Summary: There are two tempting traps that return us to slavery. One is clearly sinful, the other looks and smells religious, but actually is bondage. Paul asks, "Who’s your Mother?" It makes all the difference!
It was April 17, 1957 at 12:05 a.m. in a hospital in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A baby boy was born to Charles and Betty Nance. He was their first born son. Three years earlier they had a daughter, and five and seven years later they would have two more boys. This is my family.
You know, I had no choice in the matter of who my mom and dad would be. I had no choice over whether I was male or female. My race, nationality, cultural context, date of birth, genetic make up, and a host of other factors that make up my identity were totally outside of my control. In fact, it would be correct to say that all of the main factors determining the greatest part of what made me who I am were beyond my personal power. Even my religious shaping throughout my most formative years was given to me without my direction or consent.
Think about it. How much of your identity is caught up in who is your family. Someone has well said, “Where you came from determines to a large degree where you are going.” Suppose you were born of a slave. Where would you be today? On the other hand, suppose you grew up a slave and a king found you and loved you and decided to adopt you into his family. What impact would that have?
Galatians 4 is all about just these things. It’s about moving from slavery to freedom by birth, adoption and parenthood. Paul even talks about experiencing birth pains with those he addresses until Christ is formed in you.
Let’s look at this chapter in three sections.
1-11 Redeemed, adopted and inspired, vs enslaved.
12-20 A perplexed Paul’s personal plea.
21-31 In Christ, we are born of a free Mother!
Since this entire chapter has one focus, we will spend the most of our time on this first section.
In these verses there is an interesting parallel painted between the Jewish state under the Law and the Gentile state under idolatry. Look at verses 1-3 and 8-9 once more.
Jewish state before Christ: 1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,
2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.
3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
Gentile state before Christ: 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?
Notice that when Paul describes the slave master of the Jews and again the master for the Gentiles, he uses the same wording: “Elemental things of the world” and “weak and worthless elemental things.” These weak and worthless elemental things he’s talking about are the Jewish Laws and idolatry! He is not saying that the Old Testament is bad, but that since Jesus Christ has come, returning to it FOR SALVATION is paramount to idolatry! It is slavery under a guardian and manager after the Father has removed its authority and given you the inheritance. It is like abandoning the inheritance and seeking to be under them again.
Between these two parallel statements is a powerful statement in verses 4-7 which reminds them and us of our redemption, adoption and the gift of the Spirit within our hearts.
4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
Just look at this and think about the incredible blessings God has given us!
We couldn’t get to him so he came to us! Jesus, the Son of God, born of a woman, born under the Law… Jesus is not a man who somehow became God. Jesus is God who by grace became a man. Jesus is not a King’s Son who lived above the Law. Jesus is the Word of God, the Law giver who came and submitted himself to the Law, living under it faithfully and then paying the price for our breaking it. Jesus redeems us by paying the legal price for us. We receive the adoption as sons of God, Jesus receives the punishment for our sinfulness. As sin offering, Jesus died on the cross. Through his grace, as redeemed, adopted sons of God, we are given the Spirit by which we call on God as “Abba! Father!” Slavery is removed and gone. As sons we are heirs of heaven’s glories through God.