Saturday Series: Galatians 4:1-11

Probatio (Galatians 3:1-4:31)  

In our study on Galatians, looking at Paul’s letter from the standpoint of Rhetorical Criticism, we are proceeding through the probatio (chaps. 3-4), looking at each of the six main lines of argument in turn.  We have reached the fourth argument:

    1. An appeal to the Galatians’ experience (3:1-6) [study]
    2. Scriptural argument: the blessing of Abraham comes by faith (3:7-14) [study]
      —contrasted with the curse of the Law (vv. 10-13)
    3. Scriptural argument: the promise to Abraham comes through Christ (3:15-29) [study]
      Illustration: the nature of a testament/covenant, with a contrast between the Law and the promise (vv. 15-18)
      Statement(s) on the purpose of the Law (vv. 19-25)
      Statement on the promise that comes through Christ (vv. 23-25)
    4. Illustration: Slavery vs. Sonship (4:1-11)

Section 4: Galatians 4:1-11

The fourth argument of the probatio (chaps 3-4) in Galatians is an illustration of slavery vs. sonship. It picks up where the third argument leaves off (3:29), identifying believers in Christ as heirs (“ones receiving the lot”, kl¢ronómoi)—the offspring (“seed”) of Abraham, inheriting the promise(s) God made to him.

Galatians 4:1-2—In these verses Paul establishes the basic illustration regarding the son (and heir):

“And I relate (to you that) upon as (much) time as the one receiving the lot [i.e. heir] is an infant [n¢¡pios], he carries through [i.e. differs] nothing (from) a slave, (despite) being lord of all (thing)s…”

The origin of the Greek word n¢¡pios is not entirely clear, with various derivations fundamentally indicating “without speech” = infant, infans [i.e. unable to speak], “without sense/understanding”, and “weak, without power”. The basic connotation would seem to be “young and/or immature”, and can specifically refer to a young child (here, a minor). The principal idea is that, until the child (a son) reaches the age of maturity, his status is practically (and functionally) similar to that of a slave, as explained in verse 2. Paul draws on the example of a son in a well-to-do family, a modification of the example given already in 3:23-25 (see my earlier note on these verses). The final qualifying phrase of 4:1 is interesting—the point Paul makes is that the heir legally is (or will be) the lord of the household, but, even so, until becoming an adult, he is very much like a slave. This could be understood in a “gnostic” sense—i.e., believers in Christ, even before coming to faith, are, by nature, already sons of God (cf. v. 6a), just without realizing it. The same construct could, however, just as easily be read in an ‘orthodox’ sense, according to the doctrine of Election (or something akin to it). Paul clarifies the point in verse 2:

“…but is under managers and house-administrators until the (time) set before(hand) by the father”

In 3:24-25, the image is of the child who is led out of the house (to school and back), being guarded, instructed and disciplined. Here a different household picture is offered, that of basic government within the house. An epítropos is essentially a person to whom someone/something has been “turned over” —in this domestic context, a legal trustee or guardian, someone to whom the child is given over for care and tutelage (a tutor). An oikonómos indicates a “household-administrator” and general supervisor. The child is “under” (hypó) these servants just as he is “under” (hypó) the paidagogos (3:24-25), both parallel, and largely synonymous, with being “under the Law” [hypó  nómon] and “under sin” [hypó hamartían]. The central point Paul makes is that this term of ‘enslavement’ (guardianship) lasts only until the time of the child’s maturity, indicated as being set by the father. This detail does not accord with general Roman practice, but it very much is appropriate to Paul’s illustration, whereby God (the Father) has established the time when enslavement under the Law (and sin) comes to an end.

Galatians 4:3-5—Here Paul applies the illustration to human beings (believers) on the religious-spiritual level. In verse 3, the term of infancy/immaturity (hóte ¢¡men n¢¡pioi, “when we were infants/children”) is specifically identified with slavery (¢¡metha dedoulœménoi, “we were ones enslaved”). The metaphor, previously relevant only to Israelites/Jews (those of/under the Torah), is here extended to Gentiles as well, with the expression “the stoicheia of the world” (to be discussed with verse 8, below). Jews and Gentiles are both “under” (hypó) the stoicheia (parallel to being “under the Law”).

The term of infancy/enslavement ends with the coming of Christ (v. 4): “but when the fullness of time came, God set out from him his son…” —which he qualifies with two participial phrases:

    • “coming to be [gegómenon] out of a woman”
    • “coming to be [gegómenon] under the Law”

The first phrase summarizes the human birth of Jesus (I discussed this in an earlier Christmas season note); the second summarizes the human condition of Jesus. While a sensitive matter, perhaps, with regard to orthodox Christology, Paul clearly places Jesus in the same situation as the rest of humanity, in several respects:

    • As a Jew, Jesus was obligated to observe the Torah (cf. Lk 2:22-24, 39; Matt 5:17-20)
    • With the rest of humanity, he came to be under the “curse” of the Law (Gal 3:10-14)
    • As such, he also came to be “under sin” (Rom 8:3, but note the careful phrasing)

For a similar statement regarding the incarnation of Christ, see Philippians 2:7f.

Paul concludes his sentence here in verse 5, with a pair of hína/purpose-clauses:

    • “(so) that [hína] he might purchase out [exagorás¢] the (one)s under the Law”
    • “(so) that [hína] we might receive from [apolábœmen] (the Father) placement as sons [huiothesían]”

The word huiothesía is typically translated as “adoption” in conventional English parlance, but it literally refers to being placed as a son (huios), and it is important to preserve this etymological connection. Jesus first is (and becomes) a son (cf. 1:16; 2:20), even as he becomes the “curse” in 3:13. A comparison with Gal 3:13ff is most useful:

Gal 3:10-14
  • “of/from the Law” and “under a curse” [hypó katáran], v. 10
  • Jesus “comes to be” [genómenos] a curse (under the Law), v. 13
  • he “purchases out” [ex¢górasen] those who are under the curse of the Law, v. 13
  • so that [hína] the blessing might come to those who trust in Christ, v. 14
Gal 4:1-5
    • “enslaved, serving as slaves” [dedoulœménoi] (under the Law), v. 3-4
    • Jesus (the Son) “comes to be” [genómenon] under the Law, v. 4
    • that he might “purchase out” [exagorás¢] those under the Law, v. 5a
    • so that [hína] we might receive sonship from God, v. 5b

