February 13: Galatians 4:21-31

Galatians 4:21-31

Galatians 4:21-31 represents the final section of the probatio of the letter (chaps. 3-4), and also the final argument used by Paul in support of his central proposition (expressed in 2:15-21). By these arguments, Paul endeavors to ‘prove’ (thus, probatio) his proposition, regarding the relation of believers in Christ (Jewish and non-Jewish) to the Torah.

I have discussed this section previously, most notably as an article in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”. Here I will be focusing on the particular theme of the sonship of believers, contrasting this sonship with a condition of slavery. This is a theme which runs through chapters 3-4—and, indeed, through the entire letter. Are believers still in bondage to the regulations of the Torah (under the term no/mo$), thus continuing in a kind of slavery? or, as sons, who have now come of age, able to inherit everything that belongs to the Father, are we free of this guiding authority? Paul argues strenuously against the former, while affirming (just as vigorously) the latter. The allegorical illustration he uses in 4:21-31 represents his final argument (of the probatio) toward this goal. He frames the illustration with a pointed rhetorical question for his audience:

“Relate to me, (you) the (one)s wishing to be under the Law, would you not hear the Law?” (v. 21)

This rhetorical device is known as the interrogatio method, by which Paul questions his audience, prompting them and allowing them to bring forth a determination themselves. The question actually serves as a challenge to the Galatians, and cuts right to the heart of Paul’s message in the letter. It also alludes to the seemingly paradoxical character of Paul’s view of the Torah. In support of his argument that believers are no longer bound by the Torah’s authority, he appeals to the Torah’s authority.

There is actually a double-use of no/mo$ here, referring both to the Torah regulations (recorded in the Pentateuch) and, secondly, to the narratives of the Pentateuch. This is significant since Paul’s argument is based upon the interpretation of a specific Scriptural narrative (from the Torah/Pentateuch). The expression “hear the Law” also has a two-fold meaning: (1) to obey the Law, and (2) literally, to hear the words of the Law (i.e. of Scripture). The latter is what Paul means primarily here, but he may also be saying, “if you want to be under the Law, are you willing to obey the Law (i.e. the true Law of Christ)?”

In verses 22-23, Paul summarizes the Scriptural narrative found in Genesis 16:1-6; 21:8-14, citing Gen 16:15; 21:2-3, 9. That Hagar was a slave or “servant-girl” (paidi/skh) is indicated in the narrative (Gen 16:1ff; 21:10ff, also 25:12); the contrast of Sarah as a free woman can be inferred/implied naturally from the context. This establishes the contrast between slavery and freedom—a key theme which Paul introduced (2:4) and developed (3:23-29; 4:1-10) earlier in the letter (cf. the previous notes on 3:26 and 4:4-7). It also sets the stage for the specific emphasis on freedom in Christ to follow in 4:31/5:1ff.

The contrast, expressed through the figures of Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the narrative, is also expressed grammatically by the me/nde/ (“on the one hand…on the other…”) construction in verse 23 (cf. also vv. 8-9) [Note: some manuscripts (Papyrus46 B f vg) omit me/n]. The contrast/conflict between freedom and slavery is also defined as being between the “promise” (e)paggeli/a) and the “flesh” (sa/rc):

“the (one born) of the servant-girl has come to be (born) according to (the) flesh,
but the (one born) of the free (woman) through (the) e)paggeli/a [i.e. promise]” (v. 23)

The promise is closely connected with the Spirit (Gal 3:14). Meanwhile, the expression “according to (the) flesh” (kata\ sa/rka) is used frequently elsewhere in Paul’s letters (Rom 1:3; 4:1; 8:4-5, 12-13; 9:3, 5; 1 Cor 1:26; 10:18; 2 Cor 1:17; 5:16; 10:2-3; 11:18), and a Spirit-Flesh dualism is an important aspect of Paul’s thought in both Galatians (Gal 3:3; 4:29; 5:16-17; 6:8) and Romans (Rom 8:1-17) [cf. also Phil 3:3].

The two kinds of sons thus symbolize this dualistic orientation of Paul’s theology. The symbolism is based on his interpretation of the Genesis story as an “allegory” (a)llhgori/a), that is, a description of one thing under the image of another. Familiar from Greco-Roman and Hellenistic-Jewish literature and philosophy, it is also similar to the creative midrash interpretive tradition in Judaism; for other examples in Paul’s letters, cf. 1 Cor 10:1-13; 2 Cor 3:7-18. The contrast/conflict between Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the narrative is coordinated and aligned together (sustoixe/w, v. 25) as follows:

Slave-girl vs. Free (woman) [v. 22b]

Flesh vs. Promise [v. 23]

(Old) Covenant vs. (New) Covenant [v. 24]

Jerusalem (on earth) vs. Jerusalem above [v. 25-26]

Hagar/Ishmael vs. Sarah/Isaac [v. 28-29]

As indicated in verse 24, Paul gives prominence and priority to the idea of two covenants—the Greek word rendered “covenant” (diaqh/kh) is literally something “set through” or “put in order”, often in the legal sense of a will or testament (as in Gal 3:15-17), but here corresponding to the Hebrew tyr!B= (“binding agreement”)—that is, the agreement (covenant) established between God and his people (Israel). The two covenants—old and new—are contrasted syntactically by way of another me\nde/ formulation (see above):

    • me/none (the old) from mount Sinai into/unto slavery [ei)$ doulei/an]… (vv. 24-25)
    • de/(the other), the Jerusalem above, (which) is free [e)leuqe/ra e)stin]… (vv. 26-27)

Paul establishes this line of association first by equating Sinai with the (current) earthly Jerusalem in verse 25; he does this by way of (allegorical) correspondence, even though he recognizes that Mt. Sinai is actually in “Arabia” (presumably the Sinai peninsula). This equation has the following interpretive relationship:

    • The Sinai covenant (the Law/Torah) leads to slavery [doulei/a] =>
    • Jerusalem is currently serving as a slave [douleu/ei]

The last point could be taken either in a socio-political (i.e. under Roman occupation) or religious-spiritual (bondage under the Law and sin) sense, or both. This contrasts sharply with the traditional Jewish self-understanding of freedom related to the Torah and the covenant with God (see Mishnah Abot 6:2, also e.g. John 8:33), which Paul reverses completely. Here is the associative logic as a whole:

    • The Old Covenant (the Law/Torah) given at Mt. Sinai
      • Sinai = earthly Jerusalem
        • The Jerusalem below | Slavery
        • The Jerusalem above | Freedom
      • Jerusalem (above) = believers in Christ
    • The New Covenant (the Spirit/promise) realized in Christ

This idea of a heavenly Jerusalem came to be well-established in early Christian thought (see Hebrews 12:22; 13:14; Revelation 3:12; 21:2-22:5), and generally builds on the (eschatological) Old Testament and Jewish tradition of a “new Jerusalem”—e.g. Isa 54:10ff; 60-66; Ezek 40-48; Tobit 13:9-18; Jubilees 4:26; 2/4 Esdras 7:26; 10:40ff; 2 Baruch 4:2-7; 32:2-23; 1 Enoch 90:28f; 2 Enoch 55:2. Another familiar, and related, Jewish tradition was Jerusalem/Zion as a mother (v. 26). As such, this image is parallel to that of the Jewish concept of freedom associated with the Law and Covenant; and, again, Paul reverses this traditional association, by way of citing Isaiah 54:1 (LXX), a passage which came to be used in Judaism in the context of the rebuilding of Jerusalem (see the Targum; Pesiqta Rabbati 32:2). The context of Paul’s citation (v. 27) rather suggests a correlative juxtaposition between physical barrenness and spiritual life.

In verses 28-31, Paul applies this interpretation to the identity of believers in Christ. These verses begin and end with statements of Christian identity, related to the parallel concepts of promise and freedom, and emphasizing again the theme of the sonship of believers

V. 28: “But you*, brothers, according to Isaac, are offspring of (the) promise
{* some manuscripts read “we”}

V. 31: “Therefore, brothers, we are not offspring of the (slave)-girl, but of the free (woman)”

Verses 29-30 stand in between, and are descriptive of conflict for believers:

    • V. 29: External—drawing upon Jewish tradition of conflict between Ishmael and Isaac (not indicated specifically in the Scripture narrative itself), see t. Sota 6:6; Genesis Rabbah 53 (34a), etc. This is interpreted by Paul according to two aspects:
      (1) Jewish hostility and persecution toward early Christians, attested to amply by Paul in his letters and in the book of Acts.
      (2) The dualism of kata\ sa/rka (“according to the flesh”) vs. kata\ pneu=ma (“according to the Spirit”). Here the conflict is still external—i.e. the issue being that regarding circumcision and actual observance of the Torah commands; for an internal expression of this dualism in the hearts/minds and lives of believers (before and after conversion), cf. Romans 7-8.
    • V. 30: Internal—quoting Gen 21:10 and applying it primarily in a religious-spiritual sense: believers are the heirs in Christ (Gal 3:29; 4:1, 7; see also Rom 4:13-14; 8:17), and should no longer wish to come under a yoke of slavery. That Paul may here be expressing the rejection of Jews is certainly possible (see 1 Thess 2:14-16; Rom 9-11), but I do not believe that this is his emphasis—it rather relates more properly to his exhortation to the Gentile Galatians that they “cast away” the yoke of bondage (i.e. observance of the Torah) which they are considering placing upon themselves.

The thematic structure of these verses may be outlined as follows:

    • V. 28—Believers are children of the promise
      • V. 29—Conflict for believers: Flesh vs. Spirit
      • V. 30—Action for believers: “Cast out” the son of the slave-girl (i.e. slavery)
    • V. 31—Believers are children of the free woman

Significantly, these verses, which conclude the probatio, also prepare for the ethical instruction that follows in the exhortatio (“exhortation”) section, 5:1-6:10. Indeed, here Paul begins to turn his readers’ attention to the implications and consequences of what it means to be “sons/children of God”.

One primary implication has been the main focus of the letter, up to this point: believers are no longer under the binding authority of the Torah regulations (such as circumcision, the dietary and purity laws, etc), and are not obligated to observe them. This is emphasized by the ‘outer’ verses (vv. 28, 31) of the outline above.

