VERSE 1.Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from aservant, though he be Lord of all;
VERSE 2.Butis under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
The Apostle had apparently finished hisdiscourse on justification when this illustration of the youthful heir occurredto him. He throws it in for good measure. He knows that plain people are soonerimpressed by an apt illustration than by learned discussion.
"I want to give you another illustrationfrom everyday life," he writes to the Galatians. "As long as an heiris under age he is treated very much like a servant. He is not permitted toorder his own affairs. He is kept under constant surveillance. Such disciplineis good for him, otherwise he would waste his inheritance in no time. Thisdiscipline, however, is not to last forever. It is to last only until 'the timeappointed of the father.'"
VERSE 3.Evenso we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.
As children of the Law we were treated likeservants and prisoners. We were oppressed and condemned by the Law. But thetyranny of the Law is not to last forever. It is to last only until "thetime appointed of the father," until Christ came and redeemed us.
VERSE 3.Underthe elements of the world.
By the elements of the world the Apostle doesnot understand the physical elements, as some have thought. In calling the Law"the elements of the world" Paul means to say that the Law issomething material, mundane, earthly. It may restrain evil, but it does notdeliver from sin. The Law does not justify; it does not bring a person to heaven. I do not obtain eternal life because I do not kill, commit adultery,steal, etc. Such mere outward decency does not constitute Christianity. Theheathen observe the same restraints to avoid punishment or to secure theadvantages of a good reputation. In the last analysis such restraint is simplehypocrisy. When the Law exercises its higher function it accuses and condemnsthe conscience. All these effects of the Law cannot be called divine orheavenly. These effects are elements of the world.
In calling the Law the elements of the worldPaul refers to the whole Law, principally to the ceremonial law which dealt withexternal matters, as meat, drink, dress, places, times, feasts, cleansings,sacrifices, etc. These are mundane matters which cannot save the sinner.Ceremonial laws are like the statutes of governments dealing with purely civilmatters, as commerce, inheritance, etc. As for the pope's church laws forbiddingmarriage and meats, Paul calls them elsewhere the doctrines of devils. You wouldnot call such laws elements of heaven.
The Law of Moses deals with mundane matters.It holds the mirror to the evil which is in the world. By revealing the evilthat is in us it creates a longing in the heart for the better things of God.The Law forces us into the arms of Christ, "who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." (Romans 1:4.) Christ relieves the conscience of the Law. In so far asthe Law impels us to Christ it renders excellent service.
I do not mean to give the impression that theLaw should be despised. Neither does Paul intend to leave that impression. TheLaw ought to be honored. But when it is a matter of justification before God,Paul had to speak disparagingly of the Law, because the Law has nothing to dowith justification. If it thrusts its nose into the business of justification wemust talk harshly to the Law to keep it in its place. The conscience ought notto be on speaking terms with the Law. The conscience ought to know only Christ.To say this is easy, but in times of trial, when the conscience writhes in thepresence of God, it is not so easy to do. As such times we are to believe in Christ as if therewere no Law or sin anywhere, but only Christ. We ought to say to the Law:"Mister Law, I do not get you. You stutter so much. I don't think that youhave anything to say to me."
When it is not a question of salvation orjustification with us, we are to think highly of the Law and call it "holy, just, and good." (Romans 7:12) The Law is of no comfort to a stricken conscience.Therefore it should not be allowed to rule in our conscience, particularly inview of the fact that Christ paid so great a price to deliver the consciencefrom the tyranny of the Law. Let us understand that the Law and Christ areimpossible bedfellows. The Law must leave the bed of the conscience, which is sonarrow that it cannot hold two, as Isaiahsays, chapter 28, verse 20.
Only Paul among the apostles calls the Law"the elements of the world, weak and beggarly elements, the strength ofsin, the letter that killeth," etc. The other apostles do not speak soslightingly of the Law. Those who want to be first-class scholars in the schoolof Christ want to pick up the language of Paul. Christ called him a chosenvessel and equipped with a facility of expression far above that of the otherapostles, that he as the chosen vessel should establish the doctrine ofjustification in clear-cut words.
VERSES 4, 5.Butwhen the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.
"The fullness of the time" meanswhen the time of the Law was fulfilled and Christ was revealed. Note how Paulexplains Christ. "Christ," says he, "is the Son of God and theson of a woman. He submitted Himself under the Law to redeem us who were underthe Law." In these words the Apostle explains the person and office ofChrist. His person is divine and human. "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman." Christ therefore is true God and true man. Christ'soffice the Apostle describes in the words: "Made under the law, to redeemthem that were under the law."
Paul calls the Virgin Mary a woman. This hasbeen frequently deplored even by some of the ancient fathers who felt that Paulshould have written "virgin" instead of woman. But Paul is nowtreating of faith and Christian righteousness, of the person and office ofChrist, not of the virginity of Mary. The inestimable mercy of God issufficiently set forth by the fact that His Son was born of a woman. The moregeneral term "woman" indicates that Christ was born a true man. Pauldoes not say that Christ was born of man and woman, but only of woman. That hehas a virgin in mind is obvious.
This passage furthermore declares thatChrist's purpose in coming was the abolition of the Law, not with the intentionof laying down new laws, but "to redeem them that were under the law."Christ himself declared: "I judge no man." (John 8:15.) Again, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47.) In other words: "I came not to bring more laws, or tojudge men according to the existing Law. I have a higher and better office. Icame to judge and to condemn the Law, so that it may no more judge and condemnthe world."
How did Christ manage to redeem us? "Hewas made under the law." When Christ came He found us all in prison. Whatdid He do about it? Although He was the Lord of the Law, He voluntarily placedHimself under the Law and permitted it to exercise dominion over Him, indeed toaccuse and to condemn Him. When the Law takes us into judgment it has a perfectright to do so. "For we are by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:3.) Christ, however, "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (I Pet. 2:22.) Hence the Law had no jurisdiction over Him. Yet the Lawtreated this innocent, just, and blessed Lamb of God as cruelly as it treatedus. It accused Him of blasphemy and treason. It made Him guilty of the sins of thewhole world. It overwhelmed him with such anguish of soul that His sweat was asblood. The Law condemned Him to the shameful death on the Cross.
It is truly amazing that the Law had theeffrontery to turn upon its divine Author, and that without a show of right. Forits insolence the Law in turn was arraigned before the judgment seat of God andcondemned. Christ might have overcome the Law by an exercise of His omnipotentauthority over the Law. Instead, He humbled Himself under the Law for andtogether with them that were under the Law. He gave the Law license to accuseand condemn Him. His present mastery over the Law was obtained by virtue of HisSonship and His substitutionary victory.
Thus Christ banished the Law from theconscience. It dare no longer banish us from God. For that matter,--the Lawcontinues to reveal sin. It still raises its voice in condemnation. But theconscience finds quick relief in the words of the Apostle: "Christ hasredeemed us from the law." The conscience can now hold its head high andsay to the Law: "You are not so holy yourself. You crucified the Son ofGod. That was an awful thing for you to do. You have lost your influenceforever."
The words, "Christ was made under thelaw," are worth all the attention we can bestow on them. They declare thatthe Son of God did not only fulfill one or two easy requirements of the Law, butthat He endured all the tortures of the Law. The Law brought all its fright tobear upon Christ until He experienced anguish and terror such as nobody elseever experienced. His bloody sweat. His need of angelic comfort, His tremulousprayer in the garden, His lamentation on the Cross, "My God, my God, whyhast thou forsaken me?" bear eloquent witness to the sting of the Law. Hesuffered "to redeem them that were under the law."
The Roman conception of Christ as a mere lawgiver more stringent than Moses, isquite contrary to Paul's teaching. Christ, according to Paul, was not an agentof the Law but a patient of the Law. He was not a law-giver, but a law-taker.
True enough, Christ also taught and expoundedthe Law. But it was incidental. It was a sideline with Him. He did not come intothe world for the purpose of teaching the Law, as little as it was the purposeof His coming to perform miracles. Teaching the Law and performing miracles didnot constitute His unique mission to the world. The prophets also taught the Lawand performed miracles. In fact, according to the promise of Christ, theapostles performed greater miracles than Christ Himself. (John14:12.) The true purpose of Christ's coming was the abolition of the Law, ofsin, and of death.
