No Longer Slaves, but Sons (Galatians Sermon 11 of 26)
February 02, 2014 | Andy Davis
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Galatians 4:1-11, and how God frees people from the slavery of sin.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
One of the most powerful Christian novels of all time, historical novels, and probably one of my favorite movies of all time is Ben-Hur. It was written by a former Civil War general, named Lew Wallace, who was a strong believer in Christ. It's an amazing story of a Jewish nobleman, a wealthy Jewish man, who was wrongly condemned for attacking the Governor of Judea by a boyhood friend, a Roman friend named Messala, who had become a passionate convert to the Roman Empire and was zealous for the glory of the Roman Empire. And it led him falsely to accuse his boyhood friend. And for three years, Judah Ben-Hur was enslaved. He was in chains, as a galley slave, rowing on a Roman warship. And you have this picture in your mind's eye of what that bondage was like, what that slavery was like. A chain around his ankle and the lash of the taskmaster on his back or on the backs of the other slaves, if they needed to row faster and they weren't doing what the master wanted done.
And in the story, Judah Ben-Hur comes to save the life of his Roman commander, Quintus Arrias, a Roman tribune named Quintus Arrias, very powerful man. And in the course of events, this Roman man is so filled with love for Judah Ben-Hur, that he comes to adopt him legally as his son, as his heir. In the novel, General Wallace writes these words. These are the words of Quintus Arrias. He's speaking to his friends about this Jewish man. He said, "Good friends, this man is now my son and my heir. Who as he is to take my property, if it be the will of the Gods that I shall leave any, shall be known to you by my name. I pray you all to love him as you love me."
Now, this story may have struck many at that time as preposterous. How could a high-ranking Roman official ever adopt a Jewish slave to be his heir and his son? But General Wallace was a genuine Christian and he understood the Gospel. And he knew that something far more amazing than that, far more preposterous happens every time an individual sinner is brought to faith in Christ. Something far more amazing than that, and what is that? That the holy God of the universe, who can't even look at sin because his eyes are so holy. This holy God adopts sinners who were rebels, fighting against him, adopts them to be his sons and daughters, and makes us heirs with his only begotten Son. Heirs of the universe that he is going to make for us. That's even more amazing than anything General Wallace wrote in the novel Ben-Hur.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of our salvation is our adoption. It's really amazing. It was JI Packer that summed up the Christian message in these very brief words, "Adoption through propitiation." By the blood sacrifice of Jesus, the wrath of God is turned away. We are reconciled through that propitiation work and we are adopted into the family of God. And it is astonishing. We get to study that today. I mean, there's no better way we can spend our time, Amen? I think this message has the power to make you Christians far happier than you were when you walked in here. Amen? And even better, it has the power to make any of you who are presently outside the Gospel, who are living in darkness, who are living in bondage, to set you free, as well. And you can walk out of this room, every bit as adopted, and every bit as much an heir as a Christian has been so for 50 years, when they walked in here today.
I. From Enslaved Childhood to Free Maturity (verses 1-3)
So let's get to it, shall we? Enough of the introduction. Probably should have just jumped right in, but I like these kind of stories. I think they set up the issue very, very well. We're looking here in verses 1-3, in Galatians 4:1-3, of a movement from enslaved childhood to free maturity. Look at the verses. He says, "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." So, we've got a train of thought here. We're jumping in the midst of a flow of thought. Sometimes, the chapter divisions break things up a little bit more than they should be broken up. But we're in the middle of a train of thought here.
Verse 1, "What I'm saying is... " Paul says, or to kind of unfold this thought a little bit more. So, we want to go back to Galatians 3:23-29, which I think in many ways was the climax of a lot of Paul's reasoning or train of thought. Again, to step back and look at what's going on. The Apostle Paul was a trailblazing, church-planning missionary. He was the Apostle to the Gentiles. He came to this region in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And many Gentiles, many pagans came to faith in Christ and became Christians as a result, then he left. And after he left, some other false teachers came along. Jewish people, who claimed to believe in Jesus, but also said that these Gentiles had to be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses, in order to fully and finally to be saved. They were called by many, not in the text, but they were called Judaizers, they were false teachers.
