By Joseph Ametepe
We Proclaim Jesus.
Jesus' Birth-A Timely Birth!
GOD BLESS YOU!
Why is being on time so challenging for some of us? Even when we start early, something inevitably gets in our way to make us late. I can relate to that very well. But here's the good news: God is always on time! His timing is always perfect. In fact, "late" is not in His vocabulary. Whatever God plans or promises to do, He does at the right time. Whatever He desires to do, you can be sure that He has a determined or fixed time to do it. Speaking of the arrival of Jesus on the First Christmas, one of the books of the Bible makes it very clear to us that the long awaited Messiah and promised Savior of sinners came just at the right time set by God Himself. This brings me to the big idea of this Christmas article. Please I want you to listen carefully to it, not just with your heads, but more importantly with your hearts. In other words, let your heart be like the good soil on which the seed of God's word falls to produce a crop-a hundredfold or sixty or thirty, as God may choose for your life. Here is the heart of this message in a nutshell. God performs His divine purposes for the world of lost sinners at His perfect time. To make it more personal, God follows His own time-table to do what He plans to do in your life and mine.
The purpose of this Christmas article is to show that the birth of Jesus was a timely birth. It happened in God's perfect timing. Nowhere is this truth clearly and concisely stated than in the inspired Letter written by Apostle Paul to the churches in Galatia. In Galatians 4:4-7, the Bible presents to us the Christmas story in a simple, succinct and straightforward manner. But it is not where we usually turn to gain a fresh perspective on the Christmas story. But I believe that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us something fresh and challenging from this brief but blessed passage of Scripture to prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of our Savior in a meaningful way.
Galatians 4:4-7 teaches that Jesus' birth occurred just at the right time. He was born to redeem sinners in God's perfect timing. In this article, we will first discuss the Bible's teaching about the appointed time of Jesus' arrival in verse 4. Secondly, we will look at Christ's atoning sacrifice for the redemption of sinners in verse 5a. Thirdly, we will focus on the Bible's teaching about the adoption of the redeemed sinners as sons in verse 5b. Fourth and finally, we will consider the assurance of the sonship of redeemed sinners in verses 6-7. If you are ready, let's begin now to take a fresh look at the brief but blessed Christmas Story recorded in the Epistle to the Galatians.
I. Appointed Time of Jesus' Arrival (Galatians 4:4)
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, we read these precious words: "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-a time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted." This passage is simply teaching us that God's timing is always perfect. He does everything at His appointed time. This is certainly the case in the life of the Lord Jesus. His coming to earth from heaven to become a Man and be born a little helpless baby, all happened at God's appointed time. This is vividly captured in Galatians 4:4
"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law" Galatians 4:4 (NASB).
At the time determined by God, God the Father sent God the Son, born of a Jewish woman, Mary, born under the Law. In other words, in God's timetable, "when the exact religious, cultural, and political conditions demanded by His perfect plan were in place, Jesus came into the world." ~ MacArthur.
The Bible is saying it loud and clear that God's perfect plan of saving lost sinners was carried out in God's perfect timing. You see, God is perfect, so everything about Him is perfect. His character is perfect. His plans are perfect. His ways are perfect. His works are perfect. His law is perfect. His timing is His perfect. It is therefore no wonder, when God determined to carry out His perfect plan of saving sinners, He sent His Son, our Savior, at His appointed time-His perfect time. The word translated "fullness" (Greek: pleroma), also means "that which makes something full, or complete," or, "full measure," or "full number," or "the state of being full," or "the right time." The Bible is saying here that God waited till the full number of the days He had fixed to send His Son had ran their course. He didn't send Jesus a day earlier or a day later. He sent Jesus just at the right time. "The fullness of the time," therefore refers to the appointed time set by God the Father. The Bible says in Romans 5:6, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." It's like the Bible is making it clear to us that Jesus came into the world on the First Christmas at God's perfect timing. Not only that, when He gave His life as God's perfect sacrifice for the sins of lost sinners, He did so at God's perfect timing. And when He returns to judge the world, He will return exactly at the time the Father Himself had set (Matthew 24:36).
