The Gospel in Galatians
 by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira 

8 – From Slaves to Sons

Galatians 4:1-11:

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.
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

This study, Galatians 4:1-11, is really a continuation of our last study, which was Galatians 3:15-29.  Let us review what we learned.

God came to Abraham and promised him salvation for all mankind through His seed (singular) which Paul identifies as Christ.  Then, 430 years after making this promise, God gave the law to the human race through Moses.  The law was existing from the beginning, otherwise sin would not exist from the beginning.  But it was existing in an implicit manner in the hearts of men, that is, in their consciences.  Paul brings this out clearly in Romans 2.  But, when God handed the law in this explicit written form, to Moses, sin no longer was just missing the mark.  It became transgression or a legal offense.  This meant that, from Moses onwards, mankind stood condemned, not only in Adam, but mankind was also guilty of their own personal sins.  In other words, the giving of the law made the human race legally accountable or under the curse of the law with the only hope of escape from death being the coming of Christ some 1,500 years later.

Paul compares this historical period from Moses to Christ, the period under law, with that of a child of a nobleman under the discipline of an entrusted slave.  According to Roman practice, a child of a wealthy man who was one day to inherit the wealth of his father, from the time he was a toddler until he reached the legal age that the father set, was kept under the discipline of an entrusted slave.  This legal age of liberation was anything between 14 to 17 years old.  The date that the father set was called liberlia.  When this date arrived, when the toddler had reached maturity, not only was he released from the discipline of the entrusted slave, but the father would hold a tremendous banquet in honor of his son, place a special gown over him called the toga and, from then onwards, this man was no longer under the discipline of the slave but was a free man.

Paul compares this child under discipline with the human race under the law from Moses to Christ.  In Galatians 4, especially the first seven verses, he is telling us that we, as human beings, were no different than this child under the discipline of a slave during that period.

Having reviewed this, we now look at what Paul is saying in Galatians 4:1-7.  Our study goes to verse 11, but we will divide it in two parts.  In verses 1-7, Paul is talking about how we moved from slaves to sons when Christ came and liberated us from under the law.  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.

This is a wonderful passage.  Let’s study it step by step.

The first two verses are describing the Roman practice.  Paul is saying:  “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.”  A child of a rich man was, one day, to inherit all that belonged to his father.  In actual fact, this child is basically a wealthy child but as long as he is a child he is placed under the discipline of an entrusted slave, which means that he has no more freedom than the slave himself.  He is under rulership; he is to do everything that the slave tells him to do.  The slave has authority to punish the child, to discipline the child if he disobeys.

This toddler, from the time he is handed over to the slave to the time that he is set free by the father, is no different than the slave.  The age this child reaches, which the father has appointed, could be anything between 14 to 17 years old.  The date or age was not set by the state but by the father.  The father would decide beforehand, “At this age, on your 14th (or your 17th) birthday, you shall be liberated from under that slave.”  When that date arrived, there was a great party that was given in honor of that child.  He put on the toga, this gown that symbolized his newfound freedom and no longer was he under the discipline of that slave.

Using this Roman practice, Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4:

But when the set time had fully come [the appointed time that God promised Abraham], God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law....

Paul is telling us that, in the incarnation, God did something very special.  He took the divine life of His Son and the corporate life of the human race and united these two in the womb of Mary.  In the womb of Mary, Jesus (the Son of God) and the human race were joined together in one Person and Jesus became one of us.  That is why He is called Emmanuel, “God with us.”  This did not save us.  This did not redeem us from under the law but this qualified Jesus to be our Substitute.

One of the most difficult problems we face in presenting the gospel to the non-Christian world, which is approximately seventy percent of the world’s population, is the ethical issue of the gospel, a problem that existed all through the Christian era and especially since the Reformation.

The ethical issue of the gospel is:  How can one Man be the Savior of all men?  Or still more important:  How can an innocent Man, Jesus Christ, bear the guilt and punishment of the guilty human race?  No law, God’s or man’s, allows guilt and punishment to be transferred from the guilty to the innocent.  God made that clear in Deuteronomy 24:16:

Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

God repeated this in Ezekiel 18:1-20:

The word of the Lord came to me:  “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:  ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child — both alike belong to me.  The one who sins is the one who will die.
“Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.  He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.  He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.  He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.  He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.  He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them.  He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between two parties.  He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws.  That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.
“Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them):  He eats at the mountain shrines.  He defiles his neighbor’s wife.  He oppresses the poor and needy.  He commits robbery.  He does not return what he took in pledge.  He looks to the idols.  He does detestable things.  He lends at interest and takes a profit.  Will such a man live?  He will not!  Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.
“But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:
“He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.  He does not defile his neighbor’s wife.  He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan.  He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.  He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor and takes no interest or profit from them.  He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.  He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.  But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.
“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’  Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.  The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.  The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”

Guilt cannot be transferred.  Righteousness cannot be transferred from one person to another.  No law allows that.