Galatians 4:6-7—Verse 6 describes the adoption (being placed as sons)—note that there are two aspects to this:

    • What we (already) are, in God’s eyes— “but (in) that [i.e. since/because] you are [este] sons…”
    • What we become, through the Spirit— “…God set forth out of him the Spirit of his Son into our hearts…”

Though not specified here, Paul certainly would say that it is through trust/faith in Christ that we truly are God’s sons (or children), as he states clearly in 3:26. There is a subtle, but definite Christ/Spirit parallel presented in these verses:

    • “God set forth out of (him) [exapésteilen] his Son” (v. 4)
      • “so that we might receive from (him) placement as sons” (v. 5b)
    • “God set forth out of (him) [exapésteilen] the Spirit of his Son” (v. 6a)
      • “into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!'” (v. 6b) {we are sons [v. 6a]}

It may not be entirely clear in context, but certainly “the Spirit of his Son” is synonymous with “the (Holy) Spirit”, especially as representing the abiding presence of Christ in (and with) the believer. We do not find precise Trinitarian terminology in Paul’s letters (nor in the New Testament as a whole); there is a good deal of ambiguity which later theologians and commentators sought to clarify.

Verse 7 reaffirms the distinction between son/heir and slave:

“So then [hœ¡ste] no longer [oukéti] are you a slave, but (rather) a son; and if a son, (then) also one receiving the lot [i.e. an heir] through God”

This declaration effectively combines two prior summarizing statements, in 3:24-25 and 29. In Gal 3:24-25 Paul uses a similar hœ¡steoukéti (“so then… no longer”) construction to state decisively that, with trust/faith in Christ, we are no longer under a paidagogos (that is, no longer under the Law); a declaration follows in v. 26: “for you all are sons of God through trust…” (cp. 4:6a). Gal 3:29 extends this essential statement:

    • No longer under a slave-guide (paidagogos, the Law)
    • Sons (of God) through trust in Christ
    • If of Christ, then heirs according to (God’s) promise (to Abraham)

This is almost precisely what we find in 4:7:

    • No longer a slave
    • A son (of God)
    • An heir through God (i.e. by and according to His promise)

A connection based on the theme of promise is certain, if somewhat subtle—in Gal 3:14, Paul uses the expression “the promise [epangelía] of the Spirit”; for other references to the Spirit as the promise of God, cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:33, also Acts 2:39; 7:17; 13:32.

Galatians 4:8-11—Paul proceeds, in these verses, to offer a description of the nature of the slavery which believers were under (along with the rest of humanity) prior to faith in Christ. Whereas throughout most of Galatians, he has been focusing on the Jewish side (those under the Torah), here Paul moves to include non-Jews (Gentiles) within a larger viewpoint. This switch was already indicated in verse 3 with the introduction of the expression “under the stoicheia of the world”, which is clearly parallel to “under the Law”. One might be inclined to take these as indicating Gentiles and Jews, respectively; however, I believe it is more accurate to see the “stoicheia of the world” as the larger expression, encompassing both Jews and Gentiles.

I would divide this section into two portions:

    • Vv. 8-9—a men…de construction (i.e. “on the one hand… on the other…”), contrasting the believers’ condition before faith in Christ with that after faith (in terms of “not knowing / knowing”)
    • Vv. 10-11—a statement of concern/disappointment by Paul concerning the Galatians current behavior (or choice)

These two pieces are joined together by the question (real and rhetorical) Paul asks in v. 9b: “again as above [i.e. as before] do you wish to be slaves?”

Each of these sentences (vv. 8-9 and 10-11), with the joining question, have been discussed in more detail in earlier notes.

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

“Gnosis” in the NT: John 8:32

John 8:32

“you will know the truth, and the truth will make/set you free”

This is one of the most famous and well-known statements in the New Testament, yet it is often cited out of context, without realizing that it is only half of a saying by Jesus in vv. 31-32:

“If you remain in my word [lo/go$], you are truly [a)lhqw=$] my learners [i.e. disciples], and you will know the truth [a)lh/qeia] and the truth will make/set you free.”

Even less familiar to the average Christian or student of the New Testament is the is the overall context of this saying—the discourse of Jesus in 8:31-59, part of larger sequence of discourses spanning chapter 7 and 8 (not including 7:53-8:11), and set during the festival of Sukkoth (Booths/Tabernacles) in Jerusalem. All of the discourses of Jesus in John follow a basic pattern, involving:

    • A statement/saying by Jesus
    • A response or question by those hearing him, indicating that they have misunderstood his true meaning
    • An explanation/exposition by Jesus

The longer discourses sometimes repeat the question-explanation format. There is a definite homiletic style at work, which suggests that actual (historical) teaching by Jesus has been carefully edited and given a layer of interpretation by the author of the Gospel (and/or his sources). It is not a mere stenographic record. The discourse in 8:31-59 begins according to the pattern cited above:

    • Statement by Jesus (vv. 31b-32)
    • Response/question with misunderstanding (v. 33)
    • Explanation by Jesus (vv. 34ff)

Here the question/explanation pattern is repeated several times, creating a heightened level of dramatic tension not found in the other discourses:

  • Response #1 (v. 33)
    Jesus’ answer #1 (vv. 34-38)
    • Response #2 (v. 39a)
      Jesus’ answer #2 (vv. 39b-41a)
      • Response #3 (v. 41b)
        Jesus’ answer #3 (vv. 42-47)
        • Response #4 (v. 48)
          Jesus’ answer #4 (vv. 49-51)
          • Response #5 (vv. 52-53)
            Jesus’ answer #5 (vv. 54-56)
            • Response #6 (v. 57)
              Jesus’ answer #6 (v. 58)

This chain involves a kind of step-parallelism—where the start of the next element builds upon the end of the previous one—which is fairly common in the Gospel of John. The initial misunderstanding by the people (“the Jews”) involves the sort of freedom referred to by Jesus:

“We are (the) seed of Abraham and have been enslaved to no one (at) any time; (so) how do you say that ‘you will come to be free’?” (v. 33)

They understand freedom and slavery in terms of personal and national liberty—that is, of material, physical freedom—much as people tend to use the terms today. A similar nationalistic sentiment is expressed by Eleazar at Masada in Josephus’ Wars VII.323. However, Jesus is actually referring to freedom from sin, as is clear in his explanation in vv. 34ff:

“…everyone doing sin is a slave [of sin].”

