] cries out, 'Father'. So now you are not a slave [to the Jewish law]; you are God's child, and God will give you the blessing he promised [to Abraham], because you are his child."

"In the past you did not know God. You were slaves to gods that were not real. But now you know the true God... So why do you turn back to those weak and useless rules you followed before? Do you want to be slaves to these things again? You still follow [Jewish] teachings about special days, months, seasons and years. I am afraid for you, that my work for you [to ensure you do not have to follow the Jewish laws] has been wasted..."

"Some of you still want to be under the [Jewish] law. Tell me, do you know what the law says? The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons. The mother of one son [Ishmael] was a slave woman [Hagar], and the mother of the other son [Isaac] was a free woman [Sarah]... the two women are like the two [covenant] agreements between God and his people." [see Genesis 16:1-16 & 17:15-22]

"One [covenant] agreement is the law that God made [to Moses] on Mount Sinai, and the people who are under this [Old Testament] agreement are like slaves... But the heavenly Jerusalem [promised to followers of Jesus in the new covenant or New Testament]… is like the free woman... So, my brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman [under the old covenant agreement], but of the free woman [under the new covenant agreement]."

          (Galatians 4:1-31)



In this passage, Paul compares the believers to heirs who are treated no better than their family’s slaves when they are children. But when they grow up, they inherit all their father’s wealth. So too, the Gentile believers were “slaves to the useless rules of this world” (Galatians 4:3) until they received the Holy Spirit and inherited God’s blessings as full members of his family.

Paul expresses his concern for the Galatians. By observing the Jewish religious festivals, they are becoming slaves to the Jewish law. Paul reminds them how happy and carefree they were when they first became believers because of his preaching; yet they are now going against what he taught and are becoming slaves again.

Paul returns to Abraham, who had two sons – Ishmael by his slave-girl Hagar, and Isaac by his wife Sarah (see Genesis 16:1-4 &15, 18:9-10 & 21:1-3). Paul says the two women represent the old and the new ‘covenant’ agreements with God.

Under the old agreement (the old ‘testament’ or old ‘covenant’) Jews were slaves to the law – as Hagar had been a slave. But under the new agreement (the new ‘testament’ or new ‘covenant’) believers are set free from the Jewish law – like Sarah who was born free.

Paul urges the believers to remain free and not to become slaves again. He warns them that, if they allow themselves to be circumcised, they will become slaves to obeying the Jewish law and will return to their old ways.

The photo (by Hanay) shows a figurine in the Hecht Museum, Haifa, representing a Jewish slave in Egypt.

You can read more about slavery in Paul's day on The Bible Journey website @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/13…/set-free-from-slavery/.

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