Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Are you my enemy? Am I yours? Galatians 4

In Summary: On background, the fourth chapter of Galatians continues Paul’s correction of the Galatian errors. He continues to work though the idea of sonship in Christ, which is very clear in the Roman world of Paul and the Galatians.

Sons were either born or adopted, but they were certain to receive the rights and benefits of their parents. Especially in terms of citizenship, which meant better access to justice, employment, and education, this inherited state was invaluable. Romans did not have open social movement: if you were born into the lower classes, you were there unless you did something amazing to merit elevation.

Or were adopted by someone who was a high-level person. The lower you were, the more you had to do for elevation. If you were too low-born, you would likely never work your way to citizenship, and you would have to attract the right person’s attention to be adopted for it.

Paul’s point in Galatians? Christians are adopted to that status as there was no way to earn it.
In Focus: No one, though, likes to be told they are not that awesome. The Galatians certainly did not appreciate it and had apparently sent some harsh words Paul’s way. How do we know?

Look at Galatians 4:16 where Paul asks if he has become their enemy by telling the truth. That’s an important idea in a society of personal relationships. An enemy is one who will not be received, will not be aided, and will face the wrath of any who are friends.

Paul, then, is asking whether or not the Galatians, having come to Christ through his effort, are now going to shut him out in all things. Enemy status should not have been attached to him for telling the truth, after all. You labeled thieves and con-men as enemies. Paul had done nothing of the sort: he had simply corrected erroneous theology and proclaimed the truth of God’s Grace.

In Practice:
I hope you see where this is going. There are people who are enemies of God’s church in this world. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing who would destroy the Church of the Living God from within.

There should be no doubt that we count these as enemies until they repent and come alongside us in serving Jesus as Lord.

We cannot cast aside those who simply tell us the truth. Not those who sometimes tell us the truth, but the people in our lives who clearly articulate the Word of God when we need it. These may be teachers or preachers, parents or spouses, friends or children. There’s really no limit here. The only real issue is whether or not they tell us the truth.

And we have to learn that the truth-tellers are not our enemies, even when the truth is uncomfortable. That is a challenge for many of us to face, but a person who tells you the hard truths you need is not your enemy.

The one who lets you walk in error to destruction is.

In Nerdiness: You cannot hang too much on Galatians 4:25 and its identification of Mt. Sinai as “in Arabia” for locating Mt. Sinai. Keep in mind that Paul is thinking in terms of Roman zones, not modern country lines.

It is also worth examining how Paul uses the language of childbirth in this chapter. Consider how that affects our understanding of his harshness. Do we expect women in childbirth to always speak softly? Of course not. Likewise, Paul feels pained on behalf of the Galatians, and so should be forgiven a harsh tone.

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