The Not So Elemental Things of the World

Text: Galatians 4:1-7

Proposition: The elemental assumptions of the world create a bondage that can be freed only by the Word of God and the Son of God.

Introduction: The last time we were in Galatians we ended off with Paul giving an amazing conclusion that was meant to counter the confining influences of legalism. He said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” He levels the field meaning there are none more worthy, none more righteous, none more deserving. That truth is meant to neutralize legalism which bases worth, holiness and entitlement on performance. But it’s this last thing Paul says that I’d like to look at, that if we are Christ’s then we are also Heirs. From a biblical perspective an heir is one who receives his allotted possession by right of sonship. That’s different from how we understand what it means to be an heir. We might receive an inheritance and not be related to the person at all.  From the Biblical definition sonship has to be established first then comes the inheritance. Literally you’d need to be either a direct family member already or you’d have to be adopted into the family. Hang onto that thought as we look at Galatians 4:1-7.

I. The Paradox of Being An Heir…Master of All Yet a Slave.

Paul uses the Roman picture of a young boy who is in the care of slaves. The slaves actually have more authority, more power and more choice than the Roman boy does. Then on the 17 of March, after they had turned 14, came the pagan festival of Liberalia. At this time the child was formally adopted by the father as his acknowledged son and heir and they discarded the toga praetexta, which was decorated with a broad purple border and worn by boys and girls. Then they put on  the pure white toga virilis, identifying him as a citizen of Rome, eligible to marry and own property and vote. It happens when the father determines that the boy has become mature so at the fathers timing there is this festival of transition, like a bar mitzva or coming of age celebration. That’s the metaphor that Paul uses here, a person who though they are the masters son are yet under the governance of slaves who serve as guardians and stewards until their bar mitzva, so to speak. Then in verse 3 he leaves the metaphor and applies it to the Galatian Christians, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.” His reference to the ‘elements of the world’ was speaking about the way that the Law of Moses exposed the way they thought about right and wrong, God and man, sin and holiness. Paul says some very difficult things about the way the Law condemns. Romans 7:9 says, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died”. Romans 5:20 says, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”. What can Paul mean by this, wasn’t the Law God’s idea? Consider the words of William Tyndale, the English Reformer from the 1500’s who translated the Bible into English, “We are sinners not because we break the Law: We break the Law BECAUSE we are sinners.” In other words once the Law came it exposed the way sin is entrenched into every person. The Law’s simple message to all humanity is that we all desperately need a Savior! To misunderstand the purpose of the Law as if it was a code of behavior to be used to attain righteousness would make the Law become something that would enslave you, you could never get there, it would put you into a bondage of guilt and shame. So there is the paradox, people made in God’s image, people called and chosen by God, heirs of all things and yet when under the Law and locked into a belief to observe it completely… we become like slaves.

II. In the Fulness of Time… Jesus, Redemption, Adoption, Abba Father!

This has to be one of the most beautiful of all Scriptures. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law…”. You can preach this at Christmas time, you can preach it on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday morning, you can recite it to your children, you can remember it in the darkness of the night or in the bright light of worship. In the fulness of time refers to many things. It means ‘at just the right time’ when Israel had struggled back into the land of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity. Ezra and Nehemiah describe the way they struggled to grow, a tiny remnant compared to what it had formerly been in Solomon’s day. In the fulness of time refers to God’s perfect prophetic timing. In Danial 9:25 it declares, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.”

In 445 BC Artaxerxes made a decree giving Nehemiah permission, safe passage and supplies to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the walls. Some 483 years later (69 times 7= 483) Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem at the Feast of Passover and the crowds cried out, “Hosanna, to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” (Mat 21:9) In the fulness of time God sent forth His Son. It refers to the incarnation of Christ, God entering into the state of humanity. Born of a woman, the virgin birth is inferred. Born under the Law, as a Jew Jesus was under the demands of the Law of Moses that was meant to expose sin and yet… and yet … what did Jesus do? He revealed the that He was without sin, able to perfectly fulfill all that Law demanded. And what is God’s purpose in doing this? It’s in the next verse, Galatians 4:5 says, “to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” God’s purposes in the Law were to expose the depths of sin, His purposes in Jesus Christ were to redeem, to ransom, purchase from captivity, take out from that place and then to set free… that’s the full meaning of the word redeem. It was to redeem those who were under the Law. And why would God want to do that? One word… Adoption! Jesus is the only direct Son of God, He alone is the image of the invisible God, He is the only great I Am. Our only way into the hope becoming God’s children was that we would be adopted by Him and that made possible by being in Christ. What does John 1:12,13 say, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” My dear brothers and sisters this is what it means to be born again. To start again not from a place of condemnation and works but from a place of grace and faith by receiving Jesus Christ as the One in whom we receive our adoption as children of God. And what is God’s great hope in this, what is it that He longs for, to what end does He go to achieve it? Look at verse 6, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  In Romans 8:16,17 says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” The Holy Spirit was sent to indwell us that we would be filled with the desires that Christ has, filled with the same love that He has for the Father, filled to know and serve and even suffer as joint heirs with Christ. It’s the Spirit of His Son within us that cries out to our spirits Whose it is we now are, “Abba, Father!

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