It is (only) the Son (o( ui(o/$) who can set people free from the power and control of sin:

“The slave does not remain [me/nei] in the house into the Age [i.e. forever], (but) the son remains into the Age; therefore, if the Son sets/makes you free, you (really) will be free!”

In the remainder of the discourse, Jesus draws upon the Jewish people’s claim to be sons (“the seed”) of Abraham, and sets it in the context of the relationship between the Father (God) and the Son. These two interlocking themes continue, with the tension and conflict building, until the climactic end, in which Jesus identifies himself (the Son) with the Father: “before Abraham came to be, I am!” (v. 58, cf. the similar climax in 10:30-39). In so doing, he has circumvented entirely the span of Israelite/Jewish history and tradition—the one who was with the Father before Abraham, is now here among the people. Instead of being sons/children of Abraham in the ethnic and religious sense, they (i..e the elect) now are called to be sons/children of God (1:12-13).

Returning to the initial saying of vv. 31-32, there are several key points which should be examined. I will do so in the next study.

Paul’s View of the Law: Romans (6:1-7:25)

Romans 6:1-7:25

This is the third major section of the probatio of Romans (Rom 1:18-8:39). The first two sections were:

    • Rom 1:18-3:20: Announcement of God’s (impending) judgment (v. 18), according to the Law (of God) (article)
    • Rom 3:21-5:21: Announcement of God’s justice/righteousness (in Christ), apart from the Law (Torah) (article)

The section, comprised of chapters 6 and 7, I define and outline as:

  • Rom 6:1-7:25: Announcement of Freedom from the Law and Sin
    6:1-14: Argument 1: Believers are dead to sin by participation in the death of Christ, along with an exhortation not to sin (vv. 12-14)
    6:15-23: Argument 2: Believers are free from slavery to sin (and are now slaves of righteousness)
    7:1-6: Argument 3: Believers are released from the bond of the Law (and sin): Illustration from the marriage bond
    7:7-25: Theological excursus: The relationship between the Law and Sin

Romans 6:1-14: Death—Believers are dead to sin

Each of the three arguments in 6:1-7:6 begin with a rhetorical question that is provocative and sets the stage for the discussion which follows. The first (6:1) of these is also transitional, building upon language and imagery from the previous section (Rom 5:12-21): “What then [ti/ ou@n] shall we declare? should we remain upon sin (so) that the favor [xa/ri$] (of God) might be (still) more [i.e. increase/abound] (to us)? May it not come to be (so) [mh\ ge/noito]!” As the question (and Paul’s response) indicates, there is a strong exhortational aspect to the arguments in this section. The principal theme in 6:1-14 is death; in answer to the introductory question, believers should not (and, indeed, can not) remain in sin, since they are already dead to sin (v. 2).

Verses 2-4—Image of Baptism: Dying (and rising) with Christ

In verse 3, Paul defines the symbolic character and significance of the ritual of Baptism as participation in the death of Christ (cf. also Gal 2:19-20; 3:27):

“do you lack (the) knowledge that, as (many of) us as were dunked [e)bapti/sqhmen] into (the) Anointed Yeshua, we were dunked into his death?”

He extends this participation in verse 4 to Jesus’ burial (“buried together with him”) and resurrection, with the promise of future glory; this is realized for believers already in the present, as the concluding line indicates: “so also we should walk about in newness of Life”.

Verses 5-11

The reality of this participation in the death and resurrection of Christ (v. 5) serves as the basis for two propositions:

    • Believers in Christ are dead to the power of sin (vv. 6-7), described under two motifs:
      —the “old man” (o( palaio\$ a&nqrwpo$) has been crucified together with Christ (cf. Gal 2:19-20), thus making inactive (dead) the old body (of sin) (v. 6a)
      —a slave who dies is free from slavery, i.e. sin has no power over a dead person (v. 6b-7)
    • Believers are no longer under the power of death (vv. 8-9)—this is described specifically in terms of Christ’s own death and resurrection; as a result, death no longer has any power (no longer “rules as lord”) over believers

These two ideas are combined in vv. 10-11:

    • Verse 10 refers to the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection (life), which is “to God” (tw=| qew=|)
    • Verse 11 applies this by way of an exhortation for believers similar to that in v. 4b: “so also count yourselves as dead to sin [th=| a(marti/a|] but living to God [tw=| qew=|]” in Christ
Verses 12-14

These verses follow upon vv. 10-11 with an even more forceful exhortation, which is two-fold:

    • V. 12: “do not let sin rule (as king) in your dying [i.e. mortal] body unto the hearing under [i.e. so as to obey] its impulses”—this touches back upon the idea of sin (personified) as reigning power (king) in 5:12-14ff
    • V. 13: a supplemental exhortation specifically related to a person’s (bodily) parts (ta\ me/lh), not to present them (lit. make them stand alongside) as tools (or weapons) of injustice/unrighteousness (a)diki/a) and sin, but rather of justice/righteousness (dikaiosu/nh)

Verse 14 gives the reason for this, which likewise is two-fold:

    • “for sin shall not rule (as lord) over you…”
    • “for you are not under (the) Law [u(po\ no/mon] but under (the) favor [u(po\ xa/rin] (of God)”

Again, we see a connection between sin and the Law, though the precise connection is not entirely clear from the context here. Because of its importance, the second half of this verse will be discussed in more detail in a separate note.

Romans 6:15-23: Believers are freed from slavery to sin

This section, like the prior one, begins with a rhetorical question (v. 15) that picks up where the last verses left off:

“What then [ti/ ou@n]? Should we sin (in) that [i.e. because] we are not under (the) Law but under (the) favor (of God)? May it not come to be (so) [mh\ ge/noito]!”

