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This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Galatians (4:1-5) (Lesson 12)



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (4:1-5)                                                             (Lesson 12)

Opening Statement

Please join me in giving thanks and praise to our God who is good all the time!
My wife and I survived Hurricane Irma thanks to God’s good Grace and by paying attention to good common sense.  We heeded the warning of our governing officials, as did so many others, by activating our hurricane plans well in advance of the coming storm.  This event brought two Bible lessons to mind, “do you recall Noah’s Ark and the Book of Revelation?”

Millions of Floridians chose to evacuate north, but many others, (yours truly included) having been “here” before realize hurricane paths are erratic, i.e. they are unpredictable.  You could flee only to find yourself right in their path of destruction.  Therefore, the majority of Floridians choose to “hunker down” either at home or in shelters.  I chose to remain at home.  My wife, June, was called in to work an emergency 72 hour shift at the hospital, which means I faced the wrath of Irma at “home with just my thoughts…,” but not alone for God is always with us (Psalm 46:1-3).

At this time I want to thank “the front line personal,” all those folks who placed themselves in harm’s way to rescue people in imminent danger throughout Florida.  Thousands of lives were saved thanks to these tireless, dedicated individuals.  I also want to thank the army of volunteers who entered Florida immediately after Hurricane Irma left and are working 12-14 hours shifts to restore power to homes and businesses.

The total destruction is still being tallied, however, death has been held to a minimum. The flooded rivers are beginning to recede, but rain has already returned to this tropical state.  Hundreds of thousands of homes and countless businesses remain without power and many are without running water.  We know food, drinking water, and gasoline are in short supply.  We know very few businesses are open and operating, but those restaurants, drug stores, Wal-Mart’s, etc. that have opened are a blessing.   They don’t remain open long because once the word gets out their stock is quickly sold out or their generators “give out…”

I am drawn to reflect on all the things we tend to take for granted…, including God. Those in the know understand and give God the glory for He is truly in control of all things (Psalm 46:1).  It wasn’t luck, coincidence, or a sturdy home that brought me and so many others through the night of Irma.  It was the Creator God’s will and the prayers of family and friends that saw me and so many others through this massive storm.  Give credit where credit is due, but the glory to God.

Please know the phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night,” will forever hold a special meaning for this true Believer from here on.

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Welcome to HBS.

In chapter 3 Paul had shown the Judaizers and the Galatians true Believers in the gospel were the factual children of Abraham; they had been delivered from the curse of the Law; the Law was actually their tutor which lead them to Christ, and they all belonged to Christ, and were all Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise, through faith in what God had said.   This is why we’re all to be students of the Word.  It’s important to understand what God did not say.

Please open your Bible at Galatians 4.

To help explain what Paul is saying in this chapter I’m going to begin this week’s lesson with an illustration.  I pray it helps your understanding of chapter 4. 

A billionaire woke up one day and realized he had everything he wanted except for one thing he did not have a legal son; an heir.  He visited a maximum security prison one day and spoke to an inmate.  He visited him frequently thereafter and after several months had passed they agreed to terms on an adoption.  Now this very wealthy man had a son who was the legal heir to his vast estate. 

This young man still had “time to serve,” so it was difficult for him to realize his good fortune.  His living conditions did not change; he was living in the same cell, eating the same cafeteria-style food, following the prison routine, so he did not realize there had been a change in his status.  However, this young man was no longer just a forgotten number in a crowd of numbers.  He is now the legal son of one of the wealthiest men on the planet.  There is definitely a difference.

Finally, he served his time and was released from prison and there waiting outside “the wire” in his limo was the billionaire.  Now the difference becomes clear as he’s welcomed with opened arms and taken on a shopping spree.  He’s fitted with a new wardrobe; he selects a new furnished home for himself, and a new expensive car.  After lunch with his father, he is driven to corporate headquarters and shown his office.   The golden plate on the door reads:  Vice President, Western Division.   

