Summary: Standing in the Freedom of the Gospel: Sons and Heirs of God our Father
Standing in the Freedom of the Gospel:
Sons and Heirs of God our Father
There is a deep need and desire in all of us to experience a father’s love. Many of us have had less than perfect fathers which has left of us emotionally and socially wounded. In Galatians 4:1-11 Paul addresses this human need, and the greater need to experience God’s love when he describes us as sons and heirs of God our Father. If you are a woman please do not be offended or feel left out as in the ANE only sons received the family inheritance, not daughters. It begins by describing us as slaves before we come to know Christ, then moves to describes our position as sons and heirs of God in Christ; and finally appeals to us not to go back to the things that enslaved us.
1. Outside of Christ we are Slaves (1-3)
Paul uses an illustration from everyday life as a metaphor for a spiritual truth. He describes an heir who had the rights to the whole estate but only when they came of age. As a minor the heir was under the control, direction, authority, or even worse the tyranny of the guardian or steward. The guardian/steward was the administrator or trustee of the estate and had the final say in matters pertaining to the estate. He concludes that the heir is, for all practical purpose, no different than a slave to those over them.
Then in verse three he applies this metaphor to humanity. In the same way all humanity outside of Christ is enslaved. We (Jewish Christians) were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world (3) but Paul says that Gentiles were enslaved to these same elementary principles also (8-9). He tells us that these elementary principles are demonic (8-10; see also 1 Cor 10:19-22). God gave the law as a gift of grace to Israel to show them their sinfulness and drive them to Christ; Satan twisted the law and drove them to despair and condemnation or deceive themselves into thinking they could earn Gods approval by obeying the law. So both were enslaved by religious practice – Jews enslaved under the law (3:23-24) and Gentiles under pagan religions. Outside of Christ all humanity is trapped, enslaved, under bondage to something or someone and cannot escape. If we escape one form of bondage it will only be for another form of bondage. If we are freed from bad things it will only be to be enslaved to good things. In salvation, God rescues all people – the religious and nonreligious - from enslavement to all the little gods in their lives. But that is not the end of the story for us who know Christ . . . But
2. In Christ we are Sons of the Father (4-7)
Everyone, Jews and Gentile like, is enslaved but when the time was ripe God sent his Son to redeem us from slavery and make us sons and heirs. The fullness of time points to God the Father setting the time to decisively terminate enslavement and make us sons as part of his family, the church (1:1, 3). The word redeem comes from the slave trade where one could buy a slaves freedom with a ransom price. God’s own son paid the price to redeem us from slavery. Redeeming us has a purpose - that we might be adopted as sons, heirs to the inheritance. In the adoption process in the ANE, a son was taken out of one family and placed in another with all the rights and privileges of a biological son. In so doing their old life and obligations were canceled and they received all the benefits of their new life as part of their new family. So Ephesians one says that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, one being God as our Father. We do not deserve God as our Father. He is not obligated to adopt us but he sets his affection on us and does it as an act of free grace. When he adopts us he sends his Spirit into our hearts so that we experience him as our Father. That crying is not so much the cry of a son or daughter and more importantly it is the Spirit crying out, witnessing to our spirit that we are Gods children that we have come home. We no longer have to relate to God as slaves seeking his approval. We can relate to Him as sons who are already accepted and approved by virtue of our position in the family. That position is secured by the work of Christ. We no longer live under the tyranny of the law or religion but under grace.