Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 18
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|We’re seeing what happens the moment a person receives Jesus into their hearts. You think about it, you don’t really feel this. You really don’t feel it. You’re not aware of that. You just know your desperation and you cry out to God and there is a change immediately in your heart. But sometimes it takes a while for us to fathom what actually took place the moment we received the Lord Jesus as our personal Savior. How awesome it is to know that we learned in chapter 3, at the very moment of receiving Him, we become sons of God.|
Sons and Heirs
Turn with me to Galatians 4. We’re seeing what happens the moment a person receives Jesus into their hearts. You think about it, you don’t really feel this. You really don’t feel it. You’re not aware of that. You just know your desperation and you cry out to God and there is a change immediately in your heart. But sometimes it takes a while for us to fathom what actually took place the moment we received the Lord Jesus as our personal Savior. How awesome it is to know that we learned in chapter 3, at the very moment of receiving Him, we become sons of God. Look at verse 26: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
At that very moment, when we become sons of God, when we receive Him into our hearts, we are baptized into Christ. We are totally immersed into His power, His passion, His presence, everything about Him. He is in us; we are in Him. We are immediately clothed with the garment of His righteousness. That’s an amazing thing. If you didn’t know it from Scripture you would not perhaps understand that. Paul says in verse 27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” This is what Peter tells us in his epistle. He says we have been given everything for life and for godliness. It’s all in Christ. And it was all received the moment that we were saved.
Just think about it. Believers are instantly one with a huge family that is worldwide. It doesn’t matter what race you are, what color skin you have. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Paul says in verse 28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” and the word “Greek” there refers to all the nations on earth aside from Israel. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Israel, from any nation on this earth, you are one together. You receive the same thing. All of us have become sons. It does not matter if you’re rich or if you’re poor. He says, “There is neither slave nor free man.” What a message to preach to those who don’t have anything physically, but can have everything spiritually. That’s what happens the moment a person receives Jesus Christ.
Not only that, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or if you’re female. It doesn’t matter. A male and a female, they receive the same thing. That’s his point—that we become one. It says, “there is neither male, nor female” and then he says, “for you are all,” whether you are rich, poor, no matter what race you are, no matter whether you are male or female, “you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Paul says in verse 29, “And if you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Now, I love that phrase, “if you belong to Christ.” The moment you receive Jesus into your heart you become His. Does that bless you like it blesses me? We used to sing that little chorus, “I am His and He is mine.” It’s wonderful to know that He is mine, but to realize that I am His, that’s the beauty. We belong to Him. This is what Paul said to the Corinthian church when he says, “You are bought with a price. You are not your own.” Did you think you were your own? Do you think you can live like you want? Oh, no, no; you are His property now and you have the privileges of sonship. I love that phrase.
I am reading a book right now called The Majuba House, written by a friend of ours, Joyce Brogdon. She is in her 70’s, and she sent it to me to preview it. And sometimes if the book doesn’t have a lot of pictures I don’t like to read it. But this is a good book. It was an autobiography really of her life growing up in pre-World War II England, Westhaven, England. She was in an orphanage early on. And then they finally sent her to a family which really made her feel like she belonged. The family’s name was Saunders, and they lived in a place called the Majuba House. One side of the house was a shop, the other side was the home. And it was a beautiful story, a story of a father who took her in as if she were his own daughter, and how he loved her and sat by the fire and tell her stories and just make her feel that sense of belonging. Every day she came home from school—he had been crippled—and she could see him in the window looking for her to come home. And the momma, who would sew her clothes and fix her meals and always made her feel that sense of belonging.
Now that’s where Paul is headed here. We belong to Him. We are sons of God. We are one with the family of God. We are dressed in His robe of righteousness. He says, “If you belong to Him.” Literally it is “if you are Christ’s in a possessive sense.” “If you belong to Him,” he says. And “If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Now, in chapter 3 he talked about inheritance. But in chapter 4 he’s going to talk about being an heir, “heirs according to promise.” To be an heir you have to be a member of the family. Now we have already established that, because the moment you receive Jesus you are sons of God. You are His. You belong to Him. You are in the family. You are not naturally born into that family, you were supernaturally born into that family. But to be an heir you have to be a member of the family.