And so, Paul is reasoning against that, and he says that the Gentiles, these Galatians, the moment they heard the Gospel and believed it, they were justified by faith in Christ, all of their sins were forgiven. And they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they were adopted as sons and daughters of God, they became sons of God. And they received the spirit who cries out, "Abba, Father." We see that in Galatians 3:26, he says, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." Simple and clear declaration. And then, in verse 29, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs, according to the promise." Now, Paul talks about it in both passages, the last one and this one, a time of confinement before the time of freedom. So we're moving from confinement or somewhat bondage, to a time of freedom. Both of these scriptures, these sections talk about it. Both passages speak of a guardianship that has now ended, both passages speak of a transition, so that we're no longer under that confinement. Both passages speak of our status as sons of God, no longer slaves. Both passages call us heirs, standing ready to receive a vast inheritance.
So in effect, he's repeating these same themes, he's going at it again. Why does he repeat it? Well, he wants to emphasize it, he wants to help these Gentile believers in Christ to realize their freedom and their status as children of God, and that they would not submit to a yoke of bondage. And he wants to do it because it's evident that they've relapsed into their old way of thinking, when they should be living a whole new kind of life as adopted children of God. Instead, they're thinking like slaves again, and they seem to be bound in servitude to a pattern of relating to God and he wants to set them free. He yearns for them to understand their status as adopted children of God and to live out that freedom in holy lives that honor God. And so, he begins with this image of a movement from childhood to maturity. Every culture has rites of passage, in which sons become men. The time of childhood has ended, now it's time of adulthood. And so, this movement from childhood to adulthood is what was well understood in those days. And also, the movement of liberation, from being in bondage to being set free, and you become a freedman, you're no longer a slave, that was understood as well.
So first, this movement from childhood to adulthood. Look at verses 1-2, "What I'm saying is that, as long as the heir is a child, he's no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. And he is subject to guardians and trustees, until the time set by his father." Now, again, we have to look at this in terms of the big picture of Israel as God's people, the Jewish nation. And he's trying to answer the question, "What then is the purpose of the Law? Why did the Law of Moses come? If it's not meant for our salvation, if it's not meant to be the ladder by which we climb up to heaven by our good works, if that's not what it was for, then what was it for?" And he's going to answer it, both in terms of the nation as a whole, and in terms of individual sinners. So why did God give the Law, only to repeal it later? Now, these are very important questions. It was God who said, "You must circumcise your sons on the eighth day." You can read chapter and verse, it's very clear and there's indications there because Moses hadn't circumcised his sons, that God was ready to kill him. It's a whole other passage. But God was serious, this was something he commanded, if you disobeyed, you were cut off from your people. This was a serious thing. Why did God put it in, only to take it off later?
The same thing with the dietary regulations. Why would he make it very clear what they could and couldn't eat, if later all foods were going to be declared clean, why? Why would God have all these ceremonies and special days and months and seasons and years and a whole calendar of religious observances if he's only going to take it off later? Why even do it at all? And so, Paul reverts to this image of childhood and then a movement to maturity, to adulthood. The Jewish nation was in some metaphorical sense the son of God, a child of God. God told Moses to say to Pharaoh these words, Exodus 4, "This is what the Lord says, Israel is my firstborn son. And I told you, let my son go, that he may worship me." So that's a clear statement. He sees that metaphorical connection between himself and the nation as a whole, "Israel is my firstborn son." Then, in Deuteronomy 1, Moses talking to the Jews, says about their experience for 40 years out in the desert and how God had cared for them. He said, "You saw how the Lord your God carried you as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place." And then in Hosea 11:1 it says, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt, I called My son."