The two expressions “under the Law” (u(po\ no/mon) and “under the favor [i.e. of God]” (u(po\ xa/rin) were used in verse 14 (above). Paul’s question reflects a natural (and practical) religious-ethical issue resulting from the teaching that believers are no longer “under the Law”, that is, no longer required to observe the commands and regulations of the Torah. Some people might mistakenly think (or claim) that freedom from the Law meant that Christians need not behave in a moral or disciplined manner. Paul already dealt with the issue forcefully in Galatians 5:13-25. In that passage, the emphasis was on believers being guided by the Spirit; here in Romans, the role of the Spirit is left until chapter 8, while Paul develops further his discussion on the relation between the Law and sin.

Verses 16-18

In these verses the theme introduced is specifically that of slavery, referred to by way of two verbs: (1) doulo/w (“be/become a slave”) and (2) u(pakou/w (“hear under”, i.e. respond/submit to authority, obey). Paul is drawing upon 5:12-21, where he describes Sin (a(marti/a) and the Favor/Grace (xa/ri$) of God as contrasting kings or lords ruling over human beings—one rules in death, the other rules in (eternal) life. Here, in vv. 16-18 the contrast is between death (qa/nato$) and justice/righteousness (dikaiosu/nh) (v. 16), followed by the parallel of sin vs. justice/righteousness in v. 18. Just as one may be a slave to Sin, obeying him, so one also becomes a kind of slave in obedience to God (under his Favor/Grace). This important motif of freedom (e)leuqerwqe/nte$, “being freed”) from slavery is introduced specifically in verse 18—believers are freed from slavery to sin, and become slaves to the justice/righteousness of God (in Christ).

A key phrase is found in v. 17, where Paul contrasts believers’ former role as slaves of Sin (dou=loi th=$ a(marti/a$), with their obedience and attentiveness (“you heard/listened under”, u(phkou/sate), i.e. to the Favor/Grace and justice/righteousness of God in Christ. This new obedience is said to be: (a) “out of [i.e. from] the heart” (e)k kardi/a$) and (b) “unto/into the stamp/pattern of teaching which was given along (to you)” (ei)$ o^n paredo/qhte tu/pon didaxh=$). The precise meaning of this latter phrase is not entirely clear; probably it should be taken in the sense of the Gospel message that Paul and his fellow-missionaries have proclaimed, together with related teaching given by apostles and other early Christian leaders, which would have included transmitted sayings and teachings of Jesus. It may be similar to the “measuring stick” (kanw/n) which Paul mentions in Gal 6:16. In several places, he also refers collectively to the things “given along (down), passed down”, i.e. tradition (cf. Gal 1:14; 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6). A specific association with instruction given to believers prior to baptism has been suggested, and this is certainly possible. In a subsequent article, I will deal with the question of whether (or to what extent) such authoritative teaching in the early Church takes the place of the Law/Torah for believers.

Verses 19-22

Here Paul illustrates more clearly the contrast in the situation of believers before and after coming to faith in Christ. In verse 19 the image of slaves/servants in submission to their master, from vv. 16-18, is extended—to the idea of presenting (pari/sthmi, lit. “stand alongside”) one’s physical body, i.e. the bodily parts (ta\ me/lh), for the master to use. Before coming to faith, the body was made available to Sin (here described as “uncleanness and unlawfulness”); after faith, to justice/righteousness. Note how the illustration proceeds through these verses:

    • Situation: Slaves presenting their bodies to sin unto uncleanness and unlawfulness (v. 19)
      • Status: Slaves to sin and free from justice/righteousness (v. 20)
        • Result (“fruit”): Things to be ashamed of, the completion/end/goal (te/lo$) of which is death (v. 21)
    • Situation: Slaves presenting their bodies to God (His justice/righteousness), separated unto holiness (v. 22a)
      • Status: Slaves to justice/righteousness and free from sin
        • Result (“fruit”): Holiness (a(giasmo/$), the completion/end/goal (te/lo$) of which is (eternal) life (v. 22b)

Romans 7:1-6: Believers are released from the bond of the Law (and sin)

Paul again begins this section with a question: “do you lack (the) knowledge [i.e. do you not know]… that the Law rules as lord over a man upon so (long) a time as he lives?” In verses 2-3, he then gives a practical illustration relating to marriage under the Law—a woman is legally bound to a husband only as long as he lives; once he dies, she is free from her obligation and may join in marriage to another. The verb katarge/w, “make to stop working, render inactive, ineffective, etc”, is used here (v. 2), as previously in Rom 3:3, 31; 4:14; 6:6, also Gal 3:17; 5:4, 11; it functions as a technical legal term, with the preposition a)po/ (“from”), to indicate that the woman is released from the law (the marriage bond)—it no longer has any active, binding force upon her. This illustration is applied to believers in verse 4:

“…you also have been made to die to the Law through the body of (the) Anointed, unto your coming to be [i.e. that you might be] (married) to another, (to) the (one) raised out of the dead, (so) that you might bear fruit to God.”

For the idea of believers dying to the Law, by way of participation in the death of Christ, see especially Gal 2:19-20. This illustration is similar to those Paul gives in Gal 3:23-4:11—there the image is of a son (and heir) who, while he is underage, is subject to the authority and control of slave-guides, guardians, and household-managers. Both types of illustrations refer to a definite time limit to the period when a person is bound to the Law—i.e., the coming of Christ, especially his sacrificial death (and resurrection). These are among the the clearest examples Paul gives to the effect that, for believers in Christ, the Law (Torah) no longer has any binding force.

