“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. Instead, he is under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world. When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God 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 God has made you an heir.” (Galatians 4:1-7 CSB)
We need to keep in mind as we read Paul’s letters that those who first read this were simply reading a letter – no chapters, no verses, just a letter from Paul to them. For people reading today, we often have to go back to understand the context of what Paul is saying. He introduced being a son of God in the verses just before these verses.
“But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:25-29)
Notice that through faith we are sons of God in Jesus. When we are baptised we are “clothed with Christ” – we put on Christ. Once we do this we belong to him. And if we belong to Jesus we are heirs of the promise of Abraham.
This is the privilege of being a son. In the societies of the first century, it was only sons who inherited. Notice that all Christians are sons of God – it doesn’t matter where we are from (Jew or Greek), it doesn’t matter who are social status is (slave or free), and it doesn’t matter if we are male or female. Everyone who is clothed with Christ is a son of God. Sons inherit.
As we enter Galatians 4, Paul emphasised the privilege of being a son. His analogy is comparing the Jews under the law of Moses with Christians who have been clothed with Christ. Before Jesus came, Jews were under guardians and trustees (the law). They were little better than slaves. This would be the same for someone who inherited when they were very young: until they reached the time set by their Father’s will they would be under guardians and trustees.
But when the time came, they would receive the full inheritance and be regarded as sons. This happened spiritually when Jesus came into the world, lived, died, and arose from the dead. This completed the time people were under a guardian, the law of Moses.
Notice, as well, that those who are following Jesus have been adopted as sons. Even in the Roman and Jewish worlds, when someone was adopted they became a full part of the family with full inheritance rights. Gentiles who became Christians were sons along with those of a Jewish background.
Because we are now sons, God had given his Spirit into our hearts. And we now have an inheritance, reserved for us (2 Timothy 4:8).
Because we are sons we are no longer under the law of Moses. There is a difference between a son and a slave. Slaves obey because they have to. Sons obey because they want to and because they love their father.
Christians don’t need to be drawn back into a set or rules and regulations – that is childhood. We are now clothed with Christ and are sons of God. We need to listen to and obey him.
Readings for next week: Galatians 3-6; Ephesians 1