So, for an extended period of time, the Jewish nation was held under guardianship to the Law, that's what Paul's saying. The nation was subject to guardians and trustees, to these precepts and laws, and rules. And they had to obey these laws and regulations, and strictures and precepts, like circumcision, the dietary regulations, and the ceremonial rhythm of the calendar and all that. And yet, the whole time, the Jewish nation was seen by God in the big picture to be Abraham's seed and heirs, according to the promise, and that someday, they will come into their full maturity. Now, in many ways, Paul says, the child in a wealthy home, picture this child in a wealthy home, little different than a slave in that home. Some of you children are saying, "Amen. That's exactly how it is." I've been saying that and you're just not listening. We're just like slaves around here. But that's a different topic, different message. That's not what I'm talking about here. But in many ways, that's how it is. The child has to obey the laws, and the rules, and the regulations of the household, or there's going to be consequences, there's going to be punishments to come. The child is not free to walk away, child's not free to do as he or she pleases, child's a little different than a slave, though someday, Paul says, "They're going to come into the whole estate."
And so, also the descendants of Abraham, the Jewish nation, would someday inherit not only that patch of promised land, but as we've seen in Romans 4:13, "It was through a promise that Abraham received the news that he would be heir of the world." And how awesome is that? So, the status of the Jewish nation under the law was temporary, like that of a child who has to come to his maturity. They were schooled by the constant demands of the Law. Charles Spurgeon put it this way, "The Jewish nation of old was under the yolk of the Law. Its sacrifices were continual. Its ceremonies were endless. New moons and feasts must be kept. Jubilees must be observed. Pilgrimages must be made. In fact, the yoke was too heavy, heavy for feeble flesh to bear. The law followed the Israelite into every corner and dealt with him upon every point of his life. It had to do with his garments, it had to do with his meat, his drink, his bed, his board, everything about him. It treated him like a boy at school who has a rule for everything. Now that faith has come, we are full-grown sons, and therefore, we are free from the meticulous rules which govern the school of the child." I bet you're wishing he would just come preach a sermon and not me, right? Isn't that powerful? But Spurgeon really just makes it clear, when the heir gets to the set age, he then comes into the full status in the household, and that's a picture of salvation in Christ.
The status of the Jewish nation under the law was temporary, like that of a child who has to come to his maturity. They were schooled by the constant demands of the Law."
Look at verses 4-5, "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." So those under the law, at that time, were Jews, and not Gentiles. But they were locked up under the guardianship of the Law, until Jesus had made his entry into the world. Now, the same image is applied to individual Christians, as well. There's a sense of confinement, a sense of bondage under the Law, under the lash of the Law, your conscience accusing you, all of that, until you come to the freedom of faith in Christ. Same thing for the individual.
II. From Slavery to Adoption (verses 3-8)
So let's go to the next section of the sermon, verses 3-8 "From slavery to adoption." The fact of our slavery is established in verse 3, "So also, when we were children, we were in slavery, [he says] under the basic principles of the world." Then, he gives us the good news of our redemption by Christ. Verse 4-5 say, "When the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the Law, [verse five] to redeem those under the Law." Just like Daniel was saying about the ransom, a price paid, we're set free, not slaves anymore. Redemption through His blood, to redeem those under the Law that we might receive the full rights of sons, and then, the declaration of our status as sons. Look at verse 7, "So you are no longer a slave, but a son. And since you are a son, God has also made you an heir." Isn't that beautiful? Look at verse 7. Verse 7 has the power to give you joy in any and every circumstance of your life. You are now a child of God. So look at the facts of our slavery. Paul puts all Christians in one analogy, in verse 3, "So, too, when we were children, we were in slavery," he says, "under the basic principles of the world." The essence of slavery is bondage. No freedom, no way out. Sense of domination, especially if the master is cruel, but to what were we bound?
Paul says, in verse 3, "We are in slavery under the [NIV gives us] basic principles of the world." Basic principles of the world. ESV has, "elementary principles of the world." The Holman translation has, "elemental forces of the world." Clearly, this is an interesting idea. It's an interesting word. He's going to mention it again in verses 8-9. Look down at verses 8-9, "But in the past, when you didn't know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not God's. But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces?" Same word, see that? Do you want to be enslaved by them all over again?
