Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Epistle to the Galatians and Evangelicalism or New Evangelicalism: Slaves or Sons

Paul parks on a very helpful metaphor in his epistle to the Galatians to deal with the problems with the churches there, the slave and the son.  The characteristic distinction between the slave and the son does not above all deal with content or the standard.  Both slave and son have the same requirements of them.  The slave does them because he has a schoolmaster, tutor, or governor over him, making him do it.  The son does them because he wants to do them, out of love.  The slave can't do them.  The son can do them with the differentiation of faith.

The slave and the son are the same person in Galatians.  The Master and the Father are also the same Person.  It's a matter of perspective.  Slavery isn't a goal.  It's a means to an end, and parents can understand.  You want a child who believes in what the parents are telling him, so that he'll do it on his own.  He'll do it out of love because he believes.

The son has a change in nature.  The theology of it is that he is a son because of the work of the Holy Spirit in his life, so that he now has the nature of a son, instead of a slave.  He can keep the requirements now and he wants to keep them now too.  If you don't see him keeping the requirements, you can question his sonship.  He can't or won't fulfill them on his own.

Evangelicalism and new evangelicalism have as a whole spotlighted the content or the standard, which isn't the issue in Galatians.  Those who focus on the standard do so because they either want to add or take away from the standard, which occurs in one of two ways in Galatians.  However, both are fixating on the standard.

The corruption of Galatians, where the standard is the focus, occurs one of two ways.  The two ways could be reduced to just one.  The false teachers added either circumcision, dietary restrictions, or calendar.  Those three were not even requirements any more and this is where the two ways dovetail.  The other way is not keeping requirements, which is turning liberty into license.  Why circumcision, dietary restrictions, and the calendar?  These were things you could do as a slave, they weren't hard to practice.  You could easily conform to those standards.

Once you were circumcised, nothing was required, which would have been the occurrence for every Jewish male.  If you were female, no requirement there.  Dietary restrictions were how you grew up eating, if you were a Jew -- that was only hard for a Gentile, who wasn't accustomed to it.  The days were also just how you lived.  What was impossible was fruit of the Spirit and abstaining from works of the flesh.  Those were impossible as a slave.

When you reduce righteousness to the keeping of a few requirements, then you are all set to opt out of other requirements.  Love doesn't drop requirements.  It does them with a different perspective.  It does even more than if it was just a requirement.  The son, differing from the slave, keeps all of the requirements because he wants to do them, but it is even more.  He's got a great attitude while he does it, because he can, due to his new nature, and because he really wants to please His Father.

Galatians is a reminder of the story of the prodigal son, because slave and son are both part of the story.  As an unbeliever, a son feels like a slave.  When he chooses sonship, he wants the slavery.  Paul said he was a bondslave, which is a slave, who wants to be a slave.  You get to be one, because you want to be one.  And you can perform as a slave, because you are really a son, with the nature of a son.  Ironic for the prodigal before he returned as a son was that he was a slave in the hog lot of this world, forced into a slave relationship to sin.

Galatians isn't make room for the lasciviousness of evangelicalism and new evangelicalism.  It isn't changing the requirements for Christianity, but empowering or allowing the performance, proceeding from faith in Christ and out of love for Him.


Unknown said...

This is excellent, Sir. Thank you for sharing!

Joanne said...

This is all well and good and excellently expressed. The volatility of it all is the definition of "lasciviousness" (along with hurled terms of legalism, pharisaism, and, um, even cultic). Is it something only God can truly judge? Are we expected to judge beyond our own hearts and the local church we choose to join? Some Christian colleges are now praised due to their not being so "slavish to the law" (legalistic/cultic,). Others are watching trying to determine what line the colleges cross where they can officially claim they are promoting lasciviousness. One side will win, you cannot please everyone. Maybe it's the leadership that takes that one important turning point decision to which constituency they will please. And it's for the constituency to decide what crosses their own line or not. But if one speaks up about the change, they are blamed for this, that, and the cultic other because we aren't allowed to be concerned about worldliness, lasciviousness, and the like.

Anyway, do you have any thoughts on how to lead a family and be involved in a local church or choose a college without the application of this whole issue being such a burden? Sure, we should be able to all get along, but for some reason the conflict is ever there. Perhaps it's that search for ultimate truth in all things and trying to balance it with the "greatest of these is love."

Anonymous said...

"Paul said he was a bondslave, which is a slave, who wants to be a slave"

Of course you are above correction, but there is no place in the scriptures that Paul was a slave to anyone.

The word is servant. He was a servant of God, and not in bondage to anyone (Galatians 4:3, 25), unless in bonds for the gospel sakes (2 Timothy 2:9, Philemon 10-13).