Reading for Monday, May 21: Galatians 4
After making an appeal based on his authority as an apostle (1:11ff), Paul has also appealed to the Galatians’ experience of the Gospel (3:1ff) as well as the textual example of Abraham’s justification by faith (3:15ff). Now, in chapter 4, we find Paul making a personal appeal on the basis of his relationship with the Galatians (4:8ff).
Before he goes there, Paul trots out two metaphors to communicate his point: the example of a minor who is destined to inherit significant wealth, but remains under the care of trustees until he comes of age; and a slave who is adopted as a son with the full rights of freedom. In the fullness of time, God has acted decisively in Christ to liberate us from captivity and to graduate us into our status as heirs of the Kingdom. Paul is urging these Galatian Christians to understand themselves through these metaphors.
Paul reminds the Galatians of the bond he’s enjoyed with them: although a physical malady brought about the occasion for Paul to preach to them, they received him hospitably and without reservation. “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (v16). Paul’s relationship with the Galatians precipitates this kind of gut-level dialogue. “It’s not because I don’t like you,” we might imagine Paul saying. “In fact, I only bring all of this up BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.” Maybe you’ve had similar conversations with someone in the past; maybe someone has had to address you with this kind of tone. If so, praise God for these people. They’re true friends, people who must really love us if they’re willing to engage in this kind of serious discussion with us.
The chapter closes with another textual example: Hagar and Sarah. In Paul’s argument, each of these ladies represents something: Hagar, the slavery produced by life in the flesh; and Sarah, the life that comes through the promises of God. Paul is employing every tool in his tool box to prompt the Galatians. “Are you children of Hagar? Children representative of the old covenant? Of Sinai? Of Jerusalem? Or are you children of Sarah? Children who represent promise and Spirit and new life?” These are the questions we’re meant to ask ourselves as we read through Galatians 4.