fr_basil (fr_basil) wrote,



Well, I thought I might be able to do this "live-streamed" tonight, but I'm sorry, it didn't happen. Maybe next week. Here's the text at any rate. I hope you find it instructive, edifying, and perhaps consoling as we remain in our bunkers. "Bring my soul out of prison that I might confess Thy Name!" (Psalm 141/142:7 LXX)

Galatians Chapter 4

1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

This means that a child, even though he may be an heir to a kingdom, is subject to the provisions set down by his father prior to his death. He has regents, and guardians, all of whom speak for him and have authority over him until he comes to the appointed age. He's really no different than a slave even though he is, in potential, the master of all who are ruling for and over him. The Greek word used for “child” here is “nipios” meaning an infant. Figuratively it is also used for someone who is simple or lacks understanding.

3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.

Paul says: We Jews, because we were infantile in our maturity and understanding, were subject (literally enslaved) to the rule of the Law. We were not free. “Elements of the world” means things like New Moons, Sabbaths, cycles of the sun and moon, etc., elements of the Law.

Paul wants to shame the Galatians by comparing them to infants and simple people, at least those who wanted to adopt the Jewish Law.

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

The Law was the precursor to Christ. The Law was for people who were more simple, the Messiah came to save people...not only from sin and death, but from the Law itself, which kept people in servitude, and prevented them from becoming free and FAMILY. Remember what we read in the last chapter, in Galatians 3:13? “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law...” St Theophylact says: “Christ's incarnation accomplished two things: our redemption from the curse of the Law, and our adoption as sons.” Human beings were incapable of receiving it before because of their childish condition.

6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

How do we really know that we have been adopted as sons? St. Paul told us so earlier. Galatians 3:27 said what? “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” What does “putting on Christ” mean? It means being clothed in Christ. Do you remember the parable of the Prodigal Son? What happened when the youngest (read: most immature) son repented and was returning to his father's house? Luke 15:22 says that the father cried out to his servants: “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand...etc.” The son who was dead to the family was restored to the family. The robe stands for inclusion. Remember the man thrown out of the wedding because he failed to wear the wedding garment that was provided to him? He was summarily “excluded” from the event. The robe meant that you belonged there, that you were part of it, that you were included. The ring means a signet ring. It has an image or an inscription that means that the wearer belongs to a certain family, and bears the seal of that family. What do we say at every Chrismation that follows baptism? “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit!” In Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation we were restored to God's immediate family, and made “robe bearers” and “seal bearers.” So were the Galatians. If they were already children and heirs of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ by means of faith and Holy Baptism, why would the Galatians be tempted to go to the Law; something they never had before? It's an early example of new convert craziness...over-zealous to be the most correct, to be hyper-Orthodox, going way beyond what they were taught; imagining that they know better.

New Section: Fears for the Church

8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.

Paul is talking to those Galatians (the majority) which previously had been pagan idolators and had no idea about Who the true God was.

9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?

First Paul addresses them as those who “know God” but then quickly corrects himself to refer to them as ones “known by God.” Those who are known by God, but who do not “know” Him, are like inquirers, or like catechumens, who are as yet un-baptized. This is the position they have foolishly put themselves in because they want to adopt the Mosaic Law and the religious practices of the Jews. Instead of being enslaved to pagan darkness, they wish to adopt the weak and immature “elements” (he uses that word again) of the Law.

10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.
It is clear that the false prophets, the so-called “Judaisers” were preaching much more than circumcision. They were preaching the whole observance of Jewish feasts and fasts required by the old Law.

11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

The apostle is concerned, deeply concerned for them. This apostasy can deprive them of their salvation. But he holds out hope for them (that's why he uses the word “lest”). That's the purpose of this letter – to snatch them back from the precipice of false belief and apostasy..

12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.

This sentence is a bit confusing, and the translation is an interpretation. Other translations say “be as I am, for I am as you are.” The gist of the thing is: “Imitate me, do what I'm doing now. I've been where you are.” In 1 Corinthians Paul says to them: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). In other words, I follow Christ now, not the Law of Moses. Let's look now at Philippians chapter 3, verses 4b – 11 “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh (here he means being a Jew and living your life according to the Law), I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish (dung), that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

So Paul says that being a Christian cannot be about being a Jew and following the Law of Moses; it is about having faith in Jesus, and following and knowing Him.