If we think of Christ as Paul here depictsHim, we shall never go wrong. We shall never be in danger of misconstruing themeaning of the Law. We shall understand that the Law does not justify. We shallunderstand why a Christian observes laws: For the peace of the world, out ofgratitude to God, and for a good example that others may be attracted to theGospel.
VERSE 5.Thatwe might receive the adoption of sons.
Paul still has for his text Genesis 22:18,"In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." In the course of his Epistle he calls this promise of the blessingrighteousness, life, deliverance from the Law, the testament, etc. Now he alsocalls the promise of blessing "the adoption of sons," the inheritanceof everlasting life.
What ever induced God to adopt us for Hischildren and heirs? What claim can men who are subservient to sin, subject tothe curse of the Law, and worthy of everlasting death, have on God and eternallife? That God adopted us is due to the merit of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,who humbled Himself under the Law and redeemed us law-ridden sinners.
VERSE 6.And because ye are sons, God hathsent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.
In the early Church the Holy Spirit was sentforth in visible form. He descended upon Christ in the form of a dove (Matt.3:16), and in the likeness of fire upon the apostles and other believers. (Acts2:3.) This visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit was necessary to theestablishment of the early Church, as were also the miracles that accompaniedthe gift of the Holy Ghost. Paul explained the purpose of these miraculous giftsof the Spirit in I Corinthians 14:22, "Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not." Once the Church had been established and properly advertised by thesemiracles, the visible appearance of the Holy Ghost ceased.
Next, the Holy Ghost is sent forth into thehearts of the believers, as here stated, "God sent the Spirit of his Soninto your hearts." This sending is accomplished by the preaching of theGospel through which the Holy Spirit inspires us with fervor and light, with newjudgment, new desires, and new motives. This happy innovation is not aderivative of reason or personal development, but solely the gift and operationof the Holy Ghost.
This renewal by the Holy Spirit may not beconspicuous to the world, but it is patent to us by our better judgment, ourimproved speech, and our unashamed confession of Christ. Formerly we did notconfess Christ to be our only merit, as we do now in the light of the Gospel.Why, then, should we feel bad if the world looks upon us as ravagers of religionand insurgents against constituted authority? We confess Christ and ourconscience approves of it.
Then, too, we live in the fear of God. If wesin, we sin not on purpose, but unwittingly, and we are sorry for it. Sin sticksin our flesh, and the flesh gets us into sin even after we have been imbued bythe Holy Ghost. Outwardly there is no great difference between a Christian andany honest man. The activities of a Christian are not sensational . He performs his duty according to his vocation. He takes good care of hisfamily, and is kind and helpful to others. Such homely, everyday performancesare not much admired. But the setting-up exercises of the monks draw greatapplause. Holy works, you know. Only the acts of a Christian are truly good andacceptable to God, because they are done in faith, with a cheerful heart, out ofgratitude to Christ.
We ought to have no misgivings about whetherthe Holy Ghost dwells in us. We are "the temple of the Holy Ghost." (I Cor. 3:16.) When we have a love for the Word of God, and gladly hear,talk, write, and think of Christ, we are to know that this inclination towardChrist is the gift and work of the Holy Ghost. Where you come across contemptfor the Word of God, there is the devil. We meet with such contempt for the Wordof God mostly among the common people. They act as though the Word of God doesnot concern them. Wherever you find a love for the Word, thank God for the HolySpirit who infuses this love into the hearts of men. We never come by this lovenaturally, neither can it be enforced by laws. It is the gift of the HolySpirit.
The Roman theologians teach that no man canknow for a certainty whether he stands in the favor of God or not. This teachingforms one of the chief articles of their faith. With this teaching theytormented men's consciences, excommunicated Christ from the Church, and limitedthe operations of the Holy Ghost.
St. Augustineobserved that "every man is certain of his faith, if he has faith."This the Romanists deny. "God forbid," they exclaim piously,"that I should ever be so arrogant as to think that I stand in grace, thatI am holy, or that I have the Holy Ghost." We ought to feel sure that westand in the grace of God, not in view of our own worthiness, but through thegood services of Christ. As certain as we are that Christ pleases God, so sureought we to be that we also please God, because Christ is in us. And although wedaily offend God by our sins, yet as often as we sin, God's mercy bends over us. Therefore sin cannot get us to doubt thegrace of God. Our certainty is of Christ, that mighty Hero who overcame the Law,sin, death, and all evils. So long as He sits at the right hand of God tointercede for us, we have nothing to fear from the anger of God.
This inner assurance of the grace of God isaccompanied by outward indications such as gladly to hear, preach, praise, andto confess Christ, to do one's duty in the station in which God has placed us,to aid the needy, and to comfort the sorrowing. These are the affidavits of theHoly Spirit testifying to our favorable standing with God.
If we could be fully persuaded that we are inthe good grace of God, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit ofChrist, that we are the beloved children of God, we would be ever so happy andgrateful to God. But because we often feel fear and doubt we cannot come to thathappy certainty.
Train your conscience to believe that Godapproves of you. Fight it out with doubt. Gain assurance through the Word ofGod. Say: "I am all right with God. I have the Holy Ghost. Christ, in whomI do believe, makes me worthy. I gladly hear, read, sing, and write of Him. Iwould like nothing better than that Christ's Gospel be known throughout theworld and that many, many be brought to faith in Him."
VERSE 6.Crying,Abba, Father.
Paul might have written, "God sent forththe Spirit of his Son into your hearts, calling Abba, Father." Instead, hewrote, "Crying, Abba, Father." In the eighth chapter of the Epistle tothe Romans the Apostle describes this crying of the Spirit as "groaningswhich cannot be uttered." He writes in the 26th verse: "Likewise theSpirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for aswe ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
The fact that the Spirit of Christ in ourhearts cries unto God and makes intercession for us with groanings shouldreassure us greatly. However, there are many factors that prevent such fullreassurance on our part. We are born in sin. To doubt the good will of God is aninborn suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil, our adversary, goethabout seeking to devour us by roaring: "God is angry at you and is going todestroy you forever." In all these difficulties we have only one support,the Gospel of Christ. To hold on to it, that is the trick. Christ cannot beperceived with the senses. We cannot see Him. The heart does not feel Hishelpful presence. Especially in times of trials a Christian feels the power ofsin, the infirmity of his flesh, the goading darts of the devil, the agues ofdeath, the scowl and judgment of God. All these things cry out against us. TheLaw scolds us, sin screams at us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us.In the midst of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts: "Abba,Father." And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of theLaw, sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God.
The Spirit cries in us because of ourweakness. Because of our infirmity the Holy Ghost is sent forth into our heartsto pray for us according to the will of God and to assure us of the grace ofGod.
Let the Law, sin, and the devil cry outagainst us until their outcry fills heaven and earth. The Spirit of God outcriesthem all. Our feeble groans, "Abba, Father," will be heard of Godsooner than the combined racket of hell, sin, and the Law.
We do not think of our groanings as a crying.It is so faint we do not know we are groaning. "But he," says Paul, "that searcheth the hearts knoweth what isthe mind of the Spirit."(Romans 8:27.) To this Searcher of hearts our feeble groaning, as it seems tous, is a loud shout for help in comparison with which the howls of hell, the din of the devil, the yells of the Law, the shouts of sin are like so many whispers.
In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus the Lordaddresses Moses at the Red Sea: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" Moses had not cried unto the Lord. He trembled so he could hardly talk.His faith was at low ebb. He saw the people of Israel wedged between the Sea andthe approaching armies of Pharaoh. How were they to escape? Moses did not knowwhat to say. How then could God say that Moses was crying to Him? God heard thegroaning heart of Moses and the groans to Him sounded like loud shouts for help.God is quick to catch the sigh of the heart.