The second implication (cf. the ‘inner’ verses 29-30), which is just as important, comes to be the focus in 5:1-6:10. Now that believers are freed from the Torah regulations, how is our life and behavior to be regulated? This is defined principally by the conflict between flesh and the Spirit. The impulses of the flesh (toward sin) still need to be curbed. However, this is no longer achieved through the external authority of the Torah regulations, but through the internal guidance of the Spirit. Even what remains of the Torah regulations—namely, the command/duty to love one another (5:13-15; 6:2ff)—is interpreted in light of the new reality that believers now live and act according to the Spirit. Paul expounds this quite clearly in 5:13-24, a passage which lies at the very heart of his instruction in 5:1-6:10.

This message may be summarized by the principle that: the sonship of believers is defined by the presence and work of the Spirit. In the next daily note, will begin examining this principle further, as Paul develops and explains it, in Romans.

February 12: Galatians 4:4-7

Galatians 4:4-7

Paul’s argument in Gal 4:1-7 builds on the illustration made in 3:23-25ff, comparing believers in Christ with the son who is an heir. This illustration, which draws upon Roman legal custom and practice, here involves the “guardianship of a minor” (tutela impuberis). The father (or head of the family, paterfamilias) appoints a guardian (one or more) over the child who is to inherit the property. During the time while he is a minor, even though the son may have legal status as the heir, he does not yet have access to the property; rather, the inheritance is entrusted to adult ‘guardians’, who will oversee and administer it until the child comes of age. For more on this background, cf. Betz, pp. 202-5.

Here is how Paul describes the situation, utilizing this illustration:

“upon as (much) time as the (one) receiving the lot is a speechless (child), (in) nothing does he carry through (differently) than a slave, (even while) being (the) lord of all; but he is under (those to whom it has been) turned over, and house-managers, until the (time) set before(hand) by the father.” (vv. 1-2)

A nh/pio$ denotes a “speechless” child, or infans (“infant”), but here the word is used figuratively for a minor (underage) child; in English idiom, we might approximate the sense with the expression “he does not yet have a say in the matter”. He is virtually like a household slave (dou=lo$) in this regard, even though he may be heir to all his father’s property (“being lord of all”). Indeed, the child himself is under the tutelage of household slaves and servants, like the paidagwgo/$ (“leader/guide of a child”) of the illustration in 3:23-25. The inheritance is “turned over” (e)pitre/pw, noun e)pi/tropo$) to the control of servants who act as administrators, and to “house-managers” (oi)kono/moi) who conduct business and make distributions as needed. The noun oi)kono/mo$ can actually designate a supervisor of the household slaves (Betz, p. 204), which gives added resonance to the comparison of the minor child with a slave.

As in 3:23-25, the upshot of this illustration is that the believer, before coming to faith in Christ, is like the minor child who is under the guiding control of household servants. In the earlier illustration, the servant (or slave) fulfilling this role was the Torah (or “law”, no/mo$, cp. oi)kono/mo$, which could be rendered “household law”). Paul still has the Torah regulations in mind here in 4:1-7, however the scope of its significance has broadened:

“So also we, when we were speechless (children) [nh/pioi], we were (one)s enslaved under the arrangements [stoixei=a] of the world;” (v. 3)

The noun stoi=xo$ essentially means a row or line of items, while the related stoixei=on, used here, refers to the specific items that are so arranged. In more abstract terms, we might render the plural of stoixei=on as “elements” or “(guiding) points”. Similarly, the noun no/mo$ essentially means something that is laid out (as an allotment). Believers were subject to the various ‘guiding principles’ of the world, including the regulations of the Torah; the latter specifically applies to Israelites and Jews (before they became believers), while the broader terminology of stoixei=a applies to all people. The noun stoixei=on is used in much the same way (by Paul) in Col 2:8, 20; by contrast, in 2 Peter (3:10, 12), stoixei=a refers to the material “elements” of the cosmos.

The chief point of the illustration is that, with the coming of Jesus Christ, the period of guardianship is over. Believers in Christ are no longer under the “guiding points/principles” of the world, which means that we are also no longer under the authority of the Torah regulations. For more on this point, see the articles in the series “Paul’s View of the Law” (esp. the various articles on Galatians).

Here in verse 4, there is special focus on the continuing theme of the sonship of believers (from chap. 3, cf. the previous note), which continues to be understood in relation to the unique Sonship of Jesus:

“but, when the fullness of the time had come, God sent out from (Him) His Son, (hav)ing come to be (born) out of a woman, (hav)ing come to be under (the) Law”

The ability of human beings to become the “sons” of God is dependent upon God’s own Son becoming a human being. Much the same point is made, though more indirectly, in the Johannine Prologue (see vv. 12-13 [previously discussed] in connection with verse 14 [discussed at length in a recent series]). The humanity and earthly life of Jesus is here described according to two aspects, given by way of parallel expressions:

    • “(hav)ing come to be out of a woman”
    • “(hav)ing come to be under (the) law”

In the first expression (and aspect), the verb of becoming (gi/nomai) means “come to be born”, referring to the birth of Jesus. This may refer to the “stoixei=a of the world” in the same physical/material sense of the term stoixei=a used in 2 Pet 3:10, 12 (cf. above). In the second expression (and aspect), the ethical-religious sense of stoixei=a is in view—viz., specifically, the guiding/ruling principles of the Torah. Jesus came to be “under” the control and influence of these stoixei=a, just like all other human beings, but for the purpose of freeing us from the stoixei=a:

“…(so) that he might purchase out (from bondage) the (one)s under the Law, that we might receive from (God) the placement as a son [ui(oqesi/a].” (v. 5)

The verb a)gora/zw denotes buying something (from the marketplace, a)gora/), while the compound e)kagora/zw is used specifically for the idea purchasing someone “out of” (e)k) a particular condition (of slavery/servitude). Having been “enslaved” under the Law, we are now freed from that bondage; there is no longer any need for the Torah (no/mo$) as a “household supervisor” (oi)kono/mo$) or “guide for the child” (paidagwgo/$). The believer has come of age, and can now inherit, as the Father’s son, what belongs to the Father. Paul states this unequivocally in verse 6:

“And, (in) that you are sons, God has sent out from (Him) the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!'”

It must be pointed out that, fundamentally, there is only one son—Jesus, the Son. This was true in chapter 3, where the reference was to Jesus as the son and heir of the promises to Abraham, and is equally so here in chapter 4, where the emphasis is on Divine sonship. Believers become the “sons” (or children) of God in a special way, which Paul describes, however briefly, here in verses 5-6. There are two stages to this dynamic of becoming the sons of God:

    • Verse 5—Having been freed from the period of enslavement, we are given the legal status as sons. Paul uses the term ui(oqesi/a (“placement as a son”), taken from the practice of adoption in the Greco-Roman world. This usage of the term may be unique to Paul, as ui(oqesi/a occurs in the New Testament only in the Pauline letters (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph 1:5).
    • Verse 6—Having been given the legal status of sonship, we are then truly made the sons of God by receiving the Spirit of God’s own Son within us.

Verse 6 makes clear that we are dealing with something more than ‘adoption’ in a strictly legal sense. Rather, there is a fundamental transformation of identity that takes place, from within. Paul’s wording here is sometimes overlooked in this regard. It is worth considering each phrase in sequence:

    • “in that you are sons” —that is, already possessing the legal status of sons through ‘adoption’ (ui(oqesi/a)
    • “God has sent out from (Himself)” —the same wording used in v. 4 (cf. below), indicating a Divine source and power
    • “the Spirit of His Son” —that is, the presence and power of His own Son, realized through the Spirit
    • “into our hearts” —i.e., within us, into our very being, so that there is both an essential identification and a transformative effect
      Note that some textual witnesses read “your hearts” instead of “our hearts”, but this is almost certainly a correction made to agree with the use of the second person earlier in the verse; Paul includes himself and other ministers (“our”) along with the Galatians (“you”) as believers
    • “crying ‘Abba, Father!'” —the essential (new) identity (of believers as God’s sons) is confirmed by the Spirit’s own declaration within us

There is a precise formal parallel of expression, between verses 4 and 6, which is important to note, as it relates to the idea that believers are truly God’s sons, just as Jesus Christ is His Son:

    • “God sent out from (Him) His Son”
      e)cape/steilen o( qeo/$ to\n ui(o\n au)tou=
    • “God sent out from (Him) the Spirit of His Son”
      e)cape/steilen o( qeo/$ to\ pneu=ma tou= ui(ou= au)tou=

The point should be emphasized: believers are not merely God’s sons in the legal sense of being ‘adopted’, and thus obtaining the status of sonship; rather, they/we are also transformed, by receiving the Spirit of His Son, to become truly His sons. This is an essential identity, though one which is dependent upon our union with Christ. And, with Jesus Christ himself, we also are heirs who inherit (and receive) that which belongs to the Father:

“So then, no longer are you a slave, but a son; and if a son, (then) also (one) who receives the lot [i.e. an heir] through God.” (v. 7)

This sonship occurs “through God” (dia\ qeou=) being entirely the work of God and a gift from Him.

Most likely Paul understands the second phase of the believer’s sonship—becoming truly God’s son through receiving the Spirit—as occurring in association with the baptism ritual. This would be in accordance with early Christian tradition (as evidenced in the New Testament), and seems to be confirmed by the earlier reference to baptism in 3:26-29. Note how the baptism reference (v. 27f) is bracketed by two declarations regarding the sonship of believers:

    • “sons of God” / through trust in Christ Jesus (v. 26, the theme of chap. 4)
    • “the seed of Abraham (and heirs to the promise)” / belonging to Christ Jesus (v. 29, the theme of chap. 3)

In the next note, we will look ahead to examine how Paul develops this sonship-of-believers theme in the final argument of the Galatians probatio, the allegorical illustration from Scripture in 4:21-31.

References above marked “Betz” are to Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 1979).

February 1: Galatians 3:26

Galatians 3:26

“For you are all sons of God through the trust (you have) in (the) Anointed Yeshua.”

This would seem to be the earliest recorded instance where Paul uses the expression “sons of God” (ui(oi\ qeou=), as a designation for believers in Christ; it should probably be regarded as the earliest such occurrence in the New Testament. It is unlikely, however, that this use of the expression was original or unique to Paul. It derives from Israelite and Old Testament tradition, whereby the people of Israel—and particularly the righteous ones among them—were called the “sons” of YHWH, in a symbolic religious sense. The notable references, in which the people are referred to as God’s “sons” (or “sons and daughters”), are Deut 32:19; Hos 1:10 [2:1]; and Isa 43:6; Israel collectively can be called God’s “son” (singular /B@), as in Exod 4:22-23; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1, while the idea of YHWH as Israel’s “Father” is similarly expressed (e.g., Deut 32:6; Isa 64:8; Jer 31:9). Jewish tradition, through the influence of Wisdom literature, narrowed this designation, so that the righteous person, specifically, was considered to be God’s “son” (cf. Wisd 2:18 [v. 16]; Sirach 4:10). This may be seen as another example of the categorical use of the construct noun /B@ (plur yn@B=), “son of…”, to indicate that a person belongs to a particular group. Faithful Israelites belong to God, as His people, and thus may also be called His “sons”.

