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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)
Welcome back to HBS.
We began our study of chapter 4 last week and we made it as far as verse 5. So that’s where we’ll pick up the lesson today.
In 4:1-2 our Apostle Paul talks about a well-known practice in both the Greek and Roman cultures, that of an heir coming of age. At that time the son could legally take ownership of his father’s estate. Previously, his father’s assets belonged to him he just didn’t have any control of them yet. Then in 4:3-5, he uses the analogy to address the status of the believing Jews who lived under the Law. The heir under Roman law had legal ownership of his father’s estate too, minus the control, until he came of age. Similarly the Jews who believed in Christ Jesus had the promises of God to Abraham; they just hadn’t realized them yet. God is in control of the timing of these promises.
Please open your Bible at Galatians 4:5.
In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law – the Koine Greek word for redeem is Exagorazo (ex-ag-or-ad’-zo), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1805, meaning, by payment of a price to recover from the power of another, to ransom, to buy back. This word is taken right from the marketplace in Paul’s day where slaves were bought and sold routinely. It literally means: “to buy out of the marketplace” or “to ransom from slavery.”
The slave was powerless to alter his or her position in the marketplace. They did not possess the ability or the means to “deliver themselves;” they were helplessly held in bondage hoping someone would show them mercy by redeeming them. A life of slavery in someone’s home or in their workplace was a far better end then to be taken away to be a galley slave or entertainment for the masses in the arena or coliseum where crowds encouraged and cheered for their ghastly death.
Most people are familiar with the hymn “Amazing Grace” but few people know the man John Newton who wrote it. He grew up as an only child. His mother died when he was 7 years old. He chose the life of a sailor and went to sea at the age of eleven. He learned that way of life well as he became a captain of his own ship; a slave ship. He had a hand in that horrible degradation of humanity that will forever be a stain on human history which has been called the “Slave Trade.” But at the age of twenty-three, on March 10, 1748, when his ship was in imminent danger of sinking off the coast of Newfoundland, he prayed to God for mercy, and found it. He never forgot how amazing it was that God had heard his prayer and received him, after all the wrongs he had committed. To mark this event and to keep it fresh in his memory, he fastened on the wall over his fireplace mantel the words of Deuteronomy 15:15: You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you.
May this serve to remind each one of us, if we’d only remember, keep fresh in our hearts and minds, what we once were, where we once were, and what we are now in Christ Jesus, it will benefit us greatly daily for we are slaves no longer but free men and women and co-heirs with God, by faith; thanks to God’s Amazing Grace.
that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters) see Romans 8:14-15, 23, 9:4; Ephesians 1:5. Right out of the gate I want to address the fact that the Bible is not gender-neutral and mean-spirited toward women as some people believe and some people teach. It presents from beginning to end a masculine perspective because that represents the culture or accepted traditions of society when this book was written. Instead of re-writing scripture it’s up to the reader of scripture to determine what application to females or what inclusion of females is implied by the passage. Sometimes, a reference to men or brothers (brethren) should be understood to include females; in other instances, men simply mean “men.” The context will guide you at all times. It’s not difficult.
Next in line, the Koine Greek word for adoption is Huiothesia (hwee-oth-es-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #5206, meaning: that relationship which God was pleased to establish between Himself and the Israelites in preference to all other nations; the blessed state looked for in the future life after the visible return of Jesus Christ from heaven.
Our Apostle Paul continues to explain the benefits or privileges true Believers receive as full heirs of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus. He uses the metaphor adoption in reference to our salvation. The Apostles John and Peter used the metaphor most people are familiar with “born again.” In Roman law, the process of adoption was very difficult. It not only took a long time to arrange it was also quite expensive; but once enacted adoption afforded several special rights and privileges:
1: All debts were cancelled
2: All criminal charges were cancelled
3: The adoptee could not be legally put to death by his father
4: The adoptee could not be disinherited by their new father
Legally speaking, the adopted child was a completely new person. When a father publicly adopted a son, he officially and permanently became his heir. In using this Roman, legal adoption procedure, our Apostle Paul is in effect saying the true Believer is eternally secure once they place their faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:15, 23). The metaphor was used in the official ceremony of a boy becoming a man, i.e. Liberalia, which was held annually on the 17 of March.
6: Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Please note Paul shifts from writing in first-person to second-person in verse 6 to show the adoption received by those under the Law (v5) was also received by the Gentile converts. He’s speaking to the Gentiles when he says, “Because you are sons…” How did they become sons? The only answer is by faith in the gospel: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).
“But now” that the Galatians had believed the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ had died for the sins of all, was buried, and was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 3:1); their faith (plus nothing else) enabled them to be immediately considered as “sons of God.” And being sons (daughters is implied), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts (Ephesians 1:13).
