Paul's Defense of the Gospel

Galatians 4  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
It is fully admitted that the Jews, the natural descendants of Abraham, were in bondage under the elements or first principles of the schoolmaster. “But, when 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, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”1 The great truth of redemption is now brought into the defense. Redemption from Egypt was a picture of this redemption. The Israelites were in bondage, bitter bondage under Pharaoh. Nothing could give them deliverance until the blood of the lamb was shed. They were then brought out of bondage; they passed through the water of the Red Sea, as a figure of death; and then, through the Jordan, they entered the land. All this was of God. Now was this accomplished that they might serve Jehovah in the land of liberty, or that they might go back to the slavery of Egypt’s brick kilns?
If God sent Moses to effect that great deliverance, has He not sent His Son to effect the greater, the eternal redemption of His people, of His sons, by the blood of the Lamb? Now, is it that these sons are to serve the Father in holy liberty, or to go back to the slavery of the old man, under the old schoolmaster, the law? For Israel to have gone back to Egypt’s slavery would have been to give up their redemption. They could not be in Egypt and in Canaan.
For the Christian to go back under law is to deny his full redemption; and hence you never find a soul under law able to say he has and enjoys the known fact of redemption through the blood of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins. It is impossible to be on the two principles of law and of faith in Christ at the same time. Let it be remembered that every teacher, be he who he may, that seeks to lead souls under law, undermines the great foundation truth of redemption. It may seem strange, but it is no less true, that the truth of redemption was well nigh lost for many centuries. How could such prayers have been adopted, if redemption had been known? If a reader of these lines thinks this too strong, let him find us a page in all the so-called Fathers, before the Reformation, that distinctly teaches what redemption is, as found in the scriptures. Or, if you do not know the Fathers, sit down and write two pages on redemption, and then compare what you write with the scriptures. Get a concordance, and read what you have written, and compare it with what you find in the Word of God. You will find that, if you are under law by the teaching of men, redemption has no true meaning to you.
The Israelites could not possibly understand redemption while in the brick kilns of Egypt; neither can we, if still under the bondage of law. It is plain they must be redeemed from Egypt, in order to worship and serve Jehovah in the land of Canaan. It is equally true of us, we must be redeemed and have redemption, in order to worship and serve the Lord in the holiest.
Verse 6. We now come to another powerful argument in Paul’s defense. “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” He had said before, “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” God had given this seal on the hearing of faith. And what a seal! But it was on them, not as bondslaves under law, but as sons of God! It was God who had done this, because they were His sons. And note, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts. Words utterly fail to set forth the superiority of this position or standing of the children of God, with a new nature, and the Spirit of the Son dwelling in our hearts; in contrast with the bondage of being in the fallen, sinful flesh under law. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:22For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)). How senseless, then, the charge, that the principle of faith, and deliverance from the law, means liberty to break it! If under it, we do break it, for it can only provoke the evil nature into active transgressions. In contrast with this, see the believer a child of God — as born of God, he delights to do the will of his Father. And more, he has the Spirit of the Son dwelling in his heart. And this characterizes him. He finds now in the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, a law, principle, superior to the law or power of sin in the flesh, so that he is delivered from the old standing he had as a slave. “Wherefore thou art no more a servant [or a slave], but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” What a triumph over the efforts of Satan to get the child of God back under law. Well might the apostle speak with such vehemence: to go back to the law was to give up everything.
The Jews had been slaves under the bondage of the law. They had a nature utterly opposed to the law they were commanded to obey. The Gentiles had also been slaves to demons, which by nature are no gods. And now they were saved — known of God — why should they go back to slavery and be in bondage? “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” On this account, Paul says, “I am afraid of you.” Is it not terrible that the old feast days to demons have been turned into fasts and feasts of so-called saints? How Paul does mourn over such in the tenderness of the bowels of Christ!
He, however, turns to his defense of the Gospel. Verse 21: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” Note, they were professing Christians — they had no thought of giving up Christ or justification by faith, but they desired to have both principles, or both Christ and the law — exactly like great numbers now, who have no thought of giving up the principle of justification by faith, but having entered in by that wicket-gate, they now desire to have the law as a rule of life; or, in plain words, they desire to have both the principle of faith and the principle of law. May the Lord enable us to help rather than offend such. You that do thus desire to be under law, do ye not hear the law? Turn to Genesis, and read the history of Ishmael and Isaac. The son of the bondwoman, and the son of the free woman- these are the types of the two principles, the flesh under bondage, and the child and heir of promise — the principle of law, and the principle of faith. The apostle, in his defense, shows justly, that these two could not be allowed to co-exist. The bondwoman and her son must be cast out. The one should not be heir with the other.
And as it was then, just as the son of the bondwoman persecuted him that was born of the free, so it is now. “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit, even so it is now.” Has not this been the experience of all the centuries since these words were written? How strange then, that not only the ministers of Satan want to displace Christ and faith by the principle of law and works, but many true Christians are so misled as to desire to have the principle of law and Christ!
Let us examine this great mistake a little further. Many have the thought, that to give up the law, as Ishmael was given up, would be to become lawless, or Antinomians. But, if so, how could the Spirit, through Paul, thus show us it must be given up, just as Ishmael was cast out? Are you quite sure you have by faith in Christ the salvation of your soul, and that that salvation is eternal? No doubt these Galatians had thus received the gospel as Paul had preached it to them — the very gospel he had received from Christ. It was a great matter to have seen and heard the man that received his gospel from Christ — one who had, in spirit, seen Him and heard Him. Then what did they want with the law? And what do you want with it?
1. In Scripture, “adoption” means sonship; hence, “that we might receive sonship.”