The young man is overwhelmed.  All lingering doubt has vanished like smoke in a stiff wind.  The billionaire has shown him he is truly his son and heir to all that is his.  This young man is just beginning to enjoy a life he could only dream about before.  But here’s the thing, although this new life is exciting and rewarding in more ways than he can describe right now, he’s struggling to accept it.  It just doesn’t fit.  It’s like he’s trying to “put on” a stranger’s clothes.  So, he returns to his old life because it’s the only life he knows and he desires its “familiarity.” He resolves the matter by committing a crime, confessing to it, and he intentionally goes back to prison.  He forsakes his newfound freedom and the wealth in exchange for a 9’ x 12’ prison cell and prison-life.

This leaves an unanswered question:  Is this man insane?”  In a sense, this is the question Paul asks in Galatians 4:9:  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 

Paul is referring to the Mosaic Law, or the practices of the Jewish religion, saying they had been freed from all that by Christ and the gospel, in particular, and yet they had opted to return to Jewish observances, as if they preferred being enslaved all over again (Colossians 2:16-17).  So Paul addresses this concern in chapter 4. 

Let’s begin.

Sonship in Christ

Galatians 4

1: Now I say, as long as the heir is a child He does not differ at all from a slave  although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.

Now I say, as long as the heir – the biblical truth that all true Believers are heirs of God in Christ Jesus is the focus of Galatians 3:7, 16, 24-26, 29; and Romans 8:17.  Paul continues to emphasize this point in Galatians 4:1, 5-7, 28-31, in effect saying, the true descendants of Abraham are not ethnic or genetic, but those who believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

is a child – in the Koine Greek the word child either meant spiritual babies, i.e. “infant” or legal minors.  In the ancient Mediterranean cultures, the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood occurred at different ages and was a major cultural/religious event in the child’s life.

In Jewish culture, it occurred at age 12 (Bar Mitzvah – means: sons of the Law)
In Roman culture, it occurred at age 14 (Liberalia – festival held annually on March 17)

He does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything – here Paul pulls back the window curtain to give us a brief glimpse into the home of the well-to-do family in those days.  Children were not raised by their fathers, but rather by highly educated slaves.  The son will be master of his domain one day; he will be the legal heir to his father’ estate, and this includes the slave or slaves who were in charge of him.  This includes the slave who raised him and disciplined him.  Ironic isn’t it?  But, until that day, the slave is his guardian and manager.  He supervises his daily activities from sun-up to sundown.  Therefore, as long as the heir is a child (immature), there is no visible difference at all from a slave although he is owner of everything.

until (there’s that time related word again) the date set by the father – This was a unique feature to Roman law.  Fathers had some discretion in setting the time of his son’s transition from boyhood to manhood; the time predetermined for him to receive his inheritance.  The law determines our legal age at twenty-one.  This is when we may legally manage the majority of our own affairs.  However, in ancient Rome, the father had some liberty in setting this date.  His son could not claim his inheritance until he came of age. 

Verse 3:

Galatians 4

3: So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elementary things of the world.

So also we - please note Paul’s usage of the pronoun “we.”   He includes himself in this statement and for good reason.  He’s referring to the Jews primarily; he’s not including Gentiles in this declaration because as we all know Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Law.  The oracles of God were only given to the nation of Israel (Romans 3:2). 

while we were children, were held in bondage under the elementary things of the world – I noticed while Paul uses this analogy of the boy child (infant) being in the care of guardians and managers until he was mature enough to handle his father’s affairs whatever they were; he never mentions a specific timeframe.  This is because either the father sets the date or Roman law does.  But in this analogy Paul’s point is the child comes of age” upon reaching maturity and not when he reaches a particular age. 

However, under Roman law the heir had legal ownership of his father’s estate; he just could not possess it or benefit from it until he came of age.  Similarly, the believing Jews had the promises of God through Abraham, yet they were not yet realized.  Just as the Roman heir was under the guidance and management of their appointed tutor, the Israelites were under the Mosaic Law, with its disciplines, mediators and restrictions.  The time for both elementary periods to end was established by “the father” (Hebrews 5:8-12; Colossians 2:8, 2:20).  For the Roman heir, it was the age determined by Roman law or by his father.  For the true Believer, the Law’s guidance ended at the appointed time when the Father determined for the Son to be sent to earth to redeem fallen man. 