My momma, when she died—my daddy died when I was 23, in 1966, and my mother died in 1981—when she died she didn’t have very much. We had everything as far as a family would be concerned, in the sense of love and those types of things, but she didn’t have very much to will to her two children. I have a sister who is three years younger than I am. But what we did get we basically used to pay the funeral costs, and that’s kind of the way it was. But there were many things that she had that she gave to us. And I still have them. It’s beautiful to know that you are in the family and that you can inherit from somebody who paid a dear price for you to be born.
It’s a beautiful thing to be an heir, to be an heir. But when you compare that to being an heir of the promise, he says “You are heirs according to the promise.” Now, what he’s doing here is showing you that what was promised to Abraham and to his seed, we become heirs of all of that. We are heirs “according to the promise,” according to all the spiritual blessings that we have in salvation and in Christ. We are heirs according to that.
What was promised to Abraham, if you put it simply, it’s justification by faith, salvation. He was justified by faith that was passed on to his seed; and his seed, as Galatians 3:16 says, was the Lord Jesus Christ. And in salvation comes all the promises of God. We become heirs of all of that. I don’t know if that blesses you, but that really blesses me. I don’t have to ask Him for something that is already mine. I have to learn to say yes to Him so that I can appropriate that in my life. I don’t ask Him for patience; He is patience in my life. I don’t have to ask him for joy; He is the source of my joy. When I bow before Him, when I am willing to live by faith, as we have been seeing all the way through chapter 1 of Galatians, then what happens is I enter in to the joy, I enter in to the fulfillment of the promises that are mine in Christ Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul says it in a very different way, but I think a very powerful way. He says, “For as many as are the promises of God,” and I love that. He doesn’t tell you how many there are, “as many as there are,” I mean, you can’t begin to number them. “In Him” Christ, “the seed promised to Abraham, they are yes,” they are yes, “therefore also through Him, Christ is our amen to the glory of God through us.” I will tell you what, folks, if we just understood this morning who we are and whose we are and what we have in Him, it would just blow us away. But what happened to the Galatians was that they walked away from that beautiful truth.
Now all of this is in direct contrast. Paul has been building his case. He’s like a lawyer in a courtroom. And he’s been putting on one side what the law offered, which is nothing more than condemnation, it can’t produce salvation, can’t give you the Spirit of God. He’s already told us that. It does have a role. But then he puts on the other side what Christ offers us. He in no way is referring here—by the statement that you are heirs according to the promise because you are spiritual descendants of Abraham—he’s not talking about the physical promises given to Abraham. He’s not talking about the land. He’s not talking about the nation. He’s talking about the spiritual things that are promised in Christ Jesus. You see, God sent His Son into this world. The Son of God became the Son of man as we will see in a little bit. And He came through that nation that God had given promise to Abraham. We are on the other side of that. We get to receive the spiritual promises that are ours in Christ Jesus.
Now in chapter 4 Paul wants to illustrate the spiritual immaturity of people like the Galatians who go back up under the old performance mentality of religion, when they would rather live by a set of rules than they would walk in the relationship they could have with the Father. And it’s a beautiful thing he does here. You see, by going back under the law the Galatians not only did a stupid thing; remember the word “foolish” in 3:1, can be translated stupid. It’s an interesting word. And I don’t know about you, but I do stupid things. I don’t do dumb things. I know too much to do dumb things. Dumb things is when you don’t know any better; stupid things is when you know better and you do it anyway. And the Galatians did a stupid thing. Not only did they do a stupid thing by going back up under religion, they did an intensely immature thing. You see, we don’t think about it that way. We think religion is maturity. Oh, no! It’s gross immaturity is what it is, and he’s going to show us that right here. I want you to think about this as you walk through this life, as you choose to do things your way, how immature and childish you have become. When we can walk as the adult sons of God, when we can live in maturity, if we will just simply learn to relate to Him and walk by faith. This is your contrast. This is what Paul is trying to show us.
Well, there are three things here. First of all Paul makes a comparison. And this comparison is awesome. Verse 1: “Now I say, as long as the heir is a child he is not different at all from a slave, although he is owner of everything. But he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.” In verse 3 he says, “So also we.” He’s making a comparison. That “so also we” means he’s taking something from their cultural background that they understand and he’s comparing it with a spiritual truth that he’s trying to teach the Galatian believers. “So also we;” he’s simply explaining again the difference of being under law and being in Christ. In verse 1 he says again, “Now I say as long as the heir is a child he does not differ at all from a slave, although he is owner of everything.” There was at some age in every culture that a young boy became a man. He entered through that rite of passage. And it was a beautiful thing and it was a cultural thing and they understood this language.