You see, in the Roman culture, a father set the time for the ceremony of his son becoming of age and being released from guardians and managers to inherit his father's estate (Galatians 4:1-3). Similarly, God the Father sent forth His Son at the precise moment He had personally fixed to bring all who believe in Jesus Christ out of their slavery to the Law. In other words, before the arrival of Jesus men and women, Jews and Gentiles alike, had not reached that coming of age God had intended for them. Why? They were slaves to religion, rituals, rules, and regulations which are merely human, never rising to the level of God. But God chose the right time in human history to free mankind from this bondage.
Now some people who think they are smarter than God say: "It would have been far better for God to send Jesus at the First Christmas in our day of digital cameras, camcorders, computers, cell phones, cable and satellite TVs, and continuous super-fast internet access. People all over the world could see Jesus, as He performs miracles, preaches, prays, teaches, walks on water; as He is crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, and lifted up to heaven. Nobody would doubt that Jesus really came to die for our sins and rose again from the dead." But may I say to you-if you are one of these people-that you are mistaken. You completely misunderstand God's purposes. Why? It's because God does things according to His own timetable, not on man's timetable. Please tell me, how much glory will God receive if His work is dependent on man's machinery, ingenuity or technology? He will receive none. Man will receive all the glory. I tell you friends, God's timetable is not at all the same as your timetable or mine. Whether you like it or not, the Bible says here in Galatians 4:4 that God sent forth His Son at the perfect time-at His appointed time.
But you say: How do we know that the arrival of the promised Savior came just at the right time? Well, I'm glad you've asked. Please listen! First of all, it is because God Himself makes it so plain in Galatians 4:4. This was the moment God Himself had ordained for the coming of His Beloved and Only Begotten Son. Secondly, it is because of a prophetic word spoken in Daniel 2:40-44. From eternity, God had fixed a time to set up His kingdom in the days of the fourth world empire. Guess what! Jesus arrived on the scene at the precise moment Rome, the fourth kingdom, was ruling the world. In fact, His first message was "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Jesus was the One through whom God set up His indestructible kingdom. Unlike the kingdoms of men, God's kingdom will never be destroyed. Thirdly, it is because of the prevailing conditions at the time of His coming. The Law had done its educational work, showing the world that the most highly-favored nation on earth, that is, the Jewish nation, was, despite, all of God's blessings and mercy, totally depraved, giving the Gentile part of the human race a clear picture of its own totally depraved heart. Also, "Jesus' arrival during the Roman's Pax Romana (the peace of Rome) was perfect timing. The known world was united by one language of the commerce. A network of global trade routes provided open access to the whole world. All of this guaranteed that the gospel could move rapidly in one tongue. No visas. No impenetrable borders. Only unhindered access to help spread the news of the Savior whose crucifixion fulfilled the prophecy of the Lamb who would be slain for our sins. All in God's perfect timing." ~Adapted from Daily Bread: May 6, 2009.
One can say that the earth-stage was all set for the greatest event in the history of the human race, the coming of Jesus Christ in human flesh, His sacrificial death for the sin of the world and His bodily resurrection.
Donald K. Campbell brings out the connection between the phrases "the fullness of the time" (v. 4) and "the date set by the father" (v. 2). He writes:
"As a human father chose the time for his child to become an adult son, so the heavenly Father chose the time for the coming of Christ to make provision for people's transition from bondage under law to spiritual sonship. This "time" was when the Roman civilization facilitated travel, when the Grecian civilization provided a language which was adopted as the Lingua Franca of the empire; when the Jews had proclaimed monotheism and the Messianic hope in the synagogues of the Mediterranean world.~ Donald K. Campbell, "Galatians," in The Knowledge Bible Commentary, New Testament edition.
December 25th may not be the actual date of our Savior's birth. Someone says, "how could we really celebrate Christ's birthday if we don't know the day He was born?" My friend, the precise date is not the important thing. It's the fact of the incarnation that counts. "When the fullness of the time came"-whether December 25, January 6, April 20, or whatever date-the Savior was born. In other words, the exact date is incidental, but the fact that He came to earth means everything. That's what is meaningful to believers in Jesus Christ. No one who is willing to carefully and honestly consider the evidence can deny the truth that the "word Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Yes, God's Son really did enter this world at a certain point in human history. That is, God sent Jesus into our world at His appointed time. There's no question about it. Jesus did come. He did live. He did arise from the dead. He appeared to chosen witnesses after His resurrection. He did ascend into heaven forty days after His resurrection.