Verses 4-5:

Galatians 4:4-5

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Since Paul brings the subject of time to the forefront in this passage, and because I’ve encountered more than a few people in my classroom who were unaware that God, who is Spirit, dwells outside of time, I want to spend a few minutes going over this topic with y’all (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2). 

We humans are not Spirit we live in the physical world with its four known space-time dimensions of length, width, height, (or depth), and time.  God dwells in the spirit realm.  We only become aware of this through our study of the scriptures (Psalm 90:4; Isaiah 57:15; John 4:24; Ephesians 6:10-19).   God is timeless, meaning there has never been a time when God did not exist.  The Bible translators use the word eternal to describe this characteristic of God.  This word means:  everlasting, having no beginning and no end” (Psalm 90:2). 

God does not view time as we do; we live in the present.  Some of us may “dream of a certain future…,” while others may, “hang onto their past…”  But God’s ways are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8).  God is Omniscient, seeing the entire picture (or history of mankind) past, present, and future simultaneously (Psalm 139; Isaiah 46:9-10).  Since man is incapable of seeing beyond the present moment, God chose to use certain Jewish men to dictate His revelations (His thoughts and intentions) through the written Word.  Many of His prophecies have already occurred, while others remain imminent. 

God exists outside of time.  He created time for mankind.  Time is measured by the sun, moon, stars, and the four seasons (Genesis 1:14).  We only have a rough estimate of how long humans have existed on earth (genealogical and historical calculations); we do not know how long the man and the woman lived in the Garden of Eden before Adam sinned.  If we consider the totality of man’s existence on the earth being 6,000 years (from Adam’s transgression until now), we, those of us who have lived after the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, have inhabited the last third of that 6,000 years.
 
This book reveals God has had His plan for man’s redemption, Israel, and the Church at, from, and before the foundations of the world (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4).  The message from this is quite clear.  It speaks of the longsuffering nature of the Creator God and His desire to save as many as would believe (2 Peter 3:8-9). 

But when the fullness of the time came – God is never early and He is never late.  The Lord Jesus Christ was sent at just the right time.   Jesus’ birth, His life, and His death were all part of God’s redemptive plan.  But let’s let this book do the talking:  Men of Israel, listen to these words:  Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the (now read carefully) predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by hands of godless men and put Him to death… (Acts 2:22-23). 

This passage is saying, at some point in eternity past, before the foundations of the world, the Triune Godhead met in counsel.   The word counsel denotes “purpose, decree, will.”  Here it means “the purpose or will” of God.   It was God’s will that Jesus be delivered over to His enemies at this specific point in time (Acts 4:28).  The word predetermined means “what is defined, marked out, or bounded by,” just like the boundary of a cornfield for instance.  In Acts 10:4 it is translated “ordained of God,” meaning God purposed that it should be so (Luke 22:22). 

Please follow me to Acts 17:26b-27, where it reads:  having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitations, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…  God’s plan is all about redemption beginning at Genesis 3:15 and moving onward through time.  His written word implies the death of Jesus Christ was resolved by the Father before it even took place and this great truth is established by all the prophecies which were made in the O.T. and by Christ Himself (Luke 18:31-34).  The fact that it was predicted proves it was a fixed event and would take place not just at the appointed time but at the time set by the Father (1 Corinthians 2:7-9). 

One of things that amazes me as I study this book is God is in complete control of human history despite the fact mankind has been exercising their free will for 6,000 years.  People, kingdoms, and governments have been down here making one decision after another, some big, some small, but they all matter in the scheme of things.  Thousands of years have gone by, but even with all this decision making taking place, kingdoms rising and falling, mankind is right on God’s timeline.  Christ came according to God’s timing; even though mankind set the stage, so to speak (Mark 1:15; Ephesians 1:10; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 1:3).  We’re right where God wants us and this fact boggles the imagination.  That should make the “mountains tremble…”

How do we know mankind is on God’s timeline?  Let’s review history for a moment.    Communication is the key to understanding and this was greatly influenced and made possible between different parts of the world by means of the elaborate road system the Romans constructed.  It also made traveling from one area to another more secure as there were numerous people on these roads, including the military. 

The Greek language, after the time of Alexander the Great, became the common language of most of the world, i.e. it was either spoken by or understood by most of the lands Alexander had conquered.  At no other time in history had there been one single language used by so many people.  The N.T. is written in Koine Greek.  This contributed greatly to the spread of the gospel in the 1st century.