For instance, in the Roman world when a ceremony was held for a young lad to become a man, it was called the Toga Virilis, and it was a very special celebration when the young boy was no longer an immature child. He had entered into adulthood. In the Jewish world the same ceremony for young boys was held when they were 12 years old, and it was called the Bar Mitzvah. You already know that because it still goes on even today. The day finally came known as that Bar Mitzvah. It was a day that a young boy would now celebrate his adulthood, his manhood. It was observed on the first Sabbath after his 12th birthday. At that time the boy’s father would pray “Blessed be Thou O God, who hath taken from me the responsibility of this boy.” I love that. The young boy would pray this pray back. “O my God, and God of my father, on this solemn and sacred day which marks my passage from boyhood to manhood, I humbly raise my eyes unto Thee and declare with sincerity and truth that henceforth I will keep Thy commandments and undertake to bear responsibility of my actions towards Thee.”
In Greece, the boy would have to wait until he was 18 years old. At the age of 18 a celebration was held and the boy at that time was called an ephebos. It’s kind of like a young cadet. For the next two years he would have a special responsibility to his family, to his city, to his country. It’s kind of like it is in Switzerland even today. You automatically at a certain time go into the military for two years. It’s not an option of a draft or a volunteer signing up. It’s automatic that every young man does that. His hair would be cut off. I think we have adopted some of that in our military. I remember when I went to military school and they shaved my head to the skin. It would be cut off and then that hair would be taken and given to the god or Greek god Apollo. When the Romans held their ceremonies it was so sad. The children would bring their toys and their dolls. Little boys would bring their toys. The little girls would bring their dolls and they would sacrifice them to the gods and it was symbolic of relinquishing their childhood.
So with this cultural practice in mind they know what he’s talking about immediately. Paul says in verse 1, “As long as the heir is a child.” Now, the word “child” there is nepios. We have seen that in weeks before. It’s the child without any understanding. It’s a baby. It’s somebody that has to be carried around, can’t talk, can’t walk. It’s the word used when Paul was upset with the church of Corinth who had chosen to go back into immaturity and he called them babies in Christ. “You just will not grow up.” That’s the word there. This would be immediately understood in their culture.
Paul adds, “Now as I say, as long as the heir is a child he does not differ at all from a slave, although he is owner of everything.” He doesn’t differ at all from a slave. He is owner of everything. Even though a young boy was going to inherit the whole estate, when he hadn’t gone through the rite of passage, he was no different than a slave. He had to live under the rules that were administered by other people. Paul says in verse 2, “He is under guardians and managers, until the date set by the father.” The term “guardian” was a term that referred to slaves hired by the father to make certain that the children were taken care of, that they got to school on time, that they ate their meals the right way. It is very much like the word “tutors” that we saw in chapter 3. The law became a tutor to lead us to Christ.
Then the word “managers” is the word oikonomos, which was the manager of a household. He’s the guy that made sure everything took place. You eat at this time. You go to bed at this time. You eat this kind of food. You don’t eat that kind of food. You got to school at this time. You do your homework at this time. You dress this way. You wear this. You don’t wear that. And he had to live under that until he went through the rite of passage, then he was an adult. Then he could choose to live a different way. He lived this way until the date that was set by the father. The young boy was under control until a certain day that could only be determined by his father.
Now, this was going on everyday in their culture in Galatia. And Paul wanted to recall them to this practice so he could make his illustration. He lays the principle of the practice of a child becoming an adult. Did you know this? In 1 Corinthians 13:11 the apostle Paul says, “When I was a child I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child. When I became a man I did away with childish things.” And on side he shows you the immaturity of when he was a Pharisee, when he was under religion. And then he brings in his spiritual coming of age and he talks about his salvation.
Well, in verse 3 Paul says, “So also we.” Here comes the connection now. He’s making a comparison. It’s very clear here comes the connection. “So also we, while we were children,” he goes on to say, “we were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.” I don’t know if you have ever thought about it or not, but salvation is releasing you from a bondage. Before we became believers we were held under the elemental things of the world, just like those children that were kept under guardians and managers. Why? Because they were too immature to make their own choices. They had to be told what to do. They had to have a set of rules. It governed their behavior that governed the way that they thought. Now Paul is enlarging on what he has taught in chapter 3. You have to be real careful with this passage. The illustrations that are physical and tangible in Scripture can never fully and adequately explain a spiritual truth. Remember that. Don’t try to read too much into the physical.
