Continuing the Galatians series, today in 4:1-11.
Before Christ came, all the elect were waiting. But now He has come! And as our Great High Priest, He has ushered in the New Covenant! From Him we receive. In this section we hear about receiving adoption, and an inheritance.
We have been under guardians and managers, according to verses 1-3; and capable of knowledge only according to the “elemental things of the world” (see also Colossians 2:8). Paul begins with a phrase that invites the Galatians to ponder another word picture, “let me put it this way…” So imagine the spiritual truth, that though you feel you have never been enslaved, or never been shut up under physical guardians, you were spiritually. The heir was no different than a slave. You were trapped in a box, surrounded by worldly wisdom, and encased by laws. There was no door. But Christ came (as discussed last week) and is the door. The Rescuer. The way, the truth, the life!
In the fullness of time
God sent forth His Son! The Word incarnate, capable of living the righteous life required of us, and of suffering the wrath of God on our behalf. In the fullness of time–God working all things together historically, among nations (ahhh, the glory days of the Pax Romana) and creation (fascinating to look back on what scientists believed was happening with weather). God working all things together for the good of those who love Him.
In the fullness of time. When the moment came, that God had prepared, the grace of God appeared (see Titus). His purpose was eternally to redeem His people–so that we would receive adoption. Christ came with Psalm 40:8 in His heart: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Can you imagine the delight He had–not only to please His Father, but to redeem His brethren? To fill His Kingdom? To give us life? To free us?
We are Now Sons
Vs. 6-7 We are justified by faith, receive the Spirit by faith, and are adopted as sons by faith…let us enjoy that pattern, we never need to strive or placate or earn. We call Him Abba, Father, because we are now sons (we’ve discussed earlier why it is a glory to be called sons, not ‘sons and daughters’, read previous Galatians series posts to see those discussions). Here, as in Mark 14:36, both Aramaic and Greek words are used, not signifying the need to call God by a respectful and a slang term (as some teach), but showing that in any language, we call Him Dad, and we are indeed in His Family. We call Him Father. We call Him Padre. We call Him Vater. Either way, we are adopted and no longer estranged. We are no longer servants, but sons. No one is born into the family–Christ took our sins, gave us His righteousness, and we received adoption.
Enslaved to False gods
Vs 8 “When you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.” Scripture teaches us what our false gods have been, many of us can think back and remember. Lies and false ways of living (see John 8:34-35); appetites and desires that control us and are contrary to God’s desires (see Philippians 3:18-19), idols (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 12:2), earthly glory (Jeremiah 2:11)…the list is endless really. We all have our struggles. We were all enslaved by them. We all prefer the mud puddle (thank you C.S. Lewis for the perfect metaphor).
BUT! But now, that you have come to know God. OR. Or rather to be known by God.
He Knows His Own
There will come a day when He says to many who faithfully tried to be good and keep a good checklist running: “depart from Me, I never knew you.” When we are united to Christ we do not fear that day. We are known. We know His delight in us, we have felt His Spirit at work in our hearts (Romans 8 is a great meditation for this assurance). So Paul has to ask the Galatians–now that you are known by Him, why would you ever return to the taskmaster Law? The guardian that kept you shut in to worldly wisdom and away from heavenly knowledge? Why would you settle for common sense mud puddles when Your Father has made you a son, an heir, His beloved?
You think you can observe parts of the Law? Oh really? Is it just a simple ceremony? Just a few days or weeks or yearly observances? If this be the case, if you attempt to add to Christ’s work, then Paul says “he has labored over you in vain.” In vain, to no purpose.
Labor, like a mother birthing a newborn. Pain, agony, love, compassion, hope, a bit more pain. In vain? Have you been born again, dear Galatians? Yes! Now, no turning back. As he taught in Colossians 2, these things have no value against the flesh, and they will enslave you.
The law had its purpose-but is only a shadow of the reality that has come in the fullness of times. Look to the reality for your justification, redemption, and inheritance.