In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul explains the intricate relationship between the Law and the Gospel, unraveling the profound purpose of the Law in light of Christ's redemptive work. Galatians 4:4-5 provides a pivotal passage that sheds light on the role and significance of the Law in God's overarching plan of salvation. For this Theology Thursday, we'll be exploring these verses to understand the purpose of the Law as unveiled by Paul.
Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV): "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."
The Timing of Redemption:
Paul begins by highlighting the timing of Christ's redemptive mission: "when the fullness of time had come." This phrase emphasizes that God's plan of salvation was carried out at a specific, appointed moment in history.
Born Under the Law:
Paul further underscores the unique aspect of Christ's birth: "born of woman, born under the law." Christ, the Son of God, willingly entered the human condition, taking on flesh and submitting to the demands of the Mosaic Law, which governed Jewish life and worship.
The Purpose of the Law:
To fully grasp the purpose of the Law as mentioned in Galatians 4:4-5, we must consider the broader context of Paul's letter and the theological nuances at play:
1. Revealing Sin: One primary purpose of the Law was to reveal humanity's need for a Savior. By setting forth moral and ethical standards, the Law exposed the reality of sin and the impossibility of achieving righteousness through human effort alone (Romans 3:20).
2. Guardianship and Discipline: The Law functioned as a guardian and disciplinarian, guiding and restraining the conduct of God's people until the time of Christ (Galatians 3:24). It provided a framework for worship and ethical living.
3. Highlighting the Covenant: The Law played a crucial role in God's covenant with Israel, establishing the terms of the relationship and marking the people as God's chosen nation.
4. Pointing to Christ: Perhaps the most profound purpose of the Law was to point forward to the coming Messiah. The sacrificial system and various rituals within the Law served as types and shadows, foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice and redemption through Christ (Hebrews 10:1-18).
Christ's Redemptive Mission:
Now, let's go into how Galatians 4:4-5 clarifies the purpose of the Law in light of Christ's redemptive mission:
1. Redeeming Those Under the Law: Christ, born under the Law, came to redeem those who were under the Law. This redemptive work fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law, providing a way for humanity to be justified and reconciled to God.
2. Adoption as Sons: The purpose of this redemption was not merely to absolve believers from sin but to grant them a new status as adopted sons and daughters of God. Through faith in Christ, believers receive the privilege of being part of God's family.
3. Embracing Grace: The Law, with its emphasis on obedience to commandments, could not save humanity. Christ's redemptive mission revealed that salvation is a gracious gift from God, not something earned through legalistic observance.
4. Fulfillment of the Promise: Christ's arrival fulfilled the promise made to Abraham that through his offspring, all nations would be blessed (Galatians 3:16). The Law served as a temporary custodian until the fulfillment of this promise in Christ.
Galatians 4:4-5 encapsulates the profound purpose of the Law within the context of Christ's redemptive mission. The Law revealed human sinfulness, provided guidance and discipline, marked God's covenant with Israel, and, most importantly, pointed to the coming Messiah. Christ, born under the Law, fulfilled its righteous requirements and, through His sacrifice, redeemed those under the Law, offering adoption into God's family.
The Law's role was preparatory, leading humanity to the realization that salvation is not achieved through adherence to rules and rituals but through faith in the finished work of Christ. The purpose of the Law, as unveiled in Galatians, ultimately directs our gaze to the profound grace and redemptive power of God, who sent forth His Son to redeem and adopt those who believe in Him.