CHRIST VERSUS RELIGION
The central thought of the first chapter of Galatians is the contrast between religion and Christ. If we keep this in mind, we will know the proper meaning of this chapter. The apostle Paul presented himself as an example to illustrate this. Formerly, he was very involved with the Jewish religion. He was trained in Judaism and learned it thoroughly. Not only so, he was zealous for it and gave himself entirely to it. This is man’s way. However, one day God came in and revealed not a religion, a system, a set of forms, teachings, or practices but a person in him (v. 16). Although Paul was zealous for his forefathers’ religion and was one hundred percent for it, God revealed Christ in him. Then Christ became everything to him. Christ became life, revelation, and vision within him, and He became the preaching, the work, and the activity outside of him. Moreover, the gospel of the living person of Christ realized and experienced by Paul was not taught to him by man but was a revelation by Jesus Christ (vv. 11-12).
CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST
In the second chapter, Paul, an experienced believer, told us that he is crucified with Christ; therefore, he has been set free from the law and is dead to the law (vv. 19-21). He has nothing to do with the law, since it is no more he who lives but Christ who lives in him. He is no longer obligated to the law or tied to the law. Now he needs only to cooperate with this living person.
THE PROMISED SEED—CHRIST
In order to understand Galatians 3, we must get into the key thought. The Judaizers thought that the law was the primary item that God gave to them. However, Paul, the writer of this book, proved to them that the primary item given by God is not the law but His promise. The promise which God gave to Abraham is a seed, which is the very God incarnated to be a man (v. 16). In Him, that is, in this very seed, God will be the blessing and the portion to all the nations. Moreover, the seed as the blessing can be possessed, realized, and experienced only by the Spirit (v. 14). We must have the Spirit and be in the Spirit in order to receive the blessing. God is in Christ, Christ is the Spirit, and the Spirit is the witness, the reality. If we receive the Spirit, we have Christ and we have God in Christ.
The key thought in this chapter is that God’s intention is to make Himself our portion, our blessing, in Christ by the Spirit. God’s intention is not the law; the law was added on the way. We must be in Christ, and we must be in the Spirit. We must receive the Spirit to enjoy Christ as everything, to be in Christ, to be one with Him, and to be of Christ. Now we are of the one seed, and this one seed is everything to us (vv. 16, 29). Chapter three reveals that it is not a matter of keeping the law by ourselves, but a matter of being in Christ by the Spirit. By the Spirit we enjoy, experience, realize, and possess Christ as everything to us.
Galatians 4 tells us that now we are no more little children (vv. 1-3). Rather, as those who have been brought to the schoolmaster, we are in Him, and He is in us. Now we are not merely children but sons and heirs (vv. 5-7). We have not only the life of the children but the sonship. The sonship mentioned in this chapter is extraordinary. According to the custom of the ancient Roman Empire, a son obtained the right of inheritance. This is the meaning of sonship. Before maturity, however, the son was a son only; he did not yet have the sonship. Before a person is twenty-one years old, he is the son of his father with the life of a son, but he does not have the right of the son, that is, the sonship. He does not have the right to inherit all that his father has until he is fully grown. One day the father will declare that he is not only a son but also that he has the sonship with the full right to inherit everything of the father.
The apostle’s thought in this chapter is that from the time that Christ came and accomplished His work, we are no more underage. This is not according to anything we have done but according to what Christ accomplished. Because we are no longer underage minors but grown children, God gives us the sonship. Now we can inherit whatever God is. This inheritance is the fullness of the Godhead, which is Christ Himself. Because we are full-grown ones, sons who are of age, we are entitled to the sonship to inherit whatever Christ is. Formerly, we were children under the hand of a slave, a child-conductor. As such, we could not enjoy all that the schoolmaster had. Now, however, we have been transferred out of the child-conductor’s hand unto the schoolmaster. We have come of age and have received the sonship, the right of inheritance. This inheritance is nothing less than Christ Himself with all the fullness of the Godhead. Therefore, we must be filled; that is, the fullness of the Godhead in Christ has to be formed in us (v. 19). Whatever Christ is and whatever Christ has must be formed in us. That we are filled in this way proves that we are the sons of God.
(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)