Now would you please notice that what God has done at His appointed time is clearly spelled out. The Bible tells us "God sent forth His Son." The verb "sent forth" is very important here. It is exapesteilen from exapostello. It also means "send out." It speaks of sending away someone in order to have him fulfill a mission in another place. It is used of the sending out of the apostles (John 4:38; Acts 22:21), of higher beings sent by God, example, angels (Matthew 24:31). But here in Galatians 4:4, it is used of the sending of God's Son, Jesus, in relation to His mission on planet earth. Later on, in Galatians 4:6, it will be used of the sending of God's Spirit into the hearts of redeemed sinners. This verb speaks of the deity or the divinity of Jesus Christ. In other words, God the Father's sending of God the Son into the world actually affirms Jesus' pre-existence as the eternal second Person of the Trinity. He was sent as One who is fully God. You see, Jesus, God the Son, was with the Father in eternity past, before even time began. But at the appointed time, God the Father sent Him out of His glorious presence into our sin infested world in order to fulfill a divine mission, a mission of seeking and saving lost sinners, of whom I am the chief. Actually, the Lord Jesus Himself repeatedly affirmed that He was sent by the Father, especially in the Gospel of John (John 4:34; 5:30, 36, 37, 38; 6:29, 38, 39, 44; 8:16, 18, 42; 12:49; 17:21, 25; 20:21).
Now would you please notice how the Bible briefly but blessedly describes the coming of God's eternal Son into the world. First, the Bible says Jesus was "born of a woman." This expression literally reads "becoming of a woman." The question is: what does it mean to say Jesus was "born of a woman?" This expression emphasizes the full humanity of Jesus Christ, not merely His virgin birth as recorded in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:18-25. Remember, we've already established the pre-existence or the deity of Jesus from the expression "God sent forth His Son." Now, in the words, "born of a woman," the Bible affirms His full humanity. You see, Jesus had to be fully God for His sacrifice to be of the infinite worth needed to atone for our sin. But He also had to be fully Man in order to take upon Himself the penalty and punishment of our sin-as our substitute. No doubt, the teaching that Jesus came into our world as fully God and fully Man is mind-boggling. But the Bible teaches it. It doesn't shy away from confidently declaring that Jesus was fully divine and fully human when He came into our world over two thousand years ago, at God's appointed time. Jesus is fully God and He is fully Man. Affirming this truth, the Holy Spirit says through Paul: "For in Him (that is Jesus) all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9). Earlier in the same epistle, the Spirit says: "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him" (Colossians 1:29).
The Bible's clear teaching that Jesus is fully God and fully Man is often not received well. Recently, a woman visited a local church, in which I once served. She heard the pastor's declaration that Jesus is fully God and fully Man. After the message, the woman approached the pastor and told him that she doesn't believe in his teaching of ascribing full divinity and full humanity to Jesus. You see, she only believes that Jesus is fully Man, but not fully God. The pastor insisted that Jesus is fully both God and Man. Since she would not be persuaded that that is the case, she decided to leave the church. She said, "then, this is not the right church for me." She hasn't come back to that church since. I was glad that the pastor didn't compromise on this important teaching of the Bible, just to please the woman. The Bible says in Galatians 4:4 that Jesus had perfect humanity. In fact, He was a Jewish Man. But Jesus was also God manifest in the flesh.
Writing on Galatians 4:4, Commentator W. MacDonald gives this insightful comment:
""In this verse we have, in a few words, a marvelous statement as to the deity and humanity of the Savior. He is the eternal Son of God, yet He was born of a woman. If Jesus had been only a man, it would be gratuitous to say that He was born of a woman. How else could a mere man be born? The expression in our Lord's case, witnesses to His unique Person and the unique mode of His birth." ~W. MacDonald, The Believer's Commentary, p. 1886.