Paul quotes from this line of Scriptural tradition in the catena (Scripture-chain) of 2 Cor 6:16-18. Verse 18, echoing references such as Exod 4:22; 2 Sam 7:14; Isa 43:6, and Jer 31:9, provides an implicit identification of believers as “sons [and daughters] of God”. The thrust of 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 is primarily ethical exhortation, as in 1 Thess 5:1-11 (cf. the discussion in the previous note); in fact, the same light-darkness juxtaposition, in an ethical-religious context, is present here (v. 14). The authorship of this section remains much debated by commentators (cf. my earlier study on the subject); but, even if Paul is adapting existing material in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1, it accords well with his own thought, and he clearly agrees with its paraenetic emphasis and purpose. Second Corinthians was probably written about the same time as Galatians; Romans was written at least several years later, but in 9:26, Paul quotes from Hos 1:10, alluding again (through this citation) to believers as the “sons of God”.

The line of argument in Romans 9 is significant for the context of Gal 3:26, since it deals with the important principle that both Jews and non-Jews, as believers in Christ, are to be considered the “sons (and daughters) of God”. Indeed, one’s ethnic-religious identity no longer has any bearing on whether one is a “son of God”. Paul argues this point vociferously throughout Galatians and Romans, and states it quite clearly here in Gal 3:26: a person is a son/child of God entirely through trust in Jesus Christ. Faithfulness and righteousness is no longer defined by fulfilling the regulations of the Torah, but is defined only by trust in Jesus.

In chapters 3-4, Paul presents a series of different arguments, by which he defends (and expounds) the central proposition of the letter, 2:15-21. In rhetorical terminology, 2:15ff represents the proposition (propositio), while chapters 3-4 comprise the proving (probatio) of the proposition. While the arguments are of different sorts, they tend to follow a logical sequence, building upon one another. The arguments in chapter 3 are centered around the figure of Abraham (just as in Romans 4), and deal with the idea of sonship. Through the example of Abraham, Paul establishes an important line of argument, relating the new religious identity of believers in Christ to the older identity based on God’s covenant with Abraham. The descendants (i.e., sons/children) of Abraham belong to God, through the covenant; and, as Abraham’s children, they are heirs to the promises God made to him. Paul’s line of argument circumvents the period of the Torah, defining the promise(s) as ultimately referring, not to the Torah, but to the coming of Jesus. Believers in Christ are thus the true descendants (sons) of Abraham, and are heirs to the Divine promises—cf. the statements in vv. 7, 9, and 14.

In verses 15-18, this line of argument is given a more precise logical (and theological) basis. Paul interprets the Scriptural tradition so as to identity Jesus as the “seed” (singular) of Abraham, and thus he is the heir to the promises. The promises were made prior to the institution of the Torah regulations; the Torah remained in place as a kind of guardian, but only until the time of Jesus’ coming (vv. 19-22ff). The illustration in vv. 23-25 compares the time of Jesus’ coming with the moment when the son (and heir) comes of age, and no longer requires a guardian. The precise term is paidagwgo/$, denoting someone who leads (i.e. guides) a child, being responsible for him and giving him certain training (while he is still a minor). According to the illustration, during this period, the Torah functioned (for the heirs of Abraham) as this paidagwgo/$; however, the period reaches its end with the coming of Jesus.

Yet, since it is Jesus who is the sole heir, others can inherit only in relation to him, only through him—that is, through trust in him. This is the rhetorical and theological context of Paul’s statement here in verse 26. Believers in Christ become co-heirs with him, as the true descendants (children) of Abraham, and thus heirs to the promises of God. Verse 29 states this quite clearly:

“And, if you (are) of (the) Anointed, then you are (the) seed of Abraham, and (one)s receiving the lot [i.e. heirs] according to (the) promise [e)paggeli/a].”

The idiom “of Christ” (genitive Xristou=) denotes the idea of belonging to Christ. This implies more than trust in Jesus—it indicates a bond of union with him. This is the new covenant-bond for the people of God, realized in union with the person of Christ, in place of the old covenant. Here, in vv. 27-28, Paul expresses this union in terms of the baptism ritual:

“For, as (many of you) as have been dunked [e)bapti/sqhte] into (the) Anointed, you have sunk in(to the) Anointed [i.e. put him on as a garment]” (v. 27)

This imagery involves two basic, and related, ideas: (1) participation in the death (and resurrection) of Jesus, and (2) a new identity, by which believers become (and are made) like Jesus. The “dunking” of the baptism ritual symbolizes the former idea—participation in Jesus’ death; going down into the water represents the death, and coming up again out of the water represents the new life (resurrection). The second idea is expressed by the symbolic ‘putting on’ of Christ—almost certainly involving the ritual donning of a new robe or garment. The garment represents a new identity: the believer now belongs to Christ, having been united with him. None of the distinctions that were important to the old identity—i.e., ethnic, social or gender distinctions—have any significance any longer for the new identity. This is the ideal expressed in verse 28, though, admittedly, it is an ideal that Christians, throughout the centuries, have had considerable difficulty in realizing.

As mentioned above, the focus in chapter 3 is on the figure of Abraham, and on believers, through Christ, as being the “sons of Abraham”. In chapter 4, this sonship-motif changes, with the emphasis now on believers as the “sons of God”. While this particular designation was introduced in 3:26, it will be developed further in chapter 4. We will turn our attention to this development in the next daily note, focusing, in particular, on verses 4-7.

March 16: Galatians 5:18, 23b

In the last two daily notes, I discussed the first two pairs of statements which bracket vv. 16-25 (see the chiastic outline in the earlier notes). As previously indicated, these pairs may be summarized:

    • Exhortation (vv. 16, 25) [note 1]
    • Conflict—Flesh vs. Spirit (vv. 17, 24) [note 2]
    • Affirmation regarding freedom (vv. 18, 23b)

Today’s note will examine the third and final pair.

Affirmation for believers (regarding Freedom)—Gal 5:18, 23b

Here, again, Paul makes specific reference to freedom from the Law, which is the primary theme running throughout the letter. The two verses, looked at in tandem, are:

V. 18: “But if you are (being) led in the Spirit, you are not under (the) Law
V. 23b: “…(but) against these (thing)s [i.e. the fruit of the Spirit] there is no Law

A casual reading of vv. 16-25 might easily miss the connection between these statements, the parallel being as much conceptual as it is formal. A close examination, however, demonstrates that Paul is making very similar claims; we can best see this by dividing each verse into two parts—the first presenting a conditional clause or phrase involving the Spirit, and the second being a conclusive affirmation regarding believers and the Law.

Part 1: Conditional

V. 18: ei) pneu/mati a&gesqe (“{but} if you are led in the Spirit…”)
V. 23: kata\ tw=n toiou/twn (“against these things…”)

Technically, only verse 18 properly contains a conditional clause, as indicated by the particle ei), “if” (I have left out the coordinating particle de/ [“but”] to better show the condition). The expression pneu/mati (“in/by the Spirit”) has been discussed in the prior two notes. The verb a&gw essentially means “lead”, but often specifically in the sense of “lead away, carry off, ” etc. Some commentators have thought that Paul’s use here may indicate a charismatic or “mantic” experience, i.e. being “carried away” by the Spirit. This is possible, but the overall context of Galatians strongly suggests that the basic sense of being led (i.e. directed/guided) better applies here. If so, then it fits with the similar language and symbolism Paul uses throughout regarding believers and the Spirit:

    • walk about in the Spirit” (v. 16)
    • walk in line in the Spirit” (v. 25)
    • “sow (seed) into the Spirit” (6:8)

Believers act in (and by) the power of the Spirit, being guided (willingly) by the Spirit; note in this regard:

    • Believers, through faith in Christ, receive the Spirit from God and begin “in the Spirit” (3:2-3, 14; 4:6)
    • God works in believers through the Spirit (3:5; 4:6)
    • We live in the Spirit (5:25)

There is a close formal parallel between v. 18a and 25a:

ei) pneu/mati a&gesqe, “if we are led in the Spirit, (then)…” (v. 18a)
ei) zw=men pneu/mati, “if we live in the Spirit, (then)…” (v. 25a)

Both, I believe, represent actual conditions, reflecting the reality of the Spirit in the lives of believers. In this regard, let us turn to verse 23, which, as I indicated, is not precisely a conditional clause. In fact, it is dependent upon vv. 22-23a, the list of “fruit of the Spirit” (karpo\$ tou= pneu/mato$)—the demonstrative pronoun toiou=to$, “these (thing)s”, refers to the nine items representing the “fruit”. Effectively, Paul is establishing a condition—i.e., if you exhibit the “fruit” of the Spirit, if the Spirit is working and you allow yourself to be led and guided by it, then know that “against these things…” The use of the preposition kata (“against”) is significant, as it reflects the conflict for believers described in vv. 17 and 24. Throughout Galatians, Paul has mentioned three related forces related to this conflict: (1) the flesh, (2) the Law,  and (3) the power of sin.

Part 2: Affirmation

V. 18: ou)k e)ste\ u(po\ no/mon (“…you are not under Law”)
V. 23: ou)k e)stin no/mo$ (“…there is no Law”)

This is, for Paul, perhaps the fundamental message he wishes to deliver to the Galatians, an affirmation of Christian identity, stated simply, and by way of negation. In verse 18, this relates back to the condition, “if you are led in the Spirit…”, and indicates the result: “…(then) you are not under the Law”. It is hard to imagine a simpler, more definite statement that believers are no longer bound and obligated to observe the commands of the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah). This is especially so when one considers the normal view of Torah precisely as (authoritative) instruction, a set of rules and precepts by which one is led and guided in the way of truth and to fulfill the will of God. For believers, it is rather the Spirit which provides the guidance traditionally ascribed to the Torah.

