Galatians 4:1-7: From Slaves to Sons
It is Christmas time again. Once again the world is handing itself over to carnival preparing to eat, and drink, and holiday and give gifts and be merry. In the western world there is the constant attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. But even where Christmas carols are still sung, and Christmas parades are still called so, and ‘Happy Holidays’ does not replace ‘Merry Christmas’, this is no guarantee that the Christ will be honoured. This is no guarantee that Christians will not be caught up in the materialism that has come to dominate a time of worship. So it is my duty today to try and remind us of the importance of the incarnation, and our text this morning is Galatians 4:1-7, ‘I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, 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.3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.’
Galatia was in the vicinity of modern day Turkey. The Galatians were being harassed by false teachers. Theses false teachers were of a Jewish nature and were teaching that the only way to be saved is to accept circumcision and the OT laws. It was a case of Jesus plus the law as a way of salvation. Paul was writing to the Galatians to reaffirm the gospel they heard at first, that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone and not by the law. In the context Paul has been talking about how the law was a guardian and schoolmaster keeping the Jews under detention until Christ came. It was the purpose of the law to prepare the Jews for Christ and now that He has come the law must be put away. That Jews and Gentiles are all one family in Christ by faith not by becoming Jews. The portion we have before us is one of Paul’s reflections on the purpose of the incarnation, v4-5 in particular. This section divides into three portions. V1-3 describes what we were, we were slaves. V4-5 describe what God did, He sent Christ. And v5-7 describe what we become children instead of slaves.