Some have claimed that the saints are withoutinfirmities. But Paul says: "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and makethintercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." We need thehelp of the Holy Spirit because we are weak and infirm. And the Holy Spiritnever disappoints us. Confronted by the armies of Pharaoh, retreat cut off bythe waters of the Red Sea, Moses was in a bad spot. He felt himself to blame.The devil accused him: "These people will all perish, for they cannotescape. And you are to blame because you led the people out of Egypt. Youstarted all this." And then the people started in on Moses. "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in thewilderness? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that weshould die in the wilderness." (Ex. 14:11, 12.) But the Holy Ghost was in Moses and made intercessionfor him with unutterable groanings, sighings unto the Lord: "O Lord, at Thycommandment have I led forth this people. So help me now."
The Spirit intercedes for us not in many wordsor long prayers, but with groanings, with little sounds like "Abba."Small as this word is, it says ever so much. It says: "My Father, I am ingreat trouble and you seem so far away. But I know I am your child, because youare my Father for Christ's sake. I am loved by you because of the Beloved." This one little word "Abba" surpasses the eloquence ofa Demosthenes and a Cicero.
I have spent much time on this verse in orderto combat the cruel teaching of the Roman church, that a person ought to be keptin a state of uncertainty concerning his status with God. The monasteriesrecruit the youth on the plea that their "holy" orders will assuredlyrecruit them for heaven. But once inside the monastery the recruits are told todoubt the promises of God.
In support of their error the papists quotethe saying of Solomon: "The righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no manknoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them." (Eccles. 9:1.) They take this hatred to mean the wrath of God to come.Others take it to mean God's present anger. None of them seem to understand thispassage from Solomon. On every page the Scriptures urge us to believe that Godis merciful, loving, and patient; that He is faithful and true, and that Hekeeps His promises. All the promises of God were fulfilled in the gift of Hisonly- begotten Son, that "whosoever believeth in him should not perish, buthave everlasting life." The Gospel is reassurance for sinners. Yet this onesaying from Solomon, misinterpreted at that, is made to count for more than allthe many promises of all the Scriptures.
If our opponents are so uncertain about theirstatus with God, and even go so far as to say that the conscience ought to bekept in a state of doubt, why is it that they persecute us as vile heretics?When it comes to persecuting us they do not seem to be in doubt and uncertaintyone minute.
Let us not fail to thank God for delivering usfrom the doctrine of doubt. The Gospel commands us to look away from our owngood works to the promises of God in Christ, the Mediator. The pope commands usto look away from the promises of God in Christ to our own merit. No wonder theyare the eternal prey of doubt and despair. We depend upon God for salvation. Nowonder that our doctrine is certified, because it does not rest in our own strength, our own conscience,our own feelings, our own person, our own works. It is built on a betterfoundation. It is built on the promises and truth of God.
Besides, the passage from Solomon does nottreat of the hatred and love of God towards men. It merely rebukes theingratitude of men. The more deserving a person is, the less he is appreciated.Often those who should be his best friends, are his worst enemies. Those wholeast deserve the praise of the world, get most. David was a holy man and a goodking. Nevertheless he was chased from his own country. The prophets, Christ, theapostles, were slain. Solomon in this passage does not speak of the love andhatred of God, but of love and hatred among men. As though Solomon wanted tosay: "There are many good and wise men whom God uses for the advancement ofmankind. Seldom, if ever, are their efforts crowned with gratitude. They areusually repaid with hatred and ingratitude."
We are being treated that way. We thought wewould find favor with men for bringing them the Gospel of peace, life, andeternal salvation. Instead of favor, we found fury. At first, yes, many weredelighted with our doctrine and received it gladly. We counted them as ourfriends and brethren, and were happy to think that they would help us in sowingthe seed of the Gospel. But they revealed themselves as false brethren anddeadly enemies of the Gospel. If you experience the ingratitude of men, don'tlet it get you down. Say with Christ: "They hated me without cause."And, "For my love they are my adversaries; but I give myself unto prayer." (Ps. 109:4.)
Let us never doubt the mercy of God in ChristJesus, but make up our minds that God is pleased with us, that He looks afterus, and that we have the Holy Spirit who prays for us.
VERSE 7.Wherefore thou art no more aservant, but a son.
This sentence clinches Paul's argument. Hesays: "With the Holy Spirit in our hearts crying, 'Abba, Father,' there canbe no doubt that God has adopted us for His children and that our subjection tothe Law has come to an end." We are now the free children of God. We maynow say to the Law: "Mister Law, you have lost your throne to Christ. I amfree now and a son of God. You cannot curse me any more." Do not permit theLaw to lie in your conscience. Your conscience belongs to Christ. Let Christ bein it and not the Law.
As the children of God we are the heirs of Hiseternal heaven. What a wonderful gift heaven is, man's heart cannot conceive,much less describe. Until we enter upon our heavenly inheritance we are only tohave our little faith to go by. To man's reason our faith looks rather forlorn.But because our faith rests on the promises of the infinite God, His promisesare also infinite, so much so that nothing can accuse or condemn us.
VERSE 7.Andif a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
A son is an heir, not by virtue of highaccomplishments, but by virtue of his birth. He is a mere recipient. His birthmakes him an heir, not his labors. In exactly the same way we obtain the eternalgifts of righteousness, resurrection, and everlasting life. We obtain them notas agents, but as beneficiaries. We are the children and heirs of God throughfaith in Christ. We have Christ to thank for everything.
We are not the heirs of some rich and mightyman, but heirs of God, the almighty Creator of all things. If a person couldfully appreciate what it means to be a son and heir of God, he would rate themight and wealth of nations small change in comparison with his heavenlyinheritance. What is the world to him who has heaven? No wonder Paul greatlydesired to depart and to be with Christ. Nothing would be more welcome to us than early death, knowing that itwould spell the end of all our miseries and the beginning of all our happiness.Yes, if a person could perfectly believe this he would not long remain alive.The anticipation of his joy would kill him.
But the law of the members strives againstthe law of the mind, and makes perfect joy and faith impossible. We need thecontinued help and comfort of the Holy Spirit. We need His prayers. Paul himselfcried out: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body ofthis death?" The body of this death spoiled the joy of his spirit. He didnot always entertain the sweet and glad expectation of his heavenly inheritance.He often felt miserable.
This goes to show how hard it is to believe.Faith is feeble, because the flesh wars against the spirit. If we could haveperfect faith, our loathing for this life in the world would be complete. Wewould not be so careful about this life. We would not be so attached to theworld and the things of the world. We would not feel so good when we have them;we would not feel so bad when we lose them. We would be far more humble andpatient and kind. But our faith is weak, because our spirit is weak. In thislife we can have only the first- fruits of the Spirit, as Paul says.
The Apostle always has Christ on the tip ofhis tongue. He foresaw that nothing would be less known in the world some daythan the Gospel of Christ. Therefore he talks of Christ continually. As often ashe speaks of righteousness, grace, the promise, the adoption, and theinheritance of heaven, he adds the words, "In Christ," or"Through Christ," to show that these blessings are not to be had bythe Law, or the deeds of the Law, much less by our own exertions, or by theobservance of human traditions, but only by and through and in Christ.
VERSES 8, 9.Howbeit then, when ye knewnot God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, afterthat ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to theweak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
This concludes Paul's discourse onjustification. From now to the end of the Epistle the Apostle writes mostly ofChristian conduct. But before he follows up his doctrinal discourse withpractical precepts he once more reproves the Galatians. He is deeply displeasedwith them for relinquishing their divine doctrine. He tells them: "You havetaken on teachers who intend to recommit you to the Law. By my doctrine I calledyou out of the darkness of ignorance into the wonderful light of the knowledgeof God. I led you out of bondage into the freedom of the sons of God, not by theprescription of laws, but by the gift of heavenly and eternal blessings throughChrist Jesus. How could you so soon forsake the light and return to darkness?How could you so quickly stray from grace into the Law, from freedom intobondage?"
The example of the Galatians, of Anabaptists,and other sectarians in our day bears testimony to the ease with which faith maybe lost. We take great pains in setting forth the doctrine of faith by preachingand by writing. We are careful to apply the Gospel and the Law in their properturn. Yet we make little headway because the devil seduces people into misbeliefby taking Christ out of their sight and focusing their eyes upon the Law.
