“Believe the gospel and receive the Holy Spirit”. “Believe the gospel and see miracles worked among us”. That is the message that Paul sends to his churches and to us. Perhaps our problem today is not that we expect to have to earn the presence and power of the Spirit, but that we don’t expect him to turn up at all! Clearly miraculous things were taking place in Galatia then, or else Paul would not have used this line of argument. There was obviously no disputing that great power was at work in those churches – but why?
Faith is the key. Abraham received his version of the gospel by faith; as a result he was declared acceptable to God. The Law came many centuries later, to one nation only, and it works on the basis of wages and reward for satisfactory behaviour. And punishments and curses for poor behaviour!
Since the natural tendency of mankind is to sin, the punishments are a bigger deal than the rewards; as a result, the Law is overall a ‘curse’ to mankind. In fact, the only really practical use for the Law was to shine a spotlight on sin and sinfulness.
Paul uses two metaphors to illustrate our changed relationship to the Law of Moses. In the first, the Law was our gaoler, keeping us locked up until Christ released us. In the second, we were kept under the ‘guardianship’ of this Law – who acted as a kind of ‘child-minder’ – until the time of our maturity had come; a time determined by God himself. Once we had come to faith in Christ, we were ‘adopted’ as God’s own child and become his adult heirs. This means that we have no longer have any need of this Law-Guardian, and we can dispense with it totally.
Our status now is very clear: through faith we are adopted children of God, with full rights and privileges of sonship. We are also baptised or ‘immersed’ into Christ – surrounded with his love forever. Irrespective of our human status, we are equal and united in Jesus. We are Abraham’s true spiritual descendants.