The statement in verse 23 is especially interesting by comparison, as it has to be understood in the context of vv. 22-23, providing a conclusion to the list of the “fruit of the Spirit” — “against these things [i.e. the fruit] there is no Law”. At first glance, it is not entirely clear what Paul means by this statement. Contextually, and upon examination, one may consider it according to the following aspects:

    1. There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit since they are all good and holy and, practically speaking, there is no law against doing good.
    2. The Law is principally about doing, i.e. “works” (cf. Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10-13), but the fruit of the Spirit are not works (as contrasted with “works of the flesh”).
    3. For believers the conflict is now between the Spirit and the flesh (cf. throughout Gal 5:1-6:10)—we are dead to the Law (2:19-20) and freed from its commands (2:4; 3:13, 23-25; 4:1-7, 21-31; 5:1ff), so it no longer applies.
    4. The guidance believers receive (from the Spirit) in governing or regulating attitudes and behavior in ethical (and religious) matters is not “Law” in the sense that the Torah commands are considered “Law”

Arguments can be made in favor of each of these viewpoints, however, I would say that the last two best capture Paul’s meaning and intent. While the context of vv. 22-23 is primary, I believe it is also appropriate, in this instance, to take the clause ‘out of context’, as a separate, independent statement (as I have essentially done above). This yields an especially clear and decisive statement that, for believers (those who are in Christ and in the Spirit), there is no Law. While such a conclusion, in one respect, accurately represents (and punctuates) Paul’s teaching about believers and the Torah, it is not the end of the story. Further on, in Gal 6:2, Paul does refer to a “Law” for believers: “the Law of Christ” (o( no/mo$ tou= Xristou=); I discuss this expression in an earlier note (part of the series “Paul’s View of the Law”).

March 15: Galatians 5:17, 24

In the previous note, I discussed the pair of statements which bracket vv. 16-25 (see the chiastic outline for this section), the first of three concentric pairs (vv. 16-18, 23b-25) surrounding the central lists of vices (“works of the flesh”) and virtues (“fruit of the Spirit”). As previously indicated, these pairs may be summarized:

    • Exhortation (vv. 16, 25)
    • Conflict—Flesh vs. Spirit (vv. 17, 24)
    • Affirmation regarding freedom (vv. 18, 23b)

Today’s note will examine the second pair.

Conflict for believers (Flesh vs. Spirit)—Gal 5:17, 24

This conflict is expressed two different ways by Paul: (1) the current conflict (v. 17), and (2) its resolution (v. 24).

Verse 17:

aFor the flesh sets (its) impulse against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh—bfor these lie (stretched out) (one) against the other, so that you might not do the (thing)s which you might wish (to do).”

On the juxtaposition of flesh and Spirit in Galatians (and elsewhere in Paul’s letters), see the previous note; on the “impulse [e)piqumi/a]” of the flesh, cf. also the previous note. Here, in verse 17, we find the related verb e)piqume/w, which I have translated by way of conflating two valid renderings: (a) “have an impulse toward (something)”, and (b) “set (one’s) mind/heart upon (something)”.

The principal statement is 17a, which juxtaposes “flesh” and “Spirit”, setting them against each other. Previously in Galatians kata\ sarko/$/pneu/mato$ meant “according to the flesh/Spirit”, here it means, more precisely and fundamentally, “against the flesh/Spirit”. The opposition and mutual incompatibility (even hostility), indicated throughout Galatians, is here expressed directly.

Verse 17b expounds the essential statement with two, related, explanatory clauses:

    1. “for these [i.e. flesh and the Spirit] lie out (one) against the other…” —The particle ga/r relates this clause to what came before (the statement in 17a). The verb Paul uses is a)nti/keimai, “to lie (stretched out) against”, as two opposing animals or armies, etc; the preposition a)nti, like kata, means “against”, but in the more precise sense of two opponents facing each other.
    2. “…so that you might not do the (thing)s which you might wish (to do)” —The subordinating conjunctive particle i%na could indicate either a purpose or a result clause, i.e. “so (in order) that…” or “so that (as a result)…”; formally, a result clause is more appropriate, however, there is clearly the sense of a will being imposed, whether that of the opposing forces, or the overriding will/purpose of God (or both). The two verbs—qe/lhte and poih=te—are both subjunctive forms (“might wish”, “might do”); in other words, each opposing force obstructs and resists the will and action of the other.

Anyone familiar with Paul’s letters will recognize the similarity between verse 17 and Romans 7:15-25 (for a discussion of this passage, cf. the articles and notes in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”). Even though, by consensus of most commentators, in Romans 7, Paul is dramatizing the situation of human beings prior to faith in Christ, while Galatians 5 relates specifically to believers as they live in Christ and by the Spirit, the dynamic he describes in each letter is very similar. The main difference, I believe, is that, in Romans 7, the flesh is additionally bound up under the enslaving forces of the Law and sin; in Galatians 5, on the other hand, only the flesh (the “impulse of the flesh”) is involved. The believer, as Paul teaches repeatedly in Galatians (and in Romans, for that matter) is free from both the Law of the Old Testament and the “law of sin”.

Verse 24:

“But the (one)s of (the) Anointed [Yeshua] have put to the stake [i.e. crucified] the flesh (together) with the sufferings and impulses (it brings)”

If the conflict (between flesh and Spirit) was stated in verse 17 (above), the way of resolution to the conflict (if believers are willing to accept it) is presented in verse 24. Each of the important expressions in this verse ought to be examined, at least briefly:

de\ (“but”)—the adversative conjunctive particle de/ properly relates to the prior verses (vv. 19-23), but it could just as well connect back to the statement of conflict in verse 17; in many ways, it is more appropriate and makes better sense in this context.

oi(tou= Xristou= [ )Ihsou=] (“the ones of the Anointed [Yeshua]”)—here Christian identity is described with a genitival expression, i.e. believers as the ones belonging to Christ, “of Christ”. Certainly this should be understood in relation to the familiar Pauline expression “in Christ” (e)n Xristw=|).

e)stau/rwsan (“have put to the stake”)—the reference of course being to the believers’ identification with, and symbolic/spiritual participation in, the death (crucifixion) of Christ. This was already stated, famously and most powerfully, by Paul in Gal 2:19f:

“…I died away to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been put to the stake (together) with the Anointed…”

For other mention of the death and cross of Christ in Galatians, see Gal 1:1, 4; 2:20-21; 3:1, 13; 5:11. Through identification with the crucifixion (at the spiritual level), believers are freed from the Law, and, with it, from the power of sin (the “curse” of the Law, cf. 3:10-14). This freedom is expressed vividly in terms of dying—becoming dead to the Law; in Col 2:13-14, we find the even more dramatic image of the Law (and sin [debt/trespass]) itself dying, being nailed to the cross.

th\n sa/rka (“the flesh”)—on Paul’s use of sa/rc (“flesh”) see the previous notes and articles on the relevant passages in Galatians (“Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians”). Interestingly, while Paul declares that, in Christ, believers are free from the Law and the power of sin, he never goes so far as to extend this freedom to the flesh. As he indicates repeatedly in his letters, and specifically here in Gal 5:17 (cf. above), believers face a regular conflict and daily struggle against the “impulse of the flesh”. For more on this thought, see below.

su\n (“with”)—the conjunction su/n, “(together) with” also appears in Gal 2:19, but prefixed to the verb stauro/w (“put to the stake”) in the compound form sustauro/w (“put to the stake [together] with”). There the conjunction connects the believer with Christ; here, in a different, opposite direction, it connects the flesh with its “sufferings and impulses”

toi=$ paqh/masin kai\ tai=$ e)piqumi/a$ (“the sufferings and the impulses”)—on the word e)piqumi/a (translated here as “impulse”), cf. the previous note; the expression e)piqumi/a sarko/$ (“impulse of the flesh”) was used in verse 16. The word is fairly common in Paul’s letters (cf. 1 Thess 2:17; 4:5; Rom 1:24; 6:12; 7:7-8; 13:14; Phil 1:23; Col 3:5, also Eph 2:3; 4:22, etc), and can be fairly rendered “desire, longing”, sometimes in a positive sense, but more often in the negative sense of fleshly/carnal or sinful desire.

The word pa/qhma refers to pain or (painful) suffering, hardship, affliction, etc., often indicating a strong emotion or impulse, i.e. “passion”; as such, the word (or the related noun pa/qo$) may be connected semantically with e)piqumi/a, cf. 1 Thess 4:5; Col 3:5. The nouns are plural, and should be seen as both deriving conceptually from the singular “impulse [e)piqumi/a] of the flesh” —the “impulses” (pl.) reflect the reality that believers will experience the “impulse” of the flesh on different occasions and in various forms, along with the effects (the “pains/sufferings”) they bring.

There is an important implication in the language of verse 24, when Paul states that believers (“the ones of Christ“) have put to death (crucified) the flesh—in other words, it does not happen automatically (or magically) as a result of Christ’s death; it requires involvement by the believer, in at least two respects:

    • Identification/participation with the crucifixion at the symbolic/spiritual level, through faith and the work of the Spirit—see esp. Gal 2:19-20 (cf. above)
    • The daily life of the believer, whereby the flesh—both its “impulse” and its “works” —are regularly “put to death” in a practical, habitual sense, cf. Rom 6:6ff; 8:13; Col 3:5; also Gal 6:8-9, 14; and note Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34 par. In traditional theological language, this is sometimes referred to as (self-)mortification.

Just as we are exhorted to “walk” in the Spirit (even though we already live in the Spirit), so we are exhorted to put the flesh to death (i.e. “crucify” it), even though we have already been “crucified with Christ”.

The final pair of verses (vv. 18, 23b) to be considered will be discussed in the next daily note.