Listen to what he says is the spiritual application. Remember back in 3:22 he has already built upon this. He says, “But the Scripture has shut all men up under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.” All Gentiles, all Jews, no matter, Gentiles had their own pagan religion. The Jews had their system, the Mosaic system. But whatever system you were under, he’s going to refer to that and show how immature religion is, no matter what it is in this world, compared to the adult privileges we can have in Christ Jesus by trusting Him by faith.
“So also we,” he says in verse 3, “while we were children were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.” The word “elemental” there is the word stoicheion. Stoicheion means the ABC’s of something. It’s the basic set of rules that determines behavior, and begins to frame conduct and morality. Now what is he referring to? Many people wonder what these ABC’s are. There are a lot of opinions, but I think if you will let Scripture speak for itself, it tells you what it is. ABC, as he speaks of here, is religion of any sort, any form, any shape. Look down in 4:9, and he uses the same term and defines what he’s talking about. He says, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless,” notice how he categorizes them, “elemental things [stoicheion] to which you desire to be enslaved all over again. You observe days and months and seasons and years.” And he goes on to explain.
It’s clear as a bell what he is talking about. Why would you go back up under this old immature system called religion when you can walk in the adult privileges of being a mature son of God? Why is it that you would want to do that? You see, on one side there’s a relationship. On the other side there’s a religion. In the Gentile world religion and philosophy were carefully brought together. And whatever system that was, it had its own set of rules. In the Jewish world it involved a system of rabbinic teaching. Whatever it is, he says, religion of any kind, be it Islam, be it Buddhism, be whatever it is, you put it over here. It’s for the immature that need a set of rules and it doesn’t save you in any way, shape or form.
It has got some good points to it. For instance, religion has helped frame government laws. These people who say the Ten Commandments don’t belong in the courthouse because of some stupid reason they come up with, separation of church and state, they don’t understand that to begin with; if you would just look our laws are framed by the very laws of God. That’s where they come from. That’s what religion is good for if you want to find some good for religion. It’s good for conduct in every culture. It will shape culture. You can go to the darkest part of Africa and they are worshiping something. It might be a stick. It might be a stone. It might be a snake, but they are worshiping it, and that worship determines their behavior and their conduct and it determines their laws. It’s all tied together. It’s inherent within us, however—and this is the problem—that if we obey all those laws of religion that somehow that will justify us and then we can be right with God. That’s the downfall. It can’t work that way. That’s what he is trying to point out.
I wonder how many of you here were members of a church, thought you were saved, until at some point in your walk, in your journey, you finally met Christ and now you look at the difference in your life. I raise my hand first. Is there anybody else that has had that experience? You see, we know exactly what he’s talking about. Religion is for anybody; the weak-minded can go there because it is for the immature. You come of age at salvation and that’s when you put away childish things. That’s when you learn not to walk by your flesh and by your feelings. You learn to walk by faith in the living Lord God and faith in His Word. You trust Him and Him alone. But the Galatians had walked back under that old immaturity.
I will never forget the time it happened in my life. I thought I was saved. I was in the ministry. That’s kind of good, to have saved ministers. But I was in youth work 17 years, thought I was saved. And finally God brought me to the end of myself and I remember bowing before Him and He showed me the ugliness of my flesh and I cried for two hours when I finally saw the difference of being convinced I had sinned and convicted I am a sinner. That’s what he’s talking about. People that are in religion are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. And I guarantee you it’s something that’s for the immature. That’s what Paul is saying. But people that have been born from above, have entered through the rite of passage and walked into adulthood. Now they’ve been taught to walk by faith, stand on what God said and don’t let the feelings get in the way. You just walk saying yes to Him.
Well, salvation is becoming of age spiritually. There comes a time in the comparison here, a date that is set by the father. Boy, I love that. People talk about seekers in our day and time. And I want to tell you something, nowhere in Scripture do you find that. Isaiah said there are none who seeks after God. It’s never the creation seeking after the Creator. It is the Creator seeking after the creation. And He sets the date and the time. He knows that moment and that hour. He already knows that, when we are going to enter into spiritual adulthood, when we are finally born from above. He knows that. We don’t know that. Sometimes it is at six years old; sometimes it is at 60 years old. Who knows? God knows that hour. I remember my brother-in-law who didn’t get saved for years and would laugh at me when I would say the blessing. But he was a very good man, a very moral man. Finally God saved him and you know what he told me? He says, “Wayne, God had a time, God had a time. I didn’t know when that time was.” And he’s as different today as night and day.
