by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 9 January 13, 2013 Dayton, Texas
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
1901 ASV Translation:
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now.
30 Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.
31 Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
I. The Issue of Persecution.
A. It is clear that Paul felt constrained to comment upon the "persecution" that was going on in Galatia. The question is, "Why?".
1. At the heart of this particular paragraph is the question in the opening verse: Do you not hear the Law?
a. This means that the "message" of "the Law" needs to be very clearly understood.
1) A primary aspect of that "message" is the initial issue of the text: slavery. The "Law" produces "slaves".
2) Another aspect of that "message" is the reality that stands under, and supports, the "slavery" issue: "the Law" is addressed to those whose resources consist of those elements of function that are captured by Paul's phrase "the standard of flesh" (4:23). In other words, the audience of "the Law" are those whose only resources for function in this world are those caught up in "the standard of flesh".
3) Then there is a third fact: "the Law" has a specific content. The content of the Law consists of one basic character: demand(s) made with consequences explained (do this and live; do that and die)and, eventually, executed. Everything about the Law can be boiled down to this one characteristic.
4) Conclusion: "the message of the Law" has two major parts.
a) The details of its actual content (the demands coupled to the explanation of the outcomes).
b) The makeup of those who are its audience (the "slaves" who are those subjected to that content).
b. This also means that everything in this paragraph is a contribution to Paul's explanation of "the message of the Law".
2. That Paul felt constrained to bring up the "persecution" issue means, then, that at least part of "the Law" is the behavior that it drives. "Hearing" the Law, therefore, means understanding how a person will act if he/she is operating under "law".
a. According to Paul, a very major aspect of that behavior will be the self-aggrandizement at the root of "motive".
b. According to Paul, a second major aspect of that behavior will be the way those committed to self-aggrandizement will treat any/all who "get in the way" (by, for instance, preaching a contrary message: the proclamation of grace brings the persecutors out of the woodwork like bats out of their cave at dusk).
3. That Paul brought it up means that he felt like the Galatians needed to understand why they were being opposed as believers in the grace of God.
B. Those involved.
1. There is a group identified by Paul's "according to the standard of flesh" terminology (kata sarka). These he has already identified in 4:23 as Ishmaelites.
2. There is another group identified by Paul's "according to the standard of spirit" terminology (kata pnuema). These were referred to earlier by a phrase in 4:23 captured in the form of dia plus a genitive (through promise) and then again in 4:28 in the form of kata plus accusative (according to the standard of Isaac). The point here is that Paul has finally addressed the bottom line: the Spirit's involvement in the bringing forth of sons, an action most aggressively illustrated by the virgin birth wherein the Spirit "overshadowed" Mary and she conceived Christ.
a. The gradual movement from "through promise" (a methodological phrase) to "according to the standard of Spirit" (a description phrase focused upon the Initiator) is deliberate. Paul apparently wished to focus first upon "how" the children are produced and finally upon "Who" produces them.
b. At every juncture, Paul eliminates any/every basis for human "boasting". There is a very good and logical reason for this. In the first place, "boasting" creates conflict between persons. In the second place, if human beings are given any room to insert a basis for boasting into the process, they will.
c. Once any basis for boasting is established, human beings boast.
d. Once boasting is in place, persecution of the opposition enters the picture as night follows sunset.
II. The Issue of Long-Term Inevitability.
A. Paul says of Ishmael's behavior toward Isaac that it was persecution and that it set a format that would endure as long as there are "fleshly" people in contact with "spiritual" people.
B. Because Paul is dealing with bottom lines [legal theology vs. grace theology and the consequent behaviors engendered by those theologies], it is a mistake for us to discount the inevitabilities of theologies.