Truth Taught- God takes the initiative at every step to adopt as His children all who believe.
As we begin Chapter 4 today, I want us to see together the wonderful work of adoption that the Godhead has achieved for all who are in Christ. I’d like us to see the amazing riches of our Adoption as sons by and through the work of the blessed Trinity. Here, Paul compares and contrasts life under the Law of God verses life in Christ. One is slavery and the other freedom. Then I want us to see the work that each Person of the Trinity accomplishes in our adoption as sons. Then finally, lets see together the rich blessings we receive as sons.
Galatians 4:1–7 (ESV)
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
1. Life Under the Law: the Child is a Slave (4:1-3)
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
Paul has previously told us that the Law of God served as a prison warden that kept us confined and he also compared it to a schoolmaster or a tutor which also confined and taught us. Specifically, the Law teaches us that we are sinners by schooling us on what God’s requirements and Laws are.
Life before Christ is a life under the condemnation of the Law of God. God tells us by command His minimum requirements and then we experience horrible failure at every turn.
Jesus tells us what God’s requirements are in the midst of His Sermon on the Mount…
Matthew 5:48 (ESV)
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Life before salvation is complete failure to live up to God’s standards. Everything done before salvation is sin; everything is missing the mark and nothing is done for the glory of God.
In Paul’s illustration, now he compares the Law of God to a guardian. Here is the house servant raising the future heir with very strenuous rules and regulations. The child is the future heir but until he has reached the age set by his Father, he much more resembles a slave than a son, even though he is a son.
This young boy is the future heir of a great estate. While he is still a minor, he lives under the tight thumb of the guardian who, at the instruction of the Father is raising the son under tremendous discipline. Because of this discipline he is like a slave even though he is a son.
The son remains under the authority of the guardian until he has reached an appropriate age. This age is determined by his Father.
One ancient will instructed that a guardian or master continue to instruct the son until he reached age 20 then he was to officially become the heir of all the estate. Before he reached that age, he had no legal rights but after, he has the rights of a son who is heir to the family fortune.
3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
Here in verse 3, he now takes his illustration as a minor son, guardian and the Law and tells us that just how that worked, so too God’s Law serves God as our Guardian until we are brought into the family as a son.
God’s Law as our guardian is a very wise servant who teaches us about God, His standards, and our sin. The Law of God when used correctly teaches us our total inability to achieve God’s righteousness. We learn that it’s never two steps forward and one step back but it’s always three steps back. As hard as we may try, while under the Law, we are complete failures.
Here he shows us that as young children who were under the Guardian, we were instructed by basic or elementary principles. For example, children must first learn their ABC’s before they can read. Teaching a child these elementary principles can be like slavery. They really don’t grasp why they need to learn their ABC’s. it’s drudgery for the child and the parent. According to the child, it’s wrote memory with no real purpose. It’s more akin to digging a hole to just fill it in again. This is because they cannot grasp the riches of reading.
It’s the same with anything we learn. If a child is being taught the piano, it’s not much fun at first. However, once they discover that the elementary lessons, when mastered allow the student to begin playing, it is much more enjoyable.
This is the Law of God…it’s the ABC’s and the beginning notes. Once learned then the minor is ready for more.
In the case of salvation, the sinner needs to learn just how very wicked they truly are. Apart from God’s Law, the sinner thinks of himself as a pretty good person. When the plumbline of the Law is held up the sinner begins to see what sin really is and how he does not line up very well. When this happens, the guardian/Law has done his job.
The child is enslaved. He cannot get out from under the hold that the Law has upon him. He is hopeless…then God does something, He sends Christ to free us from the yoke of bondage the Law has on us.
2. The Father’s Initiative: He Sent His Son (4:4)
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
This is one of those highly charged verses we read in Galatians. Notice, it connects us back to Paul illustration of the minor son and the guardian waiting for the appointed time for the son to receive the inheritance. So, to continue Paul’s analogy, this is the fulness of time in which God the Father has set to bring His son into the inheritance.
We read first, 4 But when the fullness of time had come.
The time has been determined by the Father. It was time for the New Covenant to begin and overthrow the Old Covenant. It was time for the guardian to release the son and allow the son to enter into his full inheritance.
God sent forth his Son
We see God’s gracious initiative to send His Son. He sent His Son to seek and save the lost 2000 years ago. He died to save His people.
At the appointed time by the Father He sent His Son into the world. The sending of the Son was the Father’s initiative. He sent His Son into the world.
University professors and Bible commentators at this point like to tell us about all the things that were going on in the world which made it the right time. They tell us about the Roman Roads and how these roads made travel so much better and what a time to send Jesus and that the Gospel could go forth so much better because of Rome. They tell us that Rome even had a postal service during the time of Jesus and on they go. These are all good things but Jesus was not sent because Rome had roads.
