By Simon ManchesterSunday 25 Nov 2018Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 18 minutes
This morning we come to Galatians chapter 3 verse 26 and the subject of adoption, having God as your father, being his child. If you forget everything that I say this morning just remember the first sentence of our passage which is 3: 26 where the apostle says, “You’re are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” That’s the thrust of it.
It’s a wonderful passage, and we’re in a very insecure world, and most people are insecure. That’s why we tend to sort of brag, boast, and reinforce our self, and explain ourselves, and justify ourselves. Most of us are insecure, and we’re looking for ways to feel secure. Why is it that Christians can often seem or be more anxious than non-Christians.
Part of the reason for that is because we live in the same insecure world that non-Christians live in. And we’re also people who believe in an almighty God who sees everything, knows everything, is perfect and holy. Therefore we feel the gulf between which non-Christians don’t feel.
In some ways, therefore, it’s easier to destabilise a Christian than a non-Christian. One of the ways to do that is to remove the good news of the gospel, which says that you are actually secure. Because you’ve put your faith in Christ and introduce another kind of false gospel, which tells you that God will approve of you if you jump certain hurdles. And if you want to be in his good books or if you’re going to stay in his good books you’ll need to jump the hurdles. That’s why the book of Galatians is such an excellent book for us to study on these Sunday mornings. Because it’s where God stabilises the destabilised.
Paul is shocked that the Galatians would listen to a false gospel. He appeals to them to hold on to the true Gospel. The true Gospel he says is that you believe in Christ who died for you, and this is the key to being in God’s good books at the beginning, the middle and the end. Adding laws, rituals, and hoops, and hurdles are not the way to be in God’s good books.
Let me say two brief things about adoption before we get into the passage this morning to help you appreciate it. Just imagine this coming week, you are facing The Chief Justice of New South Wales. And you’ve actually committed a crime which is worthy of the of the death penalty, just imagine that. Imagine you find yourself in a fairly forbidding courtroom. And not only does The Chief Justice acquit you, but he then comes up to you afterwards and says, “Not only are you acquitted. I’m not just telling you to go home, I’m not just saying get out of here. I actually want you to come home since you’re homeless. And I want you to live with us, and we will look after you every day for the rest of your life.” It’s kind of absurd situation really isn’t it?
Multiply that by a trillion, and you’re getting close to the absurdity of the gospel. That the God of the universe who’s judge, and father, would equate the person who puts their faith in Jesus and then adopt the person who puts their faith in Jesus.
That’s why the more I think about the subject of adoption I realise that it’s either absolutely ridiculous or it’s unbelievably wonderful. Unfortunately, we sort of blunder on as though it’s just moderately interesting, but it’s either ridiculous or it’s incredible.
I heard the Apostle Paul will show us that it’s incredibly true and wonderful. Adoption is not a natural experience. You don’t become a part of God’s family by just being born into the world, you need to be reborn. Just because you’re born you’re not a part of God’s family, you’re part of God’s creation. But to be part of God’s family you need to be reborn, you need to come to his son and find that you’re then reborn into the family of God. I don’t know if you’ve thought about this before, but to be adopted is more wonderful than to be justified. Justification is one of the subjects in the church which we rightly rejoice in, and it’s an incredible thing to be justified, to have your sin forgiven and to be credited with the righteousness of Christ.
No wonder German reformer Martin Luther got excited about this, but adoption is greater. Because justification is dealing with their first need which is to be acquitted by the judge of the universe. But adoption is dealing with our greatest need. Which is to be welcomed by the God of the universe.
Here’s my second comment about adoption. I don’t actually know how to preach about this. I don’t know how to get this home to you and to me. I’m struggling with all the time that I had this week to try and express the privilege of being adopted into God’s family. The wonderful thing I discover in Galatians chapter 4 is that not only has Jesus brought believers into the family. But the Holy Spirit who comes into our hearts helps us to appreciate it slowly, surely, and continually. So God does what no preacher can ever do. Which is to send his Son so that people who believe would come into the family whether they feel it or not. And then send his spirit into their hearts. So that they would increasingly appreciate what God has done for us.