It’s beautiful to see the change that comes in somebody’s life. That’s what Paul is saying. There comes a time in everybody’s life. Children are those under religion and under law, but at some time, at a date set by the Father, He finds us and at that moment we receive Jesus into our hearts. We enter the rite of passage. We become sons of God, baptized into His Spirit. We belong to God and that’s when salvation takes place.
But there’s a second thought here. Oh, this gets exciting. Not only is the date set by the father that we enter spiritual adulthood, just like in their culture in a physical sense and a spiritual sense, not only is the date set by the father, but also the time of Jesus who came to this earth, that date was also set by the Father. Many people don’t understand why it took God so long to send Jesus to this earth. And they think it was a knee-jerk reaction to the bad situation on earth or whatever. Oh, no! Time is nothing to God. God is a very purposeful God, and it was at the exact moment in history when Jesus came to this earth. He’s the completion of all that has been promised. He’s going to say in a moment it was “in the fullness of time” that Jesus came.
Do you realize what Paul is doing here? He’s trying to bring the Galatians back to understanding who they are and whose they are, what they have in Christ, to show that even though we have not arrived, we can still walk in the mature privileges of sons. Why would you want to go back and do something so stupid, he tells them, and get back up under a religious system that only pleases the flesh? That’s the comparison he is drawing.
The final point this morning, we have seen the comparison and the connection, the spiritual connection, but I want to show you the completion. When does it all consummate? When did it all finally come together? Well, he says in verses 4-7, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the law in order that He might redeem those who were under the law and that we might receive the adoption as sons. And 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.”
Oh, let’s walk through this very carefully. The sonship that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, which came at the moment of salvation, was only made possible by Jesus coming to this earth. That’s what he’s trying to bring out. Not until then, but it was a fulfilled time. It was at a date that was set by the Father. Even the most righteous of the Old Testament prophets, the ones that trusted and looked forward to the coming of Christ, in Hebrews 11:39 it says, “And all of these having gained approval through their faith did not receive what was promised because God had provided something better for us.”
Now, I want to show you something here. When we choose to do things our own way, when we choose to live out of our feelings, when we choose to live out of our own agenda, we have slapped the prophets right in the face. They didn’t get to live in the day that we are living in. We’re living in the fulfillment of the new covenant. We’re living in a time when we have been made sons of God and we can walk by faith, and that Christ lives within us. And he’s trying to make a comparison here and saying you’re going to go back up under that old religious garbage. Is that what you’re going to do? “But when the fullness of the time came God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” The word “fullness of time” is the word pleroma. Pleroma is the word that means when something has finally been made complete. God had the exact hour. He had the exact date.
I think about the period of time from Malachi to Matthew, 400 years of silence. God withdrew His presence from the temple. He was so upset with the behavior of Israel, and He just withdrew His presence; and for 400 years it is called the period of darkness. And during those 400 years He didn’t break the silence whatsoever. But it says in Hebrews then finally He broke the silence. He spoke in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He broke the darkness. He broke the silence and Jesus was born of a virgin. It was at a specific point in time, in the fullness of time, at the exact moment in time, kind of like an alarm clock that goes off.
I don’t know about you, but every night I set my alarm clock. I don’t like doing that because I don’t like the way it disturbs me in the morning. And I usually set it for 6:30 or 7:00. And I go to sleep and I’m not even aware that that alarm clock is in the world. I’m somewhere in my dreams shooting an elk and I don’t even think about that alarm clock. But I tell you what, when it gets around 7:00 and that thing goes off, man, the first thing I want to do is rip it out of the wall and throw it as far as I can. Why are you making that much noise? Because you set it, Wayne. God set it, and at a certain time it went off. God knew exactly the right moment. He knew when that was going to happen. “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son.”
