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"Two Covenants" -- Galatians 4:21-31

The Eighth in a Series of Sermons on Galatians

Although we know him as the Apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus was once the stand out student of the famed Rabbi Gamaliel.  An up and coming Rabbi himself, Saul was well-known throughout the Jewish community in Jerusalem for his zeal for the religion of Israel and his fierce opposition to a new sect called “Christians.”  But after Jesus called Saul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul understands the Bible much differently than he did when a student of Gamaliel.  In his response to the false teachers plaguing the Galatians, the Judaizers now find themselves dealing with a master of demonstrating how Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the Old Testament messianic expectations of Israel.  In Galatians 4:21-31, Gamaliel’s prized student will reinterpret the course of redemptive history through the lens of the person and work of Jesus.  Paul will explain the relationship between the covenants YHWH made with Abraham and Moses in a way that Gamaliel could never envision, and which demonstrates the Judaizers to be blind guides, not to be followed.

As we have seen from our time in Galatians, Paul has expressed his anger, his amazement, and his sorrow over what was happening to the Galatian Christians.  When he had been in Galatia not long before, recuperating from what seems to been a serious illness effecting his vision, Paul used the opportunity to preach the gospel–or, as he puts it, he publicly placarded Christ.  In his providence, God used Paul’s preaching as the means to call many living in Galatia to faith in Jesus–both Jew and Gentile.  As a result, a number of new churches were established.  The Galatians responded favorably to the gospel and they warmly embraced Paul as a kind of spiritual father.  He led them to a knowledge of the Savior, and they demonstrated great hospitality to him, nursing him back to health.  But soon after leaving the area to continue on with his missionary activity, reports got back to Paul that something was amiss in Galatia.  Wolves entered these churches and were deceptively leading the Galatians astray in great numbers.

These wolves, known to us as the Judaizers, were Jewish converts to Christianity who came to believe that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, but did not believe that Jesus’ obedient life and sacrificial death were sufficient to save sinners from God’s wrath.  Judaizers taught that Gentile coverts to Christianity must submit to ritual circumcision, keep the Jewish religious calendar and dietary laws, and obey the law of Moses as a means of obtaining or maintaining justification, a “right standing” before God.

According to Paul, the Judaizers were teaching a different gospel which was no gospel at all, and in doing so, placed themselves under God’s curse.  Paul is angry with these false teachers, whom he contends have deceptively entered the Galatian churches and were spying on Gentiles exercising their liberty in Christ.  But when he addresses the Galatians–the same people he led to faith in Christ, and who demonstrated great hospitality to him–Paul is utterly bewildered.  How could these same people turn from following Christ and then allow these deceivers to lead them back into slavery?  Jesus Christ died to set the Galatians free.  But the Judaizers were doing their best to convince them that slavery to the law and “the basic principles of the world,” was somehow better than freedom in Christ.

Making an impassioned appeal to the Galatians not to fall prey to the schemes of these deceivers, Paul explains the overall course of redemptive history and the Old Testament Scriptures (the box-top to the puzzle, so to speak) to illustrate the way in which the Judaizers distorted the proper understanding of God’s saving purposes.  This is theme of our text, verses 21-31 of chapter four.

To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here

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