March 14: Galatians 5:16, 25

The notes for the next few days are supplemental to the current article on Galatians 5:16-25 in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. Because of the importance of this passage, in terms of the central place of the Spirit in the religious life and experience of believers, it is worth examining it in greater exegetical detail. (This largely replicates the exegesis earlier published/posted in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”.) I have outlined the structure of these verses as follows:

    • Exhortation: “walk [peripate/w] in the Spirit” (v. 16)
      • Conflict for believers: “flesh against the Spirit” and “Spirit against flesh” (v. 17)
        • Affirmation for believers: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law” (v. 18)
          • Works of the flesh (vv. 19-21)
          • Fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23a)
        • Affirmation for believers: If the fruit of the Spirit is present, “there is no Law” (v. 23b)
      • Resolution of conflict: the flesh has been crucified (with Christ) (v. 24)
    • Exhortation: “walk [stoixe/w] in the Spirit” (v. 25)

There are thus three concentric pairs (vv. 16-18, 23b-25) surrounding the central lists of vices (“works of the flesh”) and virtues (“fruit of the Spirit”). These pairs may be summarized thus:

    • Exhortation (vv. 16, 25)
    • Conflict—Flesh vs. Spirit (vv. 17, 24)
    • Affirmation regarding freedom (vv. 18, 23b)

Each of these will be discussed in turn. Today’s note deals with the first:

Exhortation for believers—Gal 5:16, 25

These two exhortations are similar and closely related:

V. 16: “But I relate (to you): walk about in the Spirit and (no) you will not complete the impulse of the flesh”

V. 25: “If we live in the Spirit, (so) also we should walk in line in the Spirit”

To begin with, the expression “by the Spirit” in Greek is the dative form pneu/mati—there is no preposition specified. On the basis of other instances in Paul’s writings (Rom 2:29; 8:9; 9:1; 14:17; 15:16; 1 Cor 12:3; 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 6:1; Col 1:8), it may be filled out as e)n pneu/mati, “in the Spirit”, though this ought to be understood primarily in an instrumental sense, i.e. “in the (power) of the Spirit”, or “through the Spirit”, “by the Spirit” —by the power and guidance, etc., of the Spirit. Of the seven uses of this form in Galatians, all but one occur in the Exhortation (5:5, 16, 18, 25 [twice]; 6:1)—in other words, the Christian manner of life and behavior, etc, is (to be) governed by the Spirit. It will be helpful to study in detail several of the words and expressions in these verses:

Verse 16

peripatei=te (“walk about”)—this is a common verb, which may, of course, be taken in the concrete, literal sense of physically walking/moving about an area; however, it is frequently used in a more abstract philosophical and ethical sense of a regular/habitual mode of behavior, lifestyle, etc. This is how it is used in much of the New Testament, especially in the letters; it occurs 32 times in the Pauline letters, with this particular imperatival form also appearing in Col 2:6; 4:5 and Eph 5:2, 8.

pneu/mati (“in/by the Spirit”)—this expression has been discussed above; it may be useful to consider the references to the Spirit (pneu=ma) in Galatians:

    • Believers receive the Spirit (from God) through faith/trust (in Christ), 3:2, 14
    • Believers begin their new life “in the Spirit” (contrasted with “flesh”), 3:3
    • God supplies the Spirit for believers (context of miraculous power), 3:5
    • The Spirit represents the ultimate (end-time) promise of God for his people, 3:14
    • God sends the Spirit into the hearts of believers, allowing them to realize their identity as sons of God (in/with Christ), 4:6 (“born according to the Spirit”, v. 29); cf. the prior article in this series.
    • It is by/through the Spirit (and faith) that we expect to be declared/made just/righteous before God, 5:5
    • The Spirit works to bear “fruit” in believers, i.e. Christian/Christlike virtues and characteristics, 5:22f; 6:1
    • Believers ‘cooperate’ with the Spirit, allowing it/him to work in their lives, according to the image of willingly “walking” (5:16, 25) and “sowing” seed (6:8)—again, contrasted with the flesh

Consider also, for comparison, the other uses of the imperative form peripatei=te, parallel to peripatei=te pneu/mati here, “walk about in the Spirit“:

    • Colossians 2:6— “walk about in him [i.e. in Christ]”
    • Colossians 4:5— “walk about in wisdom
    • Ephesians 5:2— “walk about in love
    • Ephesians 5:8— “walk about as offspring [i.e. children] of light
    • Note also the one non-Pauline occurrence, in John 12:35 (Jesus speaking): “walk about as (ones) holding the light

e)piqumi/an sarko\$ (“impulse of the flesh”)—I translate the Greek work e)piqumi/a as “impulse [upon/toward something]”; however, in anthropological terms, it often covers a similar range of meaning as “heart” and “mind”, the verb e)piqume/w being rendered, “set (one’s) heart/mind upon (something)”. Often in the New Testament (and similar religious-ethical writings), it carries the sense of illicit, sinful longing or desire.

The word sa/rc (“flesh”) is used quite often by Paul in his letters, and with a fairly wide range of meaning, from physical/material flesh to a power/principle of sin and wickedness at work in human beings (and to which they are in bondage). Frequently, for Paul, it seems to refer specifically to the selfish or self-centered aspect of human beings, the corrupt/wicked ego (“I”) which thinks and acts contrary to God and Christ. In Galatians, Paul regularly contrasts the “flesh” with the Spirit (of God/Christ); it is also closely connected with the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah), the “works of the flesh” being parallel (and at least partly synonymous) with “works of the Law”.

ou) mh (“no, no” or “no…not”)—the double negative particle serves to strengthen the denial, i.e. “not at all”, “in no way”, “by no means”, “certainly not”, etc.

telesh/te (“complete”)—the verb tele/w, related to te/lo$ (“end, goal”), fundamentally means “finish, complete”; here it specifically refers to the completion of the “impulse of the flesh”. In modern English terms, we might describe this as acting out, or acting on, one’s desire. The verb is relatively rare in the Pauline letters (Rom 2:27; 13:6; 2 Cor 12:9, and 2 Tim 4:7), with the use in 2 Cor 12:9 expressing the opposite context: of believers being “made complete” by (and in) Christ. A dynamic similar to that indicated by Paul here, i.e. response to temptation and sinful desire, is vividly described, though with quite different language, in James 1:14-15.

Verse 25

ei@ (“if…”)—this particle marks v. 25 as a conditional statement, but one based on real or actual condition.

zw=men (“we live”)—the verb za/w (“live”) carries a two-fold sense in Paul’s letters, and particularly here in Galatians: (a) the divine/spiritual life we have (as believers) in Christ, and, properly (b) living in the world (as believers) in Christ. This double-meaning (a kind of wordplay) is expressed powerfully in Gal 2:19-20; in Gal 3:11-12 (citing Scripture), “life” is used specifically in the sense of salvation, of being made/declared just before God. The use of the present indicative here in v. 25 shows that this life/living is currently real and active for believers.

pneu/mati (“in/by the Spirit”)—on this expression, see above. As indicated, the protasis of this (conditional) statement (“if we live in/by the Spirit…”) is based on a real condition—i.e., “if we live in/by the Spirit, (as indeed we do, then)…”

kai\ (“and”)—a similar coordinating conjuctive kai-particle appears in verse 16—formally similar, but with a different use and significance:

V. 16: “walk in the Spirit, and (then, i.e. as a result)…”
V. 25: “live in the Spirit, and (also, i.e. in addition)…”

Readable English requires that in verse 25 kai be translated “also”; this establishes the apodosis of the conditional statement— “if… (then) also…”

stoixw=men (“we should walk in line”)—this is a different verb (stoixe/w, “go in line”) than that used in verse 16 (peripate/w, “walk about”), the difference being obscured in translations which render both simply as “walk”. There is probably not a great deal of distinction of meaning, though stoixe/w is a more precise, forceful verb to use, i.e. “walk/step in line, in an orderly manner”.

If peripate/w in verse 16 refers to believers’ “walk” generally, here stoixe/w likely indicates a “walk” that is properly governed and regulated by the Spirit. The first verb in v. 25 (zw=men, “we live”) is a present indicative form, suggesting the current reality of believers’ situation; on the other hand, stoixw=men (“we should walk in line”) is a present subjunctive form, i.e. “we should…”, “we ought to…”, etc. A life regulated and guided by the Spirit still requires something from us—a willingness to allow and accept the guidance, and so to “walk” in it.

The next pair of verses (vv. 17, 24) will be discussed in the next daily note.

Spiritualism and the New Testament: Paul: Galatians 5:16-25

Galatians 5:16-25

In the previous article (on Gal 4:21-31), we saw how Paul’s understanding of the Law is framed by a Flesh-Spirit dualism. This is part of a broader contrast between the old covenant (of the Torah regulations) and the new covenant (in Christ). The old covenant belongs to the flesh (despite what Paul says in Rom 7:14), while the new covenant is characterized by the Spirit (cf. Rom 7:6; 8:2ff). This same contrast is central to the discourse in 2 Cor 3:7-18 (discussed at length in a prior article and set of notes), though with the dualistic contrast defined there as Letter-vs-Spirit (cf. Rom 2:29).

Another point of contact between 2 Cor 3:7-18 and Gal 4:21-31 is the theme of freedom (e)leuqeri/a), which characterizes the new covenant, and is closely connected with the presence of the Spirit. In being set free (from bondage to the power of sin), believers in Christ are also freed from the binding authority of the old covenant (and its Torah). This is the sense of the freedom Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians and Galatians, while in Romans the emphasis is on freedom from the power of sin.

But this freedom creates a difficulty for believers. Without the Torah regulations, what guide is there for how one should think and act? What ethical and moral standards are believers to live by? Paul addresses this in the next section of Galatians (5:1-6:10), referred to (in rhetorical terms) as the exhortatio—that is, the section where the author/speaker exhorts his audience to action or to a decision; in a religious or philosophical context, as here, this may be accompanied by ethical-moral instruction (parenesis).

I divide and outline the exhortatio into three main sections, prefaced by a primary exhortation:

    • 5:1—Exhortation regarding freedom vs. slavery
    • 5:2-12—Exhortation/warning regarding the Law (circumcision)
      —vv. 2-6: The Law vs. Christ
      —vv. 7-12: Those who are influencing the Galatians to observe the Law
    • 5:13-25—Exhortation/warning regarding freedom in Christ, which specifically includes:
      —vv. 16-21: The works of the flesh
      —vv. 22-25: The fruit of the Spirit
    • 5:26-6:10—Instruction related to Christian freedom (“walking in the Spirit”)
      5:26-6:6: Dealing with fellow believers—the “law of Christ”
      6:7-10: Harvest illustration and concluding warning

Before proceeding to a discussion of the portion most relevant to Paul’s spiritualism, let us consider the main exhortation in verse 1, as it picks up with the previous freedom vs. slavery theme used throughout the arguments in chapter 4:

“To freedom (the) Anointed has set us free; therefore stand (firm) and do not again have held (down) on you a yoke of slavery”

The dative of th=| e)leuqeri/a| is best understood as a dative of goal or purpose, i.e. “to freedom” , “for freedom”, parallel to the expression e)p’ e)leuqeri/a| in verse 13. For Paul, there is a fundamental connection between freedom and the Spirit (as we saw in 2 Cor 3:17). The exhortation is expressed according to two verbs:

The first is active, exhorting the Galatians to action (or continuation of action); the second is passive, implying something which is done to them by others, but which the Galatians may be allowing to happen. The image related to slavery is especially vivid—that of someone holding a yoke down upon their shoulders. This expression (“yoke of slavery”) is found in 1 Tim 6:1; a burdensome “yoke” is related to the Law in Acts 15:10 (Peter speaking), which may be contrasted with ‘yoke of Christ’ (Matt 11:29f)—cf. a possible parallel in the “Law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

Again, the question must be asked: what guidance is there for the believer without the Torah regulations? Paul gives us an initial answer in verse 5:

“For we, in/through (the) Spirit [pneu/mati], out of trust [e)k pi/stew$], look to receive from (God) (the) hope of justice/righteousness [e)lpi/da dikaiosu/nh$]”

This is another powerful declaration of Christian identity, bringing together in compact form several of the key terms and expression Paul has been using in Galatians. In particular, it is another clear statement of the fundamental premise that righteousness comes only through the Spirit and faith (in Christ), and not by observing the Law (indeed, quite the opposite!). And, more to the point, righteousness is defined, not by the Torah regulations, but by the guiding presence of the Spirit (“in/by the Spirit”). 

