The heart of a pastor – Monday, 28th Week in ordinary time – Galatians 4:22-27,31,5:1
In chapter 4:12-20 Paul makes a passionate appeal to the Galatians. He does this not from any scriptural background or a theological standpoint but simply from his heart; he is emotional and passionate. He wants the Galatians to renounce the supposed advantages they think they get from the false teachings that focus on the necessity to follow the law and the traditions of the Jews.
Paul is truly perplexed by the behaviours of the Galatians. This was a community that gave him a warm welcome when he first came to them, this despite very trying conditions. They found his message worthy of their fullest commitment. Such was their affection for Paul that he testifies that they would have given their very eyes should he have asked. Yet all that had changed because of something he had either said or done or was accused of.
Paul is anxious and upset, worried about his congregation who have been agitated by trouble makers. He is frustrated about his inability to rectify the situation. He has used strong words several times in this letter to no avail. He wished he could make a personal visit to convince them personally but that it seems was not possible.
So far, Paul has used every sound logical reason to prevail upon the Galatians not to fall prey to the Judaizers and their perverse teachings. He gave them the analogy, that of a minor child. He explained to them that a man apart from Christ, living under the law was like a minor child for whom the inheritance is only prospective. That child is no better than ‘a slave’ for he is not free to inherit what has been promised. Paul does not mean that men without Christ are slaves to the law but rather they are slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. Remember that Paul is giving us an analogy and contrasting life in Christ ( in freedom) with life under the law (bondage).
In today’s text Paul uses another analogy or rather an allegory based on scripture. In fact he returns to the previous analogy that he made in Galatians 3:6-29 when he spoke of the story of Abraham. He wants to show us that this freedom given to us in Christ is also found in scripture. He harkens to the account of Abraham’s two wives.
The legalists who troubled the Galatians protested that they were children of Abraham, and therefore blessed. Paul will admit they are children of Abraham, but remind them that Abraham had two sons. Sarah was a free woman and her son Isaac was born through a ‘promise.’ This word promise has been used earlier in 3:8,14 and 16-18 to refer to the gospel. But Hagar was a slave and her son Ishmael was born not according to a promise but according to the flesh. Ishmael was indeed Abraham’s son, but he was the son according to the flesh and unbelief. He was a classic example of one trying to make their own way before God. To inherit the promise, it is not enough to be just a descendant of Abraham, as Ishmael was. To inherit the promise, it is necessary to be descended as the result of promise, like Isaac; it is necessary to be a spiritual descendant, not just a genealogical one.
The point Paul is making is that it is not enough to be descended from Abraham, as Ishmael and many Jews claimed. Paul tells the Galatian Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, that they are children not of the slave-girl (of the Law) but of the free-born wife (the Spirit of Jesus). There is no need for them to continue following the old ways of the Law. To do so is to renounce the freedom which came to them in Christ.