top of page

Sermon from Galatians 3: 26 - 4:7

Doupu Kom

00:00 / 36:23


Galatians 3: 26-4:7

J. I. Packer (an Evangelical theologian, known for his best selling book, Knowing God) writes, “What is a Christian?” Now, think about that question. How would you respond if you were asked what is a Christian? What's your explanation, what is a Christian? How would you answer that?

Packer writes, “The richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father.” He continues,

“If you want to know 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.

Adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers. Justification (i.e. being forgiven and declared righteous) is indeed the primary and fundamental blessing; but adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves.”

I want us to be a people whose prayers and whose worship and whose outlook on life is prompted and controlled by the fact that we are children, and God is our Father. I want that to be evident in our expression as we sing and as we leave this place and as we live in this culture and this city, that we have God as our Father.

If you have your Bible, please open with me to Galatians 3:26-4:7. In this passage, we’ve reached the climax of everything that Paul has said so far. In fact, we’ve reached the climax of the gospel: Sonship to God or adopted by God.

So let’s divide today’s passage into three points. First, let’s look into our natural or default state - slavery, and secondly, we are the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus and finally, our privileges as the sons of God.

1. Our Natural state: Slavery (4: 1-3)

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.

The picture here is of a very small child who is an heir to a big estate or property. As long as he’s a child, though, he’s essentially no different from a slave in the eyes of the law. He can’t make decisions. He has no freedom. He’s subject to what his guardians and trustees say, until he reaches the age at which his father decides that he’s an adult.

In ancient times, the process of coming of age or adulthood was an important and well-defined process. A Roman child-heir was a minor under guardians until age 14, and was still to some degree under trustees until age 25. Not until then, could the youth exercise complete, independent control over his estate.

This is a picture of all human beings. Paul uses this as a picture of our condition before Jesus came to earth. He says, “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” (Galatians 4:3). The word Paul uses for “elementary principles” is hard to understand. It literally means elements. Some people think he’s talking about the elements that people understood then: earth, air, fire, and water. That’s a lot easier than the table of elements that we use today. People believed in gods for each of the elements. Paul’s talking about people’s spiritual beliefs in gods that don’t even exist – wrong religious understandings.

What does it mean to be a “child ... no different from a slave” (v 1)?

Paul means that all human beings are spiritual “slaves” before the coming of Christ. We are all in a sense “under the law”.

This also is a picture of how Christians may to some degree fail to experience the freedom and joy of their salvation. Christians can continue to live day by day as slaves, instead of as the adopted sons of God that they are. Paul will return to this in verses 8-9. Though we are rich in the gospel, adopted children of God with complete and direct access to the Father, we can go back to relating to Him only through our record and moral merits. It’s as though we are given a gift, but give it back to the giver so that we can strive to earn it.

Slavery is our natural state. But Paul is going to show first how people can become sons of God; and then how people can enjoy the privileges of being sons of God.

2. Sons of God (4:4-5)

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.

Then Paul explains what God did to change this situation, in an absolutely amazing verse. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,” (Galatians 4:4).

I love the phrase, “when the fullness of time had come.” It’s as if God were like a father who saw his son attaining adulthood and said, “It’s time. It’s time that my kids received their rights. It’s time that they received the full privileges of being my children.” This was the time that God sovereignly chose to act.

But it was also the right time in another sense. God had been preparing the historical and cultural conditions of that age to be the perfect time for his Son to arrive. We think we live in a time of rapid change and innovation. The world at that time had experienced a technical and social revolution that made it perfect for Jesus to come to earth.

The world was united under Roman rule – something called pax Romana, Roman peace. Roads lined the Roman empire, making travel and commerce possible in a way that hadn’t been before. The world spoke a common language – Greek – making communication much easier. On top of all this, people were spiritually hungry. Time could not have been better for God to send his son – Jesus at just the right time.

So God sent His Son “born of woman” (v 4)—a real human being—and He sent Him “born under the law”. Jesus was born, as all human beings are, into a state of obligation to God’s law.

Why did Jesus come? These are the purposes behind Christ coming:

Firstly, “to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:5). God intervened in history to change our relationship with him. He redeemed us. This is the same word that is used for “redeem” in 3:13. It means to release a slave from his or her owner by paying the slave’s full price. Here, the slave master is the law. Jesus pays our full price to the law. He completely fulfills all the law’s demands on us. And so He is able to free us from it. This means that Jesus came to buy us out of slavery.

Secondly, verse 5 “ so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Literally, through Christ we receive “the sonship”. This is a legal term.

The heart of the Christian life is 3:26: “For in Jesus, you are all sons of God”. We already are sons. It is not something we are aiming at; it is not a future attainment. It is something that we have already, in our present state in Jesus.

But this sonship is not universally given. We are not “children of God” in some general way, by virtue of having been created by Him. But Paul is speaking of a much deeper kind of relationship here. This sonship comes “through faith” (3:26) in Christ. We are only His sons when we have faith in the Son. It is through faith that God adopts us.

