posted on Feb, 12 2016 @ 05:06 PM
When he was very small, my younger brother once locked himself in his bedroom (by means of a sliding catch on the inside of the door).
This was very inconvenient.
I can still see my mother, standing outside the door, trying to communicate instructions.
“Simon…Open…the door… slide…the catch”.
He took no notice, happily burbling to himself and working his crayons over the inside of the door (as was discovered later).
The outcome was that my father acquired a ladder and climbed in through the sash window, probably breaking it first.
Once he was there, of course, it was easy enough to open the door from inside.
I find this memory helpful when it comes to understanding what Paul says in Galatians about the intervention of Christ in the world.
I’m continuing my survey of Galatians at the beginning of the fourth chapter.
In the previous chapter, Paul was explaining that submission to law was never intended to be permanent.
He compared it with the tutelage imposed on children.
The coming of faith means that we can cease to be children.
But we’re also told, at the same time, that we cease to be outsiders, and become “sons of God”.
The argument in the fourth chapter continues to use both metaphors.
On the one hand, following on from the “schoolmaster” image, those living before the time of Christ are still to be understood as under-age
“The heir…is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father” (vv1-2)
In this metaphor, nothing but time and the completion of his education would keep the child from reaching adulthood and taking over the estate.
But Paul prepares the way for the other image by describing the under-age heir as “no better than a slave” before he reaches his majority.
Developing this thought, he tells us that we used to be enslaved by the STOICHEIA of the world (v3).
There is some debate about the interpretation of this word, here and in Colossians ch2 v8.
The original meaning was the letters of the alphabet, as ranked in rows.
A secondary meaning was the basic “elements” of the material world, as Greek physical science understood them.
In some modern translations we find “basic principles, elemental principles”.
The RSV gives “elemental spirits”, implying a claim that regulations were being imposed by secondary spiritual powers.
But that “we” necessarily includes the Jews as well as the Gentiles, and Paul has already explained that the Law of Moses, at least, came from God
and was part of his plans.
So it is probably better to refer back to the “schoolmaster” metaphor and think of “elementary” in the educational sense.
These are the basic principles of religion, the “ABC”.
Until the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles had been “enslaved” by them.
Insofar as the Law required people to be “doing things”, especially in the ritual sphere, it was as much “of the world” as anything in Gentile
If the understanding is that we were living in a state of “slavery”, that corrects the impression, given by the first metaphor, that the
achievement of the “inheritance” would have been automatic, by the mere progression of time.
Something needed to be done to release us from slavery.
The action was taken “when the time had fully come” (v4). The Law had completed its work, and God was ready to complete his plan.
“He sent forth his Son”. This is not just being “sent” in the ordinary way that the apostles or the prophets were “sent” as God’s
This is more emphatic. The Son is “sent out” [EXAPESTEILEN], direct from God or heaven.
But he had to be present in the place of origin before he could be sent out.
So that statement, in itself, implies the pre-existence of the Son, just as we find in the teaching of John.
The Son was “born of woman”. This is an unusual statement, because it seems redundant. We don’t normally bother to specify about any individual
man that he was “born of woman”, simply because it would be true about men in general.
When Job says “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job ch14 v1), he means “all men”.
When the witches told Macbeth that he could be killed by “no man of woman born”, he took that to mean “no man at all”, and only a typically
Shakespearian quibble prevented him from being right.
But in this case “being born of woman” is attached to “being sent forth”.
It implies that there was a time, before being sent forth, when he had not been “born of woman”.
It treats the Son’s human birth as a new stage in his existence.
Here then is the full teaching of the Incarnation; because the information that the Son was “born of woman” presents his humanity, and the
necessity of saying so, as describing a new event, points to his pre-existing divinity.
In addition, he was “born under the Law”.
In effect, the Son adopted the same solution that my father found. He got himself “inside”. That is, he placed himself in the same condition as
the people he wanted to release.
From that position, he could “open the door from inside” and carry them out with him, just as my father would have done (the inside catch,
incidentally, was removed immediately afterwards).
As Paul describes the process, the first stage was that we were “redeemed from the Law”. We were released from the power which it held over us.
Once we were free from the Law, we were no longer in a state of slavery.
If we were no longer slaves, we were free to be “adopted as sons” (v5)
The evidence that we have been adopted as sons is provided by the presence of the Spirit, who prompts us to call out (to “clamour”, just like a
child), addressing God as Father (v6)
The calling of “Father” identifies the Spirit as the Spirit of the Son, and shows that we too have become “sons”, in Christ.
He is the natural-born Son, as it were.
But as Christ is in us and we are in Christ, we share his qualities; we are “sons” by adoption.
In consequence, we become “heirs” of the promise to Abraham, completing the argument of the previous chapter (v7).
Which brings us back to Paul’s basic question;
Why should we throw away that privilege, abandoning the relationship with God established by faith, and fall back into the state of slavery under the