The Jews had been dispersed in almost every part of the Roman Empire at that time.  They were aware of the promises of God and they were waiting for their Messiah.  This system of roads and the displacement of the Jews would aid in the spread of the gospel when the time came. 

Did the LORD God inform His chosen people the Messiah was coming?  Yes, He did:  “You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands (here’s the time clue), and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them (Daniel 2:34).  

Please turn to Daniel 2:44.  The stone was the Messiah or Jesus Christ:  “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 

Daniel said "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom..."  As he interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he says that Nebuchadnezzar was the first of four kingdoms.  It was in the days of the kings of the fourth kingdom that the eternal kingdom, which would take in all other kingdoms, was to be set up.  Most Bible scholars agree this was in reference to the days of the Roman Empire.  Christ was prophesied to come during the Roman Empire; this was the time "appointed by the Father."

God sent forth His Son - Paul wants these folks (and us) to understand a couple of things from this brief statement.  First, this book says Jesus Christ was sent into the world from the Father:  "I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father." (John 7:28-29, 16:28, 20:21). 

Second, the Son of God existed before His first advent or His birth at Bethlehem:  “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was (John 17:5; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2).

Our Apostle Paul also said He was Born of a woman – Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, came to earth Born of a woman and born under the Law.  From the onset the Church has taught Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man.  You won’t find that phrase in the Bible, but He was fully man, Born of a woman, the Virgin Mary.  Christ Jesus entered our world just like any other male child, except for the fact He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, but His Father was God:  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14; Matthew 1:18).

Otherwise, He could not have been the world’s Savior and Paul makes this point so clear in Romans 3:23-24:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being (what) justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ (the world’s Savior). 

He had to be fully God in order for His sacrifice to have the infinite worth necessary to atone for the sins of all.  It was man who sinned, therefore it was man who was under the curse and who was condemned to forfeit his life to God.  Jesus could not have substituted for sinful man on the cross had He not taken upon Himself "the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7).  He had to be God to have the power of Savior, and He had to be man to have the position of Substitute.

Jesus has always been God, He took on human nature, but He remained God at the same time.  No one understands this doctrine or the doctrine of the Holy Trinity either, but these are just two subjects in scripture that are addressed to faith and not to “reason.”  The doctrine of Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man is called the hypostatic union; the addition of the human nature to the divine nature. 

Jesus has always existed; He’s always been God (John 8:58, 10:30).  Jesus is the Creator God (John 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16).  When Jesus was conceived, He took on human form, in addition to being God (John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:17).  When my dad got up in the morning, he put on his work clothes and went to work.  He essentially became someone else during that time, but when he came home he was my father.  He never stopped being my father; does this make sense?  Jesus put on “human clothes, figuratively speaking;” He never stopped being God!

We’ve looked at the term redemption in previous lessons; it’s the process of redeeming, delivering, or rescuing; it’s “buying something back” which had been lost or had been taken away by force.  Biblically speaking, God was the sole owner of all of mankind until He lost ownership to Satan due to Adam’s transgression.  Adam’s transgression brought sin and death to all men and women (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21).  Therefore, Jesus Christ could not have substituted for all sinful mankind on the cross had He not taken upon Himself, “the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).  He had to be fully God to have the power of Savior of all, and He had to be fully man to have the position of Substitute of all.  

Born under the Law – Jesus Christ was born during the Dispensation of the Law or under the Old Covenant.  Although He was God in the flesh, He wasn’t above the Law; He subjected Himself to its control and its requirements.  He fulfilled the Law to perfection.  Put another way, He was the one and only Man throughout all of history who kept the Mosaic Law perfectly and this is significant.  Jesus had to be without sin in order to pay for all mankind’s sin and to secure their redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12; Colossians 1:12-14, 2:13-15).   

So that He might redeem those who were under the Law – Paul used the word redeem in verse 3:13 to speak of God “buying back” the believing Jews from the curse of the Mosaic Law and all humanity from the slavery of sin through belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This reveals the complete helplessness of mankind to earn eternal life through works and directs their attention to God’s saving Grace:  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6).

(To be continued)

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