Enslaved By Identity

  1. Message:  Galatians  4 has some powerful illustrations and I had to be careful in understanding the interpretation of the analogies Paul used between the spiritual and the physical because they were similar but yet so interwoven. He started off by acknowledging that there were both slaves and free men in the world, but once they were saved there was no spiritual difference between them. Even though the slave was still serving a master in the physical world, as a believer in Christ he had the same status as the free man. Both were considered sons and heirs of Christ. Paul then used a very different analogy pertaining to slavery when he compared a child heir to a slave because although the child heir was the owner of everything, he was still under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father. He then uses this physical illustration to show us a picture spiritually when he says that we as children were in slavery to the “elemental forces of the world”. To me this sounds like the world’s systems. When the time came to complete his plan he sent his son to be born of a woman (this could be another important factor since women didn’t have rights) under the law (which he had previously described as a guardian) to be adopted as sons. When we were adopted we were no longer slaves to the world’s systems because we became sons and heirs of God. At this point Paul was challenging them as to why they would willingly return to slavery (the world’s systems) because at this point they had all been saved but some false teachers had come in and convinced them that they still had to adhere to the law also in order to be saved. They had fallen into the bondage of observing certain days, seasons and years where they hadn’t previously been in that bondage. Paul reminded them that they weren’t under this bondage before because they had actually heard the gospel from him originally when he had a physical sickness. By his description it sounded like he had some sort of issue with his eyes. This would have been a HUGE no-no to even be near him if they were under the law, but at that time they were so compassionate and receptive to him that Paul said they would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him if they could have. Now they were following these false teachers and they saw Paul as an enemy to their new “enlightened” way of living. Paul was agonizing over this and he made one more comparison using slavery. He reminded them that Abraham had two sons. One was born (illegitimately) by a slave and the other was born by the free woman (his wife). One was born out of flesh when Abraham tried to produce the promise on his own, and the other was born as a result of the promise given in God’s way and in God’s timing. Paul said the two women represented two covenants. One bearing children into slavery and the other into promise. In the original story, the slave woman and child had mocked Sarah and her son so they were driven out. Paul referred back to this as a reminder that we (Christians) were not born to the slave woman, we were born to the free woman and though we would be persecuted and mocked by the slave and her son, we should “drive them out.” This is where we have to be very careful with interpretation. We know the Jews were the “chosen” and the promise of Israel, but Paul shows how this was flipped around and he ties all of the analogies in together here. The Jews rejected Jesus and the Christians were “adopted in” to the promise so Paul compares the Christians to the free woman and child, and he compares the Jews to the slave woman and child. They were under the bondage of slavery to the law and were mocking the Christians for their freedom. They wanted the Christians to be enslaved in the same way so Paul referred back to the Scripture to “drive them out” as was done by Abraham’s wife, Sarah when the slave woman and child mocked her son. To me, this chapter can be difficult to follow because the analogy is used a few different ways. If this was read out of context it could sound like God was against those who were physically enslaved, but he was actually using it as a spiritual reference regardless of our physical status. Most Christians don’t struggle with “the law” as the Galatians did. We don’t have Jews influencing our view of salvation, but instead we wrestle with a different system of ideas that Christians have adopted as godly living. Things that good Christians do or don’t do are kept on a mental list that seems to exclude heart issues that are far more offensive to God in the way we treat people. As I read this I feel challenged to identify some of the things I have accepted as basic, fundemental Christian rules that don’t have any heart attachment or personal conviction to them. Things I might do or not do so that I’m not mocked by other rule-following Christians. This sounds like scary territory for inviting in sin until I think about the overall general population that has identified their Christianity with political stances and non-biblical belief systems. These are the things I’m trying to identify in my life that I may have subscribed to as part of a “conservative package”, rather than personal convictions developed through my own personal walk with the Lord. These can be tricky to identify because some of them sound so synonymous with our biblical beliefs that they enslave us into a political and social belief system that needs to be challenged and separated from our thinking. I feel like I have been tearing away from this alignment thinking for quite some time, but I’m asking God to show me more things that I have been enslaved to in my thinking and show me what I can’t see.

Leave a Reply