Monday, January 29, 2007

Galatians 4:1-11

In the late 40s A.D., Paul traveled through Galatia proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Many rejoiced at the news and trusted themselves to Jesus’ grace and love. Yet by the time of this letter – early 50s A.D. – some in Galatia had begun to teach a different message. They insisted that followers of Jesus had to obey the Jewish ceremonial law as well as trust in Jesus. In this view, Jesus did not suffice. Trust in Jesus was not the true medium of a right relationship with God. A right relationship with God required adherence to the law as well.

Paul knew this corrupted the good news. It did not stem from God. It entangled and encumbered people in a set of impossible demands. It did not amount to good news – the good news that Jesus saves us from the deadly burdens of sin. This view was bad news, indeed the worst news, for it spelled hopelessness and doom. Hence, Paul wrote to turn the Galatians from this anti-gospel back to the true gospel.

All of this lays the foundation for what Paul wrote in the passage we read today. Here Paul continued to demonstrate the enslaving character of this corruption of the good news. We could explore at length Paul’s discussion of slaves, children, guardians, parents, and estates. But in this short space what we must grasp clearly is the intimate relationship God gives us with himself through Jesus’ saving life and death.

We find this captured expressively in verses 6 and 7. “And because you are children [by adoption through Jesus], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God” (New Revised Standard Version). The Aramaic word “Abba” – Jesus used “Abba” to address God when teaching us to pray – was a tender name a child would use for his or her father, indicating love and respect in a deeply personal way.

Children of God, heirs to God’s goodness! This is God’s loving gift to us in Jesus, as any true relationship of parent to child finally consists of a gift in love. It cannot be earned. We must not try to earn it. It is simply given through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All we need do is receive it in love and live in it. This and this alone is truly good news. Let us rejoice then in it and never turn from it!

Gregory Strong

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