Now, the word is a very interesting word. I don't usually pronounce Greek words here. I'm not trying, in any way, to impress you with my Greek knowledge. Just a few minutes with me and you won't be impressed. But 'stoicheia' is the word. Now, my parents are both chemists, and I learned that there's something in chemistry called 'stoichiometry.' You don't need to know this, there's not going to be any quiz, it's not on the final. But what it is, is it's a process by which chemists can figure out what elements are in a chemical, in a compound. Stoichiometry. They're able to break it apart into its elemental parts. What does Paul mean, though, by this word? Well, in Paul's day, it could either refer to the fundamental components of the universe, what we would call atoms, so the basic building blocks from which everything is made. They had elements like air, earth, fire, water, but we have the elements in the periodic table, basic elements. Or the word could refer to essential principles of some area of study, like the ABCs in a primer, like the kind of elemental lessons, the things you learn when you're just a little kid, beginning something that you're studying, like basic piano skills or something like that. Or it could refer to invisible spiritual beings, what we would call demons. All three of those are really actually very interesting, and the scholars go on and on about what they think it is. But Paul says, in any case, we were enslaved to those elemental things, whatever they were. We're enslaved by them. It could mean that then, before faith in Christ, the Galatians were all enslaved to the basic forces of the universe, the basic laws of morality they could never keep, and the demonic forces that rule the world of the unregenerate. So if the basic principles of morality are in mind, they were a cruel master, in that they could only bring death. Jews, under the Law, or moral Gentiles under their conscience, and under their sense of right and wrong. Either way, it was a form of bondage. If the elemental forces of the world were demons, they were malicious and vicious, and wanted to enslave and to beat people up because they're murderers and they hate human beings.
"Galatians were all enslaved to the basic forces of the universe, the basic laws of morality they could never keep, and the demonic forces that rule the world of the unregenerate."
Now, the slavery analogy is very powerful. Apart from Christ, every single person, every sinner, is a slave. Jesus said in John 8:34, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin." In bondage to sin. And you heard Daniel read Ephesians 2:1-3, powerful words, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live, when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
Jesus likened Satan to, in Luke 11, a strongman fully armed who guards his possessions carefully. Well, his possessions are people. People in bondage, people in a house of slavery, and he's standing like a strongman at the door and he won't let anyone get in. Jesus says, "If I want to rescue them, I have to overcome him. I have to overwhelm him and strip him of his armor and subdue him and then, I can rescue you." And that's exactly what he said, I am doing by driving out demons. Powerful image there. Jesus, it says, in Matthew 9:36, "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Harassed by demonic assaults, helpless to get out." It says in Romans 5:6 that we were powerless, at the right time when we were powerless, Christ delivered us. We were powerless to set ourselves free, that's the essence of our slavery. And even worse, we were in bondage to death. We were en route to death, judgement, hell. It says in Romans 5:21 that “sin reigned in death.” Paul there personifies sin and makes sin sit like a vicious tyrant on a throne, the throne of death, and we couldn't get out, could not set ourselves free.
We were all slaves before faith came, before Christ came, our condition was desperate. No matter how we understand this word, 'stoicheia,' this elemental forces, we come up losers. We couldn't even keep the most basic moral principles you learn from your mommy when you're little, be good, do good, think good, things like that. ABCs, be generous, treat others well, don't hurt people. I mean, just the basic lisping principles of morality, we couldn't keep them. And we were afflicted by the basic human drives of human existence. We were enslaved to our stomachs. We couldn't get out, the drive for food, the drive for love, the drive for significance, all of these things, and pleasure, we're enslaved to them. And though we couldn't see this, and an atheist would never acknowledge it, etcetera, but we were enslaved to demonic forces. We had demons that were inflicting us and harassing us and crafting special temptations for us, and flogging us. Couldn't see it, but it was true. We were enslaved to sin and Satan and death and there was not a thing we could do about it.
III. Christ Redeemed Us From Slavery (verses 4-5)
But Christ redeemed us from slavery. Amen? How sweet is that? Look at verses 4-5, "When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." In the fullness of time, God had a perfect timetable. Isn't that beautiful, how God has worked everything out so carefully before the foundation of the world and orchestrated a timetable? I believe he did that for all of human history and he did it for your life, as well. You came to Christ at the perfect time, in the fullness of time. And so also, Jesus entered the world in the fullness of time, at the perfect time.
