15 August 2013Galatians 4:4-7
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full right of sons.” (vv. 4-5) (NIV)
Galatians was written by Paul to the early Christian communities in the Roman province of Galatia, located in the central regions of modern day Turkey. It was written in the earlier stages of Christian history, when most Christians were Jewish. to an audience of primarily Gentile Christians. Paul had previously travelled to this area (Acts 16:6) and preached the gospel to the people there. This letter is a response to the actions of people who had attempted, quite successfully it seems, to turn the Galatians from Paul's teachings. They had been saying that all Gentile Christians also needed to become Jews and subscribe to the Mosaic law (the laws given to the people through Moses in the Old Testament).
Paul's passionate retort in this letter is that redemption comes not from fulfilling the law but because of Jesus who "redeemed us from the curse of the law" (Galatians 3:13). Therefore following the Jewish law - the general idea of which is that redemption comes from fulfilling strict rules and offering sacrifices when failure occurs - is unnecessary.
In chapter 3 verse 7, Paul explains to the people that "those who believe are the descendants of Abraham". The children of Abraham - the Jewish people - were God's chosen people set apart by him and called to follow the law, but now all people are adopted into that family through faith in Jesus. They are redeemed "in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles" (Galatians 3:14).
In today's passage Paul continues with the idea of being adopted by God, going on to refer to the implications this has for inheritance. 'Adoption to sonship' is a legal Roman term. The terms 'child' and 'son' are significantly different with the word 'son' having a much greater significance. 'Child' means offspring; a descendant by birth. Later in life a Greek or Roman father would adopt his 'child' as a 'son'; a descendant by choice, demonstrating that he has reached a point where the father can entrust him with the responsibility of representing him. This is when he becomes the heir.
- How does being 'adopted' into God's family make you feel?
- If living the way God wants us to isn't needed for us to be redeemed, why do it?
- What thoughts does this passage raise for you in terms of equality with particular reference to the phrase 'sonship'?