Some people have declared this a difficult verse simply because two Persons of the Triune Godhead are mentioned. They say this confuses its meaning. I don’t believe Paul intends to introduce confusion. I do believe he has introduced a significant teaching about the Holy Trinity in this passage. God the Father sent God the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of God the Son, into our hearts to give us an assurance that we are the sons and daughters of God.
The Spirit of His Son: The Holy Spirit can be called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or linked to God the Father. This is because the nature of God is consistent among the Persons of the Trinity. Here, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of His Son because the idea of our sonship is based on Jesus' sonship.
I may have just lost some of y’all, so I’ll say according to this book the ministry of the Son and the Spirit has always been closely linked. Still, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not God the Father. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. They are not three different gods, but separate, eternally existing in three Persons, equal in every respect.
As I’ve said before the Trinity is an unfathomable and yet an unmistakable doctrine in scripture (Deuteronomy 6:4; John 10:30, 33; 14:16, 18, 23; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:9). Although they are one, the Word of God in no way denies the simultaneous existence and distinctiveness of each of the three Persons of the Godhead. The Bible is clear: God is one God (not three), but the One God is a Trinity of Persons, each One with individual characteristics, capable of expressing thought, will, and emotions.
In Galatians chapter 3 Paul mentioned the Spirit frequently in reference to our becoming Believers (Galatians 4:2, 5, 14). He is now called “the Spirit of His Son.” We’re seeing two works of the Spirit: 1) drawing people to Christ Jesus; and 2) forming those He has called into Christlikeness (John 14-16). The Spirit also baptizes Believers into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
So Paul’s saying as a result of being adopted into God’s (holy) family, by faith, every true Believer will have the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ in them. We find Paul saying something similar to this in Romans 8:9: However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells (where) in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (Romans 8:9).
Before our conversion we were excluded from the presence of God; our access was denied, even our prayers were inaudible because of our “unrighteousness” (John 9:31; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Now I believe the Sovereign God can and will answer any prayer from anyone, as He chooses, but because all men and women are alienated from God at the moment of their birth this book is very clear in saying unbelievers are by nature enemies of God (Proverbs 15:8, 29; Psalm 34:16; Romans 5:10). Our Father in heaven hears the prayers of His children but not those of His enemies, unless they’re asking Him for salvation of course. I call this the “life-guard principle.” Having said that, one of the blessings we experience because of our “right standing” with God, thanks to the righteousness of Christ Jesus, is timeless access into the very presence of God the Father (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19:22; 1 Peter 3:18).
For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
crying, “Abba! Father - Paul wants the Galatians to know this is the result of having the Spirit of Christ in their hearts. The Sprit is crying to the Father and not ourselves, by the way. One of the first ministries the Spirit performs to us, after baptizing us into the Body of Christ and securing our eternal salvation, is providing our faith. The Spirit assures us God has become our “Abba” “Father.” In doing so, He confirms our identity as the adopted children of God, assuring each one of us have the right to call Him “Abba, Father!”
Common slaves were not permitted to use the loving and reverent title “Abba” in addressing the head of the family. However, all true Believers are considered free men and women in Christ Jesus because they are no longer enslaved by sin (Romans 6:6, 18). For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:15-17).
7: Therefore you are no longer a slave (servant in the KJV Bible), but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son - if you read ahead through verses 8-10, you’ll see Paul’s used the word slave but he’s referring to unbelievers – for they “knew not God,” nor were they “known by God.” What Paul means to say is, “They did not have an intimate knowledge of God.” This kind of knowledge can only be derived from a personal Father/son relationship.
and if a son, then an heir through God – because we are sons and daughters of God, we are heirs. But here’s the thing, we are heirs only through Christ Jesus. Just like the Roman male child who was adopted into the prominent family back in Paul’s day, we too did not have a hand in our adoption. We’re entitled to all the privileges of a son and we’re all heirs of God through Jesus Christ, the Redeemer (Romans 8:17).
8: However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
However at that time, when you did not know God – beginning here and in the following verses Paul is addressing the Galatians, the Gentiles, who were pagans in every sense of the word prior to his first visit to Galatia. In their state of paganism, when they had no knowledge of God, they could not serve Him, obviously. Instead, Paul said, “you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” Paul’s saying, they were slaves by nature to idols; false gods.
