Let’s review Paul’s argument so far:
In the first two chapters Paul distanced himself from the Judaizers in Jerusalem while at the same time showing that his understanding of the gospel came directly from God and was in agreement with the teaching (though sometimes not the practice) of the other apostles (Gal. 1-2).
In chapters 3-4 Paul sets forth several doctrinal arguments to refute the contentions of the Judaizers:
-The experience of the Galatians was that they received salvation and the Spirit by faith in Christ, not through the Law (3:1-5).
-The Scriptures taught that Abraham was justified by faith, long before he was circumcised (3:6-9).
-In fact, Israel has historically failed to keep the Law, receiving the curse that Jesus had to die to remove (3:10-14).
-The Law came 430 years after the promise to Abraham, and does not change the fundamental nature of God’s promise to make of Abraham one family (“offspring”), not multiple families (“offsprings”), a family identified by being in Christ not by keeping the Law (3:15-20).
-The Law had an important purpose, to define sin and lead Israel to Jesus (3:21-22).
The argument in 3:23-4:7 hinges on sonship. Notice the following contrasts:
-The contrast between being a slave and son.
-The contrast in pronouns: “we” (Jews) and “you” (Gentiles).
-The contrasts in past and present tenses.
23 Now before faith came,
“Faith” here refers specifically to faith in Christ (as in 2:16).
we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
Before the time of Christ and under the Law, the Jews (“we”) were “held captive” and “imprisoned.”
24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came,
The Greek word is “paidagogos,” and referred to a slave who was in charge of the children of the house from childhood to their late teens. They performed menials task such as bathing the child, accompanied them in public, helped them with lessons, and protected them.
One ancient Greek writer described the end of their work like this: “When a boy ceases to be a child, and begins to be a lad, others release him from his ‘pedagogue’ and from his teacher; he is then no longer under them, but is allowed to go his own way” (Xenophon, quoted in Witherington, Grace in Galatia p. 265).
in order that we might be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
This word picture speaks to the temporary nature of the Law of Moses. “Now that faith [in Christ] has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (3:25). This probably the clearest statement of the temporary nature of the Law in Scripture.
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Paul now focuses on the blessings of being “in Christ.” The particular blessing is the status of sonship (3:26).
-God bestowed the unique blessing of sonship on the nation of Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos. 11:1). —Israel of course failed their Father, but Jesus came as the Son of God to be what Israel should have been (notice Matthew’s use of Hos. 11:1 in Matt. 2:15).
-Now all of those who are in Christ can also be God’s sons, “through faith.”
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ
Paul explains that the time at which we are made sons of God by faith is in baptism “into Christ” (see also Rom. 6:3-4).
have put on Christ.
As a result, we have “put on Christ” (compare 1 Cor. 15:43). We are defined by Christ, not the Law.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Since sonship is defined by being in Christ, no other factor is relevant. Paul mentions three: ethnic (“neither Jew nor Greek”), social (“slave nor free”), and sexual (“male nor female”). This is probably a deliberate challenge to a traditional Jewish prayer that may have been in use in Paul’s time – “Blessed be God that he did not make me a Gentile; blessed be God that he did not make me ignorant [or a slave]; blessed be God that he did not make me a woman” (Tosefta Berakoth 7.18).
29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Abraham’s offspring are thus defined not in terms of the Law or any external distinction, but rather as those who are “Christ’s”.