Galatians 4:1-7

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 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.

Understanding And Applying the Text

When we were under the law we were as little children treated as servants and prisoners. But the tyranny of the law does not last forever. It lasts only until the time appointed by the Father, until Christ came to redeem us. When Paul says, we “were enslaved to the elementary principals of the world.” He is referring to the law. The law enslaved us. We were under the law like a child is under a schoolmaster. But eventually, that time ends. When Paul refers to the law, he refers to the whole law, not only the ceremonial law.

Paul does not intend to speak disparagingly against the law. We are to honor the law . It is God’s law. But it does not provide a means of justification before God. The law has nothing to do with justification before a holy God. But when our conscience is justly troubled this is not easy to do.

Paul explains Christ is the son of God and was born of a woman. He was born under the law for us. He subjected himself to the Law so God could adopt us as sons. (There is no male or female in Christ, 3:28.) Here Paul is referring to the two natures of Christ. Christ is both human and divine.

This passage declares Christ’s came and abolished of the law as a means of grace. Christ did not come to establish new laws but to redeem those who are under the law. Christ himself stated: “I judge no one.” (John 8:15.) Again in John 12:47, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” In other words: “I did not come not to bring more laws, or to judge according to the existing law.”

If we think of Christ as Paul depicts Him here, we will not go wrong. We will not misconstrue the meaning of the law. We will understand that the law does not justify. Plus we will understand why a Christian observes laws. We do not observe the law for salvation. Rather we observe it for peace of the world, gratitude to God, and as an example to attract others to the Gospel.

Paul now refers back to Genesis 22:18. Previously he spoke about the promise of righteousness. Now he speaks of the promise of blessing, inheritance of eternal life since we have been adopted as sons.

Paul declares we are sons not that we can be, or we might be, but we are sons. If we trust in Christ for our salvation, we are sons of God. St. Augustine observed that “every man is certain of his faith if he has faith.

Paul said the Spirit was sent into our hearts crying, “Abba Father.” In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul writes that the cryings of the Spirit are “groanings too deep for words.” In Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Spirit intercedes for us not with many words or long prayers, but with groanings, with little sounds like “Abba.” The fact the Spirit cries to God and makes intercession for us should give us great confidence and comfort.

Paul ends this section with a declaration. We are no longer slaves but sons. And since we are sons we are then heirs through Christ. A son is an heir not because of anything he has done but because of a birthright. His birth makes him an heir not anything he has done. Through Christ we have been born into the family of God. We cannot even begin to conceive heaven let alone describe it. Until we are able to enter into it, we only have our faith to go on. To the unbeliever our faith seems weak and feeble. But our faith rests on the promise of God Himself. His promises are infinite and nothing, not even the law, can condemn or accuse us.

The law may restrain evil but is cannot save us. It does not bring a person to heaven. Even though I may not kill, commit adultery, steal, etc. this is not evidence of my Christianity. Being a Christian is not about doing or not doing certain things. It is about trusting Christ. It is not about being moral it is about believing and trusting. Morality does not constitute Christianity.

Many carnal unredeemed people lead what we would consider good moral lives. Some are even more moral than many Christians. But, the fact they are moral does not save them. Their sin is the rejection of Jesus as the Christ. Even the law requires we go beyond good moral living. It requires we love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. The law reveals that we do not love and then accuses and condemns our conscience.

When the law judges us it has the perfect right to do so. We “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph. 2:3.) But once we Christ redeemed us Christ the law no longer has that power.

What does it mean to be a Christian? Outwardly one may not be able to tell much of a difference between a Christian and any other honest man. A Christian’s actions are not sensational. He works hard and fulfills his duty to his employer and/or customers. He cares for his family. He is kind to others. These are actions that are generally admired even by an unregenerate world. His actions may even prove to be an attraction to others. But any sinner can do those things. Only the actions of a Christian are good and acceptable to God. Why? They are done in faith. They are performed out of gratitude to Christ for what He has done.

Our actions do not save us. It is the grace and mercy of God. Let us not confuse the fruit of the Spirit with cause of our redemption.

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