Doctrinal Studies in Galatians
As we classify and organize the many references to Christ in this Galatian letter, omitting those that make reference to His work upon the cross for these will be considered when we examine the doctrine of the cross, there are two groups that become very evident, the first has to do with references to Christ’s person; the second, with His relationship to His people.
The Person of Christ
There are several very interesting references to the person of Christ in chapter one, involving both His Deity and His humanity.
It has been stated that the Lord Jesus is both the vessel and the content of all that is divine. In Him permanently resides all the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form.
His Deity: How excellently though indirectly this truth is brought before us in verse three! God the Father possesses authority to appoint Paul an apostle; the Lord Jesus, so it states, acts with equal authority in the same appointment. God the Father is seen as the source of the blessings of grace and peace; the Lord Jesus is also manifested as the source of these same blessings. Christ, therefore, must be equal with the Father in His divine benevolence. The plan of redemption is revealed as being according to the will of God, but the Lord Jesus is shown to have acted voluntarily in that identical plan: consequently, Christ must have the right to equally exert His will, unless He otherwise wishes.
In the opening paragraph of this Epistle the Lord Jesus is seen to be equal to the Father in His authority, benevolence, and redemptive purpose.
In essence the Father is not superior to the Son, and the Son is not inferior to the Father.
His Humanity: In verse nineteen we have a family scene. There are two brothers in the family, the Lord Jesus and James. Here the Spirit of God gives us a precious and intimate picture of the humanity of our Holy Lord. Notice His delicate yet adequate language, “James the Lord’s brother.”
The Lord Jesus here is God in all the fulness of the divine attributes. and He is perfect man in all the virtues of unfallen humanity, impeccable humanity.
The Relationship of Christ to His Own
That fallen men, through the work of redemption, should be brought into intimate and eternal relationship to Christ, is the cause of praise and thanksgiving to God. It should also be the cause of deep exercise of heart before the Lord, and a willingness to assume spiritual responsibilities. Sometimes the relationship between Christ and His own has a bearing upon the believer’s standing, sometimes upon his state.
Christ the Believer’s Life: The phrase “in Christ” (1:22; 3:26-20) suggests the most intimate possible union between Christ and the believer. They are so joined that the one is seen to be in the other. The believer is in Christ (Ephesians); Christ is in the believer (Colossians). The believer is seen to be not so much joined to Christ or joined with Christ as being actually in Christ.
Since Christ is the Head of the Body, the Church, it becomes an established fact that the life of Christ must flow into every member of His Body. This relationship really is an organic union. This is the record given us by the Apostle John, “God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:11-12).
Furthermore, the context of the passage in chapter three (Vs 26-27) teaches that “in Christ” we are united to every other believer in Christ, and that in Him all differences disappear. In Christ there is no racial distinction, no Jew or Gentile; no social distinction, no bond or free; no natural distinction, no male or female; all are one in Christ.
Christ the Believer’s Attire: Of those who have thus been mystically united in Christ, we read that they “have put on Christ.” In Christ the believer has a moral fitness for the presence of the Lord. We read of the garments of salvation (Isa. 61:10) and of the righteousness which is by faith, the righteousness that is offered to all and only upon all them that believe (Rom. 3:22). All in Christ possess this divine covering.
There is another sense in which the Lord Jesus is the attire of the Christian. In a very practical sense the believer must daily put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh. The believer must put on Christ in order to protect himself from the atmosphere of the godless world around him.
The Christian’s wardrobe is described in Colossians 3:10-14. At conversion all Christians put on Christ, the New Man (Vs. 10-11); nevertheless, the child of God is enjoined to put on every virtue that formed the moral beauty of the Lord Jesus.
Over all the items of attire listed the believer is instructed to put on the girdle of love. It is only in love that all other graces function properly.
As the believer attires himself with these virtues, he reveals Christ; Christ is manifested in his attitudes and actions.
In Instanbul (modern Constantinople) the Mosaic Mosque, in that land where there is little liberty to preach the gospel, witnesses to Christ. In the ceiling are many scenes from the life of the Lord Jesus: Christ healing the leper, Christ at Sychar’s well, etc. These had been plastered over for many many years, but recently the plaster has been removed and the life of Christ displayed. May we remove from our lives every hinderance to the full display of Christ through us to the world.
Christ the Believer’s Master: In the opening chapter the Apostle claims to be a servant (bondslave) of Christ (V. 10), and in the closing verses of the Epistle he says, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” In these words he makes reference to ancient customs among the Hebrews and among the Romans.
Among the Romans it was the custom to brand-mark each slave captured in war. Paul delighted to call himself a bondslave of Jesus Christ. and here he declares that he bore the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus.
Among the Hebrews, according to Exodus 21:1-6, the perpetual bond-slave had his ear pierced at the doorpost. This picture of perpetual slavery is more suited to Paul than the preceding one, for Paul was a voluntary bondslave. Believers today never bear physical brand—marks for Christ as did Paul (2 Cor. 11:23-28), but they ought to bear moral marks which manifest their devotion to and their services for our Lord Jesus.
Christ the Believer’s Legislator: The Church was never appointed as a legislative body; she must only be an administrative body, carrying out the decrees of her Lord. In the Upper Room the Lord Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). Here in the Epistle to the Galatians we read, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:1-2). The heathen of the ancient world had a saying, “Man is a wolf to a man whom he does not know.” But concerning the early Christians they used to exclaim, “Behold, how these Christians love one another! And they love each other without knowing each other.”
Christ the Believer’s Form: How Paul loved his spiritual children! How he longed for their spiritual development! Said he, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (4:19).
The verb to be formed used here is an interesting one and refers more to style than to shape. The thought is not so much that Christ be poured into them and reformed in them as if they were the recepticle, but rather that Christ should become their style, their manner of doing things.
We all become familiar with another person’s particular way of doing things. For example, we recognize the style of the different writers in the Bible. Then again, this word may not only mean style or manner, but condition. We sometimes speak of a person as being in excellent condition, or as being in excellent form.
These are the ideas that Paul had in his mind. He longed that the Galatians might accept Christ as theirvery way of life for surely then they would be in good form.
Lambert, a school teacher in London during the days of Henry VIII, refused to compromise his faith and was burned slowly at the stake. The intention was that he undergo as much torture as possible. When his legs and thighs were consumed to stumps, the guards, more merciful than his royal enemy, threw him directly into the flames where he soon was wholly consumed. His last words were, “None but Christ; none but Christ.” This is what Paul wished for the Galatians and for us.