What the Bible says about
Under the Law
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Was Jesus Christ born under the law and thus bound to keep all of the Old Covenant rules and regulations? From this verse, some attempt to show that Jesus Christ was under the law from His birth. They conclude that Christ was duty bound from His birth to do many things that we do not have to do.
However, this assumption overlooks the true meaning of this verse, which is often obscured by the interpretation given by modern translators. The word translated "born" in modern translations is from the Greek word ginomai, which can have many different shades of meaning depending upon the context. It primarily means "to cause to be" or "to come into being." The King James Version translates it: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law."
Jesus Christ was physically born through the normal process of human birth to the virgin Mary. But God did not inspire Paul to use the Greek word for "born," gennao, in Galatians 4:4 because He wanted to focus on the miraculous conception of Christ and the overwhelming significance of Jesus' sacrifice.
God emphasizes His Son's humanity in this verse. Like all other men, Jesus was born of a woman; He was flesh and blood. Hebrews 10:5 verifies this: "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifice and offtering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.'"
Another point of note is that the original Greek text does not read "the law," but simply "law." The definite article is missing! Paul is speaking of law in general, not specifically the law of God. The apostle thus means that, when Jesus became a man, He was subject to the same terms, forces, and conditions that any other man is. It simply becomes another reference to His humanity like Hebrews 2:10-18.
The verse does not support the idea that Jesus was bound by the Old Covenant because He was born into it. The deeper meaning of Galatians 4:4 is that Jesus Christ came into being through the divine miracle in which God the Father caused Mary to conceive by the Holy Spirit. Also, by another miracle, God the Father caused Jesus to be placed under the law - under the death penalty - at the time of His crucifixion. Note the King James' rendering of Galatians 3:13: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made [ginomai] a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."
Jesus Christ was never under the law except at the time of His crucifixion when God the Father laid the entire burden of the sins of the world upon His head (II Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:4-12). He led a perfect life. Therefore, the Old Covenant rules and regulations did not apply to Him because they were designed to remind the people of Israel of their sins and their need for a Savior (Galatians 3:19).
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?
God the Father determined when the time was right for His Son to come to earth, as man and God. Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb (Christ) was slain "from the foundation of the world." This world, the cosmos, is the world apart from God, and that world was founded when Adam and Eve sinned. When sin entered into God's creation, given God's purpose for mankind to be made into His image, it was necessary that there be a method of reconciliation between man and God. This reconciliation was only possible through the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
Galatians 3:22 says that the scripture has concluded all under sin. The totality of mankind is enslaved by sin and does not have the means to break free from its grasp. By "concluding" that everyone is under the bondage of sin, or under the curse of sin, the scripture shows that something external to mankind has to act in order that there be a solution to save man from himself and his sinful nature. This "conclusion" also demonstrates that none of the paths which man has embarked on—primarily, justification on the basis of one's own works—are of any lasting worth.
So when the "appointed time" (Galatians 4:2) had come, the Father decided to begin releasing mankind, in part, from the grasp of those controlling him, and the means of doing this was through the redemptive work of His Son. Roughly 4,000 years had passed since Adam and Eve's sin, and during this time there was ample evidence that mankind did not have it within himself to come up with a lasting solution which would bring about peace, harmony, and true unity with God or man. Sin was rampant, and mankind was destined to continue in sin and to reap the consequences. After 4,000 years of human history, nothing had changed in man's fundamental nature. God determined that this was a long enough period of time and sent forth the pre-existing Word as a man.
Paul emphasizes Christ's humanity when he points to the fact that He was "made of a woman." This attribute is universal for everyone else on earth, so we typically do not use it as a descriptor. But this descriptor illustrates that Jesus Christ was fully human. It also shows that Christ fulfilled various prophecies by being born rather than by coming to earth in all of His glory (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-9; Jeremiah 31:22; Micah 5:3).
Like all other men, Christ was "under law." This is not a reference to the Old Covenant; there is no definite article before "law" in the original Greek. He was not subject to the "Mosaic law," as some have assumed, but to the natural laws that God set in motion with the creation of man: He became hungry and thirsty when He went without food and water; He was wearied from physical exertion and lack of sleep; His physical body had limits in terms of the abuse it could take before it quit working; His body was subject to gravity, inertia, decay, and so forth. He was subject to every physical cause-and-effect situation that everyone else who has ever lived has been subject to.
