EVERYTHING is different now that we know what God’s plan of redemption really involved.
It’s impossible to really interpret anything in Galatians properly without understanding Paul’s point in writing the letter to begin with. This, his earliest of letters, was written to correct a serious error that was being introduced to churches across the Mediterranean world. Namely, that Christianity continued the human tradition of pitting insiders against outsiders.
There were a group of “missionaries” (sometimes called Judaizers) traveling behind Paul, contradicting his teachings on grace by insisting that only those who obeyed the law, starting with circumcision, could really be included in God’s family.
This group of people continued to bolster the walls that divided people along various social, religious, and gender lines.
If keeping the Law was really a prerequisite to being in the family of God, then Jews had an advantage. If circumcision was required, then men, in particular, enjoyed a patriarchal and sexist advantage. And free people, as opposed to slaves, were more privileged than others when it came to the freedom to obey all that was necessary to keep God happy.
But Paul’s letter to the Galatians offered a stinging rebuke of this kind of in-and-out binary division.
And the basis for the eradication of these walls of division was, according to Paul, the fulfillment of everything the Law ever pointed toward – Jesus’ sacrificial, redemptive death on the cross.
This passage is like a before-and-after contrast of what life looks like before Jesus’ death on the cross and what life looks like after that historic moment.
Before the Cross, We Lived by the List of Rules
Paul first tells us that, the Law that had existed from Moses’ time until Jesus was like the person enslaved by a wealthy family whose responsibility it was to follow us to and from school each day to make sure we behaved in a way that would honor the family.
It isn’t that behaving well has been made obsolete. Rather, it’s that our behavior isn’t the basis on which God will judge us.
Rather than assessing us purely by our performance, we are now assessed based on the fact that we have a sacrificial Savior who gave his life as a ransom for us.
Before the Cross, We Were Outsiders
And now, there are no outsiders. Before, it was those 1.) born Jewish who , 2.) had received circumcision, and 3.) had kept the Mosaic law that were really in the family of God. But now, because of the cross, we’re ALL children of God.
Before the Cross, There Were Too Many Walls
Paul address three particular cultural binaries that were firmly in place during this archaic age – class, religious, and gender. And he tells us how each has changed.
- As for class, there is no longer a difference in value between the slave and the slaveowner. The cross has leveled that playing field.
- As for religion, there is no longer a difference between Jew and non-Jew since the Law no longer offers any special advantage.
- As for gender, there is no longer a difference between male and female. While circumcision applied only to males and propped up a patriarchal structure, baptism as a symbol of Christ’s work on the cross was available to all, equally.
The application seems clear.
Jesus has erased the boundaries of “in” and “out.” Those who enjoy special privilege and advantage in the eyes of culture are afforded no such special advantage after the cross.
AFTER the cross, we’re all IN. We’re all valued. We all have special access to Christ. And we’re all welcome in God’s family!