God’s children! – Galatians 4:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 7, 2016
What rights do children have? Some would say, “Way too many!” while others would declare, “Not enough!” Yet how the ancient world saw children is quite different from our modern day perception of every child being an “honored child”. This might be kind of shocking to our sensitive ears but children were considered a kind of property and in some cases they were seen only as a means to establish a heritage. By today’s standards and how overprotective some parents are you might say, “We’ve come a long way baby!”
Paul had just gotten through establishing the fact that we “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”. However what did this mean for the Galatian believers and for us today? Some mistakenly think that everyone is a “child of God” simply because they exist and while we are all created in the image of God we are not all children of God. This rather odd idea comes from the movies and TV rather than actual Biblical theology. Do any of you remember the TV show Touched by an Angel? It should have been called Tainted by a Heresy instead because while it was cute it wasn’t biblical in any way shape or form. While we are all created in God’s image we are not all children of God no matter how many soft-spoken grandmother types tell us so. Paul wanted his readers to fully understand what this meant for their lives to be God’s children. Let discover what Paul meant…
In the first two chapters of his letter Paul established the divine origin of his apostleship and his message. Then he turns to the fact that the Law could do nothing for us now that Christ had come. We are saved by faith not works and when we believe we become God’s children and in fact…
I. As God’s children we are no longer illegitimate children! (Vv. 1-3)
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. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.
1. Paul wanted to explain to his readers exactly why the Law of Moses no longer had any effect on our lives and how when we place our faith in Jesus we become God’s children. Since he was speaking about the Law of God he used a legal illustration. He writes, “What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave”. Before any child was of age in the ancient world they were considered completely under the control of their parents and so were seen no more different than “a slave”. Why, because like a slave they had no rights in the ancient world. And “although he owns the whole estate” in that he would inherit everything, he was still seen as a child without any privileges of an adult! In fact Paul goes further and related that “He is subject to guardians and trustees”! Like a slave the child could not make any decision for their own lives. They were constantly watched over, guided by, and “subject to [their] guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.” The parent would establish a will, a contract, a testament securing his heir’s authority and future authority. Paul then brings it back to what this means for us as believers and to where the Galatians were falsely headed by reminding them, “So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.” Most of us and probably most of the Galatians were never Hebrews however they did understand the basic law, “the basic principles of the world”. Until a child came of age as a son, which varied in the Jewish, Greek and Roman societies they had to follow these principles. Under Roman law the age of maturity for a child was set by his father and involved a ceremonial donning of a special toga and his formal acknowledgement as son and heir. But now because of Jesus we become God’s children and heirs by faith in him! Therefore, as God’s children we are no longer illegitimate children!
EXAMPLE: Sometimes adopted children can wonder if they were ever loved by their birth parents. It can be a very real concern for them. In fact some can grow up doubting themselves because they think that there must have been something wrong with them in the first place for their parent to want to give them up. Instead of focusing on the love of the ones who gave up everything to adopt them, they focus on the wrong thing. This can be true in the lives of Christians as well. Far too often folks can focus so much on wondering if they have to do something in order to please God or to be worthy of his love. And God resoundingly tells us by his testimony to us. He loved us so much that he sent us his son that we might become his children! As God’s children we are no longer illegitimate children!
Sadly, sometimes even in the most loving families there can be children who grow up feeling like they do not belong or are lost in the shuffle. When one is adopted usually the adoptive parents desire and desperately want to make the child feel loved and accepted. How wonderful then to know that…
II. As God’s children we receive all the rights of being his child! (Vv. 4-7)
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
1. The answer to any law is to know the law and to have a good advocate or lawyer on your side. The old contract had been fulfilled and now there is a new one being enforced. In fact the old contract expired when the new one was implemented! This is why Paul wrote that “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son”. Just as a human father during Paul’s day chose when his son was ready to receive his full rights and authority as an adult so God chose the time for Jesus to come into the world to transition us from the old law and into being children of God by faith! God’s timing is always perfect! Our advocate has arrived! “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” When we become children of God through our faith in Jesus we receive every good thing God has to offer. That is what grace is all about because we do not deserve any of the inheritance he gives us! Jesus paid the price, he “redeemed” us and made us part of the family! Yet there is more to it than just that, Paul relates that now “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.'” God sent Jesus to be our advocate (lawyer), to pay the price of our redemption, and to give us his Spiritual seal which allows us to see God as our “Abba Father”! Our Papa God! Wow! We have the full rights of being God’s children and enjoy all the benefits of the Holy Spirit living in us! Like a legal document that has been stamped by a special notary we are signed, sealed, and delivered by God because of our faith in his Son! The entire Trinity is at work! Paul relates, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Now I do not know about you but I am excited to receive all I can from God as his child. As God’s children we receive all the rights of being his child!
EXAMPLE: We have no reason to wonder if God loves us or not. We have no reason to ever doubt his devotion to us. We have no reason to ever think we are illegitimate children in any way shape or form. The beautiful wonderful truth is that we are fully adopted into God’s family because of our faith in his Son and we have the living proof of his Sprit living in us! Paul would write the Roman church: “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.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16 NIV) So stop wondering if God loves you, stop living in fear because you are his child, and stop doubting that you are good enough because if you have accepted his Son as your Savior you are his child and as God’s children we receive all the rights of being his child!
As God’s children we are no longer illegitimate children! As God’s children we receive all the rights of being his child! Are you a child of God?
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.