Praise the Father Who Made Us His Children
A sermon based on Galatians 4v4-7
December 26, 2010 – Christmas 1A
Imagine a little orphan boy who lives on the streets. He barely has any clothes. He searches the dumpsters for food at nights. His only shelter is a large cardboard box in an alley. He lives a miserable existence.
One day, Bill Gates comes along. He sees the boy in the alley and feels sorry for him. He takes him home, gives him a hearty meal, cleans him up, and gets the process rolling to adopt the boy as his own son. Think how his status has changed! He had nothing. He will soon have more than he could ever have dreamed!
That little orphan boy is you. You too have had your status changed before God. He has changed you from the slave you once were to his dearly loved child. Today as we hear Paul's words to the Galatians, we are encouraged to praise the Father who made us his children because he sent his Son to make us free and his Spirit to make us heirs. Listen again to Paul's words of encouragement as they're recorded for us in Galatians 4v4-7…
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
I. He Sent His Son to Make Us Free
In the verses right before our text for this morning Paul talks about a child waiting to turn 18 and to get his inheritance from his rich father. But until he turns the legal age, the son is no better than the maids or servants in the house. Once he is 18 the father's riches are his.
Paul explained to the Galatians that they were once like that boy. They were held under the law obligated to keep it all. At the same time then, they were slaves to sin, since they were far from perfect. Some unfortunately had the self-righteous attitude that they could earn their forgiveness. Others had the apathetic attitude that gave up in despair. Left to themselves, these attitudes could only lead to death and destruction.
But, that's not the end of the story for the Galatians. Like the boy who became rich when he turned 18, so also the Galatians. When the time was just right, God sent out his Son with a mission; a very specific mission: to redeem those who were under the law. He came in God's own time; just when God had planned. He came when and how God wanted him to just as he foretold through the prophets. He accepted his mission and came to carry it out.
But Paul leads us to look at the Christ child more closely. In order to redeem those under the law, Christ had to become a human being like those under the law. He had to keep the law perfectly on behalf of those under the law. Philippians 2:6 and following tells us that Christ, "6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself…" Christ made himself a slave to the law.
But for Christ, this did not make him a slave to sin, like it did the Galatians. Christ, as true God, had the power to resist sin. Throughout his entire life he never sinned, not even once. He lived a perfect, sinless life. Then he did even more; he then credited his perfect life to those under the law—all people. His perfect obedience is placed on them. Their sins are placed on him. He sets them free from sin, from death, from the devil. Mission accomplished!
In verse 5 Paul applies this truth directly to the Galatians. He includes himself with the Galatians when he says, "that we might receive the full rights of sons." Those who were under the law might now receive the full rights of sons! Those Galatians, who were by nature enemies of God, able to do nothing but resist and hate him, had a whole new and wonderful status: dearly loved children of God.
But those words weren't written just for the Galatians. What about us? Where do we fit in? We are reminded that we too, by nature, are enemies of God. We too, by nature, are stuck in slavery to the law—look at the many sins each of us commits daily. Satan tempts us to think we deserve God's forgiveness because we regularly go to church. Or our sinful pride can lead us to think that we can earn God's favor by living an outwardly godly life. But when we remember that even these attitudes themselves are sin, we realize that there is no possible way that we can keep God's perfect law under which we are all born. Left to our own, we are on a certain path to death and destruction forever in Hell.
But praise God! He didn't leave us in that condition. This Christmas season we've seen how Christ came to this world. In his own time and his own way God sent his Son to be under the law to keep it perfectly for us too. Christ died for all people and paid for the sins of everyone. That includes us. We now have been set free from the slavery of the law and we are now God's dear children.
Imagine if I were to be kidnapped by terrorists who refused to let me go unless you would pay $1 million. You could try to get the money, hold a special offering, sell your homes, apply for a few loans and empty out your bank accounts. Maybe with a lot of work, you could even buy me back from those terrorists. (Though I wouldn't hold my breath.) But in our lives of sin, we can't even begin to pay the price to buy ourselves out of Hell. It's just way too much! But there's good news! We don't have to! God sent his Son to make us free! Christ bought us back. He paid the price in full! We are God's dear children.