“You have not injured me at all.” This is Paul's ointment on the wound. He has vigorously attacked their Judaizing direction, but he is still calling them brethren. They are still part of the family. They aren't yet hopelessly lost. They have not upset him beyond his love for them. His seeming harshness comes from love and concern, not hatred. After all, he is their father in Christ.

13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.

Paul is asking the Galatians to remember all that he suffered, but in spite of that, he continued to preach the Gospel to them. He does not explain the nature of his infirmity, but it may have had something to do with a terrible eye infection of some kind. It must have looked hideous, because he commends them on their reception of him in spite of it. The clue about the eyes is explained in verse 15, where he says they would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him, if it were possible.

16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

It's a rhetorical question. Has HE suddenly become their enemy because he denounces the teachings of those who seek to replace him as their father? No. It is the obligation of fathers to protect their children from harm no matter what stupid things they might do.

17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.

These false teachers are eager to convert you to their opinion, to their side. They want to divide you from me, so that you will more eagerly run to them.
They want to exclude you, shut you out, from the Orthodox (right believing) church as well, for this will be the result of your separation from me.
Remember, it's the devil who wants to divide you from me, not God. That's why he says “they zealously court you, but not for good.”

18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.

The Apostle reminds them how zealous they were for the truth, for the authentic Gospel, when he was with them, teaching them. He is reminding them of their original zeal. He implies that his absence has allowed this calamity of take place, but he is not at fault for this. True disciples will remain steadfast even when the master is absent.

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,

Now Paul takes on the voice of a loving Mother who is desperately concerned for the welfare of her children. You need to start over, be re-born in Christ. You do not need a new baptism, but you need to start over, with a radical change in your thinking. This is, after all, the meaning of “metanoia” repentance. It means change of mind. As he says in another place to the Romans: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.

Letters, like emails, cannot convey body language, tone of voice, the appearance of the face and eyes. He wishes he could be with them so they could really see his anguish. The translation “I have doubts about you” is a little inaccurate. The Greek word translated “doubts” is ἀποροῦμαι. It means “confused” or “at a loss what to do.” According to St. Theophylact, what Paul means is: “How I long to be with you and to weep for you; for we often resort to tears when we are perplexed and confounded.”

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?

Now that Paul has assured them of his heart and his love, he now begins to show them what the Law and the Old Covenant are really all about. “Answer me!” he demands, “you who want to be under the Law, do you really understand what the Law says?”

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.

He instructs them using Genesis, the very first Book of the Law. (You should read this story so as to better understand the reference: Genesis 16: 17-18.)

23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise,

Meaning Ishmael was the result of a biological union from a slave, and Isaac was born from a miracle and promise of God from a free woman.

24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

Meaning: Ishmael stands for the Old Covenant.

26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Isaac is the child born of the Promise, whose mother is free. Jerusalem above stands for the Kingdom of Heaven. This refers to the vision of Ezekiel chapters. 40-48; and re-presented in Revelation 21:1-4 and beyond...(Read it)

27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.” [Isaiah 54:1 LXX]

Paul reveals another type from the Old Testament. Who are the “barren” here? Who are the “desolate?” The Gentiles. They gave birth to no prophets, no children of God. Yet Isaiah prophesied that more children of God would be coming from them than from Israel who Has a husband” i.e. God.

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

By “we” here, St Paul means the Church, and specifically, the Gentiles who were then flooding into the church. He again makes the point that it is those who believe and who love and follow Christ, who are the new Chosen People, the new Children of God, the New Israel.

29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him 30 who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. (Read Genesis 21: 8-21)

Ishmael mocked Isaac – that is bullied, belittled, and yes, persecuted the younger Isaac. He and his mother Hagar are cast out from the family of God. They are the Gentiles. But God does not forget them, and promises, in the end, they will be a great nation. The fathers see in this the promise of the church and especially the Christian Roman Empire. But the apostles, and the early church see this persecution as the persecution of the Church, the children of the Promise, by the Jews – now regarded as the people of the flesh (in bondage to the dictates of the Law), and who have now become, themselves, the new Gentiles.

30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

The unbelieving Jews, who had always identified themselves with Abraham and Isaac, are now being compared to Hagar & Ishmael by Paul. They are no longer in the Family of God. They are outside. The Law will not save them. One cannot inherit the Kingdom of God by the works of the Law.

The Apostle is saying to the Galatians: Never mind that the Jews are persecuting the Christians right now. In the end, YOU are the children of the Promise. Accommodating the Judaizers will not placate the unbelieving Jews. In fact, if you continue to do that, you will find yourselves “outside” with them.
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