I have always found it curiously odd how children look toward adulthood impatiently, while many adults longingly long for the days of childhood. A legal definition of adulthood is a person who by virtue of attaining a certain age, generally eighteen, is regarded in the eyes of the law as being able to manage his or her own affairs. In most cases, an adult is no longer under the care of a guardian.
At the end of the third chapter of Galatians Paul calls believers to a mature faith. Such maturity is not found in returning or turning to a religiosity of mere rule following, but in the true gospel of freedom. In Galatians 3:23-25 we are told that before Jesus the law “was our guardian,” protecting us and preparing us for the good news of the true gospel of freedom. Now in Christ, we have everything we need. In Christ, the law is our mirror now, not our master. It helps us to clean our faces, our consciences. The law does not condemn us. In Christ, we have been set free.
Paul writes: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal 3:26). In Christ, believers have been adopted into a freedom that allows us to live in relationship with Him and others as full heirs of God. Our adoption brings blessings today as well as into the never-ending future (see: Gal 3:23-25). In fact, we have been redeemed into Sonship. Redeem is a word that comes right out of the slave market. To be redeemed is to have been purchased into freedom. Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, sought us and paid the price in full on the cross.
We have not only been redeemed but also adopted as God’s son. Paul explains: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal 4:6-7). First, Paul uses an Aramaic word “Abba” to communicate two aspects of our relationship with God. The term “Abba” can be translated “Daddy” or Papa” showing the intimacy we have with God through Jesus Christ. Second, the term has been found in ancient legal documents in the process of sons claiming an inheritance from their departed father. “Abba” describes the open access we have been given into the heart of God.
Paul throughout Galatians ties Sonship with being an heir. Some might be quick to interpret son as child or son and daughters, and certainly, this would be appropriate in the sense that Paul means that all people are given the opportunity to be adopted as God’s child. However, Paul uses the term “son,” because in ancient times heirs were mostly male, so the term “son” became somewhat synonymous with “heir.” He wants us to understand that we have been fully adopted by God in Christ and made full heirs. Christ redeemed us from the curse of sin; in Him, we are adopted as God’s child, and as God’s son we are joint heirs with Jesus. The simple truth is that God will honor all believers as He has honored His one and only Son.
You can tell Paul’s deep concern for the Galatian believers when he reprimands them by basically expressing as their spiritual parent, “I taught you better.” He is addressing their exchange of freedom for slavery by turning from the true gospel of freedom and accepting the counterfeit gospel of law and works (see: Gal 4:9b-11). He even uses a well-known story from Judaism to make a point in refuting the Judaizers who are preaching the counterfeit gospel. He speaks of Abraham, Abraham’s two sons, and Abraham’s son’s two moms to declare that we are like Isaac who miraculously was brought into a forever family (see: Gal 4:21-31). Paul exclaims, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise” (Gal 4:28).
Paul’s encouragement to believers to mature in the faith is expressed at the end of chapter four with a challenge. Since we have been redeemed, no longer identified as a slave, but as a free son, live like it. The gospel of freedom provides a new identity and we ought to live under that new identity. We are no longer a slave to sin we are a child of God.
We have been offered so much in Christ. We have been set free! Yet, it is so easy to live like we are still slaves. Let’s encourage one another to mature in our faith and live the life of freedom, fullness, and faithfulness we have been so graciously granted in Christ.