Even if your experience with an earthly father was difficult or nonexistent. This will not, this will not stop, the reality of God being the perfect father. Nor will it prevent you from becoming thrilled that God is your perfect father. So adoption is our subject I wish it was Father’s Day, but it’s not.
There are two points I have. The first is from chapter 3:26-29 the meaning of being God’s children. There are two things that it means. And the second chapter 4:1-7 the experience of being God’s children. Author Jim Parker says in his book, “Knowing God,”
“If you want to judge 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 controls his whole outlook on life. It means he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”
Since I read that earlier in the week, I have been thinking again and again as I drive, as I walk, shave, what does it mean for me to be God’s child? Or what does it mean to have God as my father? It’s a very wonderful subject to meditate on.
The Meaning of Being God’s Children
Does the apostle say, “You’re all sons of God through law-keeping.”? No, he does not.
Does he say, “You’re all sons of God through hurdle jumping,”? No, he does not.
Does he say, “You’re all sons of God through turning up at church Sunday by, Sunday by, Sunday by, Sunday.”? No, he doesn’t.
He says, “Your sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” And immediately you may say to yourself, “Yeah, I understand that. I think I have faith is my faith enough, is my faith real? I don’t seem to have changed a lot, I seem to be still quite ungodly. Has my faith worked?”
The answer I think is to ask yourself this question, “Have you heard the call of the gospel to take Jesus seriously, as your Savior and Lord. Have you heard the call of God to become a forgiven follower of Jesus?” You say, “Yes, I have.”
Second, have you called back to the call? Have you called to God and said, “I would like to be a forgiven follower of Jesus. I would like to have Jesus as my Savior and Lord.” And you say, “I have.”
I want to say to you now you must take God’s word seriously because he says that means you’re his adopted child. And that means God’s Spirit has moved into your heart. If you find yourself falling into sin or confusion after that, you’ve got to go back to the Bible, not your brain. You’ve got to go back to what Jesus did, not the way you’re living.
I said last week in the closing prayer that I think one of the biggest challenges and problems in our Christian life, is that we continue to move from the window that looks out to the cross to the mirror. We instinctively go to the mirror, we find ourselves preoccupied with looking at ourselves. It only took me a few seconds to say that, and it just took you a few seconds to hear it. But I would tell you that there are many here sitting here this morning, and you are absolutely, gripped by yourself. That’s the problem.
We need to deliberately, turn our mind away to the window that looks out to what Christ did and what God says. When Paul says, “You’re all sons,” in chapter 3:26, is that a little bit sexist? Is it hard for the women to get that?
I want to point out to you that son-ship in the Bible means that you get the inheritance. So when the Bible says you’re all sons, men, women, boys, girls, you’re all sons. It’s simply Bible speak for your getting the inheritance. So you’ve got to make a mental adjustment. If you’re a woman and you sing that hymn, “Be thou’ my vision” and you get to the line, “I thou true son.” you just say to yourself at that point, “That means that I’m getting the inheritance.” And men have to do some adjusting too when they think of themselves as the bride of Christ. I look at some of the men in this church building and picture them in a wedding dress is a very ugly and unattractive thought. But they do the mental adjustment don’t they, they say, “I’m part of the bride of Christ, I think I can do the adjustment.”
Now in chapter 3:27 we see another way of describing a Christian. That is a person who’s baptised into Christ or clothed with Christ. Do you think of yourself like this? You’ve put your faith in Christ, do you realise you’ve been plunged into Christ. You’ve been pushed into Christ, you’ve got a new location, you’re in Christ. That’s why Paul keeps writing to the believers and saying to them, “To the saints in Colossi in Christ,” you’re in colossi for a while, you’re in Lane Core for a while, but you’re going to be in Christ forever, you’re in Christ, you’ve been baptized into Christ. So Christ is not some little person who we invite into our heart although he does come by his spirit into our heart.