The late John Stott also writes:
"The divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and the righteousness of Christ uniquely qualified Him to be man's redeemer."
Please observe that the Bible not only affirms that Jesus was "born of a woman," but it also declares that Jesus was "born under the Law." You ask: what does it mean that Jesus was born under the Law? Like all Jewish people, it was binding on Jesus to follow God's Law. Unlike any Jewish person, however, Jesus perfectly, flawless, blamelessly adhered to the law from start to finish. No one kept the law perfectly like Jesus. He alone fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law. He alone made the bold declaration of fulfilling the Law. With great conviction of heart, He declared in His Sermon on the Mount: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). It would have been easier to set the Law aside. But Jesus chose to submit Himself to the Law in order to fulfill all of its demanding and dreadful requirements. And He did so perfectly. His sinlessness therefore made Him the perfect Lamb of God whose sacrifice for sins was fully accepted by the Father. He alone perfectly obeyed God in everything.
Commentator W. MacDonald's insights on the expression "born of a woman, born under the Law" are very helpful. He writes:
"Born into the world as an Israelite, He was therefore born under the Law. As Son of God, the Lord Jesus would never have been under the Law; He was the One who gave it. But, in condescending grace, He put Himself under the law that He had made, in order that He might magnify it in His life, and bear its curse in His death." ~W. MacDonald, The Believer's Commentary, p. 1886.
Indeed, God does all things beautiful in His time. What an encouragement this should be to believers in Jesus Christ. Now someone says: How does this teaching concerning the coming of Jesus Christ into the world at God's appointed time apply to me? What difference does it make in my life today? Jesus, the Son of God, came at the perfect time God Himself had determined. So what? Well, I'm glad you've asked. Please listen carefully! If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, a genuine born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, here is how this teaching applies to you You can count on God that He knows when is the best to fulfill His purposes and promises for you. You see, oftentimes, we think God has forgotten all about us. We think He's forsaken us altogether. Sometimes, as believers in Jesus Christ, we even entertain the thought that God has failed us. Please, let's not make that mistake! Why? Here is why! When the fullness of time is right for you, God will show up-and you will be amazed by His brilliant timing! In other words, at God's appointed time to act in your life and on your behalf, He will not fail to act. Nothing will stop Him or slow Him once the appointed time He had set to accomplish His divine purposes in your life has come. God will act in His appointed time to encourage your heart in a fresh and new way-in believing that He indeed does all things beautiful in His time. Are you waiting for answered prayer for a godly companion in your life? A job? Restoration of a broken relationship? A prodigal to return home? Deliverance of a family member from drug addiction? Please don't give up! Why? At God's appointed time to respond to you, He will show up and amaze you with His brilliant timing, to remind you afresh that "God's time is the best."
But the question is: as a believer in Jesus Christ, do you trust God to work out His plans and purposes concerning your life in His time? Do you really believe that God's time is the best? Do you accept God's timing for accomplishing His plans for your life? Or do you run ahead of God and make a big mess for Him to clean up? Do you feel like life is passing you by and therefore you must take matters into your own hands to make things happen for you rather than wait for God's timing? Abraham and Sarah failed to wait for God's appointed time and took matters into their own hands. What a big mess they made for God to clean up! (Genesis 18:14; 21:2). The world is still suffering from their failure to wait on God to act in their lives at His appointed time. Please, as a believer, be reminded again today that God performs His plans and purposes for our lives at the proper time, at the right time, at His perfect time-at His appointed time.
Now, if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, how does this message apply to you? The Bible says: "There is an appointed time for everything....a time to be born and a time to die" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). It also says, "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). If you are alive today, your time of birth had already occurred. Next, will be your time of death. So the question is: If it's your appointed time to die, will you be ready to meet the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, sitting on His glorious throne? Will you be prepared to face Him in all His greatness, splendor, and majesty? Will you be able to defend yourself before the Judge of all the earth, who will judge the living and the dead? Will it be well with your soul on that day? My friend, if you have not put your trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, if you have not believed the Bible's teaching that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again from the dead on the third day to bring you into a right standing with a righteous and holy God, it will not be well with your soul. I repeat! It will not be well with your soul. Judge Jesus will look you into your eyes with His eyes, which are like a flame of fire, and solemnly say to you with a tone of finality: "I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers" (Matthew 7:21). But your eternal destiny doesn't have to come to such a hopeless doom and damnation! The Bible says: "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:7; 4:7). It also says: "Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation'" (2 Corinthians 6:2). In other words, the Bible is saying, today is what you have. Tomorrow may not be yours. Tomorrow is not a guarantee for you. Today is God's appointed time for you.
