As we saw last time, Galatians 3 is tracing the story of Abraham in Genesis 12-17. That will come in handy in Galatians 4 as well. Here at the end of Galatians 3, the point is about how we’ve been adopted in Christ Jesus. Here is where many of you were probably asking questions in my last post. I emphasized Israel and the Kingdom of God through Israel, but then the tendency that I’ve noticed from Gentile Christians is to ask, “What about me?”
Here it is, folks. This is the answer to the question “what about me”. You and I, as Gentiles, were outside of the promises and covenant with God. Yet, even the Jewish people are living in a manner contrary to that covenant (as we’ve seen in Paul’s point regarding the law). So, the question is now formed into, “How can anyone enter the Kingdom of God?”
The answer to that is adoption.
Adoption is one of the most fundamental and important words of the New Testament. In a sense, we’ve all be outsiders. We’ve all gone our own way. We’ve all been led down a path that is not God’s intention. Therefore, we’ve all received an adoption of sorts. For the Gentile, it is to be grafted in as a wild olive branch. For the Jew, it is to be grafted in as the natural branch. (This is the whole point of Romans 11, by the way.) There is a “spiritual Israel”, by which the word Israel actually defines the term (see Gen 32:28), that has ever and always existed. There have been both Israelites and Gentiles who have been a part of that “spiritual Israel”. Yet, what is important to remember from Romans 11 is that Paul never says the spiritual Israel supersedes, or replaces, natural Israel.
The issue of being “spiritual Israel” is the issue of adoption. This is where it gets interesting. In Galatians 3:24, Paul made the statement that the law was a “tutor” until the “seed” (Jesus) should come. In Galatians 4:2-5, the same point is being made. Here is the point:
Israel in its infancy, coming out of Egypt, could not bear the eternal covenant in maturity, and was therefore placed under “tutors” (namely, the law and the ‘elements of the world’) until there would come a time (indeed, the fullness of time) when God could send His Son as redeemer, and we might be taken together with Him into that eternal covenant.
It isn’t as though there were none in the Old Testament to be a part of that eternal covenant. This has been Paul’s whole argument from the beginning. When you see Noah finding grace in the eyes of the Lord, is that because Noah did something special? Did Abraham receive the call and the promise because of some merit within Abraham? Do we believe that Moses was called deliverer and mediator because of something intrinsic within Moses?
Yes, we do, but no we don’t.
There is something intrinsic within these saints that gives credence to God’s call, but it isn’t because of the individual. Rather, it is because the eternal covenant has ever and always been something that brings forth this kind of redemption that Paul is speaking (which, once again, is his whole point). So, no there is nothing within the person themselves, for it is of faith and not of works. Yet, we can’t just throw away the whole point that God chose them for a reason.
Anyway, the scripture at hand is explaining to us that these “tutors” had been placed in charge over Israel, which remain to this day, until there would be the time that God would give a means of redemption, a means of coming out from and into. Here is the difficulty of Old Testament revelation. If we believe that Jesus is the messiah, and that redemption only comes through Him, then how were the saints in the Old Testament redeemed, and how is it that we do find attributes of new covenant resurrection/regeneration in the Old Testament? The answer is that we’re not looking at a covenant contained within time, but a covenant that is “eternal”, and therefore beyond time. Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and that isn’t a rhetoric and fancy use of wording. This is the eternal covenant, the Lamb slain on the heavenly altar, the covenant that stems back to the Garden of Eden and Adam being a son of God.
Here is the point.
We find in Colossians 2:8 and 20 the same discussion regarding these “elements”. Here Paul calls them “tutors”. There he leaves no question when claiming the law to be tied together with the principalities and powers. In Psalm 82, we read of these “judges” (sometimes translated kings) who rule wickedly, and shall be held accountable. They are told that though they are greater than men, they shall be judged like men. The chapter ends, then, with all of the nations coming to worship the Lord. Does anything seem bizarre to you about that?
These judges of Psalm 82 are actually the principalities. They are demons in the place of influence and authority over nations, who have used their influence and authority to manipulate, deceive, usurp, and oppress. Therefore, they shall be judged as men (meaning, they shall ‘die’, though they are not subject to life and death as we know it), and the judgment of those powers results in the nations coming to God. Compare this with Isaiah 25:7, where God says “upon this mountain (Zion) He will destroy the veil that is spread over all nations.” The context of the statement is redemption for the nations.
Again, we ask ourselves how this has anything to do with “tutors” being set up over Israel. And, again we must conclude that the law was given through a mediator (Moses), that God was marrying Israel, but that Israel desired a mediator rather than God Himself. Therefore, because we read in Exodus 20:19 that the people took Moses rather than God, it was allowed that Israel would for a time be ruled over by “elements” (whether judges, kings, or priests who were under the influence of demons and not God), not the least of these elements being the simple “do this; don’t do that” mentality of the law.
To try to tie together some of the loose ends and make sense of what I’m saying, then, I think we can consult Ephesians 2:1-7. There was a time in yours and my past where we were not in Christ. We lived according to a different mindset, a different wisdom. That wisdom was not a wisdom from God, but rather of demons. They had an influence over us, a way of causing us to think, that promoted righteousness via works and “doing or not doing”. Because I haven’t killed anyone, I must not be as bad as the murderer, right? Such a mindset is blatant error, as Jesus points out, because murder doesn’t start with the act. It starts with the heart that would think someone so worthless that the world would be a better place without that person. That I am guilty of, and therefore I am indeed guilty of murder.
It was to that kingdom, the darkened kingdom, that I subscribed, and therefore lived and breathed and had my being in the demonic perspective. Even while being an atheist and not believing in demons, I still gained my understanding and worldview from the wisdom of demons. However, there came a point in time – a divinely orchestrated point in time – when God sent His Son so that Israel might indeed be heirs and receive the inheritance due her. They who have been promised the eternal covenant, and the inheritance of that eternal covenant all died without receiving that inheritance (Heb 11:39). Notice that the statement does not then go, “but to you…” No, we also have not inherited, because we’re told quite plainly that we shall receive our inheritance with them at the end of the age (Ephesians 1:13-14, 3:1-6).
Our adoption has been one of coming out from being under that darkened kingdom and into the Kingdom of Light. Adoption in the New Testament doesn’t necessitate that we were outside of Israel. In fact, even the Jews had to receive an adoption of sorts, or else Paul wouldn’t make the point that Jesus redeemed “those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons”. Who was it that was “under the law”? Was the law given to Gentiles or to Israel? But now, in Christ, we have all been redeemed, so there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ, and made to be sons instead of children, inheriting the eternal covenant rather than being under the supervision of “stewards”.
Sonship is the issue of covenant. It is the issue of maturity. It is the issue of adoption. All of these things go hand-in-glove, because all of these things are essentially defining the same thing. The same issue is behind it all. Though they be different from one another, the issue behind the issue for all three of these things is the Kingdom of God, the rulership of God, the eternal purpose of man (to rule), and all of these things being made manifest on the earth. This was the purpose of the covenant made with Abraham (to be God’s nation among the nations), and it continues to be God’s prerogative.