Scripture Text – Galatians 4:1-18
He Explains Their Adoption – Continued
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. – Galatians 4:1-7
What God did: redeemed us (verses 4-5). The expression “the fullness of the time” refers to that time when the world was favorably ready for the birth of the Savior. Historians tell us that the old religions were dying; the old philosophies were empty and powerless to change men’s lives. Religious bankruptcy and spiritual hunger were everywhere. God was preparing the world for the arrival of His Son.
Also, from the historical point of view, the Roman Empire itself helped prepare the world for the birth of the Savior. Roads connected city with city, and all cities ultimately led to Rome. Roman laws protected the rights of citizens, and Roman soldiers guarded the peace. Thanks to both the Greek and Roman conquests, Latin and Greek were known across the empire. Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem was not an accident; it was an appointment: Jesus came in “the fullness of the time.” God always has His perfect timing.
Paul is also careful to point out the dual nature of Jesus Christ, that He is both God and man. As God, Jesus “came forth” (John 16:28); but as man, He was “born of a woman.” The ancient promise said that the Redeemer would be of “the woman’s seed” (Genesis 3:15); and Jesus fulfilled that promise (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18–25).
Paul has told us who came—God’s Son; he has told us when He came and how He came. Now he explains why He came: “to redeem those who were under the Law.” Redeem is the same word Paul used earlier (Galatians 3:13); it means “to set free by paying a price.” A man could purchase a slave in any Roman city (there were about 60 million slaves in the empire at that time), either to keep the slave for himself or to set him free. Jesus came to set us free. So, to go back into the Law is to undo the very work that Christ accomplished on the cross. He did not purchase us to make us slaves, but sons! Under the Law, the Jews were mere children under guardianship, but under grace, the believer is a son of God with an adult standing in God’s family.
What we are: sons and heirs (verses 6-7). Once again, the entire Trinity is involved in our spiritual experience: God the Father sent the Son to die for us, and God the Son sent His Spirit to live within us. The contrast here is not between immature children and adult sons, but rather, between servants and sons. Like the Prodigal Son, the Galatians wanted their Father to accept them as servants, when they really were sons (Luke 15:18–19). The contrasts are easy to see. Here’s some examples:
The son has the same nature as the father, but the servant does not. When we trust Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us; and this means we are “partakers of the divine nature.” – 2 Peter 1:4. The Law could never give a person God’s nature within. All it could do was reveal to the person their desperate need for God’s nature. So, when the believer goes back into the Law, they are denying the very divine nature within, and they are giving the old nature (the flesh) opportunity to work in them.
The son has a father, while the servant has a master. No servant could ever say “Father” to his master. When the sinner trusts Christ, they receive the Holy Spirit within, and the Spirit tells them that they are a child of the Father (Romans 8:15–16). It is natural for a baby to cry, but not for a baby to talk to their father. When the Spirit enters the heart, He says, “Abba, Father;” and, in response, the believer cries, “Abba, Father!” (again see Romans 8:15) The word Abba is an Aramaic word that is the equivalent of our English word “papa.” This shows the closeness of the child to the Father. No servant has this, no matter how close they are to their master.
The son obeys out of love, while the servant obeys out of fear. The Spirit works in the heart of the believer to quicken and increase their love for God. “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” – Galatians 5:22. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 5:5. The Judaizers told the Galatians that they would become better Christians by submitting to the Law, but the Law can never produce obedience. Only love can do that. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” – John 14:15.
The son is rich, while the servant is poor. We are both “sons and heirs.” And since we are adopted—placed as adult sons in the family—we may begin drawing on our inheritance right now. God has made available to us the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7; 2:7), the riches of His glory (Philippians 4:19), the riches of His goodness (Romans 2:4), and the riches of His wisdom (Romans 11:33)—and all of the riches of God are found in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:19; 2:3).
The son has a future, while the servant does not. While many kind masters did provide for their slaves in old age, it was not required of them. However, the father always provides for the son (2 Corinthians 12:14).
In one sense, our adoption is not yet final, because we are awaiting the return of Christ and the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). Some scholars think that this second stage in our adoption corresponds to the Roman practice when a man adopted someone outside his family to be his son. First there was a private ceremony at which the son was purchased; then there was a public ceremony at which the adoption was declared openly before the officials.
Christians have experienced the first stage: we have been purchased by Christ and indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are therefore, awaiting the second stage: the public declaration at the return of Christ when we will become like Him (1 John 3:1–3). We are “sons and heirs,” and the best part of our inheritance is still yet to come (see 1 Peter 1:1–5).
To Be Continued