Now, see, Jesus is that seed promised to Abraham. In Him are all the promises of salvation. And He finally came to this earth, the fullness of time. Since the Babylonian captivity the Jews had turned back to God. They never went back to that idolatry. The pain of disobedience had been too great for the perfect time for Him to come. When Ezra read the law at watergate and the people repented, I mean, it was a tremendous revival that came about. They didn’t have to worry about going back to idolatry again, buddy, they’re not going to do that. The Greek culture had been established by Alexander the Great when Jesus came. Greek was the main language, well, actually the second language of everybody that lived on the face of this earth. Greek is the most exact language that has ever been given in any language. It was the perfect time for Jesus to come. Nobody could misunderstand the things that God wanted to tell them. The Roman Empire had established a peace that allowed people to travel freely on the road so that they could take the message of the gospel here and there and nobody would hinder them. It was at the perfect time that Jesus came. The time was right “when the fullness of time came,” when everything was completed that God needed to complete, “then God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.”
Now that term “born of a woman” is not to point to the fact that He is born of a virgin. Yes He was, but that’s not his point here. What he’s trying to say is He was fully man, and He was fully God. He had to be fully God for the sacrifice to atone for man’s sin. Had He not been fully God then it would have been just a good man that died on the cross. But He also had to be fully man in order to represent all of us, Jew and Gentile. That’s what He came for, to die for our sins. To become our elder brother He had to be born of a woman, so He was born to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
“But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman,” now watch, “born under the law.” The law that held everybody prisoner, He was born under that law, like every other man. And, like every other Jew, He was under obligation to obey and be judged by the conformity, His own conformity to the law that God had given. But unlike every other Jew, He completely satisfied the requirements of the law. He fulfilled every single one of them. He dotted every “i,” He crossed every “t.” Because He lived in perfect obedience, as the God-man He was able to redeem all of us from being shut up under sin, from being in bondage to sin, up under the law.
It says in verse 5, “In order that He might redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons.” And the word for “redeem,” oh, it is such a beautiful word. It is exagorazo. It means to pay a ransom to secure somebody’s freedom. In other words, you can see a person on a slave block and he is chained and he has a big old chain and ball on his foot and he cannot go anywhere. And a man comes along and says, “Wait, whoa, whoa, I want to pay that man’s debt,” and he goes over and unleashes the chains and sets the man free. That’s what He came to do for you and I. His death on the cross atoned for us and set us free. Have you ever thought about that?
There’s a hymn that I learned. It’s “And Can It Be?” Listen to this: “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me who caused His pain, for me who Him to death pursued? Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God should die for me?” And listen to this verse. “Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night Thine eye defused a quickening ray. I awoke the dungeon flame with light my chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth and followed Thee. Amazing love how can it be that Thou my God dost die for me?”
Let me ask you a question: does this motivate you during the week? Do you stop sometime and tears flood your eyes when you realize that Jesus came at the perfect time, that Jesus came to die on the cross to take your sin upon Himself, and then He wants to come to live in you? He set you free from the bondage that all of us have to the law; its condemnation, its control. You know what I think is going on in our generation? We have lost the wonder of our salvation. We have lost the awe. And I tell you more than that, we have lost the joy of our salvation. That’s what’s wrong with us. I will tell you, I have done it myself, just recently. Man, I have had to ask God to bring back the joy of my salvation. I tell you what, being in the pastorate is like being the center of bull’s eye in a target. I don’t know if you ever saw that Far Side cartoon when the deer had that big target on him and said, boy, that’s a bummer of a birthmark, you know. I know exactly what you are talking about. It’s amazing to me how quickly I can get my eyes off of Jesus and I can put my eyes on a circumstance. I can listen to the criticism and not even see what God is doing in the midst of it. And I have to have the joy of my salvation brought back.
What is wrong with us? This is truth. This is truth that ought to literally motivate us until the day Jesus comes back, but we sit and we snore and we look at our watch and we say “Ho hum.” That’s exactly what is wrong with us. That’s what is wrong with the Galatian church. It wasn’t good enough anymore. They wanted to go back to that old system. They liked to be babies again. Let’s go back in the nursery. Let’s play around with our feelings. Let’s just get our way, you know, let’s hold people hostage so we can get our own agenda accomplished. That’s Galatia. And Paul is trying to put up next to it the beauty, the beauty of being a son of the living God, living in the mature privileges of God simply by walking by faith and trusting Him.
