This is the ninth message in a series of studies by pastor Murray McClellan. It is our prayer that you are blessed through his labors in God’s Word.
The law served only to prepare for faith in Christ. (Galatians 4:1-7)
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is a master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the Father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
The Judaizers stressed the importance of keeping the law in order that believers would merit a reward from God. However, Paul brings out the glorious truth that believers are already members of God’s household with all the rights and privileges that comes with being a son. As Paul stated in chapter 3, all those who are under the law are under its curse. The law served only to prepare for faith in Christ. Paul in this section uses another illustration to bring this point home.
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is a master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the Father. (v.1-2)
Paul brings out another illustration from life to help the Galatians grasp the great spiritual realities of the new covenant. He speaks of one who is an heir, but yet cannot possess his inheritance until the time appointed by his father. Though he is lord of all and has it all by inheritance, yet in his day to day life, he is no better than a slave because he’s a child. The time appointed by the father has not yet come. Therefore, he had to listen and was subservient to his appointed guardians and his father’s steward. He needed their permission for everything, even as the household servants and slaves.
Paul’s main point, now then, is that the heir occupies that position only until the time set by the father.
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. (v.3)
“Even so we…” Just like that is true in the situation Paul has spoken of, so it is true of us, Paul states. This was the state of a believer in the Old Testament. All the external and physical elements of the law (compare v. 9-10) such as the keeping of days, provided an “elementary education” and “kept” the “children” “for the faith which would afterward be revealed.” God’s purpose all along was to bring His “servant” children into the glorious liberty of His grown-up children – no longer under the regulations and rules and ceremonies of the Old Covenant. Paul is careful to use the past tense here ” …when we were children…” He says, “…we…were in bondage.” The time appointed has come. Dismiss the guardians and stewards.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (v.4-5)
Sonship is found in the true Son, Jesus Christ. Before the fullness of the time had come, the true believers, “having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.” (Heb. 11:39) They were heirs by legal right (through faith) but they did not enter into the fulness of that promise until the Son completed the work of redemption.
When the time came, as planned by God and foretold by Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27), God sent His Son. God “sent” Him. Jesus was God before He ever came and was born of a woman. He was not just sent from the manger to the cross, but from heaven to the manger to the cross to His throne.
Jesus was “born of a woman”. He was a real man.
Notice, it does not say that He was born of His mother or born of the Queen of heaven – just a woman. Mary received grace to have the blessing and privilege of God to bear the Son of God. She received blessing. She does not give it! Being a real man – a son of Adam, yet without sin, Jesus is a fitting Savior for sinners like us. Jesus could not have substituted for sinful man on the cross had He not taken upon Himself “the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7) He had to be God to be the powerful Savior we needed and He had to be man to have the position as substitute.
Not only did He become a man, but He was born a Jew, “under the law”.
Jesus, as God, was over the law, but as a man, He humbled Himself and put Himself under His own law. He did so for the sake of those under the law and its condemnation. Jesus was David’s Seed and He kept the law and demonstrated a perfect righteousness and it has been imputed to every believer to redeem us from the curse of the law. Jesus has earned the blessings promised to any Israelite who kept the law perfectly and He has imputed those blessings “to all the seed , not only those who are of the law. but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” (Rom. 4:16) He has merited God’s blessing not only for those under the law but also for those who were strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord …Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in!” (Ps. 24:3-7) There is a son of Jacob who can go forth to meet the enemy and receive the blessing from the Lord.
The mighty law like a Goliath calls out to the armies of Israel, “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.” (1 Sam. 17:8) Up and down through the ages, there was found no one who could stand up to the law without falling under its curse. Then, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. The law roared, but our David prevailed. He cut off the giant’s head with his own sword. He used the law and its curse to redeem His people by dying under its curse and meriting its blessing. Therefore God has exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. He is worthy to be king!
‘Whose son are you?’ (1 Sam. 17:58) Jesus answers, “I am the Son of man and the Son of God!” Oh, and the soul of every Jonathan was knit to the soul of the Greater David. (1 Sam. 18:1) And each one loved Him as his own soul (1 John 4:19). A covenant was established between David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:3), even as our Lord has established an everlasting covenant with us who believe, through His blood. It is this covenant that brings us into sonship!
“…that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
God sent His Son not only to redeem us and bring us out of slavery, but also to bring us into the glorious liberty of adoption!
Perhaps one of the arguments that the Judaizers used to sway the Galatians was that Jesus was under the law. That is true, Paul says, but it was for the purpose of redeeming those who were under the law. Jesus not only kept the law but He was cursed to redeem those who were under its curse. If my son swims in a dugout and is drowning and I jump into the dugout to rescue him, is he going to say, “But Daddy swam in the dugout, too.” Yes…to rescue him! Yes, Jesus was under the law, but not to exhort people to earn God’s blessing by keeping the law. It was to rescue those who were under the law.
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father! Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (v.6-7)
Because we are sons, God has given His Spirit to take up His abode in our hearts. This is something that cannot happen in human adoption. Here our Father imparts His own nature to His adopted son. (2 Peter 1:4!) The Spirit is proof of sonship (Eph. 1:13-14).
It was the Spirit of God sent into the hearts of the believing Galatians that led them to cry, “Abba, Father!” as they loved Him and trusted in Him. We could never dare address God as “Abba” if not for the fact that Jesus bids us to do so through His Spirit. Though physical sense and feelings may go against us, the Spirit helps our infirmities and when we are overwhelmed and fearful, He brings the word of truth to our remembrance and we cry out, “Abba, Father!” There is no need to be circumcised, for already we are sons of God – heirs of the living God. We do not receive the Spirit because of the law, or our obedience, or any ceremony. In grace, God has sent His Spirit into our hearts, because we are sons! What will the law give you that you do not already possess?
We are a son – an heir of God – “through Christ” alone. We are accepted in the Beloved Son who is so well-pleasing to the Father. How can we now act like a slave? We need no threat of death to walk righteously. We need no guardians to beat us into righteousness. We are “partakers of the Divine nature” of the One who has adopted us. We long to please the Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Nothing humbles me and motivates me to honor the One whose name I now bear, as the incredible truth of my adoption as a son of God through Christ. May we walk worthy of such a high calling.
Murray is the lead church planter and Bible teacher at Grace Fellowship Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He and his wife Cheryl have labored in the Gospel for many years despite the many discouragements along the way. Our brother is associated with “InDepth Studies”, the Acts 29 network of church planters, and more recently the uniquely Canadian C2C church planting network. In new covenant circles Murray is a long time contributor to new covenant thought and discussion.