To Redeem Those under the Law
To help these Galatians understand what they left behind when they came to saving faith in Christ and what they were now falling into through the deceit of false brethren, Paul resorts to analogies to describe what life is like under the law and what it is like when one is set free there from, a freedom which these Galatians seemingly wanted to forsake. Though a family be wealthy, the child and rightful heir is no different from a slave, not that he is treated harshly as a slave might be, but that though he is heir he as yet owns nothing. Indeed as a youth, he would be subject to slaves as his nurses and teachers, anyone to whom his father subjects him in hopes that he will one day grow into a responsible and cultured young man. Paul’s analogy here is that those living under the law are like so: They are slaves under the tutelage of certain masters because of their immaturity. Likewise, before we came to saving faith in Christ, we too were enslaved to the “elemental principles of the world,” a phrase which seems to include anything and everything that is not of Christ and which seeks to enslave us: demonic forces, worldly temptations, the flesh, and even the Mosaic Law when it is used as a legalistic replacement for the grace of God.
What Paul wants these Galatians to understand is that they have been freed from such cruel masters. How? “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” To put it another way, God sent a Rescuer, a Champion, the ultimate Abolitionist, to conquer all of those slavers for us. And he does this by being born of woman, like us, and born under the law, like us, and thereby takes our place by living our life but without sin. In this manner, he redeems us, buys us back, and frees us from those elemental slave-driving principles of the world. And then returning to the analogy of the boy growing up in his father’s house, we are now adopted into that same family (God’s family), and made a joint-heir of the natural heir (Christ), and are no longer under tutors (the law or anything else). And best of all, God sends His Spirit into our hearts crying out to God as our loving Father.
So as believers, we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters of the Father. And so Paul asks in disbelief, “Why would you want to turn back?” We are sometimes tempted to turn back; laws, ceremonies, observances, seem easier to do. And I contend that such things do have their place—but as servants to our holiness and not we as servants to them. In sum, keep your eyes on the cross. And as a word of caution, remember Lot’s wife.