The Spirit and Adult Sonship: Galatians 4:6-7

Let’s begin with an illustration, and I hope that you do not get stuck here, since we have more to do than just this illustration. Most people fail to enjoy marriage fully. There is an old saying that men marry for rest, women for romance, and both are disappointed. Perhaps part of this problem is the overly high expectations of women regarding romance. (Ladies, you married a real man, not some hero from a romance novel.) But surely men, we need to boldly own our responsibility to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Men typically have an inadequate idea of what loving their wives in a Christ-like way means, they lack the power to do it, and they fail in the day to day task of being a loving husband.
Now, let’s move on to the subject matter. Believers are in a close, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the bride of Christ. Sadly most believers fail to experience joy in this relationship, especially the fullness of joy that the Lord intends for us (cf. Jn 15:11). But the problem in this relationship is not in any way with the husband, Jesus Christ, but with the bride, those who believe in him. Our failures are in three intertwined areas:

[1]        We do not know what our relationship with Christ is to be. This involves a twin failure of inadequate theology and poor teaching.

[2]        We do not rely on the Lord Jesus for strength necessary to relate with him. This is a relationship of unequal partners, and so we must exercise faith in him in order to keep up with him. Picture Peter walking on the water. He got out of the boat by faith, but he took his eyes of Christ, put them on the waves, and down he went. Then he had to call out to Jesus for help.

[3]        We do not walk with him in daily fellowship. We do not apply ourselves to this wonderful relationship. We would rather be a self-indulgent bride, dressed in fine clothing and sitting on a comfortable sofa, while munching on chocolates. The Lord Jesus always wants us to walk with him on his mission.

3.         Today, we want to concentrate on the first of these failures. There will be many opportunities in Galatians to focus on the others.
I.          We receive the Holy Spirit because of our adult sonship in Christ.
The “we” in this statement means believers in Christ since the accomplishment of redemption by his death and resurrection.
A.        Two observations

1.         We must not forget what the apostle has already presented in the context. Paul is discussing the privileges and blessings of new covenant believers. Yes, believers prior to our Lord’s resurrection were regenerated and had a position in God’s family as minor children. But they did not and could not have the position and benefits of adult sons and heirs.

2.         We must allow the words of the text to speak to us and to control our theology. We must not allow our own ideas to confuse the message. Notice that the text says “because you are sons.” Adult “sonship is not the result of the operation of the Spirit, but is rather its basis” (Ridderbos). The Holy Spirit does not make us sons, but we receive the Holy Spirit because we are sons. The ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit in the believer is primarily connected with our adult sonship. (Start with Jn, Rm, Gal & Eph, not with Ac and 1 Cor.)

B.        Avoiding wrong paths in our theology and experience – Many focus on some particular aspect of the Spirit’s work to the virtual exclusion of what the apostle teaches here, and so hinder the experience of Christ’s followers. Here are some examples of this (from Packer’s Keep in Step with the Spirit, pp. 18-45).

1.         Power for living to lift the believer out of struggles – Keswick theology

2.         Performance, in the sense of exercising spiritual gifts – Pentecostals

3.         Purity from the defilement of sin – Reformed

C.        A better approach that incorporates what is true from the preceding based on the greater reality of the Spirit’s new covenant ministry – Presence

1.         Since the believer is in union with the crucified, risen, and ascended Son of God, the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of adult sonship, makes known the personal presence of the Son of God within the hearts of the adult sons of God.

2.         As the Spirit makes known Christ’s presence in his people, we have personal fellowship with Jesus, experience ongoing transformation in Christ’s likeness, and have the certainty of being chosen, loved, redeemed, justified, and adopted into God the Father’s family as an adult son, who is also an heir.

II.        The manner of our reception of the Spirit of sonship
A.        Source – The Holy Spirit was sent from the Father (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26).

1.         Here is evidence of God’s Fatherly compassion and wisdom (cf. Mt 7:9-11). The Father has given us the Holy Spirit to bring us to a better position than Adam lost. God created us to be revelation receivers, meaning makers, and worshipers. Adam and Eve sinned in each area and wrecked the world. Now notice what God the Father does for his adult sons! He gives us the author of revelation (2 Pt 1:20-21) to help us understand revelation. He gives us the Spirit of wisdom (Eph 1:17) to help us interpret life God’s way, and the living spring of new covenant worship that we may worship according to the Spirit (Ph 3:3). We now worship as sons who delight in the glory of God.

Apply: This helps us be free from what people call addictions, but what are actually idolatrous lusts. We have the expulsive power of a greater affection.

2.         Here is the unity of God’s purpose: the Father plans, the Son purchases, and the Holy Spirit applies redemption and its many benefits. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17).

B.        The Spirit is identified as the Spirit of his Son (cf. Rm 8:9).

1.         The NTS maintain a close link between the atonement of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Spirit. The ascended Christ pours out the Spirit of God because of his finished work of redemption.

2.         The essence of the Spirit’s new covenant ministry is to exalt Christ in the believer (Jn 16:14).

C.        The Spirit is sent into our hearts. The heart means the inner person, including the spirit, the soul, the mind, emotions, and will, etc.

1.         “In distinction from the law, which is solely an external authority and cannot change the heart, the Spirit, as the gift of the New Testament [Covenant], penetrates the hearts in order to quicken [make alive] and renew them…” (Ridderbos).

2.         The Spirit works within us to change us from the inside out unto likeness to Jesus Christ. He equips Christ’s followers to think and to act like followers of Christ. He goes into the core of our being to accomplish this task.

D.        The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit ought to be changing us in very practical ways; for example, in the way we talk. I want to challenge us in this area. Words in agreement with the fruit of the Spirit should be the overflow of our hearts.

1.         What we speak comes out from our hearts (Lk 6:43-45).

2.         We must put off the old ways of sinful talking (Eph 4:31; 5:4).

3.         Instead, we must speak words of blessing (Lk 6:28; Rm 12:14; 1 Pt 3:9).

Apply: Continue our group project of blessing at least five people outside of our local assembly this week. In addition, find five occasions to bless the members of your family by your words. Bless them as the adult son of God that you are, since you are called to inherit a blessing.
1.         The Christian life is a life of adult sonship. It is not slavery to rules, to fear, etc. It is the joy of living as the adopted son and heir of the Sovereign of the universe.
2.         The way to live the Christian life involves living according to who you are in Jesus Christ. Live every day in that experience. Know > rely > walk

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