With verses 5 and 6 Paul offers an exhortation, much as he does in 6:12-14. In 6:1-14 the theme was on dying to sin, and thus being freed from bondage to it; here, however, in 7:1-6, it is on dying to the Law, and so being freed from it. These verses are vital to an understanding of Paul’s view of the Law, and should be studied closely:

“For when we were in the flesh, the sufferings of sins worked (themselves) in our (bodily) parts through the Law, unto the bearing (of) fruit to death; but now we are made to cease working [i.e. released] from the Law, dying away (from the thing) in which we were held down, so as (for) our being slaves (to God/Christ) in newness of (the) Spirit, and not in oldness of (the) written (word)”

In many ways, these two verses function as a summary of all that Paul has stated in Romans to this point, and serves as a transition into the discussion to follow in Rom 7:7-8:39. Note the words and phrases which characterize the contrast of before vs. after:

Before (o%te h@men, “when we were”):

    • e)n th=| sarki/ (“in the flesh”)—the “flesh” (sa/rc) is an important term for Paul, referring to the human person in both physical/material and psychological aspects, especially in so far as human beings are under the bondage and influence of sin, and unable to fulfill the Will/Law of God.
    • ta\ paqh/mata tw=n a(martiw=n (“the sufferings of sins”)—here Sin is described practically, in terms of individual misdeeds and the impact of the sinful impulse; this is specifically sin dwelling and working “in the flesh”. The word pa/qhma is sometimes rendered “passion”, but more properly it means pain or suffering; in this context, it is closely connected with the sinful impulse (e)piqumi/a) and desire/longing (cf. Rom 6:12; Gal 5:24).
    • dia\ tou= no/mou (“through the Law”)—Paul will explain in Rom 7:7ff how it is that sin works through the Law (cf. also Rom 5:20). As indicated in Gal 3:19 and Rom 3:20; 5:20; 7:7ff; 11:32, the primary function of the Law was to increase (awareness of) sin, and to place human beings in bondage to it.
    • e)nergei=to (“worked [itself] in”)—the verb is singular, but the subject is plural (“the sufferings of sins”), understood collectively as “sin”; this indicates the active power of sin, which works in human “flesh”.
    • e)n toi=$ me/lesin u(mw=n (“in our [bodily] parts”)—here the “flesh” is defined specifically as the physical body, its “parts” or members; while sexual immorality may be foremost in mind, the expression is by no means limited to this.
    • to\ karpoforh=sai tw=| qana/tw| (“the bearing [of] fruit to death”)—cf. verse 4-5 above, and note the comparison in Gal 5:17ff. For death as the completion, goal, and end result of sin, see Rom 5:12ff; 6:16, 21, 23; note also Gal 6:7-8, and the famous passage in James 1:14-15.

After (nuni\, now”):

    • kathrgh/qhmen (“we were made to cease working”)—in the sense of being released; for this verb, cf. Rom 3:3, 31; 4:14; 6:6; 7:2, also Gal 3:17; 5:4, 11.
    • a)po\ tou= no/mou (“from the Law”)—i.e., believers are released from the Law, it no longer has any active/binding force; note the parallel expression dia\ tou= no/mou (“through the Law”) above—sin works through the Law, believers are freed from the Law. The preposition a)po/ can carry the specific sense of “away from”.
    • a)poqano/nte$ (“dying [away] from”)—specifically, dying off from the Law; in English, we would be more inclined to say “dying to the Law”. On this idea, see especially Gal 2:19.
    • e)n w!| kateixo/meqa (“in which we were held down”)—the Law held human beings in bondage (to sin), cf. Gal 3:22ff; Rom 7:7ff; 11:32. For the verb kate/xw (lit. “hold down”), see Rom 1:18.
    • douleu/ein (“to be a slave”)—slavery is the main motif in Rom 6:15-23 (above). The expression with the infinitive here is nearly impossible to translate literally in English, requiring a combination of “so as to be a slave” and “our being a slave”. Believers, of course, become “slaves” in service to God (and Christ), serving his justice/righteousness and holiness.
    • e)n kaino/thti pneu/mato$ (“in newness of [the] Spirit”)—the expression could be rendered “in newness of spirit”, but almost certainly Paul is referring here to the Holy Spirit. This is contrasted with e)n palaio/thti gra/mmato$ (“in oldness of [the] written [word]”). In other words, the Spirit is contrasted with the Torah, specifically in its aspect as a written law code (in Scripture). This juxtaposition will be dealt with more extensively when discussing 2 Cor 3:6 (cf. also Rom 2:27-29).

Romans 7:7-25: Theological excursus—the relationship between the Law and Sin

Because of special difficulties of interpretation involving this famous and controversial passage, it is necessary to examine it in a separate article.

Paul’s View of the Law: Galatians (Chaps. 5-6)

The bulk of chapters 5 and 6 (5:1-6:10) makes up the exhortatio—that is, the section where, according to classical (deliberative) rhetoric, 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) as well.

Exhortatio (Galatians 5:1-6:10)

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

Galatians 5:1

The main exhortation in this verse 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 (cf. 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, to be discussed).

Galatians 5:2-12

This first section may be summarized as an exhortation (warning) regarding circumcision and Torah observance, which is, of course, the main reason (or cause) for Paul writing to the Galatians.

Vv. 2-6The Law vs. Christ. Paul begins directly, with a solemn asseveration:

“See—I, Paulus, relate to you that if you should be circumcised…”

In other words, if the Galatians allow themselves to be circumcised, and persuaded to be bound by the Torah commands, then the following will be the result:

    • Christ will be of no value to you (“will benefit/profit you nothing”), v. 2
    • You will be obligated (“one in debt”) to keep (lit. “to do”) the whole Law, v. 3
    • You will be made inactive (i.e. useless) (and will be) away from Christ, v. 4a
    • You will fall out of favor (with God), [i.e. will fall from grace], v. 4b

The first two results (vv. 2-3) use the language of commerce and debt, from two vantage points—(a) losing the value/profit of Christ, and (b) becoming indebted to the Law. The second two results (v. 4) are parallel expressions of loss, falling (a) “away from Christ” [a)po\ Xristou=], and (b) “out of favor/grace” [{e)c} th=$ xa/rito$]. From a modern-day Christian (or secular) standpoint, one might be inclined to view observance of the Torah as a relative matter of indifference, and yet, for Paul, as vv. 2-4 indicate, the consequences for the Galatians in so doing would be dire indeed. Why should this be? Is Paul simply indulging in some rhetorical exaggeration to make his point? The answer, I think, can be glimpsed by what follows 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!). An even more decisive declaration against keeping the Law comes in verse 6:

“For in (the) Anointed Yeshua circumcision does not have any strength, (and) neither (does having) a foreskin, but (rather) trust working in (you) through love

The Law, especially in its ritual/ceremonial aspects (the foremost being circumcision), has no strength; in this regard, see the description of the “elements [stoicheia] of the world” as “weak and poor” (4:9), as well as the basic proposition that the Law is not able to make/declare people just before God (2:15-16, etc, cf. also Paul in Acts 13:38-39). For the first time in Galatians, faith/trust in Christ is connected with love, and this will become an important emphasis in the instruction throughout chaps. 5 and 6. Also, there can be little doubt that we have here an intentional and specific contrast between “works [e&rga] of the Law” and faith/trust (by the Spirit) “working in [e)nergoume/nh]” us. For other Pauline formulations parallel to v. 6, cf. my upcoming note on Gal 6:15.