Now in the second part of our text for this morning, Paul tells us that because we are God's children, He did even more for us...
II. He Sent His Spirit to Make Us Heirs
The apostle Paul wanted to assure the Galatians that because Christ did fulfill his mission they would receive the benefits of Christ's redemption. He tells them that because they are now sons of God, God sends them his Holy Spirit into their hearts. The Holy Spirit worked in the Galatian Christians and created faith in their hearts. They could now trust in God and cry out to him in confidence, "Abba! Father!"
This crying out is a cry of faith. "Abba" is an Aramaic term translated for us in the very next word. It means "father." But this cry was one of trust. It was a daily, but polite address to one's father. We might translate it, "Dear Dad." Enabled by the Spirit, the Galatians could call upon God in confidence, through faith, like a kid talks to his dad.
An author of a devotion book I once read describes it well. He puts it this way: If his five-year-old daughter simply says, "Daddy, I'm thirsty," her father knows what she wants. He gets her a glass of milk. She doesn't need to say, "My dear father, who hath wonderfully provided for all my needs these past six years… wouldst thou consider traversing to the rectangular appliance filled with Freon and retrieving the plastic canister filled with the fruit of the cow so that I might enjoy it as a libation." If she did, he would still get it for her, but even if she only said, "Moo," he would still pour her some milk.
The Galatians didn't need to pray in perfect Greek. As adopted sons and daughters of God they had the Holy Spirit praying for them and through them. Paul reminded the Romans, "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Jesus himself said in his Sermon on the Mount, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" The Galatians could now call out to God with the same confidence of a little kid asking a loving dad for something to eat.
Paul concludes this portion of his letter to the Galatians by reminding them of another blessed benefit of the work of Christ and the Spirit. He reminded them that now they were not just children of God who could talk to him about anything, but because they were children of God, they were also heirs of his inheritance.
To be an heir one can expect to inherit something. To be heirs of God meant that the Galatians could expect to receive the inheritance of God's perfect heaven when they died. They no longer had to live in fear of punishment in hell, but could be certain that they would spend eternity forever blessed with God.
Remember the homeless boy who Bill Gates adopted? Think how much his status changed. He went from having nothing at all to having more than he ever dreamed of! And though he wouldn't be a multi-millionaire right away, he could be certain that some day he would inherit more than he could ever have imagined as a child. This is what the Galatians had. They would certainly enjoy the benefits of being God's children in this life, but they would inherit even bigger and greater gifts in heaven.
And God has done exactly the same for us! God has sent his Spirit into our hearts! The Holy Spirit prays for us and through us with inexpressible words, with sighs and intercessions. We need not worry what words we will use when we pray to God. We can be confident that because Christ died for us and made us his sons and daughters we can call him "Our Father who art in heaven" and pray boldly and with certainty that he will hear us and answer us for our good.
And while we can trust confidently that God will provide for our every need in this life, we can rejoice even more that we have become heirs of greater and better things to come—things that the thief cannot steal and the moth cannot destroy! We can be confident that God has made us heirs of eternal life! We no longer need to fear even death itself, but can look forward to that blessed day when we receive our lasting inheritance.
So, show your gratitude to God your dear father who made you his dear child and an heir of heaven. Praise him with your actions and your words. Express your thanksgiving to him in your prayers and in your songs. Don't gripe and grumble, but remember who you are: God's dearly loved children, free from sin and heirs of heaven. Don't just pray "gimme" prayers, but pray for people other than yourself. Pray for those who don't yet know what God has done for them. Pray confident that your dear Father in heaven hears you as his own dear child. And don't keep what Jesus made you to yourself, but tell others why God sent Jesus to the cross, namely, to make us his dear children, and why God sent his Spirit into our hearts, namely, to make us heirs of heaven. Yes, as the hymn-writer put it…
Tell how the Father sent his Son to save us.
Tell of the Son, who life and freedom gave us.
Tell how the Spirit calls from every nation, His new creation. Amen.