The question is:  How can God justify the ungodly through Jesus Christ and still maintain His integrity to His holy law?  This was the central issue in the Reformation.  This is why the Roman Catholic scholars accused the Reformers of legal fiction.  But the answer to this problem is this:

Before God could save us in Christ, He had to qualify Christ to be our Savior.  He did this by uniting the divine life of Christ with our corporate human life which we all possess.  Divinity was united to our corporate humanity in the womb of Mary.  Jesus became the second Adam under the law as our Substitute and Representative.  This truth is beautifully explained in 1 Corinthians 1:30.  Let us read that passage so that we understand how God saved us in Christ Jesus and still maintains His integrity to His holy law.  Paul says:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus...

Notice, three people are involved in that statement.  “Him” refers to God the Father; the “You,” which is in the plural form, in the original, refers to us; and Christ is the second Person of the Godhead, the Son of God.  Paul is saying that God took the corporate human race, the corporate human life, and joined it to Christ in the womb of Mary.  By doing this, Christ and we became one and Jesus became the second Adam.  Adam in Hebrew means mankind.  It has a collective significance.

Continuing 1 Corinthians 1:30, Paul says:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

That word “wisdom” in the Greek means special knowledge.  Remember what Jesus said in John 8:32:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

What is this truth?  By uniting us to Christ and by His perfect life and sacrificial death, Christ became our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption.  Paul says in verse 1 Corinthians 1:31:

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Going back to Galatians 4:4-5:

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.

Paul tells us that when the right time came, when the appointed time arrived, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under law.  When Christ united Himself with us, what we are, He became.  By doing that, He qualified to be our Savior.  Then by His doing and by His dying, He redeemed us from under the law that we might receive adoption of sons.  Paul is saying here, that in Jesus Christ, He gave us, He gave all mankind, a new history in which we stand perfect before God’s law.  This new status, this new history, is God’s gift to man.  The moment we receive, by faith, that gift, Jesus Christ, we become sons of God.  In verse 6 of Galatians 4 Paul says:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Another passage says the same thing in a clearer way, Romans 8:16-17:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

This is an exceptional statement.  When we become Christians, we are not only forgiven sinners; we are not only justified sinners but we become sons and daughters of God.  Do you know what that means?  It means that we are no longer members of this world.  We have become citizens of heaven, joint heirs with Christ.  Paul, especially in Romans 5:12-21, tells us that what we receive in Christ is much more than what we lost in Adam:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned — To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

According to the Bible, in the Old Testament and also in the book of Hebrews, man, in Adam was created a little lower than the angels.  Psalm 8:4-8:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.  You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:  all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Hebrews 2:5-9:

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.  But there is a place where someone has testified:  “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?  You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.  But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God is the highest, angels are next, and we were created a little lower than the angels.  Then, Adam sinned and he brought the human race to the bottom of the pit.  He put us all into death row with no way of escape except through Jesus Christ.

Then, Christ joined Himself to the human race that needs redeeming.  He became the second Adam and then, by His life and by His death, He redeemed mankind.  Does He return us back to our lost status?  The answer is, “No.”  He takes us to the very throne of God.  He takes us to where He is at the right hand of God the Father so that, in Christ, we are not lower than the angels but we are above the angels.  We are joint heirs with Christ and one day we shall rule and judge angels.  This is much more.  This is over-abundant grace.  Our position, in Christ, is far better than we ever were in Adam even before the Fall.

Therefore, don’t ever moan and groan, “Why did God allow sin to enter this world?”  One reason He allowed sin to enter this world is so that He could make us better in Christ than we ever were in Adam.  When we accept Christ, God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts.  We call this the new birth experience.  This new birth makes us sons and daughters of God.  This new birth makes us joint heirs with Christ.  And the Spirit that dwells in us, through the new birth experience, convinces our spirit, our conscience, that we are God’s children.  And if we are God’s children, then we can address God as “Dear Father.”

In verse 7, Paul says:

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

You are no longer a slave but a son.  If you are a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  What a privilege this is!

Having made this clear explanation of our situation as Christians, Paul, in verses 8-11, speaks about his great fear for the Galatian Christians:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

What is Paul saying here?  He is taking this truth that he has just expounded in chapter 4, verses 1-7, and is applying it to the situation of the Galatians.  He is telling them in Galatians 4:8 that, when they were pagans, before their conversion, when they were believers of false gods which were not gods, they had no joy.  They had no peace and no hope because in all pagan religions, salvation is by our performance.  Since our performance is always coming short of the mark, people who are under legalism, people who worship false gods, have no peace, have no joy.  They were serving these beggarly elements which Paul calls the rules, the “dos” and “don’ts” of all non-Christian religions.  They were in bondage.  They observed days and months and seasons hoping to appease an angry god, hoping that one day, for some reason, the gods of heaven will take them to where they belong.