Now, why was that the perfect time? Well, John Calvin says don't speculate, it's none of your business. That's kind of the way he is. He just hates speculation. It doesn't say why it was the fullness of time, the perfect time, it just was. John MacArthur said it was perfect for four different reasons. Either way, I think it's interesting to look into, so with apologies to Calvin, we're going to go ahead and look at why was it the fullness of time? Well, it was the perfect time religiously because the Jewish diaspora had already happened. The Jews were scattered all over the Roman Empire. And they'd spread the idea of monotheism, and they had set up the laws of Moses that were read in the synagogues on the Sabbath every week and that was already infiltrating and there many Gentile converts to Judaism and they were aware, so it was the perfect time religiously. But the Jews had come back from dominion under Gentile power and they were still under the Roman boot and so, it was just perfect for a delivery to come, it was just the right time culturally because Alexander the Great had swept through, with his zeal for Hellenism, his zeal for Greece and everyone pretty much in that region spoke Greek. And so, as a result of that, there was a unified language. The Romans spoke Greek and the Jews spoke Greek and it was the common language and so that really facilitated the preaching of the Gospel. It was the right time politically because the Pax Romana had subdued that whole area, made travel easier, there were the Roman roads and it was just a great time for travel and for moving out.
I don't know, all I know is that's when Jesus was born and God thought that was the perfect time! God is the Alpha and the Omega, he is the first and the last. He is the beginning and the end and everything's been sequenced, down to the atom, every moment. He knows exactly the right time for everything, perfect time. God sent forth his Son. The exact same verb he's going to use to talk about the Spirit, isn't that awesome? God the Father sent forth Jesus, and God the Father sent forth the Spirit to achieve the ends of the sermon, that you would be liberated from bondage and adopted as his sons. This is God the Father doing this and he sent forth his Son into the world, as an ambassador. The idea here is of a missionary or emissary or an ambassador. Jesus was a heavenly missionary sent from heaven to Earth, a heavenly ambassador from the heavenly country, down to this rebellious land, and he came. God sent his only begotten Son into the world to save the world from sin, says in John 3:17, "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world would be saved through Him." And it says he was born of a woman, marvelous phrase. At Christmas time, we celebrate this, but we can celebrate this year-round, amen? I had the thought that I might line up my sermons with Christmas, but we're what, we're five, six, seven weeks off, sorry. I just love the details, there was no chance we're going to preach this at Christmas time, but here we are, we can still think about it, can't we? We celebrate the incarnation of Jesus, the mystery of the God man, fully God, fully human, born of a woman.
"God the Father sent forth Jesus, and God the Father sent forth the Spirit ... that you would be liberated from bondage and adopted as His sons."
The deity of Christ, very plain, the humanity of Christ, also very plain. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God." And verse 14, "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen His glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." The incarnation, focus here, is specifically on Jesus born of a woman, and I think that must hearken back to the first prophecy about Jesus, back in the Garden of Eden, you remember? How the serpent came with his subtlety and guile and approached the woman, Eve, and deceived her and led her into sin, and she gave some fruit to her husband, who is with her, and he ate and then God comes in judgment to deal with the situation? And as he deals with the serpent, as he deals with the snake, who we know is Satan, he's taken on this deceptive guise, as he always does, God judged the serpent directly. To some degree, the serpent had made kind of a deal with the woman, kind of a pact. And God came and severed it in a beautiful way. He says, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head and you will bruise his heel." It's a clear prophecy for us of Christ, isn't it?
