The Law and The Heir

 

By Caleb Keith

Galatians 3:23-29 and Galatians 4:1-7 are two pieces of the same story. While separated by a chapter division, these verses are not divided in their message. The theme of this section could be labeled “The Law and The Heir.” Throughout these verses, the Apostle Paul tells the story of prisoners who were slaves, set free, and adopted as sons made to be heirs, who now receive a full inheritance. The letter to the Churches in Galatia omits the Apostle Paul’s typical greeting. Instead, Paul offers a short opening and then jumps right into the heart of the matter. In verse 1:6, he states: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—” This different Gospel that Paul refers to was a message of the Judaizers who demanded that all Christians (both Jews and Gentiles) adhere to the ceremonial Laws of the Old Testament.

The problem in Galatia was that legalism was devouring grace, a problem not yet behind us Christians to this day. The old sinful man within all of us looks for every excuse to abandon Christ in favor of his own flesh. This legalism is not simply a desire to follow the Law of God but a twisting and reshaping of the purpose God set out for the Law. Verses 23-29 of chapter 3 deal explicitly with the purpose of the Law. Paul makes it clear that the Law was never meant to save, but rather “The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” The Law’s guardianship was and is a gracious gift of God. The Law maintained and protected God’s children and His promise. However, that guardian was not what made one a child of God, nor was it the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. Instead, salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. While Paul uses many analogies throughout these verses, every word is a truth upon which Christians are assured of their salvation. By faith in Christ and being joined to him in baptism, Christians are set free from the guardianship of the Law and are made heirs unto salvation.

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

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One comment

  1. Luther’s work Concerning Christian Liberty, along with his Commentary on Galatians, are by far my two favorite books. To understand, as Luther did, that becoming a Christian means becoming the freest of all men is a truly exhilarating thought. To understand the flip side of that coin, that a Christian man freely becomes the slave of his neighbor for the sake of his neighbors salvation, is a beautiful picture of the Christian life.

    It’s great to be reminded that this paradox was not taken ex machina from the mind of Luther, but is actually taken directly from the pages of scripture.

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