In verse 13, Paul goes on to warn the Galatians that freedom in the Spirit does not mean that believers can behave immorally. In fact, the ethical injunctions of the Torah are still valid, even if the injunctions themselves are no longer binding. Paul follows early Christian tradition (and Jesus’ own teaching) in summarizing all of the Torah instruction under a single command (or duty)—that of showing love to one another (the ‘love command’), vv. 14-15. Yet, even in this, believers are not bound by a command or law per se, for the simple reason that fulfilling our duty to love is achieved through the guiding presence of the Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5; 15:30; Col 1:8).

This brings us to Paul’s key teaching in verses 16-25, where he ties Christian ethics and morality specifically to the presence of the Spirit. The injunction (and declaration) in verse 16 comes straight to the point:

“Walk about in/by (the) Spirit, and you shall not complete (the) impulse of (the) flesh.”

We could fill out the literal meaning of the noun e)piqumi/a, in context, by saying “…the impulse [qu/mo$] of the flesh over [e)pi/] sin.” That is to say, the “flesh” (sa/rc) leads a person toward sin. Here Paul embeds within his exhortation and basic teaching (vv. 16-18, 23b-25) what is often described as a list (or catalog) of “vices and virtues” (vv. 19-23a). Such lists were traditional and basic to Christian instruction; Paul did not create these, but rather adapted them, drawing upon the traditional language and terminology, in his letters (lists of “vices” being much more common)—cf. Rom 1:19-31; 13:13; 1 Cor 5:10-11; 6:9-10; 2 Cor 12:20-21; Col 3:5, 8; also Eph 4:31; 5:3-4; 1 Tim 1:9-10; 2 Tim 3:2-5; Titus 3:3.

For other examples in the New Testament and early Christian literature, see Mark 7:21-22f par; 1 Pet 2:1; 4:3, 15; Rev 21:8; 22:14; Didache 2:1-5:2; Barnabas 18-20; the letter of Polycarp 2:2; 4:3; Hermas, Commandments 5.2.4, 6.2, 8.3-5; Similitudes 6; 9.15, etc. Of the many examples in Greco-Roman literature and philosophy, one of the earliest is in Plato’s Gorgias 524-525. Instances can also be cited from Hellenistic Judaism (works of Philo, etc) and the texts of the Qumran community, most famously the treatise of the “Two Spirits” in the Community Rule (1QS 4:3-11). For more on the subject, see the excursus in Betz, Galatians, pp. 281-3.

The list of ‘vices’ (vv. 19-21) are referred to specifically as “works of (the) flesh” (e&rga th=$ sarko/$), an expression clearly intended as parallel to “works of (the) Law” (e&rga tou= no/mou), Gal 2:16; 3:3, 5, 10. These are all generally actions, reflecting sinful, selfish and immoral behavior; and, even though the Law would appear to guard and regulate against such things, according to Paul it actually serves to make manifest and increase the very sinfulness expressed by this list. This is not to be taken as an exhaustive catalog (or checklist), but one that fairly comprehensively represents human wickedness.

Paul does not use the corresponding term “works of the Spirit” for the opposite list in vv. 22-23, but rather “fruit [karpo/$] of the Spirit” —for it is the Spirit that does the working (vv. 5-6), and, indeed, the items in the list are not actions, but rather personal characteristics, attitudes, and (one might say) modes of behavior, generally corresponding to the term virtue (a)reth/) in Greek philosophical and ethical thought.

Commentators have noted a formal difference in the lists—the “works of the flesh” show little clear order, perhaps intentionally reflecting the inherent disorder of carnal behavior and lifestyle; the “fruit of the Spirit”, on the other hand, can be grouped neatly into three sets of three (cf. the similar famous triad in 1 Cor 13:4-6). To see how these two lists fit in the overall structure of this section, I would suggest the following (chiastic) outline:

    • Exhortation: “walk [peripate/w] in the Spirit” (v. 16)
      • Conflict for believers: “flesh against the Spirit” and “Spirit against flesh” (v. 17)
        • Affirmation for believers: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law” (v. 18)
          • Works of the flesh (vv. 19-21)
          • Fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23a)
        • Affirmation for believers: If the fruit of the Spirit is present, “there is no Law” (v. 23b)
      • Resolution of conflict: the flesh has been crucified (with Christ) (v. 24)
    • Exhortation: “walk [stoixe/w] in the Spirit” (v. 25)

Because of the importance of verses 16-18 and 23b-25, these will be discussed in more detail in separate notes.

References marked “Betz, Galatians” are to: Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, in the Hermeneia series (Fortress Press [1979]).

Spiritualism and the New Testament: Paul: Galatians 4:21-31

The first two Pauline passages discussed in this series were 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 and 2 Corinthians 3 (with a focus on the discourse in vv. 7-18). Because of the importance of the latter passage, and the complexity and diversity of Paul’s thought expressed therein, I have supplemented the study with a set of detailed exegetical notes.

We now turn to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. An important underlying component of Paul’s spiritualism—his view of the Torah and the associated contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant of the Spirit—was already discussed in the previous article (and notes). It is, of course, also the principal subject addressed throughout Galatians. As such, I have discussed it at length in the earlier series “Paul’s View of the Law”, with a set of articles that cover virtually the entire letter.

The central proposition that Paul expounds in Galatians, is that the Torah regulations—the Law of the old covenant—are no longer binding on believers in Christ. He relates this proposition principally to Gentile believers, but the arguments he uses apply just as well (and even better) to Jewish believers. In the main expository section of the letter (chapters 3-4), Paul put forward six main arguments, using a variety of rhetorical methods and techniques to make his point. The last of these arguments (4:21-31) is the one which is most relevant as an expression of Paul’s spiritualism.

Galatians 4:21-31

The final argument Paul presents is an argument from Scripture, utilizing portions of the Abraham narratives (in Genesis 16 and 21), taking the form of an allegory (a)llhgori/a, v. 24). It is one of the more familiar portions of the letter, but, as with Paul’s other statements regarding the Law in Galatians, the full force and significance of his argument are often ignored or softened by commentators. The section may be outlined thus:

    • V. 21—Opening question (challenge)
    • Vv. 22-23—Summary of the story from Scripture
    • Vv. 24-27—The (allegorical) interpretation: Two Covenants
      —Vv. 24-25: Jerusalem below—the earthly Jerusalem (Sinai)
      —Vv. 26-27: Jerusalem above—the heavenly Jerusalem
    • Vv. 28-31: Believers as children of the promise & freedom—conflict

Verse 21—Paul uses the interrogatio rhetorical method, as he questions his audience, prompting them and allowing them to bring forth a determination themselves. See Gal 3:2ff for a similar use of this technique. The question actually serves as a challenge to the Galatians:

“Relate to me [i.e. tell me], (you) the ones wishing to be under (the) Law [u(po\ no/mon], will you not hear the Law?”

The expression “under the Law” (u(po\ no/mon) has been used repeatedly (Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, also 5:18; Rom 6:14-15; 1 Cor 9:20), along with the parallel expressions “under (the) curse” (3:10), “under sin” (3:22), “under a paidagogos” (3:25, cf. also 4:2), “under the elements [stoicheia] of the world” (4:3). It refers, of course, to Jews (and Jewish Christians) who are (or who feel) obligated to observe the commands and regulations of the Torah; but, as the parallel terms indicate, Paul uses it as a shorthand for the bondage human beings are under prior to faith in Christ. The expression “hear the Law” has a two-fold meaning: (1) to obey the Law, and (2) literally, to hear the words of the Law (i.e. of Scripture). The latter is what Paul means primarily here, but he may also be saying, “if you want to be under the Law, are you willing to obey the Law (i.e. the true Law of Christ)?”

Verses 22-23—In these two verses, Paul summarizes the Scriptural narrative found in Genesis 16:1-6; 21:8-14, citing Gen 16:15; 21:2-3, 9. That Hagar was a slave or “servant-girl” (paidi/skh) is indicated in the narrative (Gen 16:1ff; 21:10ff, also 25:12); the contrast of Sarah as a free woman (e)leuqe/ra) can be inferred/implied naturally from the context. This sets the stage for the theme of freedom (e)leuqeri/a) in Christ to follow in 4:31/5:1ff.

The Hagar/Ishmael vs. Sarah/Isaac contrast is also expressed by the me\nde\ (“on the one hand…on the other…”) construction in verse 23 (cf. also vv. 8-9) [Note: some MSS (Ë46 B f vg) omit me\n]. As we shall see, the juxtaposition of these characters is ultimately meant to show the contrast/conflict between “promise” (e)paggeli/a) and “flesh” (sa/rc); and, of course, the promise is closely connected with the Spirit (Gal 3:14). The expression “according to (the) flesh” (kata\ sa/rka) is used elsewhere in Paul’s letters (Rom 1:3; 4:1; 8:4-5, 12-13; 9:3, 5; 1 Cor 1:26; 10:18; 2 Cor 1:17; 5:16; 10:2-3; 11:18), and a Spirit-Flesh dualism is an important aspect of Paul’s thought in both Galatians (Gal 3:3; 4:29; 5:16-17; 6:8) and Romans (Rom 8:1-17) [cf. also Phil 3:3]. The Spirit-Letter dualism in 2 Corinthians 3 (cf. the previous article) is certainly similar, though not identical.