Jesus is the seed of the woman and it's very unique because of the special movement of the Holy Spirit on her body, so that there was no human father and this is the mystery of the incarnation. Mary wrestled with it first, really. When the angel told her what was going to happen, the angel said in Luke 1:30-35, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God, you will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the most high." There's the deity of Christ. "The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David," that's the humanity of Christ, "and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, His kingdom will never end. 'How will this be?' Mary asked the Angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you, so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'" So Jesus was born of a woman specifically because he had no human father. There was no human father in this amazing conception of Jesus, but Mary was fully human and so Jesus has connection to the genealogy of David, his father, as he was called Son of David, was through her, he was born of a woman. It also says he was born under the Law and how beautiful is this?
Jesus came from absolute freedom on the throne of the universe and put his neck under the yoke of the Mosaic Law. It's just amazing to think of the humility, the condescension of Jesus to do that. He was under the yoke, it was said a yoke that neither we nor our fathers are able to bear. Jesus, this mighty Samson, really comes and he can bear it. This moral Samson, this powerful ruler, who comes and puts his neck under the meticulous precepts of the Law of Moses and fully obeys it, perfectly obeys it. He was completely obedient to the Law of Moses. Now, in many ways, Jesus is the only one that really perfectly fulfills the words that Paul gave us at the beginning of this text. Look again, verse one and two, this is really of Jesus, I think. "What I am saying is that as long as the heir," read Jesus as the heir, "as long as the heir is a child, He's no different than a slave, although He owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees, until the time set by His father." Isn't that true of Jesus? Jesus is the heir of the world, He's the heir of the universe, Son of God, but he submitted to his parents, right? Submitted to Joseph and Mary, didn't he submit to them? Says he was submissive to them, in Luke 2. He obeyed all of the laws, submitted to that. He was under guardianship until the right time, perfectly law-abiding. Jesus alone, fulfilled his own summary of the Law. Remember that, the twofold summary?
"Jesus came from absolute freedom on the throne of the universe and put his neck under the yoke of the Mosaic Law. It's just amazing to think of the humility, the condescension of Jesus to do that."
The first and greatest Commandment of the Law is this, "You should love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength." Only one man has ever done that. Jesus obeyed that. He loved God every moment of his life, with every fiber of his being. And the second is like it, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The cross, really, is the measurement of Jesus's love for his neighbor. He was willing to die for us. Perfectly, day by day, healing infirmities, feeding the hungry, counseling those that needed wisdom. Jesus loved His neighbor perfectly, He was submissive to that. He actually obeyed all of it, every minute detail. Those are just the summaries.
He obeyed it all, all the 10 Commandments, perfectly obeyed. Some scholars have counted 613 commandments given in the Mosaic covenant, he obeyed them all. All of them. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:17-18, "Do not think that I've come to abolish the Law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until Heaven and Earth pass away, not the smallest jot or tiniest tittle, the little pen stroke of the Law will pass away, until everything has been fulfilled." Jesus was under every jot and tittle, every little minute, meticulous law. And Jesus's perfect obedience to the Law won a righteousness in the sight of God, that He then offers you as a gift. Isn't that awesome?
His active obedience to the Law for those 30 plus years that he lived under the Law, wove a garment, everyday that he lived under the Law of Moses, another thread in the loom of a beautiful, radiant garment and he just hands it to you in the Gospel and says, "Here, put this on. You're going to need this on Judgment Day. So put it on and I will see you. God, the Father, will see you as perfectly righteous in me." We are not saved, except by the active obedience of Christ, under the Law, day by day, plus the passive obedience of Christ to take the curse of the Law on himself. Both of those are essential to our salvation.
Tim Keller beautifully put it this way, "Jesus lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died." It's beautiful, isn't it? To redeem, it says, those under the law. The word 'redeem' here fits this context perfectly. We were bought out by the payment of a price. Says in 1 Corinthian 6:19-20, "You are not your own, you were bought at a price." It is so vital for us to remember that. We don't own ourselves. Jesus shed his blood, says in Ephesians 1:7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." So by Christ death, the Law no longer has any claim on us, in that sense. The Law does not stand over us any longer to condemn us to hell.
