Study in Galatians. Presentation 08. Sons Of God Chap 3v26-4v7. Presentation 08. Introduction.
We have already noted the way in which Abraham, Moses and Jesus stood in relation to the unfolding in history of God’s great plan of salvation. Abraham received promises from God, in particular, that of justification by faith. Moses received the law the function of which was to persuade men of their sinfulness and their need of justification. God’s promise found its fulfilment in Christ who died to make justification possible, so that everyone whom the law drives to Christ inherits the promise, which God made to Abraham.
Paul now begins to unpack the benefits of the promise in such a way as to show that they are significantly superior to what law-keeping can do for man. It is important to understand why Paul makes this contrast.
The false teachers in Galatia were claiming that Paul’s gospel was inadequate and that the benefits which came through law-keeping were greater than those which come from trusting in Christ alone. They were saying, the law can do more for a man than can God’s gracious promise. Very well says Paul lets examine that claim!
The first blessing of faith in Christ alone is that of sonship v26. As a result of a person’s faith in Christ a change in their relationship with God takes place - they can now call God their Father.
God is no longer feared as some heavenly policeman chasing after them because they have transgressed his law. Nor need they quake before him as a Judge about to pass a sentence of condemnation upon them. That craven fear has been replaced by a filial devotion because of an awareness of a new relationship which our faith in Christ has established cf. Jn 1:12...
This important Biblical doctrine, is being undermined in our day. The N.T. makes it clear that the way in which we enter God’s family and have the right to call him Father is by faith in Christ. We are adopted children only by virtue of a faith relationship with Jesus. Think of the pattern of prayer that Jesus gave his disciples:“Our Father in heaven.” Matt. 6v9.
Only believers can address God in this way and claim him as their Father. Today there is a form of teaching known as universalism, which among other things teaches that all men can legitimately and automatically claim the status of God’s children.
The N.T. disagrees for this status of sonship is not ours by natural birth or, by human effort, rather it is something that comes through adoption, when we place our faith in Christ as Saviour.
Nor is Paul suggesting in v27 that the blessing of sonship comes through baptism. We must credit Paul with a consistent theology. This whole epistle is devoted to the theme that we are justified through faith and not by any other means. The importance of baptism here is that it signifies outwardly and visibly, what faith does inwardly, it speaks of union with Christ, which brings with it the status of sonship.
As a result of this new relationship with God an entirely new relationship with God’s law is set up. Jim Packer writes;
“Justification frees one from the need to keep the law, or to try to, as a means of earning life, it is equally true that adoption lays on one the abiding obligation to keep the law, as a means of pleasing ones new found Father. Law keeping is the family likeness of God’s children; Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and God calls us to do likewise: Adoption puts law keeping on a new footing, as children of God we acknowledge the law’s authority as a rule for our lives because we know that this is what our Father wants.”
Secondly, as a result of our adoption into God’s family we not only belong to God but to each other as brothers and sisters. There is no distinction of rank or race.
Nearly every society has developed a class or caste system- even in so-called classless communism some men consider themselves to be ‘more equal than others’.
Throughout history circumstances of birth, wealth, privilege and education have divided men and women from one another. But in Christ there is no division.
Nor is there distinction of sex- what a remarkable claim to make in the ancient world where women were despised and exploited. Paul teaches that men and women are of equal value to God. He does not argue that racial, social and cultural distinctions are actually obliterated - Christians are not literally colour blind so that every person’s skin appears to be exactly the same colour - but he’s saying all of these distinctions no longer matter for they no longer create barriers to fellowship. We recognise each other as of equal value to Christ. We do not say that this is a whites only church. We do not say that the women are to sit upstairs out of the way and leave the serious business of worship to men.
We do not say, unless you wear a university tie or are a member of the chamber of commerce or can demonstrate that you have a healthy bank balance you are not welcome to gather with us.
There is a valuable practical lesson to be learned in a day when people tend to form groupings around our own particular interests, age ranges and sex. Over emphasis here can deny the essential oneness of the people of God. When we begin to segregate a congregation we impoverish the richness and diversity of that fellowship.
We might tend to think that where you have people who were like-minded, who share a community of interests, that the fellowship would be deeper and far greater. From one point of view this appears to be true; but in such a rarefied atmosphere you are losing out all the time. Its like living on an unbalanced diet - too many carbohydrates and not enough protein - and it is balance which congregational life gives to each and all of us, because we are rubbing shoulders with a breadth of individuals. It is in this context that we are most likely to grow as Christians. This is the glorious oneness of which the apostle speaks.
The third benefit which comes to us by virtue of our union with Christ is found in v29. In Christ we are ‘Abraham’ seed’. What does Paul mean by that? As a result of our union with Christ we take our place in the noble historical succession of faith! We can no longer consider ourselves to be waifs and strays without any significance in history, or bits of useless flotsam drifting in the tide of time.
Instead, we take our place in the unfolding
purpose of God. We are related to
history and to the purposes of God
in history and it is this, which gives
our life its meaning.
We are able to say, “I now marvel that I am a part, perhaps only a small part, but a part nevertheless of what God is doing in he great sweep of history”.
Set that over against “meaninglessness,”
that has become the rampant world view
of many since the mid C20th.
Meaninglessness is built upon the idea
that man has no destiny, no purpose of
existence. A L. Fisher the noted historian
comments that he is able to find no
meaning in history whatsoever.
J. P. Satrethe French philosopher agrees and encourages man to ‘laugh in the face of the absurdity and meaninglessness of life’. What a sad and tragic conclusion to come to about life.
Paul teaches that the man who is related to Christ by faith is Abraham’s seed. We are related both to history and to the developing purposes of God in the historical process.
Our existence is not accidental, it is neither meaningless nor absurd, rather we belong to what God is doing in our generation.
Think about it. Our life is caught up in the glorious drama of redemption which has been unfolding for centuries.
Do you see what God’s grace does? Do you see what his promises do? Have you grasped what the gospel of Christ does? It relates believers to God, to others within the family of God and to a glorious historical process. It enables us to answer the most basic of all human questions:
“Who am I?” and to say, “In Christ I am a son of
God and united to all the redeemed people of
God, past, present and future. In Christ I find
my identity, I find my feet, I have come home.”
Returning to the underlying thrust of Paul’s
argument. To what do I owe all this? Is it to the
law and human performance or to the gospel
of justification by faith and the grace of God?
The answer is obvious – to grace alone!