With this statement, “you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods,” Paul shines a light on a biblical truth that runs throughout scripture and that is all humans are religious by nature. This book is quite clear in expressing the fact that all humans have the potential of knowing the One, true God both from creation (Psalm 19:1-5; Romans 1:19-20) and also an inner moral witness (Romans 2:14-15). However, the Bible asserts that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, have rejected this knowledge: as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; (Romans 3:10); for have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
A person doesn’t have to be deeply committed to some religiously defined god to be a slave to non-gods. All a person has to do is have some objective or goal which he or she consistently pursues. I’ll explain: the acquisition of wealth is, for some, a god. For others, public opinion is a god for whom they will do most anything to please. For others, pleasure in the physical realm is a god to them and their commitment and willingness to sacrifice is incredible (they will destroy their bodies, families, health, marriages, minds, and their reputations in order to experience a momentary pleasure). For others, knowledge is a god for whom they will spend themselves. For some, work becomes a god and they surrender all their time to this inanimate object sacrificing their health, their family, and their marriage as they feed their all to it. There are far too many non-gods to list here and the truth is people are fashioning new ones constantly, all the while ignoring and despising the Creator God who holds death and life in His mighty right hand (Deuteronomy 5:9; Isaiah 44:6-23; John 3:36; Romans 2:5; Colossians 3:6; Revelation 14:19, 16:1).
To illustrate this message Charles Dickens’ classic The Christmas Carol quickly comes to mind. Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter, old man made excuses his whole life for his uncaring nature, as he diligently worked to build his fortune. He wasn’t interested in family or making lasting friendships during his lifetime; he was interested in making money, in making a name for himself among his peers. In the movie the last spirit showed him the “price” of his success. He died a lonely, old man while serving his non-god. He was given an opportunity to view his future and repent.
Christ came to tell us He is the resurrection and the life… without Him in our lives, in our hearts, we are not free men and women, enslaved to sin we have no future (John 11:25, 14:6). The unbeliever’s future without Christ is worse than Ebenezer’s vision by far. The unbeliever faces the second death; an eternity suffering in the Lake of Fire and separated from God’s love. That’s a heavy price to pay for being purposely uninformed and stubborn fence-sitters.
Paul’s not pulling any of his punches; so to speak, he wants these Galatians to understand their current situation. As Believers, they are free men and women in Christ Jesus, adopted children of God, and heirs of God. Why would they willingly return to enslavement under the Mosaic Law?
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?
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God – the time element Paul introduced in verse 8 is contrasted in verse 9 with the words “But now.”
The term know God means more than acquiring knowledge of God from His Word. It implies an interpersonal relationship (Genesis 3, 4:1; Jeremiah 1:5). Both the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden knew the LORD God on an intimate, personal level. They walked with Him in the garden and conversed with Him; they spent time with Him daily because they were committed to their relationship with Him. Only one relationship between humans comes close to matching that intimate relationship and that’s the marriage relationship.
The Galatian Believer’s new relationship wasn’t based on knowing facts about God and His Son, but God initiating a New Covenant through Christ with the Gentiles who were once excluded and far off (Ephesians 2:11, 3:13).
how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things - Paul chooses to use the word elemental again here (see 4:3). In Koine Greek the word is Stoicheion (stoy-khi’-on), Noun Neuter, Strong’s Greek #4747, meaning: any first thing, from which the others belonging to some series or composite whole take their rise, an element, first principle or discipline. They were trading the slavery of paganism for the slavery of Judaism as a means of salvation. Paul’s saying both Judaism and paganism were subject to the Stoicheia (See verse 8). Both of these are inadequate and incapable of providing eternal life. The Law could not justify anyone; Paul described them as weak and worthless in this respect.
10: You observe days (of the Jewish festivals) and months (new moon: Numbers 10:10, 28:11-14) and seasons (the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, etc.) and years (the year of Jubilee or the sabbatical year).
Here Paul is referencing the Jewish religious calendar (Colossians 2:16). The Galatians were attempting to make progress in their spiritual life by learning and keeping the Mosaic Law. They were in effect exchanging one religious calendar (pagan) for another (Jewish). But Paul’s understanding of the gospel allowed him to apply its truth to different situations. The situation in the Galatian churches required him to oppose legalism and works-based righteousness. However, in Romans 14, Paul encouraged strong Believers not to judge weaker Believers who respected “certain days” (Romans 14:5-6). So, there’s no conflict here. In Galatians it is a matter of the proper understanding of the gospel, whereas in Romans 14 it concerns the Believer’s fellowship (1 Corinthians 8, 10).
11: I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
After the Galatians salvation, Paul’s goal in the Galatian churches was spiritual maturity in Christ. This is the reason for this statement. He’s not questioning their salvation. The meaning of the word labored is, “done with obvious effort or difficulty to the point of exhaustion.” Paul’s saying he labored among the Galatian churches in preaching the gospel and teaching church doctrines to these folks. Now he is concerned because they have strayed from the true path of spiritual maturity in Christ; they have been side-tracked by the Judaizers onto the path of legalism. That was quite literally a dead-end; this is what he feared.
(To be continued)
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