We are free from the accusations and the condemnation of the Law through Jesus. Roman 6:14 also says, We are not under sin at all. "Sin shall not be your master because you are not under Law, but under grace." It's a whole different way to live now, we are free. We're not under what once bound us, we are redeemed from tyrannical masters. We are set free. But free to what? Free to what? Free from the Law and all that, now what? We're on our own? Think about how it was with the slaves here in America. After the war was over, millions of them instantly set free. For what though? Some of them had nowhere to go. Some of them actually stayed in the same plantation and worked in much the same way because they had no other... Now, they had to be paid. But they just didn't... Into what kind of life were they being freed? Now, definitely, it was superior to slavery, but there's a question.
IV. The Full Rights of Adoption (verses 5-7)
The text says we are not merely set free, we are also adopted by our Father, who will now take care of us and provide for us and protect us the rest of our lives. We have been adopted, not just set free, not just emancipated. And so we have verses 5-7, the full rights of adoption, "To redeem those under the Law that we might receive the full rights of sons, and because you are sons, God sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts, the spirit who cries 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." This is the most astonishing aspect of our privileges in Christ, we are adopted, adopted sons and daughters.
Now, our status as sons and daughters is not by nature, but by grace. You could say, in one sense, there's only one natural Son of God, what we call only begotten Son of God, and that's Jesus. Forever, there'll be an essential and infinite difference between Jesus and us, in that sense. He is the only one of his kind, only begotten. The Son, Jesus, is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, that's what Jesus is. We are adopted by grace, what was our nature? Well, you know what our nature was. How about this? Titus 3:3, "At one time, we too are foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envied being hated and hating one another." That was our nature.
Contrary to our nature, by grace alone, we are adopted now, as sons and daughters of the living God. This is a supernatural work, something only God could do. We are born of the spirit. It says in John 1:12-13, "as many as received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. Children born not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of human nature, the will of the flesh, but born of God." It's a supernatural... Every Christian is a miracle, supernatural movement of God's grace on you. And when he did that, then God sent forth, like he sent forth Jesus, he sent forth his spirit into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' Crying out, 'Abba, Father!' It's almost like a homing mechanism, a beacon going inside you, saying, "Father, Father, Father, Father," or you could also say, "Heaven, Heaven, Heaven. I'm coming home, I'm coming home." And the spirit is leading us along that beam, right to that celestial city. How awesome is that? The spirit in our hearts crying out, 'Abba, Father!'
By the way, Abba, the very same thing Jesus called his father in Gethsemane, daddy, in Arameic, "Abba, Father," he said, "All things are possible for You. May this cup be taken from me." But that intimacy, the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of sonship is in us. Crying out, not just whispering, crying out, "Abba, Father!" And it's so awesome, the Father now in Christ loves us as much as he loves his own son. It's incredible teaching, but Jesus prayed that. He said, in John 17:23, "I, in them and you, in me. May they be brought to complete unity, to let the world know that You have loved them even as You have loved me." That's awesome. And that spirit testifies, it says in Romans 8, "With our spirits, that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings, in order that we may also share in His glory." And we are infinitely rich in that. Infinitely rich, as adopted sons of God, and we are going to be made rich. It says in Revelation 21:7, God has made this clear promise, "He who overcomes, will inherit all this." New Heaven, new Earth, new Jerusalem, and "I will be his God, and He will be my son."
V. The Insanity of Sons Living Like Slaves (verses 8-11)
Alright, so that's what we are. Do you not see how insane it is to live like a slave? Do you not see how insane it would be for us, who are redeemed sons and daughters of the living God, to live like slaves? Look at verses 8-11. "Formally," it says, "when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not God's, but now that you know God or rather are known by God, how is it that you're turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You're observing special days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." He's talking there about their former life as pagans. Ignorant of God, they did not know him. They didn't know his holy ways. Living in lust and pagan revelry. Sacrificing to pagan deities. Living under the dominion of demons. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:20, "The sacrifices of pagans are given to demons." They were enslaved by those who, by nature, were not God's: Demons, wicked, hostile, restless, murderers. That was your former way of life, oh Galatians. That's the way you used to live. "Now that you know God, and even more importantly are known by God," how sweet is that? We love. Why? Because He first loved us and you know what? We know him. Why? Because He first knew us. It's vastly more important that God knows us than that you know God, just so you know. It's so important that on Judgement Day, he claims you as one of his own children. And so he claims, everything has changed for you now. You know God and are known by God. This God, who it says in the Psalms, "Oh Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You know when I come in and when I go out. You hem me in behind and before." This God knows you intimately and loves you completely. How can you now go back to your old way of life? How can you turn back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you want to be enslaved by them all over again? You're observing special days and months and seasons and years.
