Last week we focused on the fact that the Law had a specific purpose within the framework of Salvation History. The Law acted as a warden and a nanny for Israel to carry them as a nation to the next phase of God’s plan, which climaxed in the manifestation of the Promised Seed (Jesus).
God has a redemption plan that has been in place since before the fall of man ever happened (1 Peter 1:18). As humans, we are usually very impatient and hurriedly desire to travel from point A to point B. God on the other hand, is long suffering because it is His desire that no one perish (2 Peter3:9). Therefore, He has taken His time to clearly communicate the plan of Salvation History through His Word and interaction with humanity through creating His own people (1 Peter 2:9). He accomplished this first through the creation of Israel out of Abraham, and He continues today through the church.
Through the illustration of a nanny, tutor, schoolmaster, or pedagogue, Paul explained that God’s people Israel existed in the midst of a time-frame of Salvation History where they had to be guided through this phase of God’s redemption plan. In the verses we will cover next, he will continue with the thought of an immature child; however, the progression will describe a maturation process resulting in an adult son who is now able to receive his inheritance.
Galatians 4:1-2 1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.
Paul continues the idea from last week by describing Israel as an immature child of God requiring guidance and close supervision by servants who monitor their child’s activities. These servants attend to the daily functions of the child regarding more than just education. Some of these servants described in the original language speak of looking over all aspects of their lives including their financial matters also.
The word child in this passage describes an infant incapable of speech therefore; they are unable to attend to themselves. Theoretically, these children could be heirs to a vast fortune. However, they are currently at a place in their maturity that they cannot access those funds. They cannot enjoy the fruit of their inheritance because it is not the appointed time for them to be trusted with the inheritance. While they are actually heirs, at this point in their life, they have no more freedom than a servant. Using this as a Salvation History illustration, God's plan for humanity was not at the level of maturity during the time-frame of the Law so Israel, under the Law, is seen as a child incapable of making its own decisions. Therefore, the Law was given to act as a guide to carry the plan forward to the appointed time.
Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
The idea of the word elements- describes first things similar to the concept of elementary school being first before the next levels. Paul is saying that when humanity was under the elemental ways of things, we were all under bondage. Scholars agree that for the Jew Paul was obviously speaking of the Mosaic Law, but for the Gentile they were under the bondage of Pagan religions.
However, Paul has explained before that even the Gentiles had some form of law built within them. In the book of Romans, Paul explains that even for the Gentiles, their conscience speaks to them regarding right from wrong without even knowing the Law of God. Therefore, when they respond properly to what their conscience tells them, then they are also living according to a system of law.
Romans 2:13-15 13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience (1 Tim 4:2)also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.
In this sense, Gentiles then, and a Christian today, could create for themselves a system of legalism in an attempt to live a more “righteous” life rather than submitting to the covenant of grace that Jesus purchased for humanity through the giving of Himself for our sins.
I have had multiple discussions even with Pastors of churches that refuse to pay attention to what passages like this one are saying because they believe that the Law was only for Israel. They do not understand that when man's conscience begins to deal with him about right and wrong, his natural instinct is to establish laws and regulations in order to live right.
Nevertheless, both Jew and Gentile, in this stage of human history, were living under the elemental stages of God’s redemption plan. This resulted in bondage because at this point the liberating power of the Holy Spirit had not been given.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
There is an obvious contrasting of 2 time-frames taking place here. The Holy Spirit is pointing out the difference between elemental and fullness.
Elemental- first or preliminary
Humanity was under bondage during these earlier periods of Salvation History, but there was an appointed time for Jesus to come. There was a time of preparation before Jesus could come. Similarly, in our individual lives, there is a time of preparation before we are ready to receive Jesus. As sinners, sin usually has to have had its way in our lives in order for us to be convinced that it is not worth playing with. As Christians, we often have to travel a long journey of trying to live for God in our own strength before frustration convinces us that it is time to really submit.
God had to convince Israel and the Gentile world that it was time for Jesus. In a similar fashion, He continues to convince people through circumstances and His Word that Jesus is what they need.
At the time that Jesus was born:
(1) The Roman Empire had constructed roads that made travel easy.
(2) The Grecians had contributed a common language for the civilized world.
(3) The Jews already believed in monotheism (one true God).
In other words, the world was prepared by God for humanity to receive the Messiah. It is important for us to understand that there was no mail service, no telegraph, and no internet. But because of the common language and the well-developed road system, it was an environment that was conducive to the spreading of the Gospel.
Jesus was born of a woman, which is consistent with the Gospels in the sense that He was born of a virgin. Mankind was helpless in the midst of his bondage. Sin was pervasive and the Law and conscience of man was not powerful enough to remove man from its grip.
But God became man during the time-frame of the Law with regards to Salvation History. Remember, the Law was given for transgressions until the seed would come. When the promised seed came, He did what man could not do... He kept the Law, which fulfilled the just requirements of the Father. You and I cannot keep the Law to completion. We need to quit trying to make ourselves righteous in the eyes of God by attempting to live through a set of rules.
