CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CRITICAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XI)

J. L. Nye (1883-1965), the Sunday school teacher who collected illustrations on certain Bible verses, tells this touching story that illustrates what Paul says here in verse six about our redemption. I have found that no matter how old a story may be, and this is certainly one of them, they always bring a spark of enlightenment to the soul. He tells us about a gentleman who happens to pass by a slave market and was deeply moved by the agony of a young slave-girl shaking with fear and with tears running down her dark brown cheeks. He approached her and asked tenderly why was she so frightened?

He learned that she was properly raised by her mother in a very loving atmosphere on a plantation with a kind owner. Now she was afraid that she might fall into the hands of a rough and relentless master. The gentleman asked her to stay where she was for a moment and walked away. He went to inquire about her price, paid it to the slave-trader, then placed the bill of sale in her hands with the words, “Now a free slave,” and signed with his signature. He told her that she was now free, and she could go back home a free person.

She watched this kind, generous gentleman walks away with a wave of his hand and smile on his face. She stood motionless for a minute or two, staring at the Bill of Sale and realizing that she was now free. Suddenly it dawned on her that she really was free, she could go home to be with her mother. But then it came to her that she didn’t even thank this man who bought her and set her free. But just saying thank you would not be enough of repayment for what he gave her. So, she started running after him. When she caught up to him, she embraced him. As others looked on in curiosity, she told them, “He redeemed me! He redeemed me! He set me free! Then looking up into the man’s face, she earnestly asked from the bottom of her heart: Will you let me be your servant? I want to be your servant!

Says Nye, if this is the response of a young slave girl who was redeemed and then set free, how much more should we serve Him who redeemed us from the slavery of sin, and we should be willing to do so freely out of love. Just think, He’s the one who redeemed us from sin’s bondage, certain death, and eternal separation from God.[1]

Lutheran theologian Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) shares an interesting view on how Paul writes in such an exultant manner here in verse four when saying: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, placed under the Law, in order that He might ransom those under the Law, that the sonship we might receive.” In the figure used by the Apostle Paul, time is regarded as a measure, or vessel, which is filled until it reaches the top. That means, when the time in that age of humanity reached the point determined by God ahead of time, then His great plan of love was put into action by Him.

By saying that God sent forth His Son, Paul implies that the Son was already with God, in His bosom, from eternity. That means, if He needed to be sent, He must be coming from there. It also indicates He was in existence before He arrived and became a man. Therefore, God sent His Son, produced out of His own divine essence, equal with the Father in power and honor, of the same substance, and yet a different person. The Son of God came into the world in a miraculous manner, born of a woman as a true, natural human being, with the flesh of her flesh. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born to a virgin named Mary.

Because of this divine wonder, He was placed under the Law, by an act of voluntary humility on His part. Unlike the ordinary human being, He was not subject to the demands of the Law, for He Himself was the Lawgiver. But God the Father subjected Him to His own Law, and the Messiah willingly submitted to this humiliation. His circumcision on the eighth day was a sign of this submission, whereby He openly declared that He took upon Himself the obligation to fulfill the Law, to bear the curse and the punishment of the Law. And His objective in doing so was to pay the ransom for every sinner’s deliverance from the power of the Law, which would have continued forever except for His coming.

Now, notes Kretzmann, although Paul refers especially to the believers of the First Covenant as being under the bondage of the Law, his words allow for a wider application and bring reassuring comfort to the believers of all ages. This is brought out by the declaration that all believers, whether of the Jews or of the Gentiles, should receive the gift of becoming children of God. By fulfilling the Law, Messiah provided deliverance from the coercion from the curse of the Law. Believers are no longer in its grasp; we are no longer its slaves. The price of our ransom is paid, the Law no longer exercises any jurisdiction over us.

So, says Kretzmann, from the most degrading slavery, we entered into the most honorable relationship to God: we are the children of God, not so by nature, but by adoption, by God’s deliberate acceptance of our unworthiness, for the sake of His only begotten Son. My, oh my! How absolutely the Apostle Paul refuted and demolished the false claims of the Judaizing teachers by this powerful preaching of the Gospel![2]

Bible scholar Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952) in writing on how believers relate to the Law in the First Covenant. He points out that the Final Covenant writers did not hesitate to show a direct bearing of the Law upon believers. For instance, the Apostle John told his readers that when we obey what God says, His love is truly working in us. This is how we know that we are living in union with Him. If we say we live in union with God, we must live the way Jesus lived.[3] The Final Covenant was not yet in effect, so Jesus lived by the Law of God.