Now, I want you to listen carefully what I am about to say. It's probably one of the most explosive things in this whole sermon. Here it is. The implication of that statement is this, that by going after legalistic Christianity, in which the Law of Moses dominates, it's no different than it was before the Gospel ever came to their town. Let me go a step further. Christless Judaism is every bit as demonic as paganism or animism or anything else. They're equally demonic. We tend to think, "Well, you know, it's monotheistic, at least. It's a step closer to it." No, it's just the deception of the devil to ensnare people with moralistic, legalistic principles and teach them that they can save themselves by their own good works. It's just demonic. So Christless Judaism is every bit as demonic as animist or paganism or pantheism or any of those things. There is a beautiful circle of light and that's called the Gospel. We stepped inside of it because everything else is darkness. And Paul says, "you're going back to the same thing you had before I came to your town and preached. I am afraid, I fear that somehow, I may have wasted my efforts on you."
"Christless Judaism is every bit as demonic as paganism or animism or anything else."
So what application can we take from this? Well, first, understand the spiritual condition of every non-Christian around you, enslaved to these demonic principles and they can't get out. They can't set themselves free, there's nothing that they can do. There's only one power that can set them free and that's the power of the Gospel. It is the power of God to salvation for all who believed. Secondly, understand the gift of redemption through faith in Christ. Blood redemption is full payment for our sins. Understand the joy of that, freedom from guilt and condemnation. Trust in Christ, all of you, trust in him. You may have been Christians for decades, trust in him still. Look to Christ and trust in him. Don't lapse back into legalistic patterns, trust in him at every moment. Those of you who walked in this place outside of the Gospel, come in now. Come in while there's time, come into the circle of light, come into freedom, come into adoption. Then you get to celebrate your emancipation for the rest of your life.
So I can just say this to you Christians, celebrate. Smile, not just because the sermon's almost done, because it is. But celebrate, celebrate that you are set free from sin and bondage and demonic forces, celebrate that. Be joyful and delight in the privileges of your adoption as sons and daughters. You have a Father now who loves you, you have security in his family. He will never kick you out. He will provide for all of your needs until the day you die. He will protect you from all attacks, nothing can harm you, accept what passes through his hands and it won't harm you. All trials come from him. You have discipline. If you sin, he's going to discipline you, he's going to treat you like a son. If you sin, he will discipline you. You have free access to the Father in prayer. The spirit cries out within you, "Abba, Father!", so pray. Pray freely, pray with great confidence, pray with great zeal and energy. You have fellowship with brothers and sisters, you're in a vast family. You have now a shared family mission with the Father. He's doing some work, He wants you to join Him in the family business, we can put it that way. You have the Holy Spirit as counselor and guide. You have authority to reign with Christ. You can be called, are called by God's name. You are known by God and you can know him. So don't live like a slave.
Finally, very practically, a good number of the members of our church are excited about in the process of literally adopting children. It's a very costly process, it takes a lot of money, it takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of resources. Our church should get around the people who are doing that. We should encourage them. We should find out who they are, we know who they are, I'm not going to list them right now, but we should encourage them. We should say, "How can we help?" They'll let you know, alright? But let's be financially generous to help them. Let's pray for them and encourage them, and let's just rejoice in adoption itself. It's such a great picture of the Gospel, isn't it? Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the time that we've had to study Your word and I pray that as we close now this worship service, oh Lord, I pray that You would fill us with Your spirit, the spirit of sonship, by which we cry "Abba, Father!" and that we would walk in the joyful freedom that is ours, as adopted children of God and as co-heirs with Christ. In Jesus' name, Amen.