I believe the Holy Spirit is saying today, the fullness of the time has come for someone to be saved. I believe today is the appointed time for someone to be delivered once for all from drug addiction and alcohol abuse. I believe today is the acceptable time for someone reading this article to experience a spiritual breakthrough. I believe today is the right time God has chosen for someone to be released, set free, and loosed from the spirit of anger, bitterness, resentment, and even hostility toward God. I believe today is God's designated moment to rescue someone reading this article from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His Beloved Son. God's appointed time has come for you. Repent and receive His gift of forgiveness for all your sins- past, present, and future. Simply, like a child, believe in Jesus and in His death on the cross for your sins today. For today is what you have! Humbly and honestly pray this prayer.
"Jesus, I am a sinner. I cannot save myself from my sins and my sinful ways. I believe today that You died on the cross for my sins and rose again from the dead on the third day. Thank You for paying my sin debt in full. Please cleanse me from my sins and accept me as Yours today and for the rest of my life. Thank you for cleansing me and accepting me. Amen."
If you have sincerely prayed such a prayer, you can be sure that Jesus will begin a good work of changing you from the inside out to become more and more like Him. He will also fill you with His Holy Spirit. He will give you the desire to love Him and His Word. He will also give you a desire to serve Him and walk with Him and know Him.
Why did God send His Son into the world at His appointed time? In other words, what was God's purpose in sending forth Jesus from heaven to earth? The Holy Spirit gives us a clear, concise, and convincing answer. God sent His Son to accomplish a two-fold purpose. The first of which brings us to our second point, that is, His Son's atoning sacrifice.
II. Atoning Sacrifice for the Redemption of Sinners (Galatians 4:5a)
This truth is vividly captured in Galatians 4:5a.
"In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law" Galatians 4:5b (NASB).
In order to alert us to God's clear purpose for sending His Son into the world at His appointed time, the Holy Spirit uses the Greek conjunction-"hina" which denotes purpose, aim, or goal. God is saying; "My goal for sending forth My Son to become Man is to redeem those who were under the Law." You see, we are guilty, vile, wretched sinners under the law's demands and its curses. We have no way of redeeming ourselves from the law's demands and its curses. We are in need of a Savior. That's why Jesus came to redeem us. The word "redeem" (Greek: exagorazo) is a rich word. It means to buy up something, buy back, buy out of slavery, deliver someone, to purchase the freedom of, to ransom, to atone for, to set free.
By His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus, the unblemished, spotless, sinless Lamb of God, who is separated from sinners, purchased all who believe in Him from the slave block of the Law. You see, men were slaves either to the law, as Jews, or to the elemental spirits of the universe, as Gentiles. Christ paid the full of our redemption, setting us free from our slavery. ~Adapted from James Montgomery Boice, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10.
Speaking of Jesus' atoning sacrifice to purchase our freedom and to pay the full price for our redemption-a price none of us could ever pay, even if we lived a thousand life times, the Bible says this in Titus 2:13-14. "Christ Jesus; who gave Himself that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." Do you realize that Jesus was sent by God at His appointed time-to sacrifice Himself for you? To suffer on your behalf? To shed His precious blood for you? To stretch out His hands and feet to be nailed on the cross for your salvation? To surrender Himself to a cruel death, yes, the death of a criminal? It was for you and me that Jesus wholly and willingly submitted to the Father's will and suffered the shame of the cross.
