Saturday, 9 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (4)

Childish Slaves

            In fact to be under the law, is to be under the curse[1], is to be a captive, or a slave[2]. The law was given to be like a guardian[3] to imprison the Jews, much like little children under supervision – through the angels[4]. To be free in Christ is to come to maturity, when rules and regulations are no longer needed; “ready to enjoy the freedoms and bear the responsibilities of the full life of Israel across the whole globe[5]. To be enslaved is to be like a child[6], constantly needing to be told what to do to prevent one from going out of control.

            For the Gentiles, they were enslaved as well, by other beings ‘that by nature are not gods’[7]. Therefore it is quite foolish for Gentile Christians, once being under these beings that seem to encourage ‘sinning behaviour’[8], then being set free in Christ, to go back to other slaving angelic beings[9] that encourage ‘religious behaviour’[10] – both of which enslave in two different ways!

The Christian life is the life of sons and daughters; it is not the life of slaves. It is freedom, not bondage… As it is, our salvation rests upon the finished work of Christ, on His sin-bearing, curse-bearing death, embraced by faithYet so many religious people are in bondage to their religion! They are like John Wesley… He was the son of a clergyman and already a clergyman himself. He was orthodox in belief, religious in practice, upright in conduct and full of good works… But they were bound in the fetters of their own religion, for they were trusting in themselves that they were righteous, instead of putting their trust in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. A few years later, John Wesley (in this own words) came to "trust in Christ, in Christ only for salvation" and was given an inward assurance that his sins had been taken away. After this, looking back to his pre-conversion experience, he wrote: "I had even then the faith of a servant (slave), though not that of a son." [11]

Solus Christus

            True sons of God are free sons no longer under the enslaving yoke of the law[12], but under grace, under the Spirit of God[13]. To even remotely toy with the idea of wanting to do something else in addition to trusting Christ is to diminish faith[14]! “In this way, we can never have too much freedom (just as we can never have too much faith, or Christ, or grace etc.) The answer to the abuses of freedom is never to curb freedom… Instead Paul insists on more freedom, better freedom, purer freedom. Thus, freedom is not balanced by other forces like ‘service’ or ‘responsibility’.  It is never a case of ‘Yes we are free, but we must keep that in check by remembering our…’ Such concepts as service or responsibility do not stand outside freedom as its referee. Service and responsibility are, instead, included as integral factors in our unmitigated liberty.”[15]

            Entertaining even small thoughts of this type of Pharisaical way of thinking[16] can quickly spread throughout the entire church and destroy it – Cole’s suspicions were true – and Paul hunts them out like rabies-infested dogs!

[1] Gal 3:13
[2] Gal 3:23
[3] Gal 3:24
[4] Gal 3:19
[5] Blackham, pg. 47
[6] This aspect of childhood is not commended by Scripture like other aspects e.g. child-like faith, innocence to evil, etc
[7] Gal 4:8
[8] We imply that there are all kinds of demonic forces out there, making people sin in different ways (e.g. the 2 different prodigal sons of Luke 15). This letter is primarily about the ‘religious sinners’, and Gentiles that switch from the rebels to the religious, rather than perhaps the epistle to Romans – which may be talking about convicting everyone that they are ‘sinners’ according to traditional definitions.
[9] Stoikeia
[10] Such as those listed in Gal 4:10, and 1 Tim 4:1-3
[11] Stott, pg. 109
[12] Gal 5:1
[13] Gal 5:18
[14] Gal 5:2
[15] Scrivener
[16] Gal 5:9, cf. Mark 8:15 

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