“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:23-29)
Law and grace are stages in God’s plan of redemption and also stages in a person’s journey to salvation. The law serves as a tutor that leads us to Christ (like a child under a disciplinarian, we are led by the law- Gal. 3:24; Rom. 2:14-16). Then in Christ we become “sons of God” who are personally led by Him – the Triune God (Rom. 8:14-15) and are heirs of all of His blessings. “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:14-15) “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” (Eph. 1:2, 14)
With freedom comes responsibility – A grown child is free from the tutor’s rules (the law) but responsible (able to respond) personally to the Person of God in loving obedience because of the indwelling Spirit. This includes “hearing” God speak to us through His Word and other ways and speaking to God personally and spontaneously (“we cry out, Abba Father”) versus in a formal way, e.g., rotely praying prayers our parents taught us. Paul is urging the Galatian Christians not to go back to being a child slavishly trying to keep the rules to earn God’s acceptance.
Why would the Scriptures use the word “sons” for women? Because in the ancient cultures daughters could not inherit property but in Christ male and female are one and all are legal heirs of God’s blessings. In fact the gospel breaks down all the barriers between Jew and Gentile (racial/cultural), slave and free man (class or social status), and male and female (gender). This means as a believer I, as an American, white male, have more in common with a black, Sudanese woman who is a believer than I do with a white, American male who is not a believer. She and I are eternal brother and sister and we are loved by and love the same Father. Our unity is based on our new identity and far surpasses all earthly “advantages” (race, position, income) which eliminates the biggest barrier of all – human pride. Though we are all one in Christ there are still both natural and spiritual differences and functions. (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Tim. 2:12)
Since we are clothed with Christ, our highest and true identity is given to us (versus earned). Not only does this cover our sins it covers our earthly (prideful) distinctions. His robe of righteousness marks us as ones who are close to Him (as a garment is close to our bodies) and ones who represent Him in our thoughts and actions everywhere we go. We wear His uniform and are on His team. Our new robe of righteousness calls us to a whole new way of life.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal. 4:4-7) Jesus came at the perfect time culturally – the Greek language became the lingua franca for all the Roman empire for communication of the gospel to all; politically – the Pax Romana, an enforced peace to all its subjects, made land and sea travel safe and the Roman roads made it possible; religiously – the worship of the Greek and Roman gods (polytheism) was waning, creating a spiritual vacuum for the One true God, the God of the Jews. And they had built some 150 synagogues to proclaim Him which the church later used to proclaim the gospel. Jesus was “born of woman, born under the law.” Jesus was fully human and as a Man perfectly fulfilled the Law and thus could be the perfect sacrifice for fallen humanity and satisfy God’s perfect justice “to redeem those who were under the law.”
What are the implications of being God’s adopted sons or grown children? What the Son wrought for us on the cross (Gal. 4:5) and revealed to us in God’s Word (objective truth), the Spirit now makes personally known to us (in subjective personal experience). So as His children we read His Word worshipfully (as a love letter from our Father and in submission to our God/King) and the Spirit speaks to us to comfort us and to instruct/direct us. Thus to grow in intimacy with our Lord we must set aside significant time to “hear from God” by reading and meditating on what He is saying presently and personally to us (Heb. 4:12) and “talk to God” as we “cry out” to Papa God in our private times of prayer (Matt. 6:6) expressing our deep emotions of praise, thanksgiving, love, our cares, our fears, our sorrows and our confessions for sinning against the One we love, etc., and then be in conversation with Him throughout the day asking for His help, guidance and power to know and do His will.
In the gospel of John we learn from Jesus as a Man like us how to relate to the Father as a son. 1) Confident in His love (5:20; 15:9-10; 17:23-24); 2) Experiencing His fellowship in good and painful times (8:29; 16:32); 3) Knowing He will honor us as He does His Son as we honor Him (5:22-23; 17:1; 1 Sam. 2:30); 4) Like Jesus bowing to His authority to command our resolute obedience to Him (4:34; 6:38; 17:4); 5) and like Jesus who was perfected through suffering we too as God’s royal sons and daughters can expect God’s loving discipline to fit us for our high calling and destiny as sons and daughters of the King of kings. (Heb. 2:10; 12:5-11)
Questions for reflection and application:
What is the difference between sonship (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:14-15; Gal.3:26) and “earnship” with God?
With freedom comes responsibility. What are the freedoms and responsibilities we have as sons of God versus children/slaves (4:1, 5-11)?
How does Christ’s robe of righteousness influence your identity and the way you relate to others?
What aspects of being an adult son/daughter of God listed above were new to you? Which of these do you feel you are experiencing?
Until He comes,
Len and Kristen
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