Understanding Life in Christ (Galatians 1:6–4:31)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

Paul begins by identifying the problem among the Galatians. They “are turning to a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6). This “gospel” requires Gen­tiles “to live like Jews” (Gal. 2:14). In order to show that this “gospel” is really not a gospel—that is, good news—at all, Paul presents a variety of arguments, including his autobiography (Gal. 1:10–2:21), the receiving of the Spirit through faith (Gal. 3:1–5), the offspring of Abraham through faith (Gal. 3:6–29), the analogy of slaves and children (Gal. 4:1–11), a personal, emotional appeal (Gal. 4:12–20), and the allegory of the slave woman and the free woman (Gal. 4:21–31).

At several points in chapters 1–4 in his explication of the Christian life, Paul uses the language and imagery of slavery to fortify his under­standing of life in Christ. Slavery, which in Galatians signifies primar­ily the absence of freedom, is that from which the Galatians had been delivered by their faith in Christ. “You are no longer a slave but a child” (Gal. 4:7). Their desire to follow the Law of Moses rather than to rely on their faith is, in effect, a senseless return to the bondage of slavery (Gal. 4:8–10). Even the Law of Moses, when understood properly, commends freedom rather than slavery to the law itself (Gal. 4:21–31).

So we see that Paul uses workplace imagery (slavery) to illustrate a spiritual point about religious legalism. Yet the point does apply directly to the workplace itself. A legalistic workplace—in which bosses try to control every motion, every word, every thought that employees have—is contrary to freedom in Christ. Workers of all types owe obedience to their legitimate superiors. And organizations of all types owe freedom to their workers to the full extent compatible with the true needs of the work.