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Galatians #10 . Chapter 4:1-7
1 Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a * slave, though he is the owner of everything. 2 Instead, he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces1 of the world. 4 When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to * redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our2 hearts, crying, “* Abba, Father! ” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God
The last thing we looked at was how Paul describes the law as a Chaperone, or Guardian. This is a continuation of that thought. He says that the heir lives as a slave until he comes into inheritance at the time set by the father. The heir is not free when he is a child – he needs to obey the guardians and stewards in his life.
So, Paul points out that even the chosen people of God (the Jews) were “slaves” in a sense – slaves to the guardian, the Law. We too, before coming into the full inheritance of Jesus Christ, were slaves. We were slaves to the “elementary forces” of the world. The Greek word is “stoikeon” (stoiceion, if anyone cares). Essentially it means “basic, sequential principles.” You might say it is the idea of “one thing leads to another.”
Here is an example of stoikeos in action. You bend down to pick something up off the floor in the kitchen. Next, someone opens a drawer above you. Then, you straighten up and hit your head. Finally, your head hurts. Next time you are there when a friend or family member bangs her head, and exclaims that it hurts, say, “that’s just stoikeos in action.” She’ll appreciate it greatly.
If you take two things and add two more things, you have four things. That’s stoikeon. You might even call it natural law. Here’s another example of a stoikeon: If you sin, the presence of God is so holy that it will destroy you. Sin separates you from God. The spiritual side of stoikeos, is that you get what you deserve. You earn God’s favor and blessing, or his wrath. That’s the natural state of things. It is similar to the idea of karma – you get what you deserve. Your actions lead to either things that are good for yourself, or bad for you.
That is how the law works. If you do the right thing, you get the good thing. If you do the wrong thing, you get the bad thing. Remember, the law isn’t bad. It isn’t wrong or inaccurate. It just isn’t possible for us. Because of that, this arrangement really didn’t work out for us.
Paul has been telling us that there is a new arrangement. The law can’t be eliminated. But we can’t do it. So Jesus did it on our behalf. And he took on himself, our consequences for failing to do it. The law is now satisfied, not broken. And we can move on, in the presence of God, without being destroyed.
Now, I don’t mean to say that now we should sin all we want to. I have talked about this in every message for the past several weeks. We admit we cannot do it; we believe that Jesus can and will do it for us, and we trust him to do it in us and through us.
But a lot of believers are mistaken about how things work now. We think, “OK, Jesus saved us from being destroyed by God’s presence. Now, I am in relationship with God. If I take care of his stuff, he’ll take care of mine.” This is a trap. We think that if we are good little boys and girls, then God will reward us with candy: that is, earthly blessings. Then, when that doesn’t work out the way we think it should, we get angry and upset and disappointed with God. We did our part, why didn’t God do his part? Or, maybe we didn’t do our part, because we didn’t hear from him what we were supposed to do. Why didn’t he make it more clear?
We do not live in relationship of karma. We don’t have the kind of relationship with God where if we do something for him, he does something for us. Instead, God says, “That won’t work, because you can’t do anything that is worthwhile to me. How about instead, I treat you as my children, my heirs? I will do for you what I know is best for your eternal self, and you just keep trusting that what I am doing is good, and good for you.”
We sometimes say, “I don’t care about my ‘eternal self,’ I just want to feel good now.” I understand that attitude. I’ve had it at many points in my life, and I won’t say I’ll never have it again. But it is not a mature attitude. It isn’t wise, or even smart. We see this in three year olds, who think they want many things that will not actually make them happy. Three-year-olds aren’t mature enough to distinguish what is truly best for them, so wise, loving parents do not always give them what they want.
Now, I am not saying that there is no order in the universe. Often times, one thing really does lead to another. If you manage your money wisely, it is likely that you will have enough. If you spend your money frivolously and without thought, you might end up short. Even morally, there is order. Wrong-doing tends to lead to bad results. Avoiding sins like drunkenness and promiscuity and dishonesty often leads to a better life here and now than engaging in those things. That’s because that is how the universe works – God made it that way.
But we don’t have a quid-pro-quo relationship with God. It isn’t “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.” It is, this: “Lord, I owe you everything and I can’t repay it. I trust you. I’m in your hands.”
Jesus was born under the law, as we are. He was born of a woman – that is, in addition to being Divine, he was also human, like us. Because of that, he could fulfill the law. The result is our adoption as sons.
I pointed this out last time, but it bears repeating. We are all sons. Not that we are all male-children, but that we are all the legitimate inheritors of God’s family name, the legitimate inheritors of his riches and grace. Through Jesus Christ, we truly belong to God, and belong in his family.
Paul adds this:
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father! ” (Gal 4:6, HCSB)
“Abba” is basically the Aramaic word for “Daddy.” Through Jesus, we are such legitimate, dearly loved children, that we can call God “Daddy.” Paul writes something very similar in Romans chapter 8:
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father! ” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, (Rom 8:15-16, HCSB)
I am fortunate in that my earthly, physical, father has always been an overwhelmingly positive influence in my life. But I know many people who do not have a positive view of fathers, because their own dad was distant, or troubled, or even abusive. Some people respond to this by saying we should not talk about God as a Father, because that is negative for a lot of folks. Nobody has a perfect dad – not even my kids. So, for some, the picture of God as a father may at first be negative or scary or distant. But the point is, God is a perfect father. He loves us perfectly. He cares for us more than any earthly father is capable of. What your earthly father lacked, God does not lack. What your earthly father did wrong, God does not do. The love, attention and affection you may have craved and never received from your earthly dad, is available to you now, in your heavenly Daddy.
Take a moment to Listen to the Father’s heart:
“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine…
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name…” (Isaiah 43:1,4-7)
This is God’s attitude toward us – his children. He calls us his sons and daughters and he says we are precious and honored in his sight. He says we are his. He loves us and is willing to make huge sacrifices for us. He is on your side. You can feel safe when you talk with him.
I took a break from writing this to pick out the songs for the service this week. I realize we don’t have many songs written specifically to God the Father. We praise the Lord and we worship God. We praise Jesus quite frequently. There are a few songs that praise God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but very few indeed that invite us to worship and praise the Father in his Fatherhood. Even the old hymns don’t have a lot of this.
But this is a tremendous gift.
Jesus once told the parable of the prodigal’s son. When the younger, irresponsible brother returned, the Father embraced him, loved on him, and threw him a party. But the older brother was not pleased.
But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ “ ‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. (Luke 15:29-31, HCSB)
The tragedy is this: The older brother had been living like a slave, when he was truly a son. So Paul says to us in verse seven:
So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God
You are no longer a slave, but a son. Again, not necessarily, a male, but the bearer of God’s family name, a dearly beloved child who can walk into the Father’s presence and say, “Hi, Daddy!” Your position as a dear child is not based upon your performance. It is based upon the performance of Jesus.
You don’t have to live like a slave. All that the Father has is yours, in Jesus.