But why does Paul accuse the Galatians ofreverting to the weak and beggarly elements of the Law when they never had theLaw? Why does he not say to them: "At one time you Galatians did not knowGod. You then served idols that were no gods. But now that you have come to knowthe true God, why do you go back to the worship of idols?" Paul seems toidentify their defection from the Gospel to the Law with their former idolatry. Indeed he does. Whoever gives upthe article of justification does not know the true God. It is one and the samething whether a person reverts to the Law or to the worship of idols. When thearticle of justification is lost, nothing remains except error, hypocrisy,godlessness, and idolatry.
God will and can be known in no other waythan in and through Christ according to the statement of John 1:18, "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Christ is the only means whereby we can know God and His will. In Christwe perceive that God is not a cruel judge, but a most loving and merciful Fatherwho to bless and to save us "spared not his own Son, but gave him up for usall." This is truly to know God.
Those who do not know God in Christ arrive atthis erroneous conclusion: "I will serve God in such and such a way. I willjoin this or that order. I will be active in this or that charitable endeavor.God will sanction my good intentions and reward me with everlasting life. For isHe not a merciful and generous Father who gives good things even to the unworthyand ungrateful? How much more will He grant unto me everlasting life as a duepayment in return for my many good deeds and merits." This is the religionof reason. This is the natural religion of the world. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. (I Cor. 2:14.) "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." (Romans 3:11.) Hence, there is really no difference between a Jew, aMohammedan, and any other old or new heretic. There may be a difference ofpersons, places, rites, religions, ceremonies, but as far as their fundamentalbeliefs are concerned they are all alike.
Is it therefore not extreme folly for Romeand the Mohammedans to fight each other about religion? How about the monks? Whyshould one monk want to be accounted more holy than another monk because of somesilly ceremony, when all the time their basic beliefs are as much alike as one egg is like the other? They all imagine, if we do this or thatwork, God will have mercy on us; if not, God will be angry.
God never promised to save anybody for hisreligious observance of ceremonies and ordinances. Those who rely upon suchthings do serve a god, but it is their own invention of a god, and not the trueGod. The true God has this to say: No religion pleases Me whereby the Father isnot glorified through His Son Jesus. All who give their faith to this Son ofMine, to them I am God and Father. I accept, justify, and save them. All othersabide under My curse because they worship creatures instead of Me.
Without the doctrine of justification therecan be only ignorance of God. Those who refuse to be justified by Christ areidolaters. They remain under the Law, sin, death, and the power of the devil.Everything they do is wrong.
Nowadays there are many such idolaters whowant to be counted among the true confessors of the Gospel. They may even teachthat men are delivered from their sins by the death of Christ. But because theyattach more importance to charity than to faith in Christ they dishonor Him andpervert His Word. They do not serve the true God, but an idol of their owninvention. The true God has never yet smiled upon a person for his charity orvirtues, but only for the sake of Christ's merits.
The objection is frequently raised that theBible commands that we should love God with all our heart. True enough. Butbecause God commands it, it does not follow that we do it. If we could love Godwith all our heart we should undoubtedly be justified by our obedience, for itis written, "Which if a man do, he shall live in them." (Lev. 18:5.) But now comes the Gospel and says: "Because you do notdo these things, you cannot live in them." The words, "Thou shalt lovethe Lord, thy God," require perfect obedience, perfect fear, perfect trust,and perfect love. But where are the people who can render perfection? Hence,this commandment, instead of justifying men, only accuses and condemns them. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:1.)
How may these two contradictory statements ofthe Apostle, "Ye knew not God," and "Ye worshipped God," bereconciled? I answer: By nature all men know that there is a God, "because that which may beknown of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them. For theinvisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen."(Romans 1:19, 20.) Furthermore, the different religions to be found among allnations at all times bear witness to the fact that all men have a certainintuitive knowledge of God.
If all men know God how can Paul say that theGalatians did not know God prior to the hearing of the Gospel? I answer: Thereis a twofold knowledge of God, general and particular. All men have the generaland instinctive recognition that there is a God who created heaven and earth,who is just and holy, and who punishes the wicked. How God feels about us, whatHis intentions are, what He will do for us, or how He will save us, that mencannot know instinctively. It must be revealed to them. I may know a person bysight, and still not know him, because I do not know how he feels about me. Menknow instinctively that there is a God. But what His will is toward them, theydo not know. It is written: "There is none that understandeth God." (Romans 3:11.) Again, "No man hath seen God." (John 1:18.) Now, what good does it do you if you know that there is aGod, if you do not know how He feels about you, or what He wants of you? Peoplehave done a good deal of guessing. The Jew imagines he is doing the will of Godif he concentrates on the Law of Moses. The Mohammedan thinks his Koran is thewill of God. The monk fancies he is doing the will of God if he performs hisvows. But they deceive themselves and become "vain in their imaginations," as Paul says, Romans 1:21. Instead of worshipping the true God, they worship the vain imaginations of their foolish hearts.
What Paul means by saying to the Galatians,"When ye knew not God," is simply this: "There was a time whenyou did not know the will of God in Christ, but you worshipped gods of your owninvention, thinking that you had to perform this or that labor."
Whether you understand the "elements ofthe world" to mean the Law of Moses, or the religions of the heathennations, it makes no difference. Those who lapse from the Gospel to the Law areno better off than those who lapse from grace into idolatry. Without Christ allreligion is idolatry. Without Christ men will entertain false ideas about God,call their ideas what you like, the laws of Moses, the ordinances of the Pope,the Koran of the Mohammedans, or what have you.
VERSE 9.Butnow, after that ye have known God.
"Is it not amazing," cries Paul,"that you Galatians who knew God intimately by the hearing of the Gospel,should all of a sudden revert from the true knowledge of His will in which Ithought you were confirmed, to the weak and beggarly elements of the Law whichcan only enslave you again?"
VERSE 9.Orrather are known of God.
The Apostle turns the foregoing sentencearound. He fears the Galatians have lost God altogether. "Alas," hecries, "have you come to this, that you no longer know God? What else am Ito think? Nevertheless, God knows you." Our knowledge of God is ratherpassive than active. God knows us better than we know God. "Ye are known ofGod" means that God brings His Gospel to our attention, and endows us withfaith and the Holy Spirit. Even in these words the Apostle denies thepossibility of our knowing God by the performance of the Law. "No man knoweth who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son willreveal him." (Luke 10:22.) "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear theiriniquities." (Isaiah 53:11.)
The Apostle frankly expresses his surprise tothe Galatians that they who had known God intimately through the Gospel, shouldso easily be persuaded by the false apostles to return to the weak and beggarlyelements of the Law. I would not be surprised to see my church perverted by somefanatic through one or two sermons. We are no better than the apostles who hadto witness the subversion of the churches which they had planted with their ownhands. Nevertheless, Christ will reign to the end of the world, and thatmiraculously, as He did during the Dark Ages.
Paul seems to think rather ill of the Law. Hecalls it the elements of the world, the weak and beggarly elements of the world.Was it not irreverent for him to speak that way about the holy Law of God? TheLaw ought to prepare the way of Christ into the hearts of men. That is the truepurpose and function of the Law. But if the Law presumes to usurp the place andfunction of the Gospel, it is no longer the holy Law of God, but apseudo-Gospel.
If you care to amplify this matter you mayadd the observation that the Law is a weak and beggarly element because it makespeople weak and beggarly. The Law has no power and affluence to make men strongand rich before God. To seek to be justified by the Law amounts to the samething as if a person who is already weak and feeble should try to find strengthin weakness, or as if a person with the dropsy should seek a cure by exposinghimself to the pestilence, or as if a leper should go to a leper, and a beggarto a beggar to find health and wealth.
Those who seek to be justified by the Lawgrow weaker and more destitute right along. They are weak and bankrupt to beginwith. They are by nature the children of wrath. Yet for salvation they grasp atthe straw of the Law. The Law can only aggravate their weakness and poverty. TheLaw makes them ten times weaker and poorer than they were before.
I and many others have experienced the truth of this. I have known monks whozealously labored to please God for salvation, but the more they labored themore impatient, miserable, uncertain, and fearful they became. What else can youexpect? You cannot grow strong through weakness and rich through poverty. Peoplewho prefer the Law to the Gospel are like Aesop's dog who let go of the meat tosnatch at the shadow of the water. There is no satisfaction in the Law. Whatsatisfaction can there be in collecting laws with which to torment oneself andothers? One law breeds ten more until their number is legion.