Am I saying that it is okay to break the 10 commandments? Absolutely not! It is still a sin to kill, steal, and commit adultery. But righteousness is not found in keeping the Law. Right standing with God is through our position in Christ...the Law keeper. Now, in Him, grace flows, this gives strength to live right. So in Christ, we are not just given power to not commit adultery, but "in Christ", we are given power through grace not to lust in our hearts (Matt 5:27, 28).
…receive the adoption of sons. This terminology in the Greek literally means “Adult son placing”. The idea describes a coming of age where the person can be trusted with his inheritance.
This took place because He redeemed us from the Law. We have made mention of this on multiple occasions, but the Greek thought of redeemed is: to be purchased off the slave market through the payment of a ransom. Jesus was born of a woman under the time-frame of the Law. He lived a perfect life, which fulfilled the demands of the Law. Then He offered His sinless life as a ransom for sinful humanity. Because He had no sin, death had no hold on Him, and He resurrected from the dead. Furthermore, He ultimately ascended back to the Father. He is seated in heavenly places where there is no sin or Law. And the scripture says that we are seated in heavenly places in Him: Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
The progression is that there is a maturing from a child to a son. The thought goes back to the idea of a child (infant) or one that is of an age where he cannot manage his affairs. Therefore, he has to be placed under tutors, guardians, and stewards.
Now, humanity has reached the point in Salvation History where things have changed. The changing factor in the equation is directly related to the Spirit of God. One of the points that I attempted to make as we spoke of Salvation History last week had to do with God's methodical approach to restoring His presence back to a place of intimacy with humanity.
Because of the cross and the removal of sin (Hebrews 10:1-20), we become the house of the Holy Spirit. The result is that we are reconnected to the Father through the Spirit. Once we are born again, the Spirit of God cries from our heart Abba father. This results in a level of intimacy that cannot exist between an adult an infant. GRACE IS FOR GROWN- UPS.
Jesus called the Father Abba in the garden:
Mark 14:33-36 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. 35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
This term Abba was a name used by Jewish children to address their fathers. It was not a name used by the Jewish people in prayer because it described a level of familiarity and intimacy. To the Jewish mind, it would have been sacrilege to address God on such familiar terms. However, the reason they felt this way is because during their time-frame in Salvation History, the Holy Spirit did not live continuously on the inside of man (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Jeremiah 21:31; John 14:17). But now through faith in Jesus' sacrifice, the heart of man becomes the home of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit of God within us cries Abba Father. He is letting us know we are home.
I do not know what kind of distress you are facing in your life right now. In the Mark passage we read, Jesus was facing the biggest trial of His life. His closest friends that He had poured everything into had fallen asleep when He needed them the most. It is an amazing thing how so often when we go through the greatest trials of our Christian lives, it seems as though we are all alone. But the truth is that we are not alone. We have access to Abba Father. The Holy Spirit is dwelling in you if you are a Christian. If that is you right now and you feel as though you are being overwhelmed by sorrow, grief or pain, let the Spirit of God on the inside cry out "Abba Father!"
Galatians 4:7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
All this time, the Judaizers are trying to convince the Galatian Christians that if they want to inherit the promises given to Abraham then they will have to come under the covenant that God made with Israel. But Paul is explaining that the Old Covenant was an inferior covenant that was brought in after the promise was given to Abraham. Furthermore, the purpose of that covenant was to carry humanity to a certain point in Salvation History where the Promised Seed would arrive.
The result of the Promised Seed and His sacrifice is a better covenant based on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). Once again in the New Covenant, the result is intimacy with God on a level that the OT Jew did not enjoy because the Holy Spirit was unable to indwell him on a persistent basis secondary to the fact that the old sacrificial system was unable to actually remove the debt of sin (Hebrews 10:4).
Now that the plan of God has "come of age" there is greater intimacy. As Paul explains, in the New Covenant, God views us as sons and heirs rather than infants under bondage to the power of sin or the Law. Now, in Christ, the Holy Spirit desires to guide us through this life. The idea should not be," Well I am a grown up now. Okay God thanks for the help. Thanks for telling me I do not need the tutors, stewards and guardians anymore. I will take it from here."
Instead, we have the wonderful privilege of intimate access to the presence of God. The Holy Spirit wants to walk with us and talk with us. He wants to give us counsel in all of our affairs. Unfortunately, along with freedom oftentimes comes a learning curve. Grace is for grown-ups. And many times when Christians attempt to live according to grace, they do not always want to hear what the Spirit of God is saying. Many times when the Spirit says something we do not want to hear, we ignore His voice. The problem with is that it is disobedience and sin, which results in a "hearing problem."
Have you ever seen a child get corrected and act as though he did not hear what the parent said? This is a similar concept. Except it is more like the child that has grown up and moved out that you have tried to speak wisdom into their lives, but they ignore your counsel. You cannot force them…they are an adult now. To some extent, you have to let them go and learn the process.
It is the same with grace. There is a process of learning how to live for God as a "grown up". In order for it to work, the believers must listen intently to hear his voice and when He speaks, we must obey.
What do you need direction about in your life right now? Have you invited God into the midst of those circumstances or have you not really asked His opinion for fear that He may tell you something contrary to what you want?