They gave up all this with joy when they heard the gospel Paul preached to them.  They, from deep heartfelt gratitude, accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.  So much so that they were willing to pluck their eyes and give them to Paul because of the problem he was facing with his eyes.  Now, suddenly, these Judaizers had convinced these Galatian Christians that they must go back to bondage; they must go back to “dos” and “don’ts” as their requirement for salvation.  They were trapped into a subtle form of legalism by these Judaizers.  Paul, with a pastor’s heart, pleads with them, “Have I labored with you in vain?”  “Have I given you the good news for nothing now that you have turned your backs to the gospel?”

Paul is expressing here, his deep concern for the Galatian Christians.  This is a problem that we face even today.  The Galatians were turning from the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to legalism.  And Paul is concerned.  He is not only a theologian; he has the heart of a pastor, a heart that longs to see his believers ultimately saved in Christ.

Paul says the sad fact is, after they found freedom in Christ, they returned to a religion of bondage, a religion of “dos” and “don’ts” which makes no sense to him.  “How can you do it?” Paul says.  “How can you turn from the good news of salvation to legalism which robs you of all peace, joy, hope?”  The devil is very much alive today.  And just as he led the Galatian Christians, using the Judaizers as a tool, just as he sidetracked these Galatian Christians from the pure truth of the gospel, he would like to do the same to us.  Every Christian, living today in the 20th Century must come to grips with Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.  It has been recorded for our benefit upon whom the ends of the world would come.  You see, man by nature is a legalist.  As one young Christian told me who gave up the gospel for legalism, “Anything I need in this world, I must work for it.  Why should salvation be different?”

The reason salvation is different is because God’s ways are not man’s ways.  The prophet Isaiah tells us that, as far as the stars are, millions of light years away, so are God’s ways from our ways.

It is true, in this world, we have to work for anything we want.  This world is a result of a sin problem.  God told Adam after the Fall, “By the sweat of the brow, you will eat your bread.”  But when it comes to our redemption, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.  We are sold as slaves to sin.  We are under sin, dominated by sin.  Paul makes it very clear in Galatians 2:16:

...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

That is why God’s way of saving sinners is through faith in Jesus Christ.  Salvation is by grace alone.  This is the wonderful truth that Luther and his fellow Reformers recovered from the Dark Ages of Christianity.

The devil had deceived, not only the Galatians, but the early Christian church.  After the third and fourth century, he came with false ideas and plunged the church into darkness.  Then came the Reformers.  They came with the restoration of the gospel that man is saved by faith alone and nothing else, faith in Jesus Christ.  Faith alone and grace alone were the two wonderful truths of the gospel that were restored by the Reformers.

But the devil, through modern liberal theology, through all his crafty ways, is trying to sidetrack us even today from the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yes, we are living in a scientific age.  Man has made tremendous advances in technology but just like Rome, so it is today.  The scientific method cannot redeem sinful man.  We need a Savior and the good news is that God did send a Messiah.  He did send a Savior by which all men, Jews and Gentiles, can be redeemed.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior, I plead with you to do it now.  There is no other name under heaven by which you can be saved except through Jesus Christ.  And if you are a believer, rejoicing in Christ, don’t you ever allow any human being to rob you of this wonderful peace and joy you have in Jesus Christ.

In ending, let me give you the clear, distinction between salvation under the law and salvation under grace.  There are three major distinctions.

  1. A religion under law is a religion of fear.  Why?  Because we are constantly living under the curse of the law.  Cursed is everyone who does not obey the law.  Galatians 3:10:

    For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

    Whereas, under grace, it is a religion of love and joy and peace.  1 John 4:17-18 tells us that perfect love, the love of God, casts out fear:

    This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:  In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

    There is no fear in the believer because, as He is in heaven, so are we on this earth.  As Christ is, so are we because we stand perfect in Christ through faith.

  2. The religion of the law is a religion of insecurity.  One of the biggest problems that mankind is facing today is the problem of insecurity.  We are insecure but under grace we have full assurance of salvation because we know in whom we believe and that He is able to save us to the uttermost, all who come to God through Him, Jesus Christ.

  3. Finally, the religion of under law is a religion that ends in spiritual poverty, bankruptcy, and burnout.  There comes a time when we give up because our performance never reaches the requirement of the law.  But those who are under the umbrella of grace, have a religion where they never get tired because they have peace with God.

It is my prayer that you will cling to this message of salvation by grace alone and that nobody will rob you of your peace, your joy, your assurance of salvation.


Home
Study Materials
 
Back
 
Next