In the Greco-Roman world, a childless, wealthy man could take one of his servants and adopt him. At the moment of adoption, he ceased to be a slave and received all the financial and legal privileges within the estate and outside in the world as the son and heir. Though by birth he was a slave without a relationship with the father, he now receives the legal status of a son. It is a new life of privilege. It is a remarkable metaphor for what Jesus has given us.

To use an image, Jesus’ salvation is not only like receiving a pardon and release from death row and prison.

But in the gospel, we discover that Jesus has taken us off death row and then has hung around our neck the Olympic Gold Medal. We are received and welcomed as heroes, as if we had accomplished extraordinary deeds.

Our inheritance is not a prize to be won. It is a gift from Christ.

By the way, many take offense at using the masculine word “sons” to refer to all Christians, male and female. Some would prefer to translate verse 26: “You are all children of God” (like NIV does). But if we are too quick to correct the biblical language, we miss the revolutionary nature of what Paul is saying.

In most ancient cultures, daughters could not inherit property. Therefore, “son” meant “legal heir”, which was a status forbidden to women. But the gospel tells us we are all sons of God in Christ. We are all heirs.

Similarly, the Bible describes all Christians together, including men, as the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 21:2). God is evenhanded in His gender-specific metaphors. Men are part of His Son’s bride; and women are His sons, His heirs. If we don’t let Paul call Christian women “sons of God”, we miss how radical and wonderful a claim this is.

3. The Privileges of Sonship (4:6-7; 3:27-29)


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.

3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Jesus also came so God could adopt us, move us into his family, with all the rights of being his children. What are the rights or privileges of sonship?

In verse 6, Paul moves all the way from the birth of Christ to the Day of Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit was given to the church: And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

God has given us the Holy Spirit, so we can experience what Jesus has already made us – his children, in an intimate relationship with God. “Crying” here is like a cry of despair. It’s like when my son Rufus gets hurt or hungry – he screams or starts crying out. Paul gives us the picture of God’s children crying out to him, running to him, calling him by the most intimate term of fatherhood, “Abba Father”.


And verse 7 says

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Adoption is the biblical truth that God has welcomed us into his family as his own sons and daughters by virtue of our union with Jesus. Part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to confirm this adoption within us: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Sonship means we are each “an heir” (v 7).

For Example: In 2016, 22 April,  when Barack Obama visited the UK, he was photographed meeting many different people. But I think there was one person Obama met that most stood out. He met Prince George. After this meeting the newspapers were awash with the story of the most powerful leader in the world stooping down to meet a 2 years old in his dressing gown!

Now Prince George was able to enjoy that privilege not because of anything he had done. He was able to meet Obama because of the family he belonged to. Specifically, he was the first-born son of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and therefore he was an heir to the throne. One day he would inherit the throne of the United Kingdom.

Well, I want to suggest in a similar way to Prince George, Christians are bearers of great privilege and a great inheritance. Thanks to Christ’s work for us on the cross we are adopted into his family and we are all heirs to God’s Kingdom.

So for a child of God, there is confidence and boldness every day.

My Friends, we are all prone to forget our identity as God’s children. We live like orphans instead of sons and daughters. Rather than resting in God’s fatherly love, we try to gain his favor by living up to his expectations. We live life on a treadmill, trying to be “good Christians” so God will approve of us.

We must continually repent of our servant or orphan-like mentality and dwell on our true identity as God’s sons and daughters. By faith, we must cling to the gospel promise that we are adopted as God’s children.

We need to learn to ask, moment by moment: Am I acting like a slave who is afraid of God, or like a child who is assured of my Father’s love?

For Example: John Wesley (who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism.) for years was a theological student and scholar, ordained clergy. He served, volunteered. He would go into prisons, serving, helping prisoners. He would take food to children in slums. He fasted, prayed, studied the Bible constantly; studied the Bible all the time. Worshipped consistently, even went as a missionary from England to Georgia. He came back from Georgia after serving as a missionary there, and when he gets back, this is what he writes. He says, “I who went to America to convert others came to the point where I realized I myself was never converted to God.”

Is it possible to do all those things? To read, study, pray, and fast and worship, serve and go as a missionary, and have never been converted? I want you to listen to what he describes. After his conversion experience, he looks back on that time before he was converted and this is what he writes. It is one heartbreaking statement. He’s talking about his time before his conversion, and he said, “Then I had the faith of a servant, but not the faith of a son that I have now.” He said, “I had the faith of a servant, not the faith of a son.”

Let me ask you a question: what kind of faith do you have? That of a servant, trying to check off the boxes and get things right in your life, so that you will have favor with God and doing all of these things? Or do you have the faith of a son, who knows that there's nothing you could do to please, to find favor with this Master, but this Master has not called you a servant, He has called you a son, and He has given you life by grace through faith in His Son.

bottom of page