For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
We saw last time that Jesus was the seed promised in Genesis 3:15 who would crush the head of Satan. He was born to restore fallen humanity to relationship with God.
In Jesus, paradise is regained. We are sons of God again. The redemptive process which God set in motion with the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 finds its culmination in the seed who is Christ, who dies the sinner’s death, who rises to new life, and who grants that same life to those who believe in Him. Thus, He deals a crushing blow to Satan and frees all who have been in slavery to him, making them sons of God.
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:1-7)
When man was originally created, he was a son and an heir. When he fell into sin, he became a slave of sin and of Satan. Paul writes that God sent forth His Son to buy us out of the slave market, redeem us and make us sons.
Paul uses the illustration of a child in a family. The child may be the rightful heir to everything in the estate, but as long as he is a child, he is not different from a slave, even though he owns everything. Why? Because as a child he is under authority and control by those people who are put over him.
The child is commanded, reprimanded, instructed and taught. He is disciplined and made to obey, just like a slave. This goes on until the day his father says, “Alright, you’re no longer a child.” Then he is delivered from the bondage that he once experienced.
In the Jewish world, for the first 11 years of a young man’s life, he was instructed in the things of God. He was led very carefully to the place where he understood how to live as a man under the law of God. And at his 12th birthday, there was a definitive moment in time when he passed from being a child to being a mature son.
Under Roman law the year was not fixed, but somewhere between 14 and 17, at the discretion of the father based upon the development of the son, the family held a sacred festival called a liberalia in which the son was liberated from parental rule. He was taken down to the forum and introduced into public life.
So Paul says, “Look, you all understand that there is a definitive demarcation point when a father establishes that his children have passed from childhood to maturity. There is a time when the heir de jure becomes the heir de facto. From that point on, the guardians, stewards and tutors who disciplined him no longer have control over him. He is now free to act as a son and to enter into all the privileges that sonship involves.”
Paul takes this image and applies it to the spiritual dimension.
There was a time when we were enslaved, when although we were heir de jure, we were not heir de facto. It was already in the plan of God that we would be his sons and heirs. Our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, even from before the foundation of the world. We were chosen before the world began in Christ. It was already determined that we would be the heirs, but we had not yet entered into that. We had not become mature sons. We were still slaves. He says we were held in bondage under “the elemental things of the world.”
That phrase “elemental things,” and similar ones, are used a number of times in the New Testament, and they refer to the basics, or simple foundational principles. And as long as we were children, we were enslaved to those principles. For the Jewish person it would be the law of Moses. For the Gentile it would be enslavement to conscience (Romans 2:14-16).
A person who has never come to mature sonship in Jesus Christ, who has not yet entered into his inheritance in Christ, is enslaved. He is enslaved either to codified religious law or the law of God written on his heart. Either way, the law is equally tyrannical and impossible to keep.
Sonship, on the other hand, is provided through Christ, the son of God and the amazing child of Mary we have been learning about.
Christ’s coming provided the restoration of lost sonship, lost inheritance and lost intimacy with God. This was accomplished because He himself came and was born under the Law in order that He might redeem us. We will examine this redemption more closely next time.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1990, titled “A Son To Make Many Sons.”
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