Why did Jesus go through all this? Why did Jesus give Himself wholeheartedly to atone for our sins? It's because Jesus loves you and me. The inspired writer of the letter of First John brings this to light. "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins...And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" (1 John 4:9-10, 14). Oh what love is this that paid so dearly, that I the guilty one may go free! I think the hymn "Jesus Loves me!" The first stanza says: "Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong." The second stanza says: "Jesus loves me! He who died heaven's gate to open wide, He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in." I believe these words vividly capture the truth taught in Galatians 4:5a-"in order that He might redeem those who were under the law." Also the first stanza of Fanny Crosby's hymn "To God Be the Glory" brings to focus Christ's atoning sacrifice for sinners because of His love for sinners. "To God be the glory great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life an atonement for sin, And opened the life-gate that all may go in." How lovely!
Commentator W. MacDonald once again presents a brilliant insight on Galatians 4:5a. He writes:
"The law demanded a price from those who failed to keep it-the price of death. Before God could bring men into the wonderful position of sonship; this price has to be paid. So the Lord Jesus, coming into the world as a member of the human race and of the Jewish nation, paid the price which the law demanded. Because He is God, His death was infinite in value, that is, it was sufficient to pay for any number of sinners. Because He was Man, He could die as a substitute for man." ~W. MacDonald, The Believer's Commentary, pp. 1886-7.
We've looked at the first of God's two-fold purpose of sending His Only Begotten Son into the world at His appointed time. It was for Jesus to give Himself as an atoning sacrifice for the redemption of sinners under the Law. The second of God's two-fold purpose is the adoption of redeemed sinners as sons.
III. Adoption of Redeemed Sinners as Sons (Galatians 4:5b)
This is clearly and concisely stated in the second part of verse 5.
"that we might receive the adoption as sons" Galatians 4:5b (NASB).
In the original, the second part of verse 5 begins with the Greek conjunction, "hina" as did the beginning of verse 5. As I've pointed out earlier, this conjunction denotes purpose, aim, or goal. It is best translated "in order that," or "so that." So the Bible is making it clear here that in addition to paying the full price for the redemption of repentant sinners, it is through Jesus also that they have the adoption as sons. Receiving the adoption as sons means that repentant sinners not only move from slavery into freedom, they also move into the great household of God where all are free men and all are also given the awesome and blessed privilege of becoming "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). You see, as long as we were slaves, we could not be sons. The Lord Jesus Himself said in John 8:35, "The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son does remain forever." This is why receiving the adoption as sons is so important for the believer. Thanks be to God that Jesus came into the world at God's appointed time and gave Himself to rescue, to ransom, to redeem sinners from their bondage, that all repentant sinners might be adopted as sons.
Now it is important at this point to pause here and define the expression "the adoption as sons." What does adoption mean in this passage and context? The Greek word translated "adoption as sons" is huoithesian. It is a legal technical term. It is also translated as "sonship," or "to place as a son." It speaks of placing a person in the position of a son. It refers to those who turn to Christ and are accepted by God as sons. So "adoption" here means "putting believers into the position of mature sons with all the privileges and responsibilities of that position." -W. MacDonald.
In other words, adoption means a believer is placed in the family of God as a full-grown son, who is now given the incredible privilege of becoming an heir of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. That is, they enjoy the full status of sonship and are free from the legal limitations of slavery. Christ's redeeming work releases believers from the law's claims and confers on them the full rights of sonship. You see, adoption in the Roman world is totally different from adoption as it is practiced today. We think of it as taking another person's child to be one's own. For example, a married couple who don't have children of their own, visit an orphanage and see a lovely and adorable little child there. They fall in love with the child. Perhaps, after prayer, they feel God is leading them to adopt the adorable little child. They then take the necessary legal steps to make the child their own. When the child officially becomes their own we call it adoption. But that is not what adoption meant in the Roman world. Actually, the NIV tried to prevent confusion in our minds regarding adoption as it is practiced today, by rendering verse 5b as "that we might receive the full rights as sons." Adoption in the New Testament is about receiving full rights of sonship in order to receive an inheritance in Jesus Christ. God's adoption of repentant sinners through Jesus Christ is to prepare them for an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade away-kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4).
