First of all, I have to apologize for the fact that it has been about six weeks since my last post. What can I say? Life happens!

So…let’s get back at it!

Galatians 4:1-7

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

When we read a text like this, the first thing we have to do is dissect all the metaphors Paul uses to make his point. Let’s start with an heir. That would be you and me. We are the ones who stand to receive the inheritance, which is eternal life.

In Titus 3:6-7, Paul expands on this point: This is the Spirit He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we would become heirs with the hope of eternal life. What does an heir do to become an heir? Nothing, really. Paul tells us that all the action is on God’s end. He did the heavy lifting on the cross.

Now, who are these guardians and trustees he’s talking about? For an heir, that would be the structure set in place to keep the inheritance secure until such time as the inheritance can be received, namely, the law. For us, Paul refers to this as the elemental spiritual forces of the world. In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther writes, “In calling the Law “the elements of the world” Paul means to say that the Law is something material, mundane, earthly. It may restrain evil, but it does not deliver from sin. The Law does not justify; it does not bring a person to heaven. I do not obtain eternal life because I do not kill, commit adultery, steal, etc. Such mere outward decency does not constitute Christianity.”

This is more than just the Ten Commandments. It’s the ceremonial laws the Old Testament Jews were required to keep, and for us it would include the laws our government creates to maintain civic order. While keeping these laws certainly benefit us in this life, obedience to them does nothing to help us in our quest for eternal life.

All of this was in place until the time set by his [the heir’s] father. That time came at the first Christmas – with the tiny babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. In that event, God’s grand plan of salvation, which he first announced in the Garden of Eden to crush the head of the serpent, began its roll out. To what end? That we might receive adoption as true sons.

Ladies should not feel snubbed by this choice of pronoun. There’s real significance to being a son when it comes to how blessings were passed along in the Old Testament, especially for a first-born son. And that is precisely the designation we’ve received. What’s more, we’re adopted sons. That takes us even further out of the claim that we have any role in making this happen.

Now that we have this designation as God’s adopted sons, what does Paul say we now receive? Answer: The Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, giving us the power to cry out Abba Father. This is really an amazing truth. Paul uses the same word that Jesus used when He gave His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, Our Father, who art in heaven, Luther tells us that with these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father, and we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we can ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father.

I’ve always taught that the English equivalent of this term Abba is the child’s expression Daddy. But pastor and author Tim Keller tells us it’s really more like Dah-Dah – a very, very small child’s expression. Such is our neediness as a child of God.

Only seven verses, but wow! What a great message in seven verses!

Questions to consider:

  • How is life made easier when you remember that you are an heir?
  • What is the estate we have inherited?  How does knowing that we stand to inherit this change how we see the world in which we live?
  • Some might resist the notion that our relationship with God is akin to a baby’s relationship to its father. Why, instead, should this be an extremely comforting and reassuring comparison?
  • What role does an heir have in simply being an heir? How is this a fitting description of us?
  • Now that we are no longer slaves to the elemental forces of the world, how should we approach them? What is to be our attitude toward the laws put in place over us, including the Ten Commandments, and all those other ones imposed on us by governments?

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