Vv. 7-12The ones influencing the Galatians. Here Paul breaks off to engage in a direct attack against his Jewish-Christian opponents, that is, the ones who are influencing the Galatians to be circumcised and to observe the Torah (cf. also further on in 6:12-13). It must be admitted that such polemic as Paul uses here, while generally acceptable within the standards of ancient (Greco-Roman) rhetoric and ‘diatribe’, makes for rather uncomfortable reading today. The specific language and style ought to be treated with considerable caution by commentators and preachers.

In many ways, verses 7-10 parallel vv. 2-4 (cf. above); while the earlier passage laid out the consequences for the Galatians if they accepted circumcision, here Paul describes the character (and fate) of those who have been encouraging them to be circumcised (i.e. the so-called “Judaizers”)—they are said:

    • to be contrary to the truth (v. 7)
    • contrary to the one calling people to faith (i.e. God) (v. 8)
    • troubling the peace and unity of believers (v. 9-10)
    • they will come under the judgment of God (v. 10b)

In some ways, vv. 11-12 serve as a parallel to the declaration in verse 6 (above); there Paul stated the unimportance of circumcision compared with faith/trust in Christ, here he contrasts proclaiming circumcision (and the Torah) with proclaiming the Gospel (especially the cross, i.e. the death of Christ). The exact logic and context of verse 11 is a bit difficult to determine; it may be that Paul’s opponents accused him of inconsistency, of advocating for circumcision even while denying its requirement for Gentiles (cf. Acts 16:3). In Gal 6:12-13, he also alludes to the fact that some (Jewish) Christians were embracing circumcision and the Torah so as to avoid persecution; here, however, he makes clear that the persecution he (and his fellow missionaries) have endured is because of the Gospel (the “cross of Christ”). After experiencing the transformative revelation of the Gospel message in Christ, through faith and the Spirit, to turn again to the Law (and circumcision) would effectively rob Christ’s death of its power and significance, as stated previously in Gal 2:21. Verse 12 concludes with a terse bit of darkly ironic wordplay, a kind of “bloody joke”:

“I owe [i.e. I wish] (it to them that) they will even cut themselves off, the ones stirring you up!”

Commentators are generally agreed that here the verb a)poko/ptw, “cut (away) from”, i.e. “cut off” is used in the sense of (self)-mutilation or amputation—i.e., castration. The ones troubling (“stirring up, upturning”) the Galatians are doing so by encouraging them to be circumcised, that is, to have the foreskin cut off; in more vulgar modern idiom, we might translate verse 12 as: “the ones (who are) unsettling you, I wish that they would cut off their {blank}!” Take Paul’s expression for what it is worth in context, it certainly is another example of how seriously he takes the issue.

Galatians 5:13-25

If vv. 2-12 was an exhortation (and warning) against observing the Torah, this section provides rather the opposite: regarding the freedom (i.e. freedom from the Law) which believers have in Christ. Verse 13 states the primary exhortation, similar to that in verse 1:

V. 13: “For you have been called out (to be) upon [i.e. for] freedom, brothers! only (do) not (let) the freedom (be) unto a rushing (away) from (God) to the flesh, but (rather) be a slave to one another through love.”

The word a)formh/ literally refers to a movement or sudden/violent impulse away from something (or someone) and toward something else. More abstractly, it can also indicate a tendency or opportunity to move/act in a particular direction. There is, perhaps, a modern tendency to think of the “flesh” as personal (carnal) sin, but the immediate context (and also the list of “works of the flesh” in vv. 19-21), rather emphasizes self-centered (and/or violent) behavior against others (that is, other believers). Such fleshy action and attitude disrupts and destroys the peace and unity of the body of Christ (believers as a whole). In this respect, it is indeed striking that Paul introduces the idea of true and proper slavery for believers—of serving one another through love. This prepares the way for the similarly surprising idea of Christians following the “Law”, but in a special, qualified sense.

Verses 14-15—After spending all of the first four chapters of Galatians setting Torah observance (“works of Law”) in contrast to the Spirit and faith in Christ, treating it in terms of slavery, Paul now turns to describe the way in which Christians are still under Law. This is done in a manner common, it would seem, in many parts of the early Church, by bringing together the entire Law under a single command:

“For all the Law is filled up [i.e. fulfilled] in one word, in the ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (v. 14)

The quotation is from Lev 19:18 (LXX), a verse established in early Christian tradition through the teaching of Jesus, as part of the two-fold “greatest commandment” (Mark 12:31 par; Matt 5:43; 19:19)—also related to the so-called “golden rule” (Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31)—as a ‘summary’ of the Law. Paul offers a more precise contextual statement in Rom 13:8-10; for other instances in early Christian writings, see James 2:8; Didache 1:2; Barnabas 19:5; and Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 93:2. It is sometimes referred to as the “love command”, under the influence of similar language in the Gospel and letters of John (Jn 13:34-35; 14:15-24; 15:10-17; 1 Jn 2:7-11; 3:23; 4:21; 5:1-3). It is likely that this particular teaching and use of Lev 19:18 is not original with Jesus, but may have been part of contemporary Jewish tradition, as associated with first/second-century Rabbis Hillel and Aqiba (cf. b. Shabbat 31a; Genesis Rabbah 24:7, etc). Paul actually does not refer to this as a command, nor as something which is to be “done”, but as something fulfilled (cf. Jesus’ words in Matt 5:17). Such love is identified by Paul, paradoxically, as slavery (that is, labor and service), but he does not refer to it in terms of “work” (as the observance of the Torah commands would be, “works”); any work that is done, in Paul’s thought, surely would be ascribed to Christ and the Spirit, cf. vv. 5-6, and the famous statement that Christ is the “end/completion of the Law” (Rom 10:4). In verse 15, Paul indicates what is opposite, i.e. behavior which violates the love-command—namely, antagonistic behavior toward one another, described in crude, “beastly” terms of biting, tearing, eating, etc.

