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Gal. 4:1-7: God's Work in Sending Christ Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 May 2006

When looking at the life of Abraham a couple of months ago from the book of Genesis, we noted that there are often identifiable patterns in the Bible.  In Abrahamís life, we looked at the pattern of Godís relationship with man, namely that God will call a man and the man will respond with obedience and that God will provide for a man and the man will respond with trust and thanksgiving.  This pattern is similar throughout the pages of the Bible.

Paul is a man of many patterns.  When studying the letters of Paul, a person will recognize many patterns in his writing.  One such pattern, possibly the most prominent in Paulís writings, is his pattern of explaining our redemption.  The pattern usually runs something like this: the problem (or the explanation of who we were before Christ), the plan (or that actual work of Christ), and the purpose (or who we have become through faith in Christ).  Paul will use various ways to describe each of these steps, but he seems to always follow such a pattern.  For example, consider passages like: Romans 1-3, Ephesians 2:1-10, 11-22, Philippians 3:2-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-17.  These passages, along with others, follow this similar pattern of the story of our redemption in Paulís writings.

Our passage this morning from Galatians 4 follows this pattern.  Paul has been arguing that men are saved by their faith in Jesus Christ.  We saw last week that the purpose of the Law was not justification but an increased awareness of sin.  Paul spoke of the Jews being held captive under the law and that the law was our guardian until Christ came (3:23-24).  Thus, with the coming of Christ, those who were held captive under the law have now been set free.  After seemingly bringing his argument to a conclusion in 3:26-29, Paul offers one final illustration of the work of the law in 4:1-7.  We also see in these verses Paulís familiar pattern of the story of our redemption.  Letís look at these verses and this pattern together.

First, Paul teaches who we were before Christ, or the problem.

Paul explains who were outside of Christ in the first three verses of our text.  Look at those with me.  In these verses Paul identifies three details about who we were before Christ.

First, we were children, and as children, no more than slaves.  Paul says this in verses 1, 3, and again in verse 7.  Paul is using another human example to explain what he means.  In Paulís culture, a manís son was obviously the heir of his possessions.  Yet, while the son was still a boy, to some degree, he was no more than a slave.  He really had no access to the inheritance even though it belonged to him.  In the same way, before Christ we had no access to the inheritance that was promised to Abraham.  We were no more than slaves.

Second, we were under a guardian or a trustee.  Paul states this in verse 2.  As Paul has pointed out before in 3:23-24, the people of God, or the Jews, were under the guardianship of the law until Christ came.  Notice that in verse 3 Paul describes being under the law as being enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.  It seems that Paul is saying that the law was simply the foundational, or elementary, truths of following Yahweh.  In other words, the law was the ABCís for the Jewsí obedience to God.  Although Paul will use this phrase in a different context in 4:9, here he is simply describing the situation of the Jews being under the law.

Third, we were dependent upon the work of the Father.  Look at verse 2 again.  In Paulís example, the son was only under the guardian until a set time.  But notice who set the time for Paul: it was the father.  In the same way, before Christ came, the Jews were simply waiting the set time of the Father.  They were waiting for God to reveal His Son.  We too, before coming to know Christ, although we were unaware, were desperate for God to reveal His Son to us, which He did in His own timing.  Thus, Paul teaches us that before Christ we were children and slaves, under a guardian, and desperate for the work of the Father.  It is vital for us to remember just who we were before Christ.

John Newton, the writer of the hymn ĎAmazing Grace,í labored to remember who he was before Christ.  As the story goes, Newton had a difficult life before his conversion.  He lost his mother at age 7 and went to sea at age 11.  He was involved in the African slave trade and was no stranger to sin and rebellion.  Yet, when he was 23, his ship was caught in a terrible storm and he cried out to God for mercy.  God saved him from the storm and ultimately He saved him from his sins through this experience.  In order to remember just how God had rescued him from slavery, Newton kept the words of Deuteronomy 15:15 over the mantle in his study.  The verse reads: "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you. "  May we with Newton remember that it is only by Godís amazing grace that once we were lost but now we are found, we were blind but now we see.

Second, Paul teaches us of the work of God in Christ, or the plan.