Who would have thought it possible that theGalatians, taught as they were by that efficient apostle and teacher, Paul,could so quickly be led astray by the false apostles? To fall away from theGospel is an easy matter because few people appreciate what an excellenttreasure the knowledge of Christ really is. People are not sufficientlyexercised in their faith by afflictions. They do not wrestle against sin. Theylive in security without conflict. Because they have never been tried in thefurnace of affliction they are not properly equipped with the armor of God andknow not how to use the sword of the Spirit. As long as they are beingshepherded by faithful pastors, all is well. But when their faithful shepherdsare gone and wolves disguised as sheep break into the fold, back they go to theweak and beggarly elements of the Law.
Whoever goes back to the Law loses theknowledge of the truth, fails in the recognition of his sinfulness, does notknow God, nor the devil, nor himself, and does not understand the meaning andpurpose of the Law. Without the knowledge of Christ a man will always argue thatthe Law is necessary for salvation, that it will strengthen the weak and enrichthe poor. Wherever this opinion holds sway the promises of God are denied,Christ is demoted, hypocrisy and idolatry are established.
VERSE 9.Whereunto ye desire again to bein bondage.
The Apostle pointedly asks the Galatianswhether they desire to be in bondage again to the Law. The Law is weak and poor,the sinner is weak and poor--two feeble beggars trying to help each other. Theycannot do it. They only wear each other out. But through Christ a weak and poorsinner is revived and enriched unto eternal life.
VERSE 10.Yeobserve days, and months, and times, and years.
The Apostle Paul knew what the false apostleswere teaching the Galatians: The observance of days, and months, and times, andyears. The Jews had been obliged to keep holy the Sabbath Day, the new moons,the feast of the passover, the feast of tabernacles, and other feasts. The falseapostles constrained the Galatians to observe these Jewish feasts under threatof damnation. Paul hastens to tell the Galatians that they were exchanging theirChristian liberty for the weak and beggarly elements of the world.
VERSE 11.Iam afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.
It grieves the Apostle to think that he mighthave preached the Gospel to the Galatians in vain. But this statement expressesmore than grief. Behind his apparent disappointment at their failure lurks thesharp reprimand that they had forsaken Christ and that they were provingthemselves to be obstinate unbelievers. But he does not openly condemn them forfear that oversharp criticism might alienate them altogether. He thereforechanges the tone of his voice and speaks kindly to them.
VERSE 12.Beas I am; for I am as ye are.
Up to this point Paul has been occupied withthe doctrinal aspect of the apostasy of the Galatians. He did not conceal hisdisappointment at their lack of stability. He had rebuked them. He had calledthem fools, crucifiers of Christ, etc. Now that the more important part of hisEpistle has been finished, he realizes that he has handled the Galatians too roughly.Anxious lest he should do more harm than good, he is careful to let them seethat his criticism proceeds from affection and a true apostolic concern fortheir welfare. He is eager to mitigate his sharp words with gentle sentiments inorder to win them again.
Like Paul, all pastors and ministers ought tohave much sympathy for their poor straying sheep, and instruct them in thespirit of meekness. They cannot be straightened out in any other way. Oversharpcriticism provokes anger and despair, but no repentance. And here let us note,by the way, that true doctrine always produces concord. When men embrace errors,the tie of Christian love is broken.
At the beginning of the Reformation we werehonored as the true ministers of Christ. Suddenly certain false brethren beganto hate us. We had given them no offense, no occasion to hate us. They knew thenas they know now that ours is the singular desire to publish the Gospel ofChrist everywhere. What changed their attitude toward us? False doctrine.Seduced into error by the false apostles, the Galatians refused to acknowledgeSt. Paul as their pastor. The name and doctrine of Paul became obnoxious tothem. I fear this Epistle recalled very few from their error.
Paul knew that the false apostles wouldmisconstrue his censure of the Galatians to their own advantage and say:"So this is your Paul whom you praise so much. What sweet names he iscalling you in his letter. When he was with you he acted like a father, but nowhe acts like a dictator." Paul knew what to expect of the false apostlesand therefore he is worried. He does not know what to say. It is hard for a manto defend his cause at a distance, especially when he has reason to think thathe personally has fallen into disfavor.
VERSE 12.Beas I am; for I am as ye are.
In beseeching the Galatians to be as he is,Paul expresses the hope that they might hold the same affection for him that he holds for them. "Perhaps I have been a little hard withyou. Forgive it. Do not judge my heart according to my words."
We request the same consideration forourselves. Our way of writing is incisive and straightforward. But there is nobitterness in our heart. We seek the honor of Christ and the welfare of men. Wedo not hate the Pope as to wish him ill. We do not desire the death of our falsebrethren. We desire that they may turn from their evil ways to Christ and besaved with us. A teacher chastises the pupil to reform him. The rod hurts, butcorrection is necessary. A father punishes his son because he loves his son. Ifhe did not love the lad he would not punish him but let him have his own way ineverything until he comes to harm. Paul beseeches the Galatians to look upon hiscorrection as a sign that he really cared for them. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous;nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness untothem which are exercised thereby." (Heb. 12:11.)
Although Paul seeks to soften the effect ofhis reproachful words, he does not take them back. When a physician administersa bitter potion to a patient, he does it to cure the patient. The fact that themedicine is bitter is no fault of the physician. The malady calls for a bittermedicine. Paul wants the Galatians to judge his words according to the situationthat made them necessary.
VERSE 12.Brethren,I beseech you ... Ye have not injured me at all.
Would you call it beseeching the Galatians tocall them "bewitched," "disobedient," "crucifiers ofChrist"? The Apostle calls it an earnest beseeching. And so it is. When afather corrects his son it means as if he were saying, "My son, I beseechyou, be a good boy."
VERSE 12.Yehave not injured me at all.
"I am not angry with you," saysPaul. "Why should I be angry with you, since you have done me no injury at all?"
To this the Galatians reply: "Why, then,do you say that we are perverted, that we have forsaken the true doctrine, thatwe are foolish, bewitched, etc., if you are not angry? We must have offended yousomehow."
Paul answers: "You Galatians have notinjured me. You have injured yourselves. I chide you not because I wish you ill.I have no reason to wish you ill. God is my witness, you have done me no wrong.On the contrary, you have been very good to me. The reason I write to you isbecause I love you."
The bitter potion must be sweetened withhoney and sugar to make it palatable. When parents have punished their childrenthey give them apples, pears, and other good things to show them that they meanwell.
VERSES 13, 14.Yeknow how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at thefirst. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected;but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
"You Galatians were very good to me.When I began to preach the Gospel to you in the infirmity of my flesh and ingreat temptation you were not at all offended. On the contrary, you were soloving, so kind, so friendly towards me, you received me like an angel, likeJesus Himself."
Indeed, the Galatians are to be commended forreceiving the Gospel from a man as unimposing and afflicted all around as Paulwas. Wherever he preached the Gospel, Jews and Gentiles raved against him. Allthe influential and religious people of his day denounced him. But the Galatiansdid not mind it. That was greatly to their honor. And Paul does not neglect topraise them for it. This praise Paul bestows on none of the other churches towhich he wrote.
St. Jerome and others of the ancientfathers allege this infirmity of Paul's to have been some physical defect, orconcupiscence. Jerome and the other diagnosticians lived at a time when theChurch enjoyed peace and prosperity, when the bishops increased in wealth andstanding, when pastors and bishops no longer sat over the Word of God. No wonderthey failed to understand Paul.
When Paul speaks of the infirmity of hisflesh he does not mean some physical defect or carnal lust, but the sufferingsand afflictions which he endured in his body. What these infirmities were hehimself explains in II Corinthians 12:9, 10: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power ofChrist may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, inreproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake:for when I am weak, then am I strong." And in the eleventh chapter of the same Epistle the Apostle writes:"In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, indeaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice wasI beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck," etc. (II Cor. 11:23-25.) By the infirmity of his flesh Paul meant theseafflictions and not some chronic disease. He reminds the Galatians how he wasalways in peril at the hands of the Jews, Gentiles, and false brethren, how hesuffered hunger and want.
