Thursday, September 4, 2014

Galatians & Giving (part 5)

Having removed the barriers of separation between Jew and Gentile, Paul continues that process, moving along to other potential sources of division or stratification in the church that could lead to a weakening of the effective presentation of the message of the Gospel to an onlooking world, as he goes on to write “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female---for all of you are on in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise” (3:26-29).  This, along with the operational “structure” of the earliest of Christian gatherings, will have a bearing on the conclusions to be drawn.    

In addition to Jews and Gentiles as classes of people that were part of the Galatian group that was defined by meal-gatherings at which Jesus was recognized as the embodiment of the Creator God (that being church), slaves undoubtedly formed a portion of their band.  Not only can one draw out this conclusion from the fact of Paul mentioning “Jew… Greek… slave… free… male… female” (3:28), but such is made even more obvious by what can be seen in the fourth and fifth chapters, with Paul’s references to slaves and slavery.  While he is surely employing a metaphor by utilizing the familiar imagery of the slave-market, the metaphor and the imagery would have a more pronounced impact for those that had either been acquired by their master at the slave market, or who had purchased a slave at the slave market. 

Continuing the “heir” language that closes out the third chapter (bearing in mind that Paul wasn’t closing out any chapters or writing with verse divisions as such things would come much much later---always a useful reminder), Paul writes “Now I mean that the heir,” meaning, all that are children of Abraham by faith,” as long as he is a minor, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything” (4:1).  Can one read a bit deeper into this text?  Does this illuminate another problem within this congregation of believers?  Is there a younger member of the church, perhaps a relatively wealthy slaveholder who has had the goods of his parents fall to him at a young age though “he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father” (4:2), who thinks himself better than his slaves or the members of their gathering that were slaves? 

Though there can certainly be a larger analogy at play, specifically the issue of Jews and the covenant markers of the law versus Gentiles and the covenant marker of belief in Jesus, this may not be an unreasonable proposition.  Regardless of the situation at hand, Paul takes yet another step to level out the community by writing “So also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basis forces of the world” (4:3).  The point being that all are slaves in one way, shape, or form.  That said and at that point, it may be appropriate to add “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (6:3). 

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