Verses 24-27—Paul interprets the Genesis story as an “allegory” (a)llhgori/a), that is, a description of one thing under the image of another; the verb a)llhgore/w (in v. 24) in this context means to speak/interpret by way of allegory. Familiar from Greco-Roman and Hellenistic-Jewish literature and philosophy, it is also similar to the creative midrash interpretive tradition in Judaism; for other examples in Paul’s letters, cf. 1 Cor 10:1-13; 2 Cor 3:7-18 (discussed in the previous article and notes). The contrast/conflict between Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the narrative is coordinated and aligned together (sustoixe/w, v. 25) as follows:

Slave-girl vs. Free (woman) [v. 22b]
Flesh vs. Promise [v. 23]
(Old) Covenant vs. (New) Covenant [v. 24]
Jerusalem (on earth) vs. Jerusalem above [v. 25-26]
Hagar/Ishmael vs. Sarah/Isaac [v. 28-29]

As indicated in verse 24, Paul gives prominence and priority to the idea of two covenants—the Greek word rendered “covenant” (diaqh/kh) is literally something “set through (in order)”, often in the legal sense of a will or testament (as in Gal 3:15-17), but here corresponding to the Hebrew tyr!B= (“agreement”), that is, the agreement (covenant) established between God and his people (Israel). The two covenants—old and new (cf. the recent notes on 2 Cor 3:6 and 14)—are contrasted syntactically by way of another me\nde\ formulation (see above):

    • me\n: one (the old) from mount Sinai into/unto slavery [ei)$ doulei/an]… (vv. 24-25)
    • de\: (the other), the Jerusalem above, (which) is free [e)leuqe/ra e)stin]… (vv. 26-27)

Paul establishes this line of association first by equating Sinai with the (current) earthly Jerusalem in verse 25; he does this by way of (allegorical) correspondence, even though he recognizes that Mt. Sinai is actually in “Arabia” (presumably the Sinai peninsula). This equation has the following interpretive relationship:

    • The Sinai covenant (the Law/Torah) leads to slavery [doulei/a]
    • Jerusalem is currently serving as a slave [douleu/ei]

The last point could be taken either in a socio-political (i.e. under Roman occupation) or religious-spiritual (bondage under the Law and sin) sense, or both. This contrasts sharply with the traditional Jewish self-understanding of freedom related to the Torah and the covenant with God (cf. m. Abot 6:2, also e.g. John 8:33), which Paul reverses completely. Here is the associative logic as a whole:

    • The Old Covenant (the Law/Torah) given at Mt. Sinai
      • Sinai = earthly Jerusalem
        • The Jerusalem below | Slavery
        • The Jerusalem above | Freedom
      • Jerusalem (above) = believers in Christ
    • The New Covenant (the Spirit/promise) realized in Christ

Verses 26-27 describe the “Jerusalem above” (h( a&nw  )Ierousalh\m), which is clearly to be understood in a spiritual sense; for similar examples of Jewish identity being appropriated/fulfilled by believers at the spiritual level, cf. Rom 2:28-29, and previously in Gal 3:7-9, 14, etc. This idea of a heavenly Jerusalem came to be well-established in early Christian thought (cf. Hebrews 12:22; 13:14; Revelation 3:12; 21:2-22:5), and generally builds on the (eschatological) Old Testament and Jewish tradition of a “new Jerusalem”—e.g. Isa 54:10ff; 60-66; Ezek 40-48; Tobit 13:9-18; Jubilees 4:26; 2/4 Esdras 7:26; 10:40ff; 2 Baruch 4:2-7; 32:2-23; 1 Enoch 90:28f; 2 Enoch 55:2; for an interesting ‘Gnostic’ interpretation, along the same lines as Paul in Galatians, see in Hippolytus, Refutation of Heresies 5.7.39, 8.37. Cf. Betz, Galatians, pp. 246-7.

Another familiar, and related, Jewish tradition was Jerusalem/Zion as a mother (v. 26). As such, this image is parallel to that of the Jewish concept of freedom associated with the Law and Covenant; and, again, Paul reverses this traditional association, by way of citing Isaiah 54:1 (LXX), a passage which came to be used in Judaism in the context of the rebuilding of Jerusalem (cf. the Targum; Pesiqta Rabbati 32:2). The context of Paul’s citation (v. 27) rather suggests a correlative juxtaposition between physical barrenness and spiritual life.

Verses 28-31—These verses begin and end with statements of Christian identity, related to the parallel concepts of promise and freedom:

V. 28: “But you {some MSS read “we”}, brothers, according to Isaac, are offspring of (the) promise
V. 31: “Therefore, brothers, we are not offspring of the (slave)-girl, but of the free (woman)”

Verses 29-30 stand in between, and are descriptive of conflict for believers:

V. 29: External—drawing upon Jewish tradition of conflict between Ishmael and Isaac (not indicated specifically in the Scripture narrative itself), cf. t. Sota 6:6; Genesis Rabbah 53 (34a), etc. This is interpreted by Paul according to two aspects:

    1. Jewish hostility and persecution toward early Christians, attested to amply by Paul in his letters and in the book of Acts.
    2. The dualism of kata\ sa/rka (“according to the flesh”) vs. kata\ pneu=ma (“according to the Spirit”).

Here the conflict is still external—i.e. the issue being that regarding circumcision and actual observance of the Torah commands; for an internal expression of this dualism in the hearts/minds and lives of believers (before and after conversion), cf. Romans 7-8.

V. 30: Internal—quoting Gen 21:10 and applying it primarily in a religious-spiritual sense: believers are the heirs in Christ (Gal 3:29; 4:1, 7; cf. also Rom 4:13-14; 8:17), and should no longer wish to come under a yoke of slavery. That Paul may here be expressing the rejection of Jews is certainly possible (cf. 1 Thess 2:14-16; Rom 9-11), but I do not believe that this is his emphasis—it rather relates more properly to his exhortation to the Gentile Galatians that they “cast away” the yoke of bondage (i.e. observance of the Torah) which they are considering placing upon themselves.

In summary, I would illustrate the thematic structure of these verses as follows:

    • V. 28—Believers are children of the promise
      • V. 29—Conflict for believers: Flesh vs. Spirit
      • V. 30—Action for believers: “Cast out” the son of the slave-girl (i.e. slavery)
    • V. 31—Believers are children of the free woman

While Paul’s emphasis is clearly on the contrast between the old and new covenants, this cannot be separated from the Flesh-Spirit dualism that he employs to express it. As in 2 Corinthians 3 (Letter-Spirit), this dualistic mode of expression is an important aspect of Paul’s spiritualism. The new covenant for believers in Christ is realized spiritually, and is not bound by any physical or external factors.

The implications of this way of thinking were radical for early Christians. To emphasize freedom in the Spirit, against the slavery of being bound by the Torah regulations (and other external religious elements), represented a sea-change of thought for early believers. It is not surprising that Paul’s view of the Law (and his spiritualism) were quite controversial—and remain so even today. The implications of it will be examined in the next article, as we turn to Galatians 5, with specific attention being paid to the discourse in verses 16-25.

References marked “Betz, Galatians” are to: Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, in the Hermeneia series (Fortress Press [1979]).

The Spirit and the Birth of Jesus: Part 3 (Gal 4:1-7; Rom 8:12-17)

In the previous portion of this article, we discussed the statement in Galatians 4:4. It is important, however, to understand this verse within the context of Galatians, and to see more clearly the association between the Spirit and the birth of Jesus in Paul’s thought.

Paul developed the early Christian idea that the coming of the Spirit upon believers in Christ represented the fulfillment of the Prophetic tradition, regarding the role of the Spirit of God in the restoration of Israel in the New Age. Paul sharpened this concept of a “new covenant” in the Spirit, drawing a clear contrast between the old covenant (of Moses and the Torah) that has now passed away, and the new covenant (of the Gospel and the Spirit) that remains in its place. While these covenantal associations are unmistakable, and fully in accord with the Prophetic traditions regarding the Spirit, for ministers like Paul this role of the Spirit was thoroughly Christian, in the sense of being rooted in the message (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ. It was not merely a matter of the spiritualization of the Old Covenant; the presence and activity of the Spirit was tied directly to the believer’s trust in Jesus, and the salvation brought about by his death and resurrection.

Indeed, from the earliest moments of Christianity, the coming of the Spirit was related to a confession of trust in the Gospel message of Christ. This traditionally took place (publicly) in connection with the baptism ritual.

Paul says relatively little in his letters regarding baptism directly; he clearly follows the early Christian tradition, and yet, as he makes use of this tradition, he endues the ritual form and imagery with new theological (and Christological) depth. In these notes on Paul’s understanding of the Spirit, we must examine this baptismal aspect; it can be seen, strikingly, in a pair of passages in Galatians and Romans, which express a similar line of thought.

Galatians 4:1-7

These verses continue the arguments of chapter 3 on behalf of the central proposition (propositio, 2:15-21) that believers in Christ are freed from the binding obligation to observe the Torah. To illustrate this, in 4:1ff Paul uses the example of the son who is heir to his father’s estate. Though he has a legal right to everything the father possesses, while he is still a minor (or, until a specific time established by the father), the child is under the restrictive guidance of household servants. Though free, the child, during this time, has a practical status very much like a servant or slave (3:23-25; 4:1-2).

This illustration refers to the believer, in the period prior to coming to faith—or, viewed in terms of salvation history, to the time prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus. This period of guardianship is the current Age where humankind is in bondage to the power of sin, and also in bondage under the regulations of the Law (Torah)—Paul views the two aspects together. Through a clever bit of argument, Paul puts non-Jews (Gentiles) under the Law just as much as Jews and Israelites, even though they may be unfamiliar with the specific regulations of the Torah (vv. 3, 8ff, and cf. his more extensive discussion in Romans 2:12-3:20).

The illustration is followed by a Christological statement in vv. 4-5, which may be pre-Pauline in origin—that is, Paul may derive it, in part, from earlier Christian tradition (cp. Rom 1:3-4). Verse 5 more clearly expresses the Pauline application: Christ came to earth to free humankind from bondage under the Law. To this, he adds the emphasis on the identity of believers as “sons” (ui(oi/) of God. The context of the climactic declarations in verses 6-7 is thus profoundly Christological, and involves three key points which Paul develops from early Christian tradition:

    1. The identity of Jesus as the Son of God.
      This is not to be understood from the standpoint of the developed Christology (and trinitarian theology) of later generations, but, rather, in terms of the early Christian belief that located the divine Sonship of Jesus ostensibly at the time of his resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God. While Paul may evince belief in a rudimentary doctrine of Jesus’ divine pre-existence (Phil 2:6ff, cf. also Col 1:15-17), it does not feature prominently in his letters.
    2. Jesus as the “seed” of Abraham, the son who inherits the divine promise to Abraham. This is the focus of Paul’s argument in 3:6-14ff (cp. Romans 4), using an over-literal reading of the singular “seed” to identify Jesus as the seed, the only son of the promise (i.e. the Spirit), vv. 14, 16-18.
    3. Believers are united with Jesus—this is realized at the time of baptism (3:26-27ff), when they/we receive the Spirit.

