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Galatians 4 - BIBLE STUDY WITH ME



Welcome back to the fourth post of our Bible study with me series, where we're diving into the book of Galatians and discovering all of the grace that God offers and Paul is reminding the church of. If you've missed the first three chapters, go catch up on that first, and then we'll jump into Galatians 4!


At the beginning of chapter 4, Paul continues elaborating on a concept he began in chapter 3. We are all one in Christ, and we are children of God. He uses the metaphor of being underage to explain why the law was important for us before Christ came; the law "looked after" us, until the right time, when Jesus was born and redeemed us. Through this redemption, we have received adoption to sonship, meaning that officially chosen children of the Almighty God. He has adopted us into His family, taken us under His care and welcomed us to the dinner table. We are family, His beloved, and an heir to all that He has promised.


No matter what.


It doesn't matter your past, your story, or the mistakes you've made. It doesn't matter the labels that the world has put on you, the box you're trying to fit in, or the shoes you're trying to fill. You are a child of God, and that's that.


In the second section of this chapter, titled in my Bible, "Paul's concern for the Galatians", Paul does just that - expresses why he's worried about these churches. He reminds them that before they knew God, they were slaves to earthly things, but now they know God and are are known by God, yet they continue to turn back to be enslaved by those "weak and miserable forces". They keep falling back into the same fleshly patterns, falling into sin and idolatry, the same chains that kept them from fully experiencing freedom.


Paul is so concerned for these churches that he invites them to remember when they first met. He reminds them of their kindness towards him when he was sick and needed their hospitality. He pleads with them to follow his example, not because he's perfect, but because he's set on Jesus, and to be weary of the zealous legalists trying to pull them away from the church. Paul warns them about how some are trying to pull them away from grace and into exclusive religious sects, and to do that would be to live in vain. He worries that they are living knowing about grace yet continuing to stay subject to the law, trying to do the "right" things.


As I was studying this and reading commentaries on it, I came across a reflection question that hit me right in the heart. It asked, "Do you have the faith of a servant or the faith of a son?" And friends, sometimes we really need to take a moment and think about this. Is our faith based on what we do, trusting that as long as we keep up the "good Christian" act, God will bless us? Or is our faith based on love, trusting that no matter what, God welcomes us in as His beloved children? Sometimes our lives can resemble that of the Galatians, where we claim to know grace yet easily fall back into old patterns and lies. This is why it is so vital that we keep choosing the cross, choosing to accept the promise that God has offered us, and believing that we don't need to remain in captivity to the law anymore. We must be aware, on guard, of those trying to convince us otherwise, and cling to our identity as children of the Almighty.


Then, in the final section of the chapter, Paul uses an illustration with Sarah and Hagar, two crucial women in the Old Testament, to further drive home the point of living under grace and living under the law. (And if I'm being honest, this took a lot for me to even partially understand, so I'm going to do my best here.)


He directs this specifically to those "under the law", meaning those who are focused on their performance, as opposed to those who are under grace, who are focused more on what Christ has done. My commentary notes the importance of this order; we were never meant to be under the law, but instead the law under us. The law is supposed to be a guide for our feet, a direction and path towards experiencing Jesus, not the authority which we report to.


In Paul's illustration, Hagar and Sarah create a vivid distinction between two covenants, one that is under the law, and one that is under grace. Because Hagar was a slave, she represents those who are living under the law, and Sarah represents those under grace. Paul explains that Christianity, living under grace, is the only way to walk in freedom, or else we're under the same burden of slavery that Hagar was. And, like Sarah had Isaac, the result of a divine promise, Christianity is connected to the promised miracle of Jesus.


Then, he connects Hagar with present-day Jerusalem, a place of turmoil, slavery, and bondage. Because Hagar is a slave, she will only give birth to slaves and will remain in slavery with her children. Similarly, when we are under the law, it continues to give birth to bondage - an endless cycle of trying to prove ourselves to God. But, Sarah is compared to the future Jerusalem in heaven, where we are free in the grace of God.


And he makes the statement that the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son, meaning that the law and grace cannot live together. The law was needed and necessary before the promise came, but now that the promise (Jesus) has come, we don't need the law in the same way anymore. It was a temporary crutch, in a way, to support us while we were still dead in sin. We cannot live half under the law and half under grace - it's pointless and unproductive. Trying to blend or merge the two contradicts what both sides are preaching, and they can't actually coexist.


The Enduring Word commentary so beautifully expresses the difference in living as a slave versus under grace: "Anyone who makes the law central is in the position of a slave; all his life he is seeking to satisfy his master the law. But when grace is central, the person has made love his dominant principle...it will be the power of love and not the constraint of the law that keeps us right; and love is always more powerful than the law." Under the law, we are constantly striving, trying to satisfy the requirements of the law - something that we can never do. But when we walk in grace, love is our focus instead. Our focus shifts from "how can we do enough good things?" to "how can we love God today?" And when that happens, there's a wave of relief, because we don't have to try to be enough anymore, just love. And that is enough.


This chapter honestly brought me to all of the analysis essays that I had to write in AP Lang, and it hurt my brain a little bit. If you're in the same boat, I want to bring us back to the most important core lesson in this entire book: grace. Because Jesus died on the cross, and rose again three days later, we are free. We don't have to strive anymore, try to measure up to the law or be enough to enter the presence of a holy God. We only have to accept the forgiveness that He offers, and then walk in a beautiful redemption story. We are heirs to the promise, children of the Almighty, and no longer bound to the chains that once held us down.


Grace is what it's all about.

 

Jesus, thank You for grace. Thank You that even when I struggle to understand all of the metaphors and comparisons, grace is the core message. Thank You that the cross was more than enough to cover every scar, every failure, every sin. Thank You that I am a free child, adopted into redemption and salvation. Thank You that I don't have to perform, but just love. I pray that we each would continue to take time to pray and reflect over what You're teaching us in this chapter. May our hearts and lives continually be transformed to look more like You every day. Amen.

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