He is a huge person into whom 2 billion believers have been baptised, and his Holy Spirit comes into our heart. So it’s a spiritual baptism, it’s being immersed in Christ. Believe it or not, you live in Christ, that’s where the Apostle Paul said, “If anyone is a new creation he’s a new creation in Christ.” And he talks about people who got into Christ before he did. And that’s our location, we’re in Christ. To spiritual baptism. The apostle wouldn’t be talking here about water baptism because he’s already having enough trouble getting the Galatians to turn away from rituals. So you can be pretty sure that he’s not moving from the circumcision ritual to the baptism ritual. He’s talking about the spiritual emersion of belonging to Christ and being clothed in Christ, and it happens by faith.
Now, what are the consequences? Here are the implications, chapter 3: verse 28-29. First, there’s equality, is one of the wonderful things about the church. There is equality. The apostle says, “There’s no more barriers of culture or class or gender.” And of course the heretics are bringing in barriers, and hurdles, things to jump through and in groups, and outgroups, and A groups and B groups, the apostle Paul says, “All that’s gone.” There’s no more Jew, Gentile, there’s no more slave, free, there’s no more male, female. In the family of God, there is equality. So there isn’t a superior nation.
We who think that Australia is superior, that’s a joke. We’re just on the same level as every other nation. To think that England is superior, or America is superior, or South Africa is superior, or Australia is superior, all of that’s gone. There is equality of race. And then there is no superior or inferior class. So you can’t look up at a profession or down at a profession, you can’t look up at a suburb or down at a suburb.
Every believer is equal in the family of God. And then there’s no superior, or inferior gender, there’s no place in the family of God for being a chauvinist or for being a feminist, there’s equality. Now, this doesn’t mean that we obliterate all variety. This doesn’t mean that we’ve been homogenised, this doesn’t mean that we’ve got uniformity that everybody is the same. We recognise that people have specific skin colour, rank, position, office. We recognise that somebody is a lady, somebody is a man. We recognise these things, but none of it blocks the fellowship. That’s the point the apostle is making. And we don’t remove the roles.
But being in Christ says Paul brings equality, it’s wonderful. When you get down to morning tea this morning, there’s nobody greater than you down there. There’s nobody worse than you down there.
The second consequence verse 29 is there is fulfilment, that is you’ve become the real deal. If you belong to Christ, you can’t go a step further than that. That’s why Paul says in 3:29, “You’ve become part of Abraham’s true family, you’ve become part of the seed of Abraham.” Now, this doesn’t mean a lot to us, but it might mean a lot of the Galatians. Because they must have heard the heretics come in and say something like this, “Oh, you’ve become a Christian, you’ve put your faith in Jesus, that’s wonderful. But of course, if you want to be a true member of Abraham’s family. Well, you’re gonna need to take some of our Jewish rituals seriously. Otherwise, you’re gonna be sort of stuck in the early stages. But if you want to really arrive and be part of Abraham’s true family then, of course, you’ll need to jump this little hurdle of food laws, or of holy days, or of circumcision.”
And the Galatians are being confused by this. The apostle Paul says, “No, when you put your faith in Christ, you’re Abraham’s family, you’re God’s family.”
So the heretics might have been saying you jump the hurdles. The apostle Paul says you put your faith in Christ. Some time ago, I can’t remember when in the ’70s or ’80s. There was a song in the church we sang in youth fellowship or Sunday school. It went like this, Father Abraham had many sons, many sons, had Father Abraham. I’m one of them, so are you, let’s all praise the Lord.
Bit twee really insist it? But good theology. Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham. I’m one of them, and the Apostle Paul says, “Yes you are.” because you put your faith in Christ.” And the mark of Abraham is that he believed God, and the mark of the real Abraham’s offspring is that he or she believes God and puts their faith in Christ. So faith says the Apostle Paul brings you into the family of God, faith in Christ, you’re not in automatically, it’s a decision you need to make by putting your faith in Christ. And when that happens there is equality and there is fulfilment.