Jesus was sent by the Father because it was the predetermined time. God didn’t send Jesus because Rome had roads and He could travel easier, Rome had roads because God sent His Son. The time was right and it was determined by God. 4 But when the fullness of time had come. There was an eternal timer that went off…when time was completed then God sent His Son.
born of woman
Why does Paul mention that Jesus was born of a woman? Here he highlights the fact that Jesus was born so to emphasize His humanity. This is not the place to teach about the Virgin Birth of Jesus. We believe that of course but Paul is not highlighting that here. He is setting the stage in order than we see something.
He wants to show us that He was like us in our humanity except for sin. In the fulness of time God caused the eternal Son of God to be incarnate, to take on flesh to accomplish perfect Law-keeping for us. He had to be human in order to keep the Law for humans.
Born of woman also means He was a human with human frailty. Jesus was no spirit or mystic apparition. He was fully God and fully human. In His humanity, He would suffer.
If Jesus was to be the Savior, He had to have a human body like ours. He had to be able to experience weaknesses like us. He had to succeed in Law-Keeping as a human in order for God to apply His Law-Keeping to humans.
Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
born under the law,
Why does Paul mention that Jesus was born under the Law? Jesus was born under the Old Covenant. He was under the authority of the Guardian, the Law of God. He had to be born under the Law if He was to save us from the sin of not abiding by all this written in the Law of God.
While He was born under the Law, He was not enslaved by the Law but He kept it perfectly. He was under the Law but never under sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
It took the perfect sinless human/divine Savior to break us free from the curse the Law had on us.
3. The Son of God Redeems God’s Children (4:5)
5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Jesus was born of woman and born under the Law so that He could redeem us… who were under the law.
The Son of God became human and was placed under the Law of God in order to redeem those who were also under the Law so that we might become God’s sons.
One liberal commentator believes that Jesus was born under the Law in order to teach us how to live. It is of course true that Jesus does teach us how to live but that is not what Paul is teaching us. To think that Jesus is just teaching us how to live is to miss the point of the entire Book of Galatians…we can’t live like Jesus because we are sinners!! Jesus is not out to teach us ethics here, He’s out to redeem us!
Galatians 3:13–14 (ESV)
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
We must realize that God did not send His Son in hope that He might redeem His people but He sent His Son to redeem all God’s people. The word redemption goes back to the Exodus when God brought His people from slavery with an outstretched arm. When God sent Moses there was no doubt that the Hebrews were coming out of Egypt.
When God sent His Son to redeem His New Covenant people and bring them out of their slavery to sin, there was never any doubt that Jesus would succeed.
Jesus came to live out the Law for us and to die for us and to apply His perfect Law keeping to us therefore redeeming us from the curse of not keeping the Law. The result?
When He dies for our sin (our sin before God is removed) and when He imputes His righteousness/Law-Keeping to us (we gain righteousness) then we are redeemed by faith in all Christ did for us. To be redeemed is to also have something else happen to us…
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
By faith we are made sons of God. By faith we are adopted as full sons.
God sent His Son to Redeem us…
4. God Sends the Holy Spirit to Apply Redemption (4:6-7)
6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
When we become sons of God, we have the Holy Spirit given to us. He applies all that Jesus earned for us. We are sealed with the Spirit and the result is God becomes our Father. The Apostle gives us the endearing title of Father. Whether you were a Jew, ABBA was the term for Father or whether you’re a Gentile Father both are brought into a close relationship with God as daddy or Father.
The Holy Spirit being given to us not only makes God our Father but makes Him the One we turn to when we need help. Before the God of the Law was the God who executed the curse with wrath and judgement. Now, through Christ He is our loving Father that we go to in times of trouble. That’s why Paul writes… God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
There are times when we are so in need of our Father’s help that we cry out for Him. This word translated cry out is the same word used when Jesus also cried out for His Father when He hung on the cross. In that moment the Father did not come running to help but in order for us to have a Father who cares and helps, Jesus was forsaken.
What is the great conclusion?
7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
What a mountain of blessings the Triune God has built for us. If you’re in Christ you are no longer a slave living under the Law but a son adopted and placed into God’s family. Because you’re a son, you have everything your elder Brother has. You too have an inheritance. Christ has taken us from slaves to sons.
No longer are you held as a slave by the Law. No longer are you kept in prison waiting in hopelessness. No longer are you a minor under the authority of a guardian. All who believe and are in Christ we are all sons of God crying ABBA. God is now your Father. He is your Father. You are an heir because you have gone from a slave with nothing to an heir with everything!
All this comes from Christ.
Praise God for His perfect plan to save His people from their sin, to adopt them into His family and to give us an inheritance that will not fade away.
Galatians by Timothy George
Galatians by Barnes