Galatians 4.4: Born Under the Law

Redemption Under the Mosaic Law

Jesus was born under the Law for the purpose of redeeming those under the Law (the Jews), and adopting them as children, since they were in slavery under rules of scripture. One reason that the Mosaic Law was given was so that folks would recognize the sin principle inside them. However, the Mosaic Law provided a remedy for sin, by sacrifice, which foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross. Sin would be confessed with the hands placed on the head of a suitable living animal. The priest would then offer the victim on the bronze altar at the Israelite Tabernacle/Temple Complex. The worshiper would partake of some of that sacrifice which meant they were now at peace with God by sharing this meal. This is how God established a relationship with people in The Mosaic Law (Ps. 50.5). Of course, God chose and knew every person who truly trusted in Him. He gave saving faith and probably regenerated them by the Spirit (but not in the same sense as today). They may have also understood the significance of the sacrifice in their heart but this point is difficult to establish from today’s perspective.

Fulfilling the Law

The Law is good in that it sets God’s holy standard. But it exposes our need since we fail to live up to it. The scriptural commandments could not save us in themselves but instead were a prison of sorts (see Gal. 3.19,22). However, Jesus kept the Law perfectly, and, through faith in Him, Christians are justified. Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Law (see Rom. 3.19). Instead, Gentiles were enslaved to false gods whose worship entailed a similar bondage of performance (Gal. 4.8-9).

Christians are enabled by the Spirit to fulfill the Law’s requirements: Loving God and our fellow humans. This summary  was already delineated in the Mosaic Law and therefore is not a reductionist idea. A special love is also commanded for those in the New Covenant Community which involves helping poor and suffering Christians to some degree today. Some want to extend this care as God’s service to all the poor in the world since salvation is open to all. Of course, Christians should be kind to everyone but the special love as service is only for the family of faith. This idea corresponds to the principle of care of others in O.T. Israel and Jesus’s day. To some degree, this care showed evidence of regeneration. Jesus’s commandment to Christians is still that they love one another (see 1 John 4.19-5.1).

The Promised Seed

The original promise of this seed, who was to finally crush the serpent’s head, was cryptically given as a parable in the sentence upon the spiritual entity behind the serpent who deceived Eve. Gen. 3.15 tells us that this seed would also have his heel pierced which was a death blow from the viper. Rom. 9.5 gives the general reason why God chose Abraham: the physical conduit to bring the Messiah. Through the Messiah all humanity would be blessed.

Earlier in Galatians (3.15-17) Paul tells us that the Mosaic Law could not add a condition to the promise given to Abraham. It was a fixed blessing to Abraham and his seed (Christ). Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Therefore, those of faith in Christ are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

The First and Second Adam

How this blessing came about is explicitly explained in Galatians along with the backdrop of divine revelation. Adam had failed one command and so plunged humanity into sin and death since death was the stated consequence. There were no recorded transgressions by Adam’s subsequent descendants, in a technical sense, before the Mosaic Law was given, yet, everyone died since they derived from, or were in Adam (see Rom. 5.13-14). This is what some refer to as original sin which is acceptable terminology if understood correctly. Jesus was the second Adam and so needed to prove His fitness in keeping a perfect standard. This was one of the functions of the Mosaic Law and provided a promise of (eternal) life, if kept flawlessly (see Gal. 3.12 and Lev. 18.5). Also, Jesus specifically answers the lawyer’s question of obtaining eternal life in Lk. 10.25 cf. v.28).

The Tree of Life

The presence of the Tree of Life in the Edenic Garden constituted the promise of eternal life for humanity but it was withdrawn after the Fall. Though Adam and Eve were redeemed, their descendants would be born separated from God, and, hence, spiritually dead. Each person needs individual redemption. The removal of the Tree of Life was an act of mercy so not to fix them in eternal conscious separation from God. Adam was created mortal; hence, the Tree of Life was in the garden to, presumably, give him immortality upon passing the obedience test. Now, through Christ, who obeyed Moses’s Law, the curse is lifted, since He became a curse for us (Gal. 3.13) and access granted to this Tree of Life along with removal of the curse (Rev. 22.2-3).

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