#174 “WE ARE HEIRS OF CHRIST” (GALATIANS 4:1-7)
WE ARE HEIRS OF CHRIST (4:1-7)
I. Before Coming to Christ (vs. 1-3):
- I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child (nēpios, an immature toddler who is helpless), is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In chapter 4, Paul will continue to contrast the old law with the new covenant in Christ (3:10-4:11). Guardians and managers—Paul returns to the “guardian” analogy (3:24) to detail the procedural matters of inheritance. Guardians looked after minors and managers were overseers of the child’s property until they came of age. Until the date set by his father—In Judaism, when a son turned twelve years old, he became a “son in the law.” In Greek culture, manhood was achieved at eighteen. The Romans, on the other hand, left the ‘coming of age’ to the father. Once the father determined his son was a man, he would receive adult clothes and given the responsibilities as heir of his father.
- 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles (stoicheia, basic foundations; rank) of the world. In v. 1, Paul illustrates our bondage to the law as to being a slave. In v. 3, Paul reveals the influence and power of the cosmic forces (i.e., demons) that play a significant role in enslaving people. Elementary principles of the world—A reference that speaks to two areas: (1) the legalistic bondage of Judaism and (2) demonic control and activity in the lives of people. In v. 9, Paul refers to the “elementary principles” as weak and worthless in comparison to the truth and power of God. The Knowledge Bible Commentary, “It seems better to understand the “basic principles” to refer to the elementary stages of religious experience, whether of Jews under the Law or Gentiles in bondage to heathen religions (cf. “weak and miserable principles” in v. 9, and “basic principles of this world” in Col. 2:20) Thus all were enslaved until Christ came to emancipate them.”
- 2 Cor. 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
- 2:1-2, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”
- 2:20, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations.”
II. Why Christ Came (vs. 4-5):
- 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, In vs. 4-5, Paul layouts a confessional statement that contains the essence of the gospel message: (1) Christ came in the flesh (incarnation), (2) Christ lived a perfect life (impeccability), and (3) Christ died for the sins of mankind (atonement). Fullness of time—A Jewish phrase that captures God’s sovereign hand over a period of time. Just as a Roman father determined when he would make his son his official heir—God the Father determined when he would send his Son to free us from sin and death. God sent forth his Son—An affirmation of the preexistence of Christ. He is fully God. Born of a woman— The exclusive reference to Jesus’s mother harmonizes with the doctrine of the virgin birth as taught in the Gospels (Matt. 1:18). Jesus is fully human. 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Born under the law—Christ, a Jew, was born under the Law and fulfilled it perfectly (Matt. 5:17) and paid its curse (Gal. 3:13). IVP New Testament Commentary, “To be born under lawalso means to experience the curse of the law against all who fail to observe all that the law requires (see 3:10). Although Jesus did fulfill all the requirements of the law, he still experienced all the conditions of sinful humanity under the curse of the law. He was subject to temptations, suffering, loneliness, and finally, on the cross, God-forsakenness and death.” Gal. 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
- 5 to redeem (exagorasē, to purchase; to deliver; to buy back) those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. In the NT, the term “redemption” means “to buy out of slavery.” Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, “To cause the release or freedom of someone by a means which proves costly to the individual causing the release—‘to redeem, to set free.’” The term “adoption” means to “place as an adult son.” The Galatians would have understood Paul’s meaning because adoption was widely practiced by Romans. In spiritual terms, it is by the redemption of Christ that we are adopted into his family and receive our eternal inheritance. We are no longer underaged children in bondage and without privileges. It is through regeneration we become a member of the family of God. It is by adoption we enjoy the blessings that come as a child of God.
- Hymn: I Lay My Sins On Jesus
I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us
From the accursed load.
I bring my guilt to Jesus,
To wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious,
Till not a spot remains.
III. The Blessings That Come with Receiving Christ (vs. 6-7):
- 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” God is the Originator of salvation. He not only sent his Son to die and atone for our sins but also sent the Holy Spirit to indwell in our lives. You are sons—Paul describes Christians as “sons of God” (3:26–28), adopted siblings and heirs of the covenantal promises of Abraham (3:28–4:6). Paul’s use of the term reflects the imagery of adoption and inheritance practices in Roman society. The Lexham Bible Dictionary, “In Graeco-Roman culture, adopted sons were guaranteed inheritance rights, which included not only land and other wealth but also the family name, the family honor, and a share of the family spirit (Peppard, “Adopted and Begotten,” 96). Thus, “son” carries much weight in terms of status and position.” Abba! Father! The name “Abba,” is an intimate title of endearment in Aramaic that Jesus used to refer to his Heavenly Father. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he called out to his Heavenly Father, as “Abba.” NKJV Chronological Study Bible, “Children called their fathers “Abba,” a title of endearment, intimacy, and respect. Adults continued the practice, though apparently less frequently, again emphasizing the intimacy of the father-child relationship. Jesus’ use of this title in prayer (Mark 14:36) demonstrated His distinctive intimacy with the heavenly Father, an intimacy which provided the model for those who followed Him by the Spirit (Rom. 8:15).” As God’s children, we too have been given this intimate access to God as our Abba. We call upon him for help because he will take care of us.“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:15-17).
- 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Paul goes from plural form “sons” in v. 6 to singular form “son” in v. 7 to personalize the relationship with God. Heir through God—As heirs, we receive the eternal blessings given by our Heavenly Father through the salvific work of Christ. In 1 Pet. 1:3-4, Peter writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”