Summary: Paul’s sequence of thought in this sermon may be summarized as follows: "Once we were slaves. Now we are sons. How, then, can we turn back to slavery?"
In the 1998 Disney movie Parent Trap, identical twins who were separated at birth by their parents’ divorce accidentally meet 11 years later at summer camp. Together the twins plan to switch identities, so each can meet the respective parent she’s never known and try to bring their parents together again.
As Annie, who is pretending to be Hallie, disembarks from her plane, her father is waiting for her. Annie is tentative but exuberant as she sees him. After a warm embrace they travel home.
As they drive toward his home, Annie discusses the camp, ending almost all her sentences with the word “Dad.” He asks her, “Why do you keep saying ‘Dad’ at the end of every sentence?”
Annie answers, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing it, Dad. Sorry, Dad.” They both laugh.
“Do you want to know why I keep saying ‘Dad’? The truth?”
The father says, “Because you missed your old man so much, right?”
“Exactly. It’s because in my whole life—I mean, you know, for the past eight weeks—I was never able to say the word ‘Dad.’ Never. Not once. And if you ask me, a dad is an irreplaceable person in a girl’s life. Think about it. There’s a whole day devoted to celebrating fathers. Just imagine someone’s life without a father. Never buying a Father’s Day card. Never sitting on their father’s lap. Or being able to say ‘Hi, Dad,’ or, ‘What’s up, Dad?,’ or, ‘Catch you later, Dad.’ I mean, a baby’s first words are always ‘Dada,’ aren’t they?”
The father asks, “Let me see if I get this. You missed being able to call me ‘Dad’?”
Annie answers, “Yeah, I really have, Dad.”
There is within us a deep desire to have a relationship with our Dads. No one wants to feel like an orphan or an outcast.
In today’s text the apostle Paul teaches us that when we become Christians we receive the gift of sonship. We become sons and daughters of the living God. Let us read Galatians 4:1-11:
"1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
"8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." (Galatians 4:1-11)
My twenty-first birthday was during the summer vacation after my first year at the University of Cape Town. I was home for the summer working as an underground surveyor at—believe it or not—Freddie’s Gold Mine!
On the evening of my birthday my Dad asked me to go and get something out of the garage. I walked into the garage and was surprised by about fifteen friends who had come to celebrate my birthday. It was a great party and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But the party was special for another reason too.
You see, in South Africa we have a custom that I have not observed in this country. We have a semi-formal rite of passage signifying the time a child passes from childhood to adulthood. When a person turns twenty-one we have a somewhat formal recognition that marks that person as an adult.
Actually, even according to South African law at that time, a person was only acknowledge as an adult at the age of twenty-one.
So my twenty-first birthday party was a very special occasion for me because on that day my Dad said to me, “Son, you now have the status of an adult in the eyes of the law. All of the responsibilities and privileges that belong to an adult now belong to you too. Welcome to adulthood!”
In our passage today, the apostle Paul develops the analogy of a child becoming and adult. In fact, he started this analogy back in Galatians 3:23.