Superman. Snow White. Harry Potter. Luke Skywalker. Princess Leia. Peter Pan. Why do so many inspiring stories have orphans as main characters? These stories tap into the innate feeling that this world is not our home. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
This is why adoption is such a comforting doctrine. To be adopted is to realize you were made for another world—and for another person. You were made for God. In the church that I grew up in, in Denver, USA, there was a family that had adopted three children from China, because there are millions of children in China who are given away to orphanages, because of the one child policy at that time. But this family did not choose what the world would call the ideal human, they chose out of love to love those who called out. One child had autism, the other had a deformed hand, and the last could not walk.
They had three of their own children. But there was no difference. Whatever privileges the biological children enjoyed the adopted ones also enjoyed. They were heirs of their parents, and one day they would inherit all that was their parents. God has one natural Son, and millions and millions of adopted sons and daughters. For those of you who have always believed I pray your eyes might be opened to the unbelievable privilege you have. For those of you who do not know God, I pray that you might see that this world is not your home, and God’s arms are open yet today to welcome a sinner, with a deformed heart, home.
The text today is a phenomenal text, probably the best one yet, if I may say so. You ask, “How can it get better?” We are justified before God by faith! We are innocent. Not just declared innocent, but are innocent. That is an immense privilege, what could get better? Well there is something greater than justification – that is adoption. In justification you have been made guiltless, cleared before God as judge, but in adoption, you have been made God’s child.
Adoption: You are heirs of God!
- How – In Christ
- When – when God sent his Son
- What this means
How? – In Christ
Verse 26 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Mmm, you don’t look amazed. Let me say that again. I just said, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” That is not my word for you today, that is God’s word to you. When God sees you who believe, he sees Jesus Christ. I am talking to you, the 1st graders who are sitting next to mom and dad, and you, entering the twilight years of life. A son; a daughter of Almighty God! In Paul’s time it was the son that would have inherited his father’s property. It was the son that has the rights. But here the emphasis to the Galatians is on the word “all”. You are all sons of God through Jesus Christ our Lord – doesn’t matter who you are!
You – Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slave and free – are ALL sons of God through Jesus Christ for as we read in v. 27, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” The verb here for baptized is passive. Baptism is something God does to us, for us. It is a passive act, not an active one.
Believers are baptized into Christ (v. 27), have put on Christ (v. 27), are one new person in Christ (v. 28), and therefore belong to Christ (v. 29). Being in Christ is what unites a people, no other human classification matters. A few weeks ago we baptized Adriaan, and before that Karlien, the newest members of our family here. How did she become part of this family - the family of God? Because of something amazing that she did? No, of course not but because of something God did in Christ. Baptism is a picture of coming into God’s family. Baptism into Christ is the creation of a new way of seeing humanity based on what Christ did. In him we become one.
This oneness does not mean sameness, where we are all the same. Paul remained a Jew, he remained a male, and he remained a free man. But that was not what defined him now. What defined him now was the Christ event. That event allowed for a united people from every tongue, tribe, nation and language. It is not that difference doesn’t matter and we should all be the same. But who you are is not what gives you value; it is whose you are.
And in Christ not one of us in better than the other. In Christ – there is equality. There is not one greater here than the other, for the simple fact that there is no greater here than Jesus Christ. As he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” The law takes us all to our knees in desperation for a deliverer, and Christ takes us by the hand and lifts us up and says, my son my daughter. Welcome home. In him we get raised from the lowest pit of hell which we deserve, to sit in the highest heaven through undeserved grace.
The more spiritually mature are not loved more, and the broken are not loved less. Do a good mom and dad love an older child because he or she is older or more mature? Of course not. The weak are loved just as the strong.
You will notice that so far, I have not spoken about whether women should be able to serve in office, because that is simply not what this text is about, even though many use it that way. I don’t think you need to be a Bible scholar to see that in this section Paul is not talking about leadership in the church, he is talking about equality and unity before the eyes of God. These verses do not say do away with all authority structures, and differences between cultures, or sexes. But do away with your human ideas of worth. Just because someone is a leader does not mean they are more worthy in God’s eyes. In fact, God says a Christian leader must actually be the least, and be the servant of all.
