Jan Lambrecht, «Abraham and His Offspring. A Comparison of Galatians 5,1 with 3,13», Vol. 80 (1999) 525-536
Just as after the Abraham passage of 3,6-12 Christ is mentioned in 3,13 quite unexpectedly, so also after 4,21-31, Pauls so-called allegory which deals with the wives and sons of Abraham, the sudden statement about Christ in 5,1 cannot but surprise the reader. Although the word order differs, both vocabulary and content of parts of 3,13a and 5,1a are identical or at least similar. Abrahams faith was already, by way of anticipation, Christian faith. Moreover, "those of faith" in 3,7 and 9 implicitly are believers in Christ. This also applies to 4,26. The children of "the Jerusalem above" are free because they belong to Christ, even if in v. 26 this is not (yet) explicitly stated. Therefore, a seemingly brusque transition from the Abraham text or the allegory to Christ should not disturb the reader too much.
righteousness would indeed be by the law" (v. 21). The negative stand regarding the law prevails, the same as in 3,10-12. Even if verse 19 does not mean that the laws function is to increase sin but to limit it, one should not consider such a role as constructive. This is obvious from what is stated in verse 23: "before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed". The time of the law is characterized by Paul as lacking in freedom (cf. v. 22: scripture consigned all things to sin). In verses 24-25 Paul understands the responsibility of the "custodian" (paidagwgo/j) probably not as pedagogic in a positive sense but only as restrictive, in any case as provisional. In these verses Paul employs the second person plural and thus addresses the Galatians in an emphatic way. Therefore, it would be un-Pauline to find in the law a preparation "unto Christ"20. The law is opposed to both the promise (past) and its fulfillment (future).
Promise itself points to fulfillment. In verse 16 the offspring of Abraham is strangely identified as being one person, Christ. In verse 19 the future coming of that offspring is mentioned again; verse 22 speaks of the future giving of what was promised and verse 23 of the coming of faith and its being revealed. Verse 24 points to the coming of Christ and verse 25, again, to the coming of faith. This frequency of remarks which look forward to Christ explodes, as it were, in verses 26-29. Already in verses 21-25 righteousness and life are mentioned. Yet in verses 26-29 one encounters the climax in expressions which all indicate the fulfillment of the promise: sons of God, faith in Christ, baptism and putting on of Christ, all one in Christ; and, by way of intended inclusion: "if you are Christs, then you are Abrahams offspring, heirs according to promise" (v. 29). In verse 16 the uniqueness of Abrahams offspring was affirmed and underscored in a forced manner (cf. also v. 19); at the end of the passage, in verse 29, all believers are one in Christ and so they are collectively Abrahams offspring, his children (cf. v. 7). While in verse 23-25 the first person plural is used, in verses 26-29 Paul changes to the second person plural; he thus addresses the Galatians with great emphasis.
Twice, in 3,6-12 and in 4,21-31, the reader might be brought to the suspicion that belonging to Abraham or his family is sufficient. Abrahams children must believe, just as Abraham was one who believed; like Isaac, born according to the Spirit, they are children of the promise. Yet in 3,13 as well as in 5,1 Christ appears on the scene, without warning; a misunderstanding is no longer possible. The faith that is needed is faith in Christ crucified who redeemed us from the curse; the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ who has set us free from the law. In 3,15-29, however, nothing looks abrupt, nothing unexpected. Christ is explicitly present from verse 16 onward. His coming is repeatedly referred to in verses 19-25 and the fulfillment he brought is broadly depicted in verses 26-29. Pauls argumentation here by means of the promise to Abraham, the intervening law and the coming of Christ manifests his view of salvation history.