All three points run through the arguments of chapters 3-4, and, indeed, are central to them; however, they are generally emphasized in the reverse order given above, which also accords with the logic of Christian experience and revelatory insight:

    1. The Galatian believers are united with Jesus and experience the Spirit, as symbolized by the baptism ritual—3:2ff, 26-27ff
    2. This union with Jesus means that they share in the sonship of Jesus as the promised “seed” of Abraham, and receive the promised blessing (of the Spirit)—3:6-9, 16-18, 29
    3. The union of sonship further means that believers share in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, and are likewise sons (i.e. children) of God, through the presence of the Spirit—4:4-7

The language whereby this is expressed in 4:6-7 is most significant for an understanding of Paul’s view of the Spirit. Following the Christological statement, identifying Jesus as God’s Son, and drawing upon the traditional idea of our union with Jesus (symbolized in the baptism ritual), and the identity of believers as sons/children of God, Paul states in verse 6:

“And (in) that [i.e. because] you are sons, God se(n)t out from (Him) the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying ‘Abba, Father!'”

The coming (or pouring) of the Spirit into the hearts of believers is a traditional image, adapted by early Christians (Rom 5:5, cf. 2 Cor 3:3; Rom 2:29), part of the wider idea of being “filled” by the Spirit. Normally, however, this is understood as the Spirit of God, but here Paul’s uses the unique expression “Spirit of His Son” (pneu=ma tou= ui(ou= au)tou=). This would identify the holy Spirit (of God) as also being the Spirit of Christ. Indeed, Paul appears to use the expression “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” interchangeably, though the latter is admittedly rare (Rom 8:9, and “Spirit of Jesus Christ” in Phil 1:19). The theological basis for this is Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, as understood through the early Christological belief regarding Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation (to the right hand of God). It was through the resurrection/exaltation that Jesus’ spirit and person was transformed by God’s own Spirit—forever united as one life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 6:17; 15:45). This Christology would eventually develop to include a belief in the divine pre-existence of Jesus as the Son of God, however, the exaltational aspect remains at its core in the New Testament (cp. both sides of the portrait in Phil 2:6-11).

Thus, the coming of God’s Spirit upon believers, means that it is also Christ’s Spirit that fills us and empowers us, and through the Spirit we are united with the exalted Jesus, our spirits uniting with his and being similarly transformed (cf. again 1 Cor 6:17; 15:45ff). This means that, as believers, we share in his divine Sonship, receiving all that he does, as co-heirs to God:

“And so (then), not any (more) are you a slave, but a son; and if a son, (then) also (one) receiving the lot [i.e. an heir] through God.” (v. 7)

Romans 8:12-17

Paul largely repeats this argument in Romans 8:12-17, developing it, however, in several respects—one of which is the strong ethical emphasis on believers being guided by the Spirit, otherwise found in Galatians in a later section (5:1-6:10). This ethical aspect, utilizing the flesh/Spirit contrast, is clearly present in the Sonship statements of Romans 8:12-17. Note the strong contrast in verse 13:

“for if you live according to the flesh, you are about to die off; but if, in the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Many of the themes and much wording from the instruction in Galatians are present here, and could have been lifted out of the earlier letter:

“For as (many) as are led by (the) Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again, unto fear, but you received (the) Spirit of placement as a son [ui(oqesi/a], in which we cry ‘Abba, Father’.” (vv. 14-15)

The noun ui(oqesi/a is typically translated as “adoption”, but literally means something like “placement (as) a son”. It refers to a person’s legal status as a son, though one may not be a son by birth. In the New Testament, the word occurs only in the Pauline letters—here further in verse 23, and also 9:4; Gal 4:5, and Eph 1:5. The context of its use in Gal 4:5 is virtually identical (cf. above).

In verses 16-17, Paul expands on the thought in Gal 4:6-7, giving more detail on how he understands the Spirit “crying” out in us, as well as what it means to be a co-heir of God with Jesus:

“The Spirit it(self) gives witness together with our spirit that we are  (the) offspring [te/kna] of God. And, if (His) offspring, (then) also (one)s receiving the lot [i.e. heirs]—(on the one hand, one)s receiving the lot of God, but (on the other hand, one)s receiving the lot together (with) (the) Anointed, if indeed we suffer together with him, (so) that also we will be given honor together with (him).”

The Greek syntax makes repeated use of verb and noun forms prefixed with the preposition su/n (“[together] with”), which serves as a powerful emphasis of the believer’s union with Jesus (the Son):

    • The Spirit gives witness together with (vb summarture/w) our spirit. The idea is that our own spirit responds to the presence and action of God’s Spirit, and we become aware of our identity as sons (or children) of God. Here Paul uses the term te/kna (“offspring”) which is more common, referring to believers as ‘children’ of God, in the Johannine writings.
    • Being united with Jesus (the Son and heir) we also understand our identity as co-heirs (sugklhrono/moi) of God. Literally the compound noun means “(one) receiving/sharing the lot together with (another)”.
    • At the heart of our union with Jesus is a pair of verbs:
      • “suffer together with” (sumpa/sxw)—i.e. we suffer together with him
      • “are honored together with” (sundoca/zw)—we receive honor/glory together with him

This latter point, with its pair of verbs, reflects a uniquely Pauline emphasis, which may be referred to as believers “dying and rising with Christ”. Central to the baptism ritual, as it symbolizes our union with Jesus, is the idea of our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is through the Spirit that the power of both Jesus’ death and resurrection is communicated to us, so that we are able to participate in it.

The Spirit and the Birth of Jesus: Part 3 (Galatians 4:4)

In the first portion of this article, we saw how the earliest Christian belief in Jesus as the Son of God was related directly to his resurrection (and exaltation to heaven), as the moment when he was “born” as God’s Son (cf. Acts 13:33, citing Psalm 2:7; cp. Heb 5:5). With the development of the early Gospel tradition, Christians were able to give expression to the growing awareness that Jesus must have been God’s Son even before the resurrection—that is, all during the period of his earthly ministry, beginning with his baptism (Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22 par, again drawing upon Psalm 2:7). It followed naturally that this belief would be extended to the entire period of Jesus’ earthly life, beginning with his physical/biological birth as a human being.

Paul is the only New Testament author, outside of the Infancy narratives, who connects Jesus’ actual birth, as a human being, with his exaltation (as Messiah and Son of God) through the Spirit. We saw how this synthesis of traditions was preserved in the opening verses of Romans (1:3-4), and now we turn to another key passage, written (most likely) just a year or two earlier

Galatians 4:4

The passage under consideration is Galatians 4:1-7, at the heart of which is the following statement:

“…but when the fullness of time came, God set (forth) out from (Himself) [i.e. sent out] His Son, coming to be out of a woman, coming to be under (the) Law” (v. 4)

The key phrase in italics is geno/menon e)k gunaiko/$, “coming to be out of a woman”; it is similar to the phrase in Rom 1:3 (cf. the previous discussion on this passage):

“…the (one) coming to be out of (the) seed of David according to (the) flesh”

The participial phrase “coming to be out of the seed of David” is generally equivalent with “coming to be out of a woman”. In some manuscripts (and ancient versions) of both passages, it is the participle gennw/menon (from genna/w) instead of geno/menon (from gi/nomai). The verbs gi/nomai and genna/w are related, and both essentially mean “come to be, become”; each can also mean specifically “come to be born“, but this is more commonly denoted by genna/w rather than gi/nomai. The participle gennw/menon thus may be intended to make more clear that it is the birth of Jesus (a real human birth) that is being referenced.

Both in Rom 1:3 and here in Gal 4:4, Paul’s wording suggests that Jesus was God’s Son prior to his birth. Even if Rom 1:3-4 represents an older Christological formula adopted by Paul (as many commentators think), the opening words of v. 3, leading into the formula, likely are Paul’s own: “about His Son…”. In Galatians 4:4, the theological orientation is more clearly expressed: “God sent out His Son…”; a more literal rendering of the verb e)cape/steilen would be “set (forth) out from”, i.e. out from Himself, or out from where He is. At the very least, this suggests a heavenly origin for Jesus as God’s Son, much as we see in the Christ-hymn of Philippians 2:6-11. The same sort of wording occurs in Romans 8:3:

“For the (thing that it was) without power for the Law (to do), in which it was without strength through the flesh, God (did by) sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and, about [i.e. regarding] sin, He brought down judgment on sin in the flesh.”

A different verb is used—the more common pe/mpw (“send”)—but the idea is essentially the same: God sent His Son to be born as a human being. If we combine the key phrasing of Rom 1:3, Gal 4:4, and Rom 8:3 together, it results in a snapshot of Pauline theology (and Christology):

    • “coming to be out of the seed of David” (Rom 1:3)—Jesus as the Messiah
    • “coming to be out of a woman” (Gal 4:4)—the human birth of Jesus
    • “coming to be under the Law” (Gal 4:4)—joining with humankind under bondage to the Law
    • “…in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3)—sharing in humankind’s bondage under the power of sin

The last point is potentially problematic for orthodox Christology; Paul was no doubt aware of this (in his own way), and he states he matter carefully (compare with 2 Cor 5:21). His emphasis is not on Jesus’ relation to sin as a human being, but on the fact that, as a result of his life and work on earth (as a human being), the ruling power of sin in the flesh is condemned. The verb katakri/nw literally means “bring down judgment” or “judge against”, a legal term indicating the passing of a sentence against crime, etc, including the idea of punishment and of rendering a person unable to pursue evil. The influence of sin in the “flesh” is not entirely removed for human beings (believers), but its ruling power is ended.

Galatians 4:4ff and Romans 8:3ff also share the important theme that Jesus’ Sonship, and his saving work as a human being, is the basis for the sonship of believers—our own identity as sons/children of God. In particular, Rom 8:12-17 is very close in thought to Gal 4:4-7. For this reason, and in order to consider more closely Paul’s understanding of the role of the Spirit, our study here in Part 3 will be extended to include a comparative examination of these passages.