Each of you who are clothed with Christ has a price tag of immeasurable worth. A differentiation of roles does not mean different values. We humans put that upon ourselves. We think that a president is more valuable than a homeless person. Thousands of innocent people might be killed and you will not hear it on the news, but as soon as a celebrity is killed it will be around the world within the hour. Here God is saying, it will not be so in my church. Not so in this building. You are all one in Christ.
Verse 29 “If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” Remember how we said last week that the promise was not made to a whole group of people it was made to one person. That seed. Jesus Christ. And in him alone do we enjoy the promises. Well here Paul says what I told you last week in the sermon. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed and all that was promised to Abraham is promised to you. I will be your God and you will be my people!
Dear brothers and sisters, we are heirs of the New Creation to which the promised land pointed, heirs of the eternal Sabbath, an eternal rest from pain, sin, and suffering and death, heirs of God – to whom belongs all things. This all happens in Christ. And it was given to God’s people when Christ came.
In the ancient world just because you were a son you did not right away have a right to the estate of your father. In fact, when you were a child a guardian was set over you. Someone that would protect you and raise you. Someone usually close to the family, but not belonging to the family. His role was to protect, and guide the child to maturity – but that child was treated like any other servant, even though he was the son of the estate. This is what Paul is saying in chapter 4:1 “What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.” In a certain way in the Old Testament the children, Israel, were no different than the slaves, the Gentiles.
In 1999 a duke and duchess went to court to block their son from receiving the inheritance before 18. Their son, Earl Percy, was only 14 at the time, and his parents had his best interest in mind. He was going to inherit 1 million pounds and a half million pounds in annual income. But the parents did not want him to inherit too much too soon. The parents knew that other British noblemen had squandered fortunes on drugs and loose living. They set up a trust to manage the money till he was 25. Till the time was right – a time appointed by the parents.
What happened to Earl Percy is similar to the situation Paul describes here. The people of Israel in the Old Testament were children of God in the same way we were, but they were under a guardian. As we read in verse 2, “He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.” They were not entrusted with the inheritance yet. As he says in verse 3, “So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.”
This young son was treated as a slave with a guardian over him. In other words, Israel was in slavery under the basic principles of the world. The basic principles seem to be the Law of Moses because he refers to the law in the next two verses. “Basic principles” mean elementary teaching. The people of Israel were still working on their ABC’s. To sit under the law was like learning the alphabet of God’s will. The OT law was like elementary school for the people of God. Hebrews calls them “the external regulations applying until the time of the new order (Hebrews 9:10).”
But eventually schoolchildren outgrow their elementary education. In the same way God raised his people on the law to prepare them for the gospel. As one author says, “Israel was a little school set up in a corner of the world; the Law of Moses was, as it were, an ABC, or primer, in which Christ was revealed to the world, in dark and obscure manner, especially to the Jews.” Being under the law, after the gospel is revealed was not a sign of an advanced degree, like a Ph.D. It was a sign of spiritual immaturity. It’s like repeating first grade.
So what caused them to graduate, what brought them from being a son treated as a slave to a son receiving all the rights of sonship? Well the next verse describes it to us. And like any adoption process this one is costly – infinitely so.
We were enslaved, but as we read in verse 4, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law that we might receive the full rights of sons.” There it is in one verse. The Gospel. Underline it, highlight it, and share it. Instagram it, tweet it. Let’s look at it.
“When the time had fully come.” The idea here is of pregnancy, the time appointed by God had come. Jesus Christ came at the exact right time in human history. He came when sin had reached its height; and at a perfect time for the gospel could go out. The Greeks had provided a common language and culture; the Romans provided roads, and safety. He came not a moment too soon, not a moment too late. The time for the Son of God to make his appearance on the scene of History had come. At this moment God sent his Son! It was God that took the initiative in all this, while we just busy sinning away.
“God sent his son born of a woman”. The Gospel starts from the bottom up, from a messy delivery of a baby in a barn, to the name that is above every name. Christianity does not begin at the top where all other religions begin; it begins at the bottom, but then takes you far beyond any other religion can ever take you. Because he frees you from the curse of the law by being born under the law.
“Born under the law” Christ was perfect in regards to the Mosaic Law. He was born as one under the law, he was circumcised. He obeyed it all perfectly, and received the curse. Why did he do this so that we might receive the full rights of son? Let’s look at the last point?