Verses 16-25—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/$), an expression clearly intended as parallel to “works of (the) Law” (e&rga tou= no/mou), Gal 2:16; 3:3, 5, 10. These are all generally actions, reflecting sinful, selfish and immoral behavior; and, even though the Law would appear to guard and regulate against such things, according to Paul it actually serves to make manifest and increase the very sinfulness expressed by this list (as discussed previously). This is not to be taken as an exhaustive catalog (or checklist), but one that fairly comprehensively represents human wickedness. As might be expected, Paul does not use the corresponding term “works of the Spirit” for the opposite list in vv. 22-23, but rather “fruit [karpo/$] 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.

Galatians 5:26-6:10

This section properly presents specific religious and ethical instruction (parenesis), making up a very small (but significant) portion of the letter.

5:26-6:6—Here Paul offers basic direction and encouragement in terms of dealing with fellow believers. It is here that Christian “Law” (that is, the ‘love-command’) is most clearly expressed. Verse 26 describes behavior which is opposite of that governed by the love-principle, in a manner similar to that of verse 15. Gal 6:1, by contrast, gives more positive instruction in how believers (according to the fruit of the Spirit) deal with such negative, sinful behavior, the goal being to restore/repair (katarti/zw) the life of the offender, and, in so doing, restore the body of believers (the body of Christ) as a whole. This is stated more generally in verse 2 as bearing each others’ burdens, and is also another way of stating the love-command (or principle), cf. 5:14 above, and my supplemental note on 6:2.. The expression “the Law of Christ” is significant, and will be discussed in a separate note. Verses 4-6 give practical advice and encouragement along these lines, in more conventional ethical terms, as can be found in other of Paul’s letters—for v. 4, cf. 1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 10:13, 15; 13:3, 5; for v. 5, cf. 1 Thess 4:11; 1 Cor 3:8; 7:7; Rom 14:5, 12; for v. 6, cf. 1 Thess 5:12-13; Rom 12:13; 15:27; 1 Cor 9:11; 2 Cor 9:12-14; Phil 4:15-17.

6:7-10—Paul concludes his exhortation with a proverbial illustration (vv. 7-9) involving the harvest, returning to the contrast and conflict between flesh and the Spirit—the warning is ultimately eschatological: however a person sows, whether “into the flesh” or “into the Spirit”, so he or she will reap in the end (i.e. the Judgment before God). This serves as a serious ethical warning. Freedom from a set of religious regulations and commands, means that it is absolutely necessary for believers to be guided by the Spirit, and, most importantly, to be willing to walk according to this guidance. It certainly may be tempting to resort to a set of (written) regulations to help in this regard, but, to do so will effectively cut off our reliance upon the Spirit of Christ. Paul was well aware of this, but believers throughout the centuries, it must be said, have generally been reluctant to accept his “antinomian” teaching.

In the final verse, Paul at least introduces a positive sense of “work” for Christians, in terms of doing good—that is, showing and demonstrating love and concern—for all human beings, but especially, and particular, toward fellow believers. This is the essence of the “love command” as taught by Christ in the Gospel of John (cf. throughout the discourses in chaps. 13-17).

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

Paul’s View of the Law: Galatians (Chaps. 3-4, Argument 4)

Section 4: Galatians 4:1-11

The fourth argument of the probatio (chaps 3-4) in Galatians is an illustration of slavery vs. sonship. It picks up where the third argument leaves off (3:29), identifying believers in Christ as heirs (“ones receiving the lot”, klhrono/moi)—the offspring (“seed”) of Abraham, inheriting the promise(s) God made to him.

Galatians 4:1-2—In these verses Paul establishes the basic illustration regarding the son (and heir):

“And I relate (to you that) upon as (much) time as the one receiving the lot [i.e. heir] is an infant [nh/pio$], he carries through [i.e. differs] nothing (from) a slave, (despite) being lord of all (thing)s…”

The origin of the Greek word nh/pio$ is not entirely clear, with various derivations fundamentally indicating “without speech = infant, infans [i.e. unable to speak]”, “without sense/understanding”, and “weak, without power”. The basic connotation would seem to be “young and/or immature”, and can specifically refer to a young child (here, a minor). The principal idea is that, until the child (a son) reaches the age of maturity, his status is practically (and functionally) similar to that of a slave, as explained in verse 2. Paul draws on the example of a son in a well-to-do family, a modification of the example given already in 3:23-25 (see my prior note on these verses). The final qualifying phrase of 4:1 is interesting—the point Paul makes is that the heir legally is (or will be) the lord of the household, but, even so, until becoming an adult, he is very much like a slave. This could be understood in a “gnostic” sense—i.e., believers in Christ, even before coming to faith, are, by nature, already sons of God (cf. v. 6a), just without realizing it. The same construct could, however, just as easily be read in an ‘orthodox’ sense, according to the doctrine of Election (or something akin to it). Paul clarifies the point in verse 2:

“…but is under managers and house-administrators until the (time) set before(hand) by the father”

In 3:24-25, the image is of the child who is led out of the house (to school and back), being guarded, instructed and disciplined. Here a different household picture is offered, that of basic government within the house. An e)pi/tropo$ is essentially a person to whom someone/something has been “turned over”—in this domestic context, a legal trustee or guardian, someone to whom the child is given over for care and tutelage (a tutor). An oi)kono/mo$ indicates a “household-administrator” and general supervisor. The child is “under” (u(po\) these servants just as he is “under” (u(po\) the paidagogos (3:24-25), both parallel, and largely synonymous, with being “under the Law” [u(po\ no/mon] and “under sin” [u(po\ a(marti/an]. The central point Paul makes is that this term of ‘enslavement’ (guardianship) lasts only until the time of the child’s maturity, indicated as being set by the father. This detail does not accord with general Roman practice, but it very much is appropriate to Paul’s illustration, whereby God (the Father) has established the time when enslavement under the Law (and sin) comes to an end.