Now, the afflictions of the believers alwaysoffend people. Paul knew it and therefore has high praise for the Galatiansbecause they over looked his afflictions and received him like an angel. Christforewarned the faithful against the offense of the Cross, saying: "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." (Matt. 11:6.) Surely it is no easy thing to confess Him Lord of all andSavior of the world who was a reproach of men, and despised of the people, andthe laughing stock of the world. (Ps.22:7.) I say, to value this poor Christ, so spitefully scorned, spit upon,scourged, and crucified, more than the riches of the richest, the strength ofthe strongest, the wisdom of the wisest, is something. It is worth being called blessed.
Paul not only had outward afflictions butalso inner, spiritual afflictions. He refers to these in II Corinthians 7:6,"Without were fightings, within were fears." In his letter to the Philippians Paul makes mention of the restorationof Epaphroditus as a special act of mercy on the part of God, "lest Ishould have sorrow upon sorrow."
Considering the many afflictions of Paul, weare not surprised to hear him loudly praising the Galatians for not beingoffended at him as others were. The world thinks us mad because we go about tocomfort, to help, to save others while we ourselves are in distress. People tellus: "Physician, heal thyself." (Luke 4:23.)
The Apostle tells the Galatians that he willkeep their kindness in perpetual remembrance. Indirectly, he also reminds themhow much they had loved him before the invasion of the false apostles, and givesthem a hint that they should return to their first love for him.
VERSE 15.Whereis then the blessedness ye spake of?
"How much happier you used to be. Andhow you Galatians used to tell me that you were blessed. And how much did I notpraise and commend you formerly." Paul reminds them of former and bettertimes in an effort to mitigate his sharp reproaches, lest the false apostlesshould slander him and misconstrue his letter to his disadvantage and to theirown advantage. Such snakes in the grass are equal to anything. They will pervertwords spoken from a sincere heart and twist them to mean just the opposite ofwhat they were intended to convey. They are like spiders that suck venom out ofsweet and fragrant flowers. The poison is not in the flowers, but it is thenature of the spider to turn what is good and wholesome into poison.
VERSE 15.ForI bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out yourown eyes, and have given them to me.
The Apostle continues his praise of the Galatians. "You did not only treatme very courteously. If it had been necessary you would have plucked out youreyes and sacrificed your lives for me." And in very fact the Galatianssacrificed their lives for Paul. By receiving and maintaining Paul they calledupon their own heads the hatred and malice of all the Jews and Gentiles.
Nowadays the name of Luther carries the samestigma. Whoever praises Luther is a worse sinner than an idolater, perjurer, orthief.
VERSE 16.AmI therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
Paul's reason for praising the Galatians isto avoid giving them the impression as if he were their enemy because he hadreprimanded them.
A true friend will admonish his erringbrother, and if the erring brother has any sense at all he will thank hisfriend. In the world truth produces hatred. Whoever speaks the truth is countedan enemy. But among friends it is not so, much less among Christians. TheApostle wants his Galatians to know that just because he had told them the truththey are not to think that he dislikes them. "I told you the truth becauseI love you."
VERSE 17.Theyzealously affect you, but not well.
Paul takes the false apostles to task fortheir flattery. Satan's satellites softsoap the people. Paul calls it "by good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:18.)
They tell me that by my stubbornness in thisdoctrine of the Sacrament I am destroying the harmony of the church. They say itwould be better if we would make some slight concession rather than cause suchcommotion and controversy in the Church regarding an article which is not evenone of the fundamental doctrines. My reply is, cursed be any love or harmonywhich demands for its preservation that we place the Word of God in jeopardy!
VERSE 17.Yea, they would exclude you,that ye might affect them.
"Do you Galatians know why the falseapostles are so zealous about you? They expect you to reciprocate. And thatwould leave me out. If their zeal were right they would not mind your loving me.But they hate my doctrine and want to stamp it out. In order to bring this topass they go about to alienate your hearts from me and to make me obnoxious toyou." In this way Paul brings the false apostles into suspicion. Hequestions their motives. He maintains that their zeal is mere pretense todeceive the Galatians. Our Savior Christ also warned us, saying: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing." (Matt. 7:15.)
Paul was considerably disturbed by thecommissions and changes that followed in the wake of his preaching. He wasaccused of being "a pestilent fellow, a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world." (Acts 24:5.) In Philippi the townspeople cried that he troubled theircity and taught customs which were not lawful for them to receive. (Acts16:20, 21.)
All troubles, calamities, famines, wars werelaid to the charge of the Gospel of the apostles. However, the apostles were notdeterred by such calumnies from preaching the Gospel. They knew that they"ought to obey God rather than men," and that it was better for theworld to be upset than to be ignorant of Christ.
Do you think for a moment that thesereactions did not worry the apostles? They were not made of iron. They foresawthe revolutionary character of the Gospel. They also foresaw the dissensionsthat would creep into the Church. It was bad news for Paul when he heard thatthe Corinthians were denying the resurrection of the dead, that the churches hehad planted were experiencing all kinds of difficulties, and that the Gospel wasbeing supplanted by false doctrines.
But Paul also knew that the Gospel was not toblame. He did not resign his office because he knew that the Gospel he preached was the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes.
The same criticism which was leveled at theapostles is leveled at us. The doctrine of the Gospel, we are told, is the causeof all the present unrest in the world. There is no wrong that is not laid toour charge. But why? We do not spread wicked lies. We preach the glad tidings ofChrist. Our opponents will bear us out when we say that we never fail to urgerespect for the constituted authorities, because that is the will of God.
All of these vilifications cannot discourageus. We know that there is nothing the devil hates worse than the Gospel. It isone of his little tricks to blame the Gospel for every evil in the world.Formerly, when the traditions of the fathers were taught in the Church, thedevil was not excited as he is now. It goes to show that our doctrine is of God,else "behemoth would lie under shady trees, in the covert of the reed, andfens." The fact that he is again walking about as a roaring lion to stir upriots and disorders is a sure sign that he has begun to feel the effect of ourpreaching.
VERSE 18.Butit is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when Iam present with you.
"When I was present with you, you lovedme, although I preached the Gospel to you in the infirmity of my flesh. The factthat I am now absent from you ought not to change your attitude towards me.Although I am absent in the flesh, I am with you in spirit and in my doctrinewhich you ought to retain by all means because through it you received the HolySpirit."
VERSE 19.Mylittle children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.
With every single word the Apostle seeks toregain the confidence of the Galatians. He now calls them lovingly his littlechildren. He adds the simile: "Of whom I travail in birth again." Asparents reproduce their physical characteristics in their children, so the apostles reproduced their faith inthe hearts of the hearers, until Christ was formed in them. A person has theform of Christ when he believes in Christ to the exclusion of everything else.This faith in Christ is engendered by the Gospel as the Apostle declares in ICorinthians 4:15: "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel"; and in II Corinthians 3:3, "Ye are the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but withthe Spirit of the living God." The Word of God falling from the lips of the apostle or minister entersinto the heart of the hearer. The Holy Ghost impregnates the Word so that itbrings forth the fruit of faith. In this manner every Christian pastor is aspiritual father who forms Christ in the hearts of his hearers.
At the same time Paul indicts the falseapostles. He says: "I have begotten you Galatians through the Gospel,giving you the form of Christ. But these false apostles are giving you a newform, the form of Moses." Note the Apostle does not say, "Of whom Itravail in birth again until I be formed in you," but "until Christ beformed in you." The false apostles had torn the form of Christ out of thehearts of the Galatians and substituted their own form. Paul endeavors to reformthem, or rather reform Christ in them.
VERSE 20.Idesire to be present with you now, and to change my voice.
A common saying has it that a letter is adead messenger. Something is lacking in all writing. You can never be sure howthe written page will affect the reader, because his mood, his circumstances,his affections are so changeable. It is different with the spoken word. If it isharsh and ill-timed it can always be remodeled. No wonder the Apostle expressesthe wish that he could speak to the Galatians in person. He could change hisvoice according to their attitude. If he saw that they were repentant he couldsoften the tone of his voice. If he saw that they were stubborn he could speak to them more earnestly. This way he did not know how todeal with them by letter. If his Epistle is too severe it will do more damagethan good. If it is too gentle, it will not correct conditions. But if he couldbe with them in person he could change his voice as the occasion demanded.