What this means
A pastor tells about a new convert who came in deep distress to see him. "No matter how much I pray, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to be faithful to my Lord. I think I'm losing my salvation." Pastor Nee said, "Do you see this dog here? He is my dog. He is house-trained; he never makes a mess; he is obedient; he is a pure delight to me. Out in the kitchen I have a son, a baby son. He makes a mess, he throws his food around, he fouls his clothes, and he is a total mess. But who is going to inherit my kingdom? Not my dog; my son is my heir. You are Jesus Christ's heir because it is for you that He died." We are Christ's heirs, not through our perfection but by means of His grace.
We see here again the beautiful gospel shine brighter than almost at any point of this letter. The world was full of sin, it was under the law, under the heavy darkness and weight of condemnation, and it was looking like the human race was doomed! Then, THEN! God sent his own Son, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Here is one of the central most forgotten doctrines of the Christian faith – Adoption into God’s family – given full rights, like the one that is naturally God’s son, Jesus Christ.
The Full rights for you! The right to enter into the very presence of the Father, the right to the inheritance that God has promised for us, the right to partake with Jesus Christ of all that is his by right. We are sons. “And because we are sons,” Paul says in v. 6, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” The word ‘calls out’ here, is filled with intense meaning. In the midst of a lost and dying world the sinners cry to God, it is a heart cry of a young child crying out for mom or dad. This is the voice of the Sprit. It is no wonder it is called the Spirit of Adoption. The Spirit is living within you, is like your adoption papers. And the fruit of the Spirit which you bear is the proof that the adoption paper is real. If you are in a family you are going to act a certain way, and have certain mannerisms. And if you are in God’s family you are going to have that too.
Our prayers help us to know we are God’s children. As John Stott says, “God’s purpose was not only to secure our sonship by his Son, but to assure us of it by his Spirit. He sent his Son that we might have the status of sons, and he sent His Spirit that we might have an experience of it. This comes through the affectionate, quiet intimacy of our access to God in prayer, in which we find ourselves assuming the attitude and using the language not of slaves, but of sons.”
In his classic book, ’Knowing God’, J.I.Packer writes: If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all…. “Father” is the Christian name for God.”
This is the Spirit of God that calls out Abba (which was the everyday name for Pa.)
Dear church, numerous voices vie for our attention. There are the voices from the past, eroding our peace away with the refrain "If people really knew what you've done. You haven't changed one bit. Why would God ever love someone like you? Didn't I tell you you'd never amount to much?"
Then there are the voices of the present, often hijacked by our defeated enemy, Satan. His incessant scheme is to tempt us, seduce us, and then accuse us--doing everything possible to rob us of our peace and joy, through the gospel. Sometimes he shouts, more often he whispers, always he's condemning.
Then there's the voices from the future, usually fueling our fears with suggestions like, "You're not as sharp as you used to be, are you? You'll probably be forgotten. You'll eventually end up alone, right? Why do you think God would let someone like you into heaven?"
But then there's the voice of the Holy Spirit...Oh how that One voice transcends and trumps every other voice--the gossiper of the gospel, the one that whispers in our ear, “You are family. He is the bearer of beauty, the messenger of mercy, the singer of sanity, the song of Christ--God the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are bought, belonging and beloved children.
Abba, Father, by the Spirit of sonship, continue to free us from all of our slavish fears--past, present and future. May the Spirit speak so loudly that every dark voice will be stopped. May he speak so clearly that every deceiving lie will be silenced. May he speak so convincingly every paralyzing doubt will be routed.
Church this is LOVE. Being adopted into a family, as orphans, with all kinds of infirmities and weaknesses, and sins. This is love! Do you see it! Do you feel it! His love says, come into my family. I will be your pa, you will be my son, and I will give you my Spirit so that you can call out.
O how this love from the Father, shown in the Son, and poured out through the Spirit changes all of who we are. We begin to love what he loves. His world, and especially his people! You see the only service worthy of the name “Christian” is service soaked in love: If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3)
If you share in this families’ love, the love of the Triune God, then your life will look radically different. God “is love in such a profound and potent way that you simply cannot know him without yourself becoming loving.” (Micheal Reeves) Love makes the difference. Empowered by the Spirit go out and make a difference.
Adoption: The pinnacle of our salvation. To everyone sitting here today, here are the words of Jesus Christ, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” What no eye has seen nor ear has heard, nor heart of man conceived, God has revealed to you. Believe it.