But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:7

These two passages affirm the incredible thing God did for all people through Jesus Christ. In the Roman Empire of the first century, Jewish people were at times envied by non-Jewish, religious people because the Jews had (1) a preserved heritage that spanned a lengthy time, (2) a values system that honored their people instead of exploiting them, (3) scriptures available to the entire nation, and (3) prophets who urged high ethical commitments. At times Judaizing teachers (Jewish teachers committed to preserving Judaism) disheartened non-Jews who sought relationship with God outside of Judaism (see Acts 15:1-5 as an example).

Paul, who had been a “Jew’s Jew” (see Philippians 3:4-7) before he entered Christ, declared non-Jews who came to God through what God did in Jesus Christ had nothing to apologize about. God’s plan before any Jews existed was to seek people of faith who wanted to be God’s people (see Genesis 12:3b and note “all families of the earth.”) The descendants of Abraham (both Jews and non-Jews) are people who dare to be people of faith—just as Abraham dared to be a person of faith. It is these people—both Jews and non-Jews—who are citizens in the nation God wanted for himself. It is not human deeds that restore relationship with God, but it is God working through Jesus Christ that makes relationship with God possible (see Colossians 2:9-14).

Paul’s statements (here and elsewhere) are not statements against obeying God. Paul spoke of the reason for obedience. Do you trust what you have done, or do you trust what God did for you in Jesus’ death and resurrection? Is it basically, “God, you owe me because I did ‘X’!” or is it, “God, I appreciate so much all You did for me in Jesus’ death and resurrection!” Which is it? Do you attempt to obligate God through your deeds, or do you appreciate all God did and does for you in Jesus’ death and resurrection? Is your confidence placed in your acts or in God’s acts on your behalf?

In the distinction of those two attitudes is the distinction between citizenship in God’s kingdom and the citizenship of physical existence. Abraham trusted God, not the physical. Those who are members of God’s kingdom share in Abraham’s faith. Do you seek to be a righteous person because you trust God—as did Abraham?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 26 February 2009

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