You’ve arrived in the very family of God. Tim Keller says in his commentary, “You might like to test yourself whether you really think this is the way you live. Ask yourself whether you respond to God as a nervous slave or a secure son, daughter.” It’s a good test if you find yourself as you leave your Christian life always feeling in the bad books. Because you haven’t dotted some letters or crossed some letters. Then you need to go back to the Gospel.
When you deal with other Christian people, how do you treat them? Do you treat them as slightly superior or slightly inferior? Because if you do you probably need to go back to the gospel. All one in Christ Jesus, Galatians 3.
The second thing this morning is the experience, how do we actually feel this. Do you not feel as you sit this morning and as I stand here this morning. Do you not feel as though this doesn’t kind of get us and weigh on us, and impact us, as it should. Do you not sometimes feel that preachers are just saying a lot of words.
In chapter 4 verses 1-3, Paul goes back to the illustration of being children which he’s used back in chapter 3:24. He basically says this, I want you to think of a child whose parents die, and he’s waiting for the inheritance, but he’s little, and he’s not gonna get it until he’s 18, or 21, or 25. And in the present, he just doesn’t get to touch any of that inheritance. In fact, his life is run by guardian, chaperons, and bodyguards.
The Apostle Paul says that’s what it was like under the law. When we Jews lived under the law says the Apostle Paul, “It was as if we were being run around and blocked by bodyguards. We were under,” says Paul, ‘the rules of the law, we weren’t keeping them, we were guilty of breaking them.” And he might have said, “And if you’re a gentile, or if you are a pagan, you were also under the ideas of the world and the forces of the world. You’re in the dark about God, and you are unfit to face him.”
So here’s the point if you’re a Jew or a gentle, you’re basically in bondage till you came to Christ. If you’re a Jew, you’re under the heavy yoke of the law, if you were a pagan you were under the very erroneous and evil ideas of the world. You’re enslaved until you come face to face with Christ.
In chapter 4:4, he has a wonderful message for people who are enslaved. God did something, the triune God did something. God sent his son, God sent the spirit of his son, praise God. Before we could ever think our way into freedom or escape from bondage, God did something very wonderful. He sent his son, and he sent the spirit of his Son. So here we are we’re in spiritual slavery and when the time had fully come Chapter 4 verse 4 “Jesus came.”
What does the Apostle Paul mean when he says when the time had fully come? Well, he mostly means that Jesus came when God’s promises were to be fulfilled perfectly. Exactly when God had decided that his promises would be fulfilled, his son came. But is it also possible that Jesus came in the perfect conditions? Have you ever asked yourself the question why did Jesus come when he came? Why did he come 2000 years ago, not 1000 years ago? why didn’t he come a year ago? A part of the answer to that may well, be that when Jesus did come the conditions were pretty perfect.
The Romans govern politically. So that there was a security, there was an opportunity for travel. The roads all went from Rome and to Rome. Everything was protected, you could move swiftly. There was a strong sense of justice on the Romans. Culturally the Greek language had spread everywhere so that almost everybody could speak some Greek. And therefore it was an ideal time for the Gospel to speed along the road. Spiritually, the Roman gods and the Greek gods had been discredited. Somebody had said, “If I ever came to earth, they should all be put in prison.” And the Jews had been under the oppression of the law for hundreds of years longing for relief. And into this absolutely, wonderful situation Jesus came at the fullness of time.
So it was the perfect time for God to keep his promises and it may well have been the perfect conditions for Jesus to appear in. And we’re told in 4, 5, and 6, that he was born of a woman because he took on flesh, didn’t stop being God, but he took on flesh. He was born under the law, that is he came in as a Jew. And he lived under the law, he kept it, so that he could save people who have not kept it. And he came specifically to redeem, to buy out the debtors. By paying the debt’s himself at the cross. So when you respond to Jesus, when you kneel down before him, you bow your head, you bow your knees, and you ask him to be Savior and Lord. And you put your faith in Him. You become one of God’s children, he builds the bridge from heaven to earth so that he might help you to cross it.