Let me ask you. Which would you rather be; a slave or a son? A mere maid or a beloved daughter? Please tell me! Which would you prefer: cleaning a mansion or residing in one? Which would you choose: Being someone else's property or owning property? And if you could choose between watching over a master's estate and inheriting a father's fortune, which would it be? I don't think anyone in his or her right mind would select slavery over sonship, especially after being freed from the former to enjoy the latter! ~Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Galatians, Bible Study Guide, p. 76.
What God did for the Galatians, He wants to do for you. The Galatians were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe (Galatians 4:3). They were slaves to sin. They were slaves to those who by nature are not gods (Galatians 4:8). But when the Gospel was preached to them, their hearts were opened. They believed in Jesus Christ and in His atoning sacrifice for their sins. They were rescued from their slavery. Then, in His grace and mercy, God was pleased to grant them the adoption as sons, that is, they were put into the position of mature sons with all the privileges and responsibilities of that position. You have a choice! You can choose to remain a slave all your life. A slave to sin, self, and Satan. Or you can choose to become an adopted son of God, simply by believing in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for the full payment of your sin debt and His resurrection from the dead to bring you into a right standing with God. It's that simple!
"Christ, by nature Son of God, became Son of Man, that we, by nature sons of man, might become sons of God. Wonderful exchange!"
As a believer in Jesus Christ, do you realize how blessed you are? The full rights of sonship have been bestowed on you. Do you appreciate the fact that you have been given the position of a mature son in God's family with all the privileges and responsibilities of that awesome position? Do you know that your new identity is one of sonship in the Father's house and not a slave on a street corner? Do you walk with the awareness that Christ's redeeming work has released you from the law's claims and conferred on you the full rights of sonship in God's family? Do you walk in the reality of sonship, as one who is being prepared to receive an inheritance in Jesus Christ?
Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, slaves and sinners who believe in His saving work are granted the full rights of sonship in God's family. In other words, they receive "the adoption as sons." Not wanting to leave believers in doubt about their blessed position of having full rights as sons in His household, God did something extra-special for them. God gives His believing people a blessed assurance of their sonship
IV. Assurance of the Sonship of Redeemed Sinners (Galatians 4:6-7)
God knows that His believing children often need assurance in their hearts. And as a loving and caring Father, He makes sure that we do not lack assurance in our hearts. The writer of Hebrews relates to the first century Christians how God went to great lengths to assure their hearts so they could lay hold to His promises. He writes:
"In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast..." Hebrews 6:17-19 (NASB).
Talk about being given a sure and steadfast assurance! God made sure the first century Christians have that in their hearts concerning His promises. Similarly, to confirm to the Galatian Christians their adoption as sons, the Bible now tells us that God also sent the Spirit of His Son into their hearts.
"And 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 4:6-7 (NASB).
The Bible is saying here that God gave all who are true believers His Holy Spirit to seal our sonship and to give us the ability to address Him in prayer as our loving and living Father. God the Father is so pleased to send forth the Spirit of His Son to take up permanent residence in the hearts of believers. So what we have here is that, God the Father not only sent His Son, He also sent the Spirit of His Son. The reference "the Spirit of His Son" is also used in Acts 16:7 where He is referred to as "the Spirit of Jesus." "The Spirit of His Son" or "the Spirit of Jesus" refers to one Person, that is, the Holy Spirit. The Bible is saying here that it is the Holy Spirit who creates the awareness of sonship in believers. It is the Holy Spirit who confirms to believers our adoption as sons. In other words, it is the indwelling Person of the Holy Spirit who assures our hearts of the truth of having full rights as sons in God's household. He affirms that in your heart and mine. Please take note of this! Assurance of salvation or sonship in Jesus Christ is the gracious work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is not the work of a pastor, a preacher, a prophet, a priest, a parent, or people in your church or small group Bible Study. Why? This assurance does not come from any human source. It is the Person of the Holy Spirit who makes known to Christians their reality of God's intimate presence in their lives. This gracious work of the Holy Spirit alone, provides the proof of our sonship. This gracious work of the Holy Spirit within the believer is also affirmed in Romans 8:15-17. "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons (huiothesias) by which we cry 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if we indeed suffer with Him in order that we may be glorified with Him."