So, says Pink, this is very simple, and yet deeply important. The believer is here encouraged to regulate their lifestyle by that of the life of the Anointed One. How did He live? We answer: in perfect obedience to the Law of God. That’s what the Apostle Paul tells us here in verse four: “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law.” Did not the Psalmist say that doing God’s will was his greatest joy because God’s Law was in his innermost being?[4] Everything recorded about the Savior in the four Gospels shows His complete subjection to the Law.

If, then, Christians desire to honor and please God; if they want to conduct themselves as the Anointed One did, then they must regulate their conduct by rendering obedience to the Ten Commandments. Not that anyone would for a moment insist that a Christian regulate their conduct by nothing more than the Ten Commandments. No! The Anointed One came to “fulfill” the Law, and one thing this clearly means is that the Messiah brought out the fullness of the Law’s contents; He brought to light its exceeding spirituality; He showed us (both directly and through His apostles) its multiple applications.

But fear not says Pink, whatever amplification the Law received in the Final Covenant, nothing was given by God which in any way conflicts with what He first imprinted on humanity’s moral nature, and afterward wrote with His own finger on Mt. Horeb in Sinai, nothing that in the slightest way modifies its authority or our obligation to render our obedience to it.[5] But rather than do what the Jews were forced to read every law and then live by those laws without failure, all we must do is believe in the Messiah and follow Him and His counsel. Then, the Law will be completely fulfilled.

Kenneth Wuest (1892-1961) shares with us in his word studies that the Greek verb exagorazō (“redeem” KJV) actually means “to buy out of the slave market.”[6] The Greek noun nomos translated as “law,” does not need the definite article. That means it doesn’t say “the Law,” just “law.” So, it means laws in general. Paul conceived of the Gentiles as possessing a law, and that law being of divine origin. He speaks of the law inscribed on the hearts of the Gentiles.[7] This law, written upon the Gentile heart, could easily become externalized and be made into a legalistic system. In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul refers first to the Jews, and then to those who are under the law, including in the second expression, anyone who was living under a system of moral and religious legalism, Jew or Gentile.[8]

That’s why Paul notes in verse four that the Lord Jesus was born under the Law, lived under the Law, and died under the penalty of the Law which we broke, and in doing so paid our penalty, He delivered us from any claims which the Law held against us. He died under Law, and in His resurrection, was raised into a realm where the Law as a legalistic system does not exist. He did this in order that He might not only deliver us from the Law but also raise believers to be with Him in a realm where the Law does not operate. And as Paul goes on to say here in verse five, God did this so He could buy freedom for those who were under the Law and so we could become His children and serve Him out of Love.

Therefore, says Wuest, instead of us being immature children under the guardianship of the Law, we became adult sons and daughters under grace. We received the adoption as His children. This Greek noun huiothesia literally means that our “adoption” came about so that we might be pleaded in the family of God as adult children. That’s why Paul wanted the Galatians to see the difference between having the status of a person under grace as compared to that of a person under the Law. The person under the Law is treated like a child while the person under grace is treated like an adult. [9]

Christian writer and Bible scholar Stanley L. Dickerson, notes that what Paul says here in verse five about the Messiah’s coming to redeem those who were under the Law to become children of God, does not require us to keep the Law for salvation. Still, we are expected to follow the principles of the Law as a rule and practice for our lives.[10] No wonder the writer of Hebrews was frustrated that the people to whom he writes were given enough time that by now they should be teachers. But they needed someone to teach them all over again the first lessons of God’s teaching. They still needed the teaching that is like milk. You are not ready for solid food.[11]

[1] J. L. Nye, Anecdotes, op. cit., p. 116

[2] Otto Paul Kretzmann: On Galatians, op. cit.,

[3] 1 John 2:5-6

[4] Psalm 40:8

[5] Arthur W. Pink: The Law and the Saint, The Positive Side, p. 35

[6] To buy out of the slave market meant to buy a slave and set them free so they no longer could be sold in the market.

[7] Romans 2:14, 15

[8] I Corinthians 9:20

[9] Kenneth. S. Wuest: Word Studies in Galatians, op. cit., pp. 60-61

[10] Dickerson’s Notes on Theology, Redemption, New Testament Terms, p. 913

[11] Hebrews 5:12

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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