In this letter so far Paul has argued that a the person who rests on the faithfulness of God in Christ is the true son of Abraham and the inheritor of the promises of God. In our passage for study, Paul declares that through God's grace a believer is free from the slavery of the law for blessing, since they are now God's full-grown son and no longer a spiritual infant.
v1-2. In 3:29 Paul states that believers are "heirs according to the promise", and now he goes on to explain what it means to inherit the divine promise made to Abraham. Believers are sons of God and therefore, heirs of a spiritual inheritance. First, Paul gives an analogy. While the heir is in their minority they are under supervision, as if they were a servant, until freed at a time set by their father.
v3. Paul now applies the analogy. "We", spiritual heirs of God's blessings, were once similarly under supervision. By "we" Paul probably means "we Jews", although what he says applies to Gentile believers who are now also heirs with Jewish believers. As for the supervisor, "the basic principles of the world", Paul is referring to the law, in particular, the Mosaic law. For Paul, the law is an instrument of spiritual bondage, cf. v5.
v4. The time for ending the heir's minority came about when God sent his Son. Jesus took upon himself the human condition of flesh ("born of a woman") and subjection ("born under law"), but did so without sinning, cf. 2Cor.5:21.
v5. The purpose of the Son's coming, of his taking upon himself our human condition under the curse of the law, was the redemption of those under the subjection of the law (the obedient Son took upon himself the curse that hung over the disobedient sons) that we might "receive the adoption of sons" and thus the full blessings of sonship.
v6. The blessing of sonship is encapsulated in the gift of "the Spirit of his Son", which gift entails the reception of the Spirit of Christ in "the whole of the inner being", J. Behm. The function of the Spirit is to affirm and expedite sonship. He "imparts the assurance of sonship and enables believers to call God their Father", F. Davidson. The Spirit enables the believer to pray to God, to a God who is not some remote all-powerful being, but rather am intimate loving heavenly Father.
v7. Given the above, the Galatians, as with all believers, must remember that they are now sons of God and therefore, heirs of the full blessings of sonship. To put themselves under the law, as the children of Abraham are under the law, is to revert to spiritual infancy. It involves trying to attain what is already attained by a gift of God's grace.
"When the time was right God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him."
I have often wondered how it is possible to design a battery powered toy to last for only one day. When you think about it, this is quite an achievement. The whistling blowing train would have actually sent us mad had it not died on Christmas afternoon - and at this point I do commiserate with those whose train has inadvertently continued its onward journey. So, the self-destructing design feature of these toys is to be greatly appreciated. Here we are then, still recovering from our "Christmas cheer", shoveling up the remnants of broken toys, and promising ourselves that next year we won't eat as much - especially chocolate coated peanuts, consumed in great quantities before we have even sit down to eat the roast turkey.
Given that Christmas day is now but a bloated memory, we may be able to ask the obvious "why" question about this babe in a manger, this child carefully packaged in a crib where he can do no harm. Our passage today lets him out of the package, out of the crib, and into our face.
We are told that this child was born under the Mosaic law, obviously under the law in the sense of born to obey on our behalf. And this for a particular purpose, "so he could set us free from the curse of the law, that we might become God's children". You see, we are like that whistle blowing train, we carry a design flaw of impermanence - we make a noisy impression for at time, but then wear and tare takes it toll and soon it is "dust to dust."
In our passage for study we are reminded of the glorious consequences of grace alone through faith alone. A person who puts their trust in Jesus, who rests on what Jesus has done for them, that person is counted as an adopted son of God with the full rights and privileges that go with sonship. And in this passage we are reminded of one of the most significant blessings given to a child of God - the life giving Spirit of Christ, daily renewing us, strengthening us in the down times, even carrying us when all is lost. Day-by-day the living presence of Jesus, interacting with our true self, builds an intimate and eternal fatherly relationship with our creator God.
So, as you shovel up the bits and pieces of Christmas plastic, while saving the half-spent batteries, remember that you are not like that self-destructing whistle-blowing train, "you are God's children and will be given what he has promised."
1. In what sense is Christ like us? v4
2. Who cries "Abba, Father"?
3. What has God promised us in Christ?