The word for redeemed, as we said, means to purchase somebody off the slave block. The word for adoption is a word we have already seen, huiothesia, sonship. It also meant to be brought into a family to which you are not naturally born, to be adopted into a family. Christ came for at least two reason that Paul very clearly states. One, to release us from the law, from the bondage, not just the Ten Commandment, but the whole Mosaic system and all religions no matter what they are. But secondly, to secure for believers the rights of sonship which was promised to Abraham and to his seed. He came to accomplish that, and it is in Christ that we receive it, we receive it by faith. Verse 5 again, “In order that He might redeem those who are under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
When a person puts their faith into Christ Jesus to be their Lord, he is purchased off the slave block of sin and he is immediately made a son of God. He is adopted into the family of God. And verse 6 is going to show us how precious this is. Religion doesn’t offer this; only Christ offers this. “And because you are sons,” he said, “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts,” now look at this, “crying Abba, Father.”
Now, first of all, he clarifies who the Holy Spirit is. He is the Spirit of His Son. It’s interesting to me how many people think you receive the Lord Jesus at salvation, later on you have to get the Holy Spirit. No way, no way! There are not three Gods, it is one God and three Persons. You receive Jesus, He, and His Spirit comes to live in you. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. He is the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9-10 clarify that. It says, “However you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” He calls Him the Spirit of God. He calls Him the Spirit of Christ. He is the Holy Spirit that comes to live in us.
But what is it that the Spirit does in this context? And this is what blesses me. It has taken the whole message to get right here. “And because you are sons, God has sent for the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba, Father.’” One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit of God is to enable the believer to cry out to the Father and to understand the tenderness and sensitivity the Father has to His children. It’s a beautiful picture here. The Spirit enables us to cry out to the Father. “Abba” is the Aramaic word for daddy or papa. It’s that tender little word that a child knows. A child doesn’t have any trouble with this at all. Adults, yes we do. We don’t think of it in that light.
I love it, as a matter of fact, when my son, who is now 30, calls me daddy. He does that every now and then. Sometimes it’s “dad.” That’s kind of hard. But, boy, when he is tender and when he is hurting he calls our house, he says, “Daddy, can I talk to you?” Shew, that grabs my heart. I don’t know about you but that grabs my heart. You know what Paul is saying here? Paul is saying the law, when you fail, will condemn you. You want law? Go ahead, help yourself. But if you want the relationship of walking with maturity in the sonship of God of trusting Him, when you fail God He doesn’t condemn you. He forgives you. Why? Because He went to the cross to pay your sin debt. So when you cry out Abba Father in the midst of your failure, and it’s the most beautiful truth here—and I think he’s trying to begin to plant seeds for the Galatians; they have failed; they have gone back to the law—but if they will run back to the Father, and cry out Abba, Father, He hears their cry.
Paul is saying, “You want religion, is that what you want? You want to throw away the fact that you have an intimacy with the Father? Do you want to throw away the privileges you have as adult sons living in Jesus Christ? You want to stop walking by faith? Would you rather lose the joy of your salvation and go do it yourself? Do you want to go back to the most immature thing you can possibly come up with which is called religion or do you want the maturity of walking in a relationship?” That’s your difference. That’s why some people that are believers don’t have clue what we’re talking about. They are religious and have never been willing to enter the relationship by faith.
Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Him [by faith], so walk ye in Him.” The same way you walk in after you receive Him. There is no difference. This is his point. And in verse 7 he finishes it up, “Therefore you are no longer a slave.” He doesn’t say you are no longer a child. Some people try to use this and say, well, some Christians are children, some Christians are sons. No, that’s not what he’s saying. He says, “you are no longer a slave,” bound to the law, condemned by it. He says, “But you are a son.” And he’s reminding them of who they are. And then he says, “And if a son, then an heir through God.” Do you know how helpful this is in our Christian walk? My daughter has the ability to remind me who I am as much as anybody who lives on the face of this earth. Between my daughter and my wife and the Holy Spirit I’m going to get there. I have to tell them from time to time there is no vacancy in the Trinity. I am sorry, He is not going to. But it is awesome how God uses my daughter and my wife, particularly. That’s what Paul is doing in Galatians. He’s trying to gently remind them of who they are. Stop living as children, he said. Stop living as children and walk in the adult privileges of sonship. But if you get under religion, that’s your flesh. That’s all it is and that’s what he’s warning them against. And the division they brought in the churches in Galatia was incredible and you will see it as it comes up in chapter 5 and in chapter 6. He’s laying his foundation, right here.
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.