Galatians 4:3-5—Here Paul applies the illustration to human beings (believers) on the religious-spiritual level. In verse 3, the term of infancy/immaturity (o%te h@men nh/pioi, “when we were infants/children”) is specifically identified with slavery (h&meqa dedoulwme/noi, “we were ones enslaved”). The metaphor, previously relevant only to Israelites/Jews (those of/under the Torah), is here extended to Gentiles as well, with the expression “the stoicheia of the world” (to be discussed with verse 8, below). Jews and Gentiles are both “under” (u(po\) the stoicheia (parallel to being “under the Law”).

The term of infancy/enslavement ends with the coming of Christ (v. 4): “but when the fullness of time came, God set out from him his son…”—which he qualifies with two participial phrases:

    • “coming to be [gego/menon] out of a woman”
    • “coming to be [gego/menon] under the Law”

The first phrase summarizes the human birth of Jesus (I discussed this in an earlier Christmas season note); the second summarizes the human condition of Jesus. While a sensitive matter, perhaps, with regard to orthodox Christology, Paul clearly places Jesus in the same situation as the rest of humanity, in several respects:

    • As a Jew, Jesus was obligated to observe the Torah (cf. Lk 2:22-24, 39; Matt 5:17-20)
    • With the rest of humanity, he came to be under the “curse” of the Law (Gal 3:10-14)
    • As such, he also came to be “under sin” (Rom 8:3, but note the careful phrasing)

For a similar statement regarding the incarnation of Christ, see Philippians 2:7f.

Paul concludes his sentence here in verse 5, with a pair of i%na/purpose-clauses:

    • “(so) that [i%na] he might purchase out [e)cagora/sh|] the (one)s under the Law”
    • “(so) that [i%na] we might receive from [a)pola/bwmen] (the Father) placement as sons [ui(oqesi/an]”

The word ui(oqesi/a is typically translated as “adoption” in conventional English parlance, but it literally refers to being placed as a son (u(io$), and it is important to preserve this etymological connection. Jesus first is (and becomes) a son (cf. 1:16; 2:20), even as he becomes the “curse” in 3:13. A comparison with Gal 3:13ff is most useful:

Gal 3:10-14

  • “of/from the Law” and “under a curse” [u(po\ kata/ran], v. 10
  • Jesus “comes to be” [geno/meno$] a curse (under the Law), v. 13
  • he “purchases out” [e)chgo/rasen] those who are under the curse of the Law, v. 13
  • so that [i%na] the blessing might come to those who trust in Christ, v. 14

Gal 4:1-5

    • “enslaved, serving as slaves” [dedoulwme/noi] (under the Law), v. 3-4
    • Jesus (the Son) “comes to be” [geno/menon] under the Law, v. 4
    • that he might “purchase out” [e)cagora/sh|] those under the Law, v. 5a
    • so that [i%na] we might receive sonship from God, v. 5b

Galatians 4:6-7—Verse 6 describes the adoption (being placed as sons)—note that there are two aspects to this:

    • What we (already) are, in God’s eyes—”but (in) that [i.e. since/because] you are [e)ste] sons…”
    • What we become, through the Spirit—”…God set forth out of him the Spirit of his Son into our hearts…”

Though not specified here, Paul certainly would say that it is through trust/faith in Christ that we truly are God’s sons (or children), as he states clearly in 3:26. There is a subtle, but definite Christ/Spirit parallel presented in these verses:

    • “God set forth out of (him) [e)cape/steilen] his Son” (v. 4)
      • “so that we might receive from (him) placement as sons” (v. 5b)
    • “God set forth out of (him) [e)cape/steilen] the Spirit of his Son” (v. 6a)
      • “into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!'” (v. 6b) {we are sons [v. 6a]}

It may not be entirely clear in context, but certainly “the Spirit of his Son” is synonymous with “the (Holy) Spirit”, especially as representing the abiding presence of Christ in (and with) the believer. We do not find precise Trinitarian terminology in Paul’s letters (nor in the New Testament as a whole); there is a good deal of ambiguity which later theologians and commentators sought to clarify.

Verse 7 reaffirms the distinction between son/heir and slave:

“So then [w%ste] no longer [ou)ke/ti] are you a slave, but (rather) a son; and if a son, (then) also one receiving the lot [i.e. an heir] through God”

This declaration effectively combines two prior summarizing statements, in 3:24-25 and 29. In Gal 3:24-25 Paul uses a similar w%steou)ke/ti (“so then… no longer”) construction to state decisively that, with trust/faith in Christ, we are no longer under a paidagogos (that is, no longer under the Law); a declaration follows in v. 26: “for you all are sons of God through trust…” (cp. 4:6a). Gal 3:29 extends this essential statement:

    • No longer under a slave-guide (paidagogos, the Law)
    • Sons (of God) through trust in Christ
    • If of Christ, then heirs according to (God’s) promise (to Abraham)

This is almost precisely what we find in 4:7:

    • No longer a slave
    • A son (of God)
    • An heir through God (i.e. by and according to His promise)

A connection based on the theme of promise is certain, if somewhat subtle—in Gal 3:14, Paul uses the expression “the promise [e)paggeli/a] of the Spirit”; for other references to the Spirit as the promise of God, cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:33, also Acts 2:39; 7:17; 13:32.

Galatians 4:8-11—Paul proceeds, in these verses, to offer a description of the nature of the slavery which believers were under (along with the rest of humanity) prior to faith in Christ. Whereas throughout most of Galatians, he has been focusing on the Jewish side (those under the Torah), here Paul moves to include non-Jews (Gentiles) within a larger viewpoint. This switch was already indicated in verse 3 with the introduction of the expression “under the stoicheia of the world”, which is clearly parallel to “under the Law”. One might be inclined to take these as indicating Gentiles and Jews, respectively; however, I believe it is more accurate to see the “stoicheia of the world” as the larger expression, encompassing both Jews and Gentiles.

I would divide this section into two portions:

    • Vv. 8-9—a me/nde\ construction (i.e. “on the one hand… on the other…”), contrasting the believers’ condition before faith in Christ with that after faith (in terms of “not knowing / knowing”)
    • Vv. 10-11—a statement of concern/disappointment by Paul concerning the Galatians current behavior (or choice)

These two pieces are joined together by the question (real and rhetorical) Paul asks in v. 9b: “again as above [i.e. as before] do you wish to be slaves?”

Each of these sentences (vv. 8-9 and 10-11), with the joining question, will be discussed in more detail in separate daily notes.

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