VERSE 20.ForI stand in doubt of you.
"I do not know how to take you. I do notknow how to approach you by letter." In order to make sure that he leavesno stone unturned in his effort to recall them to the Gospel of Christ, hechides, entreats, praises, and blames the Galatians, trying every way to hit theright note and tone of voice.
VERSE 21.Tellme, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
Here Paul would have closed his Epistlebecause he did not know what else to say. He wishes he could see the Galatiansin person and straighten out their difficulties. But he is not sure whether theGalatians have fully understood the difference between the Gospel and the Law.To make sure, he introduces another illustration. He knows people likeillustrations and stories. He knows that Christ Himself made ample use ofparables.
Paul is an expert at allegories. They aredangerous things. Unless a person has a thorough knowledge of Christian doctrinehe had better leave allegories alone.
The allegory which Paul is about to bring istaken from the Book of Genesis which he calls the Law. True, that book containsno mention of the Law. Paul simply follows the custom of the Jews who includedthe first book of Moses in the collective term, "Law." Jesus evenincluded the Psalms.
VERSES 22, 23.Forit is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by afreewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he ofthe freewoman was by promise.
This is Paul's allegory. Abraham had two sons: Ishmael by Hagar, and Isaac bySarah. They were both the true sons of Abraham, with this difference, thatIshmael was born after the flesh, i.e., without the commandment and promise ofGod, while Isaac was born according to the promise.
With the permission of Sarah, Abraham tookHagar, Sarah's bondwoman, to wife. Sarah knew that God had promised to make herhusband Abraham the father of a nation, and she hoped that she would be themother of this promised nation. But with the passage of the years her hope diedout. In order that the promise of God should not be annulled by her barrennessthis holy woman resigned her right and honor to her maid. This was no easy thingfor her to do. She abased herself. She thought: "God is no liar. What Hehas promised He will perform. But perhaps God does not want me to be the motherof Abraham's posterity. Perhaps He prefers Hagar for the honor."
Ishmael was thus born without a special wordor promise of God, at the mere request of Sarah. God did not command Abraham totake Hagar, nor did God promise to bless the coalition. It is evident thatIshmael was the son of Abraham after the flesh, and not after the promise.
In the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans St. Paul advances the sameargument which he amplifies into an allegory in writing to the Galatians. Therehe argues that all the children of Abraham are not the children of God. ForAbraham had two kinds of children, children born of the promise, like Isaac, andother children born without the promise, as Ishmael. With this argument Paulsquelched the proud Jews who gloried that they were the children of God becausethey were the seed and the children of Abraham. Paul makes it clear enough thatit takes more than an Abrahamic pedigree to be a child of God. To be a child ofGod requires faith in Christ.
VERSE 24.Which things are an allegory.
Allegories are not very convincing, but likepictures they visualize a matter. If Paul had not brought in advanceindisputable arguments for the righteousness of faith over against therighteousness of works this allegory would do little good. Having firstfortified his case with invincible arguments, he can afford to inject thisallegory to add impressiveness and beauty to his presentation.
VERSES 24, 25.Forthese are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth tobondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia.
In this allegory Abraham represents God.Abraham had two sons, born respectively of Hagar and Sarah. The two womenrepresent the two Testaments. The Old Testament is Mount Sinai, the bondwoman,Hagar. The Arabians call Mount Sinai Agar. It may be that the similarity ofthese two names gave Paul his idea for this allegory. As Hagar bore Abraham ason who was not an heir but a servant, so Sinai, the Law, the allegorical Hagar,bore God a carnal and servile people of the Law without promise. The Law has apromise but it is a conditional promise, depending upon whether people fulfillthe Law.
The Jews regarded the conditional promises ofthe Law as if they were unconditional. When the prophets foretold thedestruction of Jerusalem, the Jews stoned them as blasphemers of God. They nevergave it any thought that there was a condition attached to the Law which reads:"If you keep the commandments it shall be well with thee."
VERSE 25.Andanswereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
A little while ago Paul called Mount Sinai,Hagar. He would now gladly make Jerusalem the Sarah of the New Testament, but hecannot. The earthly Jerusalem is not Sarah, but a part of Hagar. Hagar livesthere in the home of the Law, the Temple, the priesthood, the ceremonies, and whatever else wasordained in the Law at Mount Sinai.
I would have been tempted to call Jerusalem,Sarah, or the New Testament. I would have been pleased with this turn of theallegory. It goes to show that not everybody has the gift of allegory. Would younot think it perfectly proper to call Sinai Hagar and Jerusalem Sarah? True,Paul does call Sarah Jerusalem. But he has the spiritual and heavenly Jerusalemin mind, not the earthly Jerusalem. Sarah represents that spiritual Jerusalemwhere there is no Law but only the promise, and where the inhabitants are free.
To show that the Law has been quiteabolished, the earthly Jerusalem was completely destroyed with all herornaments, temples, and ceremonies.
VERSE 26.ButJerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
The earthly Jerusalem with its ordinances andlaws represents Hagar and her offspring. They are slaves to the Law, sin anddeath. But the heavenly Jerusalem is Sarah, the free woman. This heavenlyJerusalem is the Church, that is to say the number of all believers throughoutthe world, having one and the same Gospel, one and the same faith in Christ, oneand the same Holy Ghost, and the same sacraments.
Do not mistake this one word"above" to refer to the triumphant Church in heaven, but to themilitant Church on earth. In Philippians 3:20, the Apostle uses the phrase:"Our conversation is in heaven," not locally in heaven, but in spirit. When a believer accepts theheavenly gifts of the Gospel he is in heaven. So also in Ephesians 1:3, "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Jerusalem here means the universal Christian Church on earth.
Sarah, the Church, as the bride of Christbears free children who are not subject to the Law.
VERSE 27.For it is written, Rejoice,thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: forthe desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
Paul quotes the allegorical prophecy ofIsaiah to the effect that the mother of many children must die desolately, whilethe barren woman shall have an abundance of children. (Isaiah54:1.) He applies this prophecy to Hagar and Sarah, to the Law and theGospel. The Law as the husband of the fruitful woman procreates many children.For men of all ages have had the idea that they are right when they follow afterthe Law and outwardly perform its requirements.
Although the Law has many children, they arenot free. They are slaves. As servants they cannot have a share in theinheritance, but are driven from the house as Ishmael was cast out of the houseof Abraham. In fact the servants of the Law are even now barred from the kingdomof light and liberty, for "he that believeth not, is condemned already." (John 3:18.) As the servants of the Law they remain under the curse ofthe Law, under sin and death, under the power of the devil, and under the wrathand judgment of God.
On the other hand, Sarah, the free Church,seems barren. The Gospel of the Cross which the Church proclaims does not havethe appeal that the Law has for men, and therefore it does not find manyadherents. The Church does not look prosperous. Unbelievers have alwayspredicted the death of the Church. The Jews were quite certain that the Churchwould not long endure. They said to Paul: "As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." (Acts 28:22.) No matter how barren and forsaken, how weak and desolatethe Church may seem, she alone is really fruitful before God. By the Gospel sheprocreates an infinite number of children that are free heirs of everlastinglife.
The Law, "the old husband," is really dead. But not all people knowit, or want to know it. They labor and bear the burden and the heat of the day,and bring forth many children, children that are bastards like themselves,children born to be put out of the house like Ishmael to perish forever.Accursed be that doctrine, life, and religion which endeavors to obtainrighteousness before God by the Law and its creeds.
The scholastics think that the judicial andceremonial laws of Moses were abolished by the coming of Christ, but not themoral law. They are blind. When Paul declares that we are delivered from thecurse of the Law he means the whole Law, particularly the moral law which morethan the other laws accuses, curses, and condemns the conscience. The TenCommandments have no right to condemn that conscience in which Jesus dwells, forJesus has taken from the Ten Commandments the right and power to curse us.
Not as if the conscience is now insensitiveto the terrors of the Law, but the Law cannot drive the conscience to despair."There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1.) "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36.)
