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Galatians 4:1-7

Lesson Focus: We were slaves, now we are adopted children of God.

Lesson Outcomes: Through this lessons students should:

  1. Understand that the Law was not evil but unable to set us free.

  2. Understand that the Law acted as a guide for God’s people before Jesus came.

  3. Begin to identify themselves as adopted children of God.

Catch up on the story: Paul, in this letter, is writing to the church(s) in the province of Galatia. These were mainly Gentile converts to Christianity. Paul is rather forceful in his language throughout the letter. The reason for Paul’s forcefulness is that the Galatians have abandoned the truth of the Gospel, which they had received at the beginning, for another gospel. This other gospel that the Galatians have allowed to influence their thinking, is one not based on salvation through the grace of God as a gift, but on works. Someone had been advocating that these Gentile converts to Christianity must adopt Jewish religious customs and laws. Paul, as he does elsewhere, strongly disagrees that these new converts need to adopt any kind of Jewish Law.

For Paul, however, the Law is not completely a bad thing.  Paul will use at least three metaphors to talk about the Law and its relationship to humanity.  His first metaphor likens the law to a jailor that has kept God’s people in prison.  Jesus came to liberate us from this imprisonment (3:22-23).  Next, Paul likens the Law to a disciplinarian who takes care of children, guiding them and instructing them on how to grow and live.  The final metaphor Paul uses is in chapter 4.  The Law is a guardian or a trustee who makes decisions about a child who has been orphaned.  Before the child has reached full maturity the trustee will make all decisions about the estate or things that the heir will inherit.  

The Text: When reading Paul’s writings it is always important to remember that we are reading someone else’s mail.  As with correspondences of all types, there is an author of the letter and the recipient of the letter.  In most cases, there are also outside people or events to which the letter might refer.  In this letter, there is an interlocutor who is shaping the conversation without ever actually being present.  Paul is addressing this interlocutor as well as the Christians in Galatia.  Before we move on to discuss the text itself, we will outline these three different voices which have shaped the dialogue.  Of course, we will need to keep in mind that we only have one side of this conversation.    

The Author: There is no dispute that the author of this letter is the Apostle Paul.  Paul spends a good portion of the beginning of this letter retelling the story of the beginnings of his ministry.  He does this to build his credentials as one who has preached Christ and Christ alone without needing to adhere to the Law.  Keep in mind, however, that Paul was a Pharisee and