Galatians 4:1–11

Read the passage.

The word picture painting the law of Moses as a guardian is now expanded. While an heir is a minor, he has about as many rights as a slave even though he will be the one in charge eventually. He is told where to go and what to do for most of his day. Paul says the pagan superstition the Galatians lived under before Christ had enslaved them, making them act in the ways it dictated. But then Christ came, allowing them to be set free from their enslavement and to be adopted, becoming heirs in God’s family. “Abba” means “father” in Aramaic, but the connotation is more like “daddy”. It can easily be a child’s first word, at a time when he is completely dependent on his parents. Paul says the Spirit of the Son is saying this in our hearts toward God.

Note the conditions for an heir to be considered a full member of the household in verse 2: “the date set by his father”. In the modern day, children become adults automatically on their eighteenth birthday (more or less, depending on your local laws, I suppose). In the ancient Greco-Roman world, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead, a son was dependent on his father to recognize his adulthood. In the same way, we are not justified by living under any teaching for a certain amount of time. It’s wholly on the decision of the Lord.

Paul’s next point is extraordinary. He equates the pagan superstitions of their former lives with the legalistic devotion the Judaizers are trying to put on them. Observing holy days, ritual cleanliness, etc. all have the same power to produce righteousness as the things they were doing before. None. Why then would they try to go back to a system that enslaves them and puts them under a heavy burden of obligation, especially when it doesn’t actually benefit them at all?

You are the source of all righteousness, and we are powerless without You.

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