Now I would like you to take note of an important observation here. The Bible's reference to the Holy Spirit in Galatians 4:6 also confirms that the entire Trinity-God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit-is involved in the salvation of sinners and our sonship. It is very interesting to note that the Christmas Story as told in Matthew (1:18-25) and in Luke (1:26-38) and here in Galatians 4:4-7, have one thing in common. The Three Persons in the Godhead are mentioned in each of these Christmas passages. How thankful we should be that God gave fully of Himself to save us from our slavery to sin and to make us sons in His family!
Just as God the Father is a Person, and God the Son is a Person, so also God the Holy Spirit is a Person. He should therefore never be referred to as "it." The divine Person of the Holy Spirit is neither a "force." He is a living, real, supernatural being who assures believers of their sonship. You see, it is one thing for God to assert that a person who has placed his faith in Jesus Christ enjoys the blessed privilege of an adoption to sonship in the family of God. It is another to give some evidence of the fact. The voice of the Holy Spirit within the believer confirms his sonship. In other words, the indwelling Spirit calls out "Abba! Father!" in the true sons of God, affirming His intimate presence with them. This is another accomplishment of the grace of God which the Law did not dare to offer.
The word "Abba" is an Aramaic term of endearment for 'father." It was an address of a small child to his father. Whenever it occurs in the NT, it has the Greek interpretation added "pater." The term suggests both intimacy and reverence. It is an intimate word that denotes the close and dear relationship between a child of God and the Father. You see, "God was never considered to be the father of the individual. And in Christ's day the distance between man and God was actually widening in popular thought rather than growing narrower. Jesus completely reversed this trend. This so impressed the disciples that, not only do all four Gospels record his use of this address, they also report that he did so in all his prayers (Matthew 11:25; 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 23:34; John 11:41; 12:27; 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25). The only exception is one that actually enforces the significance of the phrase, for it was the cry wrung from Christ's lips at the moment in which He was made sin for mankind and in which the relationship to the Father that had been his was temporarily broken (Matthew 27:46)." ~Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, p. 474.
The Greek word used for "crying" (krazo) also means "call out," "cry out," or "call out a thing loudly." Its use in this context is of prayer rather fervent than loud. This fervent calling out in the Holy Spirit is the work of the indwelling in the believer (cf. Romans 8:26-27).
Commentator James Montgomery Boice gives us a helpful insight on Galatians 4:6-7. He writes:
Paul had already pointed out the first great redemptive act of God in history: God sent his Son. Here he adds the second act: "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'" In other words, to the other doctrines of the faith already spilling over from vv. 4, 5 Paul now adds Trinitarian teaching, for he is telling us that salvation consists in its fullness of acts by God the Father in sending both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Moreover, this salvation is both objective and subjective. For God the Father sent the Son in order that believers might have the position of sons and He sent his spirit so that they might have the experience of the same reality. We should notice that the gift of God's Spirit is not something the child of God is to strive after as if, having been given his salvation, he must now work to realize it or achieve it on a higher level. The Spirit is the gift of God to every believer because he is a son. How does the Christian experience what is his objectively? Paul suggests that this is primarily through the reality of God's presence made to him in prayer. Before, he was alienated from God, who indeed did not even hear him. Now, being made a member of his family, the Christian is permitted and even urged to cry "Father."-Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, p. 473.
In our former life, we were slaves. But now believers are both sons and heirs. The Holy Spirit faithfully assures them of the reality of these blessings and privileges. Are you assured of these blessings and privileges God has graciously bestowed on you as a believer? Are you taking advantage of God's provision of the presence and power and of the Person of the Holy Spirit to draw you into a more intimate and deeper relationship with your heavenly Father? Or are you content with distant relationship with your heavenly Father-keeping Him at arm's length?
Remember, God's timing is perfect. He has an appointed time for every event under heaven. He will never be late. He is always on time. May you celebrate the gifts of God's Son and God's Spirit with an overflowing heart of gratitude during this special season and the rest of your days on earth, knowing that when the time is right for God to fulfill His purposes in your life, He will not fail. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity!