Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7 (The Baptism of Our Lord: Series B)

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In Scripture, to be "in Christ" is nothing but living in the light and reality of one’s baptism.

The Gospel is good news, so proclaim some: The burden is lifted, grace is being outpoured, judgment has passed over us and onto the Messiah, who in turn gifts within Baptism with the Spirit of God.

That is what this passage is all about. It spells out for us the great confidence we ought to have in the fact that God has covered all our bases by sending Christ, “…born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law so we might receive adoption as sons” (5). It is the Christmas story again; this time spilling into the public life of Jesus, namely His baptism.

In 4:1–7, having already dealt with the purpose and function of the Mosaic Law (that it exposed sin, segregated humanity into Jews and Gentiles, and trained all who were under the Law that they needed God’s grace promised Abraham or else we would bear the judgment of the Law) and, secondly, how there was another way for humanity than bondage and condemnation under the Law (namely, that a new relationship with God and each other exists “in Christ”). Paul says the believer’s life is to be lived not “under the law” but “in Christ.”

Paul says the believer’s life is to be lived not “under the law” but “in Christ.”

In Scripture, this is nothing but living in the light and reality of one’s baptism. This means to live in the full freedom of mature sonship, and not in slavery to a legal code precisely because Christ has been (like each of us!) born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem them from the burden and curse of the Law. Again, that is good news, not good advice. Receive this, and you have received the gospel of Christmas on this Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

Again, the big picture is that we are under God’s Law. We are to love Him above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. The problem is we do not even begin to do this. That means we are constantly guilty of treason against the King’s commands and justly liable to judgment… unless someone intervenes by representing us and fulfilling both our reasonable obligation and taking the rightful penalty for our rebellion, so we need not bear it. Once that takes place, then with our sin and guilt removed and the hostility between us and the King totally removed, we are not only ushered into His restored Kingdom, but we are now fit (cleansed!) to be indwelt by His Holy Spirit. The upshot of such saving representation being we need not live like we are obligated to fulfill the Law by ourselves and so we may be justified in His sight by our own doing. Rather, having been freely justified on account of what Christ has done for us and being united to Him so we can never stand accused the Holy Spirit leads us in paths of righteousness as free children, heirs of the promise, and redeemed from the burden and curse of the Law so we can call God our Father rather than our Judge. It is a totally new way to be human: Free in Christ.

That is where we stand as the baptized: Free to live by the leading and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Paul would have us understand that this is the normal way the Christian conceives of himself/herself. Paul wants to stress God’s initiative and performance in Christ Jesus under the Law to save us from the consequences of the Law.

Verses 3 and 4 bring us the Gospel through a striking contrast between God and the elemental spirits or principles of the world. Whereas, under the latter, we are utterly helpless. Like dead Lazarus decaying in a tomb, God acts in a powerful and decisive way for us and upon us. God is manifest in His Son to set free those who are captive to the Law; be it the law given to our father Adam, the law of nature written on our consciences, or the Mosaic law given at Sinai. He takes orphans like us into His family. He does not wait around for humanity to instigate a reclamation project through the United Nations and funded by American taxpayers and then rushes in to endorse our attention-getting efforts to reconcile with God and each other. He does the reclaiming Himself and, if that were not enough, sends His Spirit to incite in people awareness of what He has done. We call it conversion, being gifted with the faith of Christ. This gift includes not only the bestowal of faith (Romans 10:16-17) but as evidenced by Jesus undergoing John’s “baptism of repentance” even true and perfect repentance itself is a condition accomplished for us. Think of it this way: The very word that entails what God has done to us—regeneration (being made a new, remade, “born again” if you will)—is always prior to our conscious responding. Our recognizable conversion is the product, the result of having been regenerated. We do not act in a regenerating way to be regenerated. Instead, He regenerates us, and we express repentance and faith in the regeneration. That He regenerates is the good news. Being regenerated is not a new but an impossible command. I can no more make myself born again or initiate that process than I could my own natural conception. So, say, “Amen,” and doubt nothing God has said about you in the waters of Baptism on the day we remember Jesus’ own baptism-on-our-behalf and how it fulfills the Law of “All Righteousness” so His righteousness might be imputed to us.

So, say, “Amen,” and doubt nothing God has said about you in the waters of Baptism.

Paul then kicks it into overdrive. He does not leave us to make inferences as to what He proclaims. It comes out as plain as one of the first creeds of Christianity: God sent forth His Son, “…born of a woman, born under the Law.” Jesus was wholly human with all the consequences relating to that precisely because He was born of a woman. Because He was, it meant He was also born under the Law. Furthermore, because He was, it meant (being sinless and yet perfectly human) He could redeem those under the Law. The woman of whom Paul speaks is, of course, the blessed mother of our Lord, Mary. God the Son was born of a woman and that makes Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos). What is more, it was her body, her blood in Him, that constituted the Word made flesh who bore our sins and washed them down a tree.


Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in Galatians 4:4-7.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Galatians 4:4-7.