You will complain: "But I am not doinganything." That is right. You cannot do a thing to be delivered from thetyranny of the Law. But listen to the glad tidings which the Holy Ghost bringsto you in the words of the prophet: "Rejoice, thou barren." As Christis greater than the Law, so much more excellent is the righteousness of Christthan the righteousness of the Law.
In one more respect the Law has beenabolished. The civil laws of Moses do not concern us, and should not be put backin force. That does not mean that we are exempt from obedience to the civil lawsunder which we live. On the contrary, the Gospel commands Christians to obeygovernment "not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." (Romans 13:5.)
Neither do the ordinances of Moses or those of the Pope concern us. But becauselife cannot go on without some ordinances, the Gospel permits regulations to bemade in the Church in regard to special days, times, places, etc., in order thatthe people may know upon what day, at what hour, and in what place to assemblefor the Word of God. Such directions are desirable that "all things be done decently and in order." (I Cor. 14:40.) These directions may be changed or omitted altogether,as long as no offense is given to the weak.
Paul, however, refers particularly to theabolition of the moral law. If faith alone in Christ justifies, then the wholeLaw is abolished without exception. And this the Apostle proves by the testimonyof Isaiah, who bids the barren to rejoice because she will have many children,whereas she that has a husband and many children will be forsaken.
Isaiah calls the Church barren because herchildren are born without effort by the Word of faith through the Spirit of God.It is a matter of birth, not of exertion. The believer too works, but not in aneffort to become a son and an heir of God. He is that before he goes to work. Heis born a son and an heir. He works for the glory of God and the welfare of hisfellowmen.
VERSE 28.Nowwe, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
The Jews claimed to be the children of Godbecause they were the children of Abraham. Jesus answered them, John 8:39, 40,"If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seekto kill me, a man that hath told you the truth." And in verse 42: "If God were your Father, ye would love me." In other words: "You are not the children of God. If you were, youwould know and love me. Brothers born and living together in the same houserecognize each other. You do not recognize me. You are of your father, thedevil."
We are not like these Jews, the children of the bondwoman, the Law, who werecast out of the house by Jesus. We are children of the promise like Isaac, bornof grace and faith unto an everlasting inheritance.
VERSE 29.Butas that he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after theSpirit, even so it is now.
This is a cheering thought. We who are bornof the Gospel, and live in Christ, and rejoice in our inheritance, have Ishmaelfor our enemy. The children of the Law will always persecute the children of theGospel. This is our daily experience. Our opponents tell us that everything wasat peace before the Gospel was revived by us. Since then the whole world hasbeen upset. People blame us and the Gospel for everything, for the disobedienceof subjects to their rulers, for wars, plagues, and famines, for revolutions,and every other evil that can be imagined. No wonder our opponents think theyare doing God a favor by hating and persecuting us. Ishmael will persecuteIsaac.
We invite our opponents to tell us what goodthings attended the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles. Did not thedestruction of Jerusalem follow on the heels of the Gospel? And how about theoverthrow of the Roman Empire? Did not the whole world seethe with unrest as theGospel was preached in the whole world? We do not say that the Gospel instigatedthese upheavals. The iniquity of man did it.
Our opponents blame our doctrine for thepresent turmoil. But ours is a doctrine of grace and peace. It does not stir uptrouble. Trouble starts when the people, the nations and their rulers of theearth rage and take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed.(Psalm2.) But all their counsels shall be brought to naught. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." (Psalm 2:4.) Let them cry out against us as much as they like. We knowthat they are the cause of all their own troubles.
As long as we preach Christ and confess Him to be our Savior, we must be contentto be called vicious trouble makers. "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; and these alldo contrary to the decrees of Caesar," so said the Jews of Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:6, 7.) Of Paul they said:"We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition amongall the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of theNazarenes." The Gentiles uttered similar complaints: "These men doexceedingly trouble our city."
This man Luther is also accused of being apestilent fellow who troubles the papacy and the Roman empire. If I would keepsilent, all would be well, and the Pope would no more persecute me. The moment Iopen my mouth the Pope begins to fume and to rage. It seems we must choosebetween Christ and the Pope. Let the Pope perish.
Christ foresaw the reaction of the world tothe Gospel. He said: "I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?" (Luke 12:49.)
Do not take the statement of our opponentsseriously, that no good can come of the preaching of the Gospel. What do theyknow? They would not recognize the fruits of the Gospel if they saw them.
At any rate, our opponents cannot accuse usof adultery, murder, theft, and such crimes. The worst they can say about us isthat we have the Gospel. What is wrong with the Gospel? We teach that Christ,the Son of God, has redeemed us from sin and everlasting death. This is not ourdoctrine. It belongs to Christ. If there is anything wrong with it, it is notour fault. If they want to condemn Christ for being our Savior and Redeemer,that is their lookout. We are mere onlookers, watching to see who will win thevictory, Christ or His opponents.
On one occasion Jesus remarked: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not ofthe world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hatethyou." (John 15:19.) In other words: "I am the cause of all your troubles. I am the one for whose sakeyou are killed. If you did not confess my name, the world would not hate you.The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they willalso persecute you."
Christ takes all the blame. He says:"You have not incurred the hatred and persecutions of the world. I have.But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
VERSE 30.Neverthelesswhat saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of thebondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.
Sarah's demand that the bondwoman and her sonbe cast out of the house was undoubtedly a blow to Abraham. He felt sorry forhis son Ishmael. The Scripture explicitly states Abraham's grief in the words:"And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight, because of his son." (Gen. 21:11.) But God approved Sarah's action and said to Abraham:"Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thybondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for inIsaac shall thy seed be called." (Gen. 21:12.)
The Holy Ghost contemptuously calls theadmirers of the Law the children of the bondwoman. "If you do not know yourmother, I will tell you what kind of a woman she is. She is a slave. And you areslaves. You are slaves of the Law and therefore slaves of sin, death, andeverlasting damnation. You are not fit to be heirs. You are put out of thehouse."
This is the sentence which God pronouncesupon the Ishmaelites, the papists, and all others who trust in their own merits,and persecute the Church of Christ. Because they are slaves and persecutors ofthe children of the free woman, they shall be cast out of the house of Godforever. They shall have no inheritance with the children of the promise. Thissentence stands forever.
This sentence affects not only those popes, cardinals bishops, and monks whowere notoriously wicked and made their bellies their Gods. It strikes, also,those who lived in all sincerity to please God and to merit the forgiveness oftheir sins through a life of self-denial. Even these will be cast out, becausethey are children of the bondwoman.
Our opponents do not defend their own moraldelinquency. The better ones deplore and abhor it. But they defend and upholdtheir doctrine of works which is of the devil. Our quarrel is not with those wholive in manifest sins. Our quarrel is with those among them who think they livelike angels, claiming that they do not only perform the Ten Commandments of God,but also the sayings of Christ, and many good works that God does not expect ofthem. We quarrel with them because they refuse to have Jesus' merit count alonefor righteousness.
St. Bernard was one of the best of themedieval saints. He lived a chaste and holy life. But when it came to dying hedid not trust in his chaste life for salvation. He prayed: "I have lived awicked life. But Thou, Lord Jesus, hast a heaven to give unto me. First, becauseThou art the Son of God. Secondly, because Thou hast purchased heaven for me byThy suffering and death. Thou givest heaven to me, not because I earned it, butbecause Thou hast earned it for me." If any of the Romanists are saved itis because they forget their good deeds and merits and feel like Paul: "Not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is throughthe faith of Christ." (Phil. 3:9.)
VERSE 31.Sothen, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
With this sentence the Apostle Paul concludeshis allegory of the barren Church. This sentence forms a clear rejection of therighteousness of the Law and a confirmation of the doctrine of justification. Inthe next chapter Paul lays special stress upon the freedom which the children ofthe free woman enjoy. He treats of Christian liberty, the knowledge of which isvery necessary. The liberty which Christ purchased for us is a bulwark to us inour battle against spiritual tyranny. Therefore we must carefully study thisdoctrine of Christian liberty, not only for the confirmation of the doctrine ofjustification, but also for the comfort and encouragement of those who are weakin faith.