As Paul often does in his retelling of our redemption, he begins verse 4 with a major contrast.  Look at 4a with me.  The whole rest of the passage hinges on the fact that God sent forth his Son.  If it was not for this fact, then we would have no hope this morning.  Our salvation depends upon the sending forth of the Son by the Father.  As we have said, we were desperate for the Father to move.  And move, He did.  When the time was right, the Father sent forth Christ into the world.

God sent us His Son by having Him to be born of a woman.  Why is this significant?  Well, it actually fits in well with our service this morning.  Why is it that all of us play a part in celebrating Motherís Day?  Because all of us were born of a woman.  To be human is to be born of a woman.  Thus, to identify with the human race and the ones He was sent to save, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.  Christ took upon himself the humanity and life that we enjoy because of our mothers and through his life and death, He redeemed it.

Not only this, but God sent his Son to be born under the law.  Of course, we can ask the same question: why is this significant?  Again it goes back to our need.  Not only did we need someone to pay for our rebellion, we also needed someone to be obedient in all the areas that we could never be.  Thus, Christ was born under the law to be obedient to the law and to live a righteous life on our behalf.  He is indeed our double cure.  He has saved us from the wrath of God and He has made us pure by living obediently under the law.

Now, why exactly did Christ do all this?  I mean what was the purpose of his being sent and being born of woman and born under the law.  Paul tells us in the last section.

Third, Paul teaches us who we are by faith in Christ, or the purpose.

Paul identifies two purposes for the coming of Christ in verses 5-7.  Look at those verses with me.  The first purpose is to redeem us from the curse of the law.  The curse of the law is that we cannot be obedient to Godís commands.  We have utterly failed in our obedience.  Yet, Christ came to redeem us from this curse by becoming a curse for us through his death on the tree (see 3:13).  Thus, Paul reminds the Galatians again that they have been redeemed and are no longer under the curse of the law.

The second purpose for Christís coming, which is akin to the first, is to adopt us as sons of God.  Look at verse 5 again.  Christ died on the cross so that through faith in Him we might become sons (and daughters) of God.  Paul goes on to give us two benefits for being sons of God.  First, he tells us that as Sons, we have received the Spirit.  Thus, Paul gives us a glimpse of the work of the different persons of the Trinity in our redemption.  God, the Father, had a plan to send the Son to redeem the world.  God, the Son, came and lived a perfect life, dying on the cross for our sins, that we might be redeemed.  God, the Spirit, is sent by the Father to indwell the hearts of believers that they might have intimacy with God.  God, the Father, has sent the Spirit to draw us close to Himself and to maintain the reconciled relationship between us.  Not only this, but as sons, we are now heirs through God.  Look at verse 7.  The promised inheritance of Abraham will not just go to Israel, but it will go to all those who have faith in Christ, who have indeed become the sons of God.

Let me encourage you this morning with two points of application in light of Paulís account of our redemption.  First, be thankful that God had, and still has, a perfect plan and that He is carrying that plan out even through us.  Do not miss the grace of God in this passage.  We were hopeless and helpless outside of Christ.  But God had a plan.  He knew before the foundations of the world that when the fullness of time came, He would send forth His Son, born of  woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  If you are here this morning and you have not trusted in Christ, then you need to know that you are still under the curse of the law, the guilt of you sin still hangs over you, and the wrath of Almighty God is bearing down upon you even this morning.  Thus, repent of your sins and believe in Christ.  Place your faith in the finished plan of God to secure our redemption.  Stop trusting in yourself and trust in Christ before it is too late.

Second, as sons of God, draw near to God because you can.  Take time this afternoon and this week to simply be still and know God.  He has sent His Spirit so that we might cry out to Him as our Father.  So, what are waiting on?  It is not God keeping the distance it is you.  One of the purposes of our redemption is intimacy with God.  Are you enjoying such intimacy through times of prayer and Bible study?  Are you taking time to be alone with God and enjoy His presence?  As you sing this morning, do you take joy in the fact that God is not hiding from you, but is delighting Himself in the praise of His people?  Do not miss out on such sweet communion.  Do not forget that you were redeemed for such.  Amen.

1 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), 110

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 14 May 2006 )

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