Today: [Galatians 4:] Are You Set as a Son? In Galatians 4 Paul speaks of being adopted in Christ. Do you understand what the scriptural concept of adoption is? It has little in common with the practice of adopting orphans as we know it today. Paul’s contention in this chapter is that we are more than just servants laboring under a covenant of religious expectation – we are in fact called as entitled sons not of law but of promise!
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[Gal 4:1-15 KJV] 1 Now I say, [That] the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. 8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. 12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I [am]; for I [am] as ye [are]: ye have not injured me at all. 13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus. 15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if [it had been] possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
In chapter 4 Paul continues to contrast law and grace in an effort to liberate the Galatians from the errors of religious legalism. He contends that the law was given because of sin until in the fullness of time God sent for His son to redeem us not only from sin but from the condemnation of the law. Under the law, man could not rise above the level of a servant, but in Christ, we come out from under the constraints of the law that we might receive the adoption of sons.
What is the adoption of sons? If you are thinking of an adoption agency as though God is not really our parent but has chosen to adopt us into his family anyway, you would be mistaken. The word adoption here means “to be set as a son.” God doesn’t look at us as being born in sin but overlooking this by means of some cosmic adoption. We are not adopted children of God, and He is not our adopted father. God does not merely think of us as sons of God out of mercy and kindness. If this were what Paul was speaking of then v. five would contradict what Peter wrote in the following verse:
[1Pe 1:23 KJV] 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
We are not merely considered to be sons of God we are actual sons of God. We are born again of the incorruptible seed. We are genuine, literal new creations in Christ Jesus according to 2 Cor. 5:17. What then is the adoption? John spoke of the adoption as well in John 1:12:
[Jhn 1:12 KJV] 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:
If we have received Jesus how is it that we then receive power to “become” sons? Aren’t we already sons because we have accepted Jesus? In the ancient world, there was a tradition known as the adoption that was conferred upon sons when they came of age. A son would be taken by his father into a public place where his father would lay hands upon the boy and declare “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!” From that moment on everyone understand that the father would stand behind everything that son said or did. If the son entered into a contract, the father would back it up. The son from this time forward was authorized to do the fathers business. Does this sound familiar? This was why Jesus conducted him as he did at the age of 12:
[Luk 2:49 KJV] 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
When you come to Christ the plan of God is that you not only be a son of God but that you become a son or become set as a son in the adoption to do business for him in the earth. This is why (v. 6) God sent forth the Holy Ghost into your hearts that you might come to a level of intimacy to cry “Abba, Father” or “Daddy, God.” These things might be new to us because this version of adoption doesn’t exist in our culture but they were not unknown to the Galatians. Paul is contending that to embrace religious legalism (v. 7) is to diminish the purpose of God in our lives because our primary calling is not just as servants but as sons and heirs of God through Christ with all the benefits and appurtenances thereof.
Paul is concerned for the Galatian churches because they have been deceived by Jewish Christians who have come from Jerusalem to convince them to observe holy days, liturgical seasons, times, etc., that being accepted among them caused Paul to feel that his labor in preaching liberty in Christ to them had been in vain. We need to be very hesitant to follow after self-styled religionists who invited us to follow after the practices of some form of neo-Judaism in the name of Christ let we place ourselves under the bondage that Paul is seeking to see the Galatians delivered from.
[Galatians 4:16-31 KJV]
16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? 17 They zealously affect you, [but] not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. 18 But [it is] good to be zealously affected always in [a] good [thing], and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, 20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. 21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, [thou] barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him [that was born] after the Spirit, even so [it is] now. 30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Since Paul is speaking against the self-styled religious legalism of the Galatians favorite teachers, he is seen as an enemy of the churches. The contention of those who would argue with Paul is that their legalistic teachings were producing great zeal among the churches. Paul admits that their teachings are prevalent and accepted but nonetheless harmful in the extreme. He commends them for their enthusiasm but points out that zeal in error is still an error and needed to be repented of. This is not uncommon today. A teaching comes out that is fanciful and different, that appeals to men’s religious sense, and it sweeps through the church gaining great acceptance without so much as a comparative inquiry into the scriptures as to whether or not it stands in agreement with the gospel. The Galatians thought they were on the cutting edge of something different in God because they were desiring to set themselves apart by embracing a new and popular teaching. In reality (v. 19) they are merely demonstrating that they are little children who need once again for Christ to be formed in them.
This is important to think about. Paul’s heart was to see Christ formed IN them not seeking just outward conformity to some religious (or spiritual) expectation. The transformative nature of your faith has to be more than a T-shirt logo or a bumper sticker on your car. Paul’s message was (Col. 1:27) “Christ IN you” the hope of Glory. Outward practices, codes of conduct, fanciful protocols or practices of prayer may have some value or no value, but the litmus test is, do they enlarge upon who Jesus is on the inside of you or do they merely produce some outward show of religious quality that adds nothing to real maturity in Christ?
In v. 23 Paul compares Hagar and Sarah with law and grace calling Hagar and her son (a type of the religious legalism of the day) a bondwoman and Sarah and her son the inheritors of that which was by promise. The point is do you want to earn your place in God or to receive by promise? Human nature is drawn to performance-based things because they appeal to our sense of practicality and the desire to attain. They produce in us the error of looking to ourselves rather than looking to God. You cannot earn grace. You must decide (v. 24) what covenant you want to participate in – the unconditional covenant of grace or the conditional covenant of religious expectation? Paul declares (v. 28) that in Christ we are children of the promise and not children of the law. He urges us to “cast out the bondwoman” as Abraham cast out Hagar. Hagar and her son were the product of a scheme Sarah, and Abraham cooked up to make God’s promise come to pass, and that is what people do today. They want to see the blessing of God, so they adjust their behavior with fasting, prayers, religious efforts thinking that somehow that will bring God online in their lives and cause his promises to manifest in their lives. Paul rejects this thinking insisting that as Abraham drove Hagar and her son into the wilderness so we must reject all performance based values in our relationship with God and embrace the promise that produces in us what legalism only denies us at the end of the day. You cannot leverage God to act on your behalf no matter how desperate you are. God is a faith God who responds to faith, and it is our faith in him and his word that is the only acceptable sacrifice that gains us access to the merits of Calvary. We are not children of the bondwoman but children of the free (v. 31) meaning that religious legalism and a performance-based approach to God will never birth anything in you but more bondage but embracing the unconditional promise of God in Christ will cause us to become full inheritors of all that Calvary affords.
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