Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A special Daily Bread About a portion of Galatians

A special Daily Bread:

Lesson 8: "From Slaves to Heirs"

Who are the legitimate children of God who stand to gain the inheritance promised to their father Abraham? Are the children only Abraham's circumcised descendants or are they the children of "faith"? This is the burning question in Galatians.
Paul's unequivocal answer is that "the children of God" are those who identify with the crucified Messiah, Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). These are the true Jews--whether they have Jewish blood coursing through them or Gentile blood.
The true children of God are identified through baptism into Christ. The outward form of baptism is a heart-expression of having "put on Christ" (vs. 27). In other words, like a garment which fully envelops the body so that the person is no longer seen. It is only Christ that is seen in the baptized individual. There is no respect of persons with God, nor with those who are the children of God. It is only the character of Christ that counts, which is by faith of Jesus Christ (vs. 28).
There is only one Descendant of Abraham who is elected for salvation and that is Christ (vs. 29). He stands to inherit God's promise to Abraham. We come into the inheritance through identification with Christ by baptism.
One of the "big ideas" of "adoption" in the 1888 message is found right here in Galatians. It explodes in people's hearts like sticks of spiritual dynamite. Paul uses the illustration of a little barefoot boy who runs around the great estate of a wealthy rancher who has slaves. The slaves boss the little boy around and tell him when to go home, etc. And he obeys them (Gal. 4:1). But the amazing thing is that this child is the son of the great owner himself! Now, says Paul, when that little boy grows up, he becomes the owner and then he bosses the slaves around!
As long as we don't know who we are, don't know our true identity, all the devils in hell can torment us and boss us around; but when you are ready to believe that "in Christ" you are adopted as a son or daughter and you are indeed the lord of the estate, your spiritual or psychological servitude is at an end.
So you and I have been subject to the tyranny of the "elements of the world," evil spirits, until we hear and receive the Good News that God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem us (vss. 3, 4).
What's the point? God does not regard unconverted people as wolves to be shot down as soon as possible; no, but He regards them as sheep, not in the fold to be sure, but still sheep--lost sheep. They need to be converted, to be born again, yes; but all the while God considers them to be heirs to His estate because He sent forth His Son to be "made of a woman" as we are all "made of a woman." He has adopted the human race "in Christ."
You are not to think of yourself as an outsider, says Paul. Because of Christ's sacrifice, you are now "in the family," adopted (Eph. 1:5), loved all the while as the prodigal son was loved. But you didn't know it; you felt ostracized, estranged, alienated, lost, rejected; but God did not regard you as estranged or alienated. He reconciled you to Himself "in Christ." Now, says Paul, "be ye reconciled to God."
Servants do not stand to gain the inheritance, only sons (Gal. 4:7). A servant is under an old covenant compulsion to promise to do everything just right. It's that self-centered motivation that hopes to gain a reward. But the "self" has then become the "god" (with a little "g").
For "many" ignorance of God is bliss. They feel that being completely self-sufficient and self-directed is ultimate freedom. The reality of human nature is that there is no end to the depravity to which the sinful nature can tempt a person and lead them into inextricable bondage. Self is a cruel barbaric idol.
To know the self-sacrificing God at the heart of the universe and see Him as mankind's best friend and then to turn one's back completely on agape is sheer madness. The "beggarly elements" which Paul has alluded to as "the elements of the earth" are the tribal deities of the heathen Galatians that were thought to oversee the nations on behalf of God (vs. 9). They are "weak" in that they are merely figments of the imagination. When push-comes-to-shove they only motivate out of fear.
The real danger here of the Galatians yielding to the Pharisaic believers on the point of circumcision for salvation is that by putting it within the power of man to do something for his salvation, there is no end to the "idols," both old and new, that the human heart may create as necessary for salvation. The door is now open for them in forsaking Christ to return to their former manner of pagan beliefs and practices.
"How turn ye again?" Paul asked the Galatians. They had been heathens converted to Christ. And now they were returning to heathenism. They were not returning to the practices of Judaism. Judaism had not been their ancestral worship.
Modern interpreters almost invariably impose an anti-sabbath bias upon verse 10: "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." However, the Galatian backsliders were not returning to seventh-day Sabbath-keeping from which they had come. They were actually forsaking the Sabbath rest. They were exchanging the rest of Christ in the Sabbath for calendrical observances connected with their former pagan worship of their ancestral deities (Deut. 18:10).
Our status as the children of God is compared to the "adoption" process. It is both a legal adoption and a receiving of the adoption. God has legally adopted the entire alienated race as His "sons." In order "to redeem them that were under the law [everyone]" (Gal. 4:5) "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (vs. 4). God paid an infinite price ["redeem"] to legally reach the hearts of estranged sinners.
The word "made" is pregnant with enormous meaning. The Father sent the Son of God and made Him the Son of man through Mary. Jesus was made through his parentage with the same DNA we all are made of when we come into the world. "In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren. ... In that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Heb. 2:17, 18).
Jesus was made with an "ego" that suffered the same tension and conflict of what one ought to do, being "under the law," as is fallen man. "I [My ego] can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: ... I seek not mine own will, but [the conflict is implicit] the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30). Here is the acute, agonizing temptedness of sinlessness (Heb. 4:15). No compromise with Christ's perfect sinlessness is inherent in this understanding of Galatians 4:4. Never once, in thought, word, or deed, did Christ yield to the desperate clamor of self.
All of the legal matters with respect to the law have been cleared up by Christ's death for all. The adoption papers of sinner-aliens have been signed and ratified by the crucified One. He is the Heavenly Parent who has adopted the race of sinners. Such divine love appeals to estranged sinners to "receive the adoption" (vs. 5).
The evidence by which you may know that you have "received" the adoption is if you can call your Heavenly Father, "Daddy." It's the Holy Spirit who initiates such terms of endearment (vs. 6).
--Paul E. Penno
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