And then we’re told that God goes beyond just bringing people into the family. Which he’s done whether you feel it or not, in verse 6 he sent the spirit of his son to help us appreciate it. See Chapter 4 verse 6, “Because your son’s God sent the spirit of his son into our hearts, the spirit who calls out Abba Father.” And when you go home from church today, and you go back to your quiet chair, or you sit or kneel beside your bed. And you pour out your heart to him in gratitude, or request, or intercession, you will begin invariably by saying, heavenly Father. Because from your heart God has given to you the spirit of adoption.
So the Holy Spirit, confirms inwardly in a way that no one outwardly ever could. I can’t persuade you of your adoption, I can tell you the gospel, but God in the genius of his ministry causes the Holy Spirit to grasp what he has done. And he does that by steadily, inwardly, repeatedly, profoundly, in an ongoing way unpacking this privilege of being God’s children. Because verse 7, “You are no longer slaves, but sons and because sons you’re heirs.” So you’re in between the terrible past of being a slave and the great future of collecting the inheritance. That’s where you are today. No wonder you and I feel odd. We’re no longer slaves, we’re not yet in the inheritance, we’re in the middle. I want to urge you to learn Galatians 4:7. I want to urge you to learn Galatians 4:7 off by heart. It’s a great text. We are no longer slaves, but God’s children and since we are God’s children we are his heirs. Friends, it’s hard to believe your life is pointless if you’re God’s child.
If you feel like you’re a waste of space and God is your father. And he’s brought you out of slavery into his family, and he’s gotten inheritance up in front for you. In his good time, he’ll take you. It’s very hard to believe your life is pointless in the present. It’s got to be purposeful, it’s got to be meaningful. If God is your father. And it’s hard to believe that you’re insecure if God is your father. I mean he’d have to be an absolutely, hopeless father if he runs the universe and he’s full of love and power if your life is insecure, but it’s not. Because he’s absolutely, sovereign, full of love and power, and he’s made you his child, your life could not be more secure. So keep reminding yourself no longer a slave but a son. And because a son then an heir. The meaning of adoption is that we are equal and we’ve come into the very people of God. The experiences is that we’ve been brought in by Christ’s redeeming work and the Holy Spirit, is gonna make us appreciate that for years to come.
Now I want to finish by just telling you that when Jonathan Edwards. The greatest evangelical mind that America has perhaps ever had. When Jonathan Edwards who is a prodigy 18th, century genius. When he was a teenager, he wrote a paper on the spider’s web, as you do. And he wrote on the spider’s web about the shape of it, the construction of it, and the purpose of it. And this was his conclusion. The exuberant goodness of the creator has provided not only the necessities for his creatures’ even insects, but for their pleasure and their recreation. In other words, he looked at the spider’s web as a boy, and he said, “Not only has God given to this spider the necessities. But he’s actually given to the spider the pleasure and the recreation of making a web.”
And I think that Jonathan Edwards looked on this and thought like this because he had put on his head the lens of God’s fatherly goodness. That whatever Jonathan Edwards was gonna see in the world, it was gonna be coloured and tainted by the greatness and goodness of God the Father. Even a spider creating a web was not just doing something functional, but something which was pleasurable. How great you see is God the Father. He doesn’t just do the dull routine to us, but builds into the whole of the world our necessities, and also our pleasures, and recreation. And you and I who’ve come into the privilege of being his children through Christ, we must learn; I think to see the world through the lens of God’s fatherly goodness. It’s no good if we keep on putting the lens of some kind of tyrant or sadist. But rather to see everything as being part of God’s fatherly greatness and goodness. Someone who runs the universe, who would think of a way of bringing slaves, undeserving slaves into his family. To equip them, to adopt them, through the redemption of Christ. And then to put in our heart his Holy Spirit, so that we would increasingly appreciate this. And come one day to the point where we really get it.