In last week’s post I suggested that Paul would encourage us to give up some of our freedoms for the benefit of our weaker fellow-believers. But Paul did not advocate giving up the freedom that was paid for by Christ’s blood just to go back to the legalistic way of living that had been commonplace before Christ’s arrival on Earth. And I’m sure that he considered the dietary changes to be a temporary accommodation. Once believers come to truly understand their freedom in Christ, they would grow beyond those food restrictions.
In Galatians 4:4-7 Paul explains to the people of Galatia that God sent Christ to Earth to redeem us from our bondage to the law, and to give us the full freedom of being a child of God. When I use the word law here, I am referring to religious law. The Bible clearly tells us to respect those who are in authority over us, (I Peter 2:13-17, Romans 13:7), but that does not include adhering to legalistic religious practices. Just before this passage, in Galatians 4:1-3, Paul uses the example of a child in a human family. In Roman society, minor children were cared for, taught and disciplined by slaves. Since children were required to obey slaves, they were no better than slaves themselves. But when they reached the appointed age set by their father, they became heirs, with all the rights and inheritance of an heir’s position in the family. Likewise, at a time set by our Heavenly Father, when he sent His Son to redeem us, we became heirs in our heavenly family.
Just as the child had to obey his earthly caregiver until his position was upgraded, Paul’s listeners and their ancestors had had to obey Mosaic law until the appointed time. Then they had the opportunity to move into the position of co-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:14-17) They were given an invitation to join God’s family with the same rights of family membership that Christ has. We have been given that opportunity since the day that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. This was and is a gift of grace. There are no rules, rituals or practices that we must follow to earn it. Yes, we have to make the choice, but once we do we become inheritors of the kingdom of God. Can you even begin to imagine? Many people can’t, which is why they go back to the rituals and rule-following that make them comfortable. There is no need, and it is a sign of immaturity, of remaining a child that needs to be restricted. Accept the freedom that you have in Christ.