Some modern translations render verse 4 as "born of a woman, born under [the] law." This is misleading, because Paul was not meaning to draw attention to the birth but of the supernatural conception. Paul uses the word ginomai for "made," and it means "to cause to be" or "to come into being." The emphasis is on the means or the action that something comes to be the way it is. The Greek word for "born" is gennao, which Paul did not use. Jesus Christ was "made of a woman" when He was miraculously conceived.
Christ was not "born under the law," in the sense that He was duty-bound to keep all of the ceremonies, washings, and sacrifices. However, He was "made under law." To be "under law" means to be subject to the condemnation of the law, which comes into action when one sins. Christ clearly never sinned, but nonetheless He was made [caused] to be "under law" when He was crucified and all of mankind's sins were laid upon Him, and He paid the death penalty which the law required.
Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made [ginomai] a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." This does not mean that the law is a curse, but that the law has a curse, and that curse is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Christ was caused to be "under law," under the condemnation of the law, when He accepted the death penalty for all of our sins.
David C. Grabbe
It is an obscene fallacy to consider that mankind needs to be "redeemed" from God's law. The law does not keep one in bondage—sin does. The law just points out why that man is in bondage. As the notes at Galatians 4:3 show, God's intent and desire is to free us from the bondage of sin, just as He redeemed the Israelites from Egypt. Right before God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, in a preamble of sorts, He stated very clearly, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). God's law points out to people why they are reaping the negative consequences of the choices they make—why they are in bondage to sin and condemned to pay the physical and spiritual price.
Jesus Christ was supernaturally conceived ("made of a woman") and took on the consequence of all of our sins ("made under law"), so He could redeem—pay the price for—everyone who was also under the condemnation of the law. We are redeemed from the bondage of sin and its consequences, not from the perfect law of God! It should be noted that He did this for all men, not just for the Jews. Hence, the "redemption" could not be referring to redemption from the moral instructions of what is right and wrong, simply because the Gentile Galatians were not familiar with God's law before He called them.
Prior to God's call from this satanic system, we were Satan's children. We bore his image, and resembled him in word, deed, and attitude (Ephesians 2:1-3; John 8:38-44). When God calls us into a relationship with Him, He justifies us—brings us into alignment with His perfect law—and gives us a measure of His Spirit so we may begin to understand His ways. To those that He chooses and who properly respond, He gives the authority to become His sons (John 1:12). This sonship is by adoption, because our first father was Satan the Devil!
Genesis 1:26 shows that God's intent is to recreate Himself and to have a Family of spirit beings. Because He loves us, He gives us the opportunity to be called the "sons of God," which alienates us from the world because the world still bears the image of Satan (I John 3:1). Through the sanctification process we are changed, and become more and more in His likeness, and upon our resurrection we will be raised with incorruptible spirit bodies, fully part of the Kingdom—the Family—of God.
David C. Grabbe
Verse 18 appears as a summary statement in light of all that Paul wrote previous to this. It needs a bit of defining. According to what the apostle wrote earlier, to be "under the law" includes three areas:
1. Most obviously, it means to be under the law's penalty because we have sinned. Jesus died so that we can be freed from that penalty.
2. It means to be striving to achieve justification through lawkeeping, which is what the main body of this epistle covers.
3. The third meaning is also covered but less thoroughly: that a person is trying to earn God's election and salvation by becoming a member of the Old Covenant. Chapter 5 covers that to a very small extent.
Paul's statement, then, must be seen in context of all that has been written before. Notice what Kenneth Wuest writes in Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume 1, page 156. This is a typical Protestant statement regarding verse 18.
The exhortation is therefore, to be led by the Spirit. The assurance is given those who do so, that they will not be living their lives on the principle of legalism. The Spirit and the law are here contrasted, and are shown to be methods of living a Christian life that are diametrically opposed to one another. The law is not only no safeguard against the flesh, but rather provokes it to more sin. Therefore, the believer who would renounce the flesh, must renounce the law also. Thus, the flesh and the law are closely allied, whereas the flesh and the Spirit are diametrically opposed to one another. (Author's emphasis.)
To understand this truthfully, all he needs to do is reread what Paul wrote. What the apostle contrasts is Spirit with flesh, and Spirit with those under the law—not the law per se. But this commentator made no attempt to define what Paul means by "under the law," as Paul himself uses it in the epistle. Also, there was no attempt to define what the author of the commentary means by "legalism."
We have already seen what Paul means by "under the law." To these people, legalism is "the belief that one is obligated to obey the law." The key word in that definition is "obligated." They hate it (Romans 8:7), and therefore lawkeeping is seen as a burden, a yoke of bondage, despite the undeniable fact that God (through James) says it is a "law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)
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