Galatians 4:5-7

Sermon preached on February 2, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few years ago I preached a sermon at Ogdensburg Correctional Facility and in that sermon I told a story about our family in order to illustrate a point I was making. I don't even remember what the story was. It was just an ordinary story about our family, one that involved our children. It was just story about something that happened in a normal family. After the sermon, one of the inmates, who I would guess was in his 30's, came up to me and said something that totally took me by surprise. He didn't say it as a joke, in a laughing manner, but rather he said it in all seriousness. He said,

"Can you adopt me."

His question consisted of only four words but those four words said so much. It was like the old saying,

"A picture says a thousand words."

In the same way his four words spoke volumes. I never thought that four simple words could reveal so much. All of a sudden I realized that he hadn't come from a normal home, that his upbringing had lacked a lot—that he had come from a broken or dysfunctional home where love, for whatever reason, was often lacking. I realized that, even this many years later, this guy, who was now a grown man, had deep seated longings for a real family—for belonging. As I think about him and what he said it breaks my heart. What a sad upbringing he must have had.

We all have longings for a place to belong, for acceptance, for family—to be part of a good family. Part of the news of the gospel is that when we believe in Jesus we are adopted into God's family. Our text reads, (Galatians 4:4-7)

"But when the time had fully come,
God sent his Son,
born of a woman,
born under law,
to redeem those under law, that we
might receive the full rights of sons.
Because you are sons, God sent
the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
the Spirit who calls out,
'Abba, Father.'
So you are no longer a slave,
but a son; and since you are a son,
God has made you also an heir."

What words these are. There's nothing greater than this John Frame writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 977, 980)

"adoption is the apex, the high point, in our relationship with God… adoption, belonging to God's family, is the height of our privilege as God's people, and the beginning of our heavenly reward. It is the foundation of all our relationships with God and one another. God's name is our family name, the name by which we will be known through all eternity."

What a privilege this is. As we heard in our Call to Worship, (1 John 3:1)

"How great is the love the Father
has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!"

In adoption we bask in God's great love for us. It is one of the greatest possible privileges that is given to human beings.

This is our topic this morning—the fact that God adopted us into His family. We're going to consider four things why this is so wonderful.

The first thing we should consider is where we were before we were adopted. Before God adopted us into His family

we were under the law, cursed, miserable and under the power and control of the devil, one who hates us with the utmost hatred.

Verses 4 and 5 says that God sent His Son,

"to redeem those under the law…"

Before adoption we were under the law. This is defined in Galatians 3:22 as being,

"a prisoner of sin…"

The verse just before that (3:21) tells us that the law was unable to impart life. In other words, we were lost. Galatians 4:8 tells us that when the Galatians did not know God, they,

"were slaves to those
who by nature are not gods."

We know that demons hate us. The examples of demon possession in the New Testament show us their hatred. One boy was demon possessed and the demon made him suffer terribly. He threw him into seizures and would often throw him in the fire or the water. (Matthew 17:15) In John 8 Jesus' opponents claimed that Abraham was their father. But Jesus said, (John 8:44)

"You belong to your father, the devil,
and you want to carry out
your father's desire.
He was a murderer from the beginning,
not holding to the truth,
for there is no truth in him.
When he lies,
he speaks his native language,
for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Before adoption, were like Paul described the Ephesians. (Ephesians 2:1–3)

"As for you, you were dead
in your transgressions and sins,
in which you used to live when
you followed the ways of this world
and of the ruler
of the kingdom of the air,
the spirit who is now at work
in those who are disobedient.
All of us also lived among them
at one time, gratifying the cravings
of our sinful nature and following
its desires and thoughts.
Like the rest,
we were by nature objects of wrath."

Before adoption, we were followers of the devil, indulging our sinful nature, objects of wrath.

The second thing we see here is that in Christ, because of His work, (verse 5)

we receive the full rights of sons.

In adoption Jesus becomes our brother God our Father in a special way. Because of these connections many great privileges of inheritance come to us. It means that we are heirs, joint-heirs with Christ. So many things that belong to Him come to us because of our connection to Him. In Romans 8:17 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Now if we are children,
then we are heirs—
heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,
if indeed we share in his sufferings
in order that we may also
share in his glory."

Verse 7 of our text says,

"So you are no longer a slave,
but a son;
and since you are a son,
God has made you also an heir."

John M. Frame, (Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 207)

"The privileges of adoption can be summed up in the word inheritance."

We are joint heirs with Christ. Although He is the Son of God in a unique way, because of His work on our behalf, we are joint heirs with him. Here's what the Westminster Confession of Faith says about the grace of adoption. Those adopted, (Chapter 12, Of Adoption)

"are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God; have his name put upon them; receive the Spirit of adoption; have access to the throne of grace with boldness; are enabled to cry, Abba, Father; are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by his as by a father; yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation."

Speaking of the effects of Jesus' work in Hebrews 2:11–18, the apostle tells us about our new status.

"Both the one who makes men holy
and those who are made holy
are of the same family.
So Jesus is not ashamed
to call them brothers.
He says, 'I will declare your name
to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation
I will sing your praises.'
And again,
'I will put my trust in him.'
And again he says,
'Here am I, and
the children God has given me."

We belong to God's family. Jesus is our brother. 1 Peter 1:4 say that Jesus has given us new birth,

"into an inheritance
that can never perish,
spoil or fade—
kept in heaven for you,"

Even now, all things belong to us. What's why we don't have to fear those who can kill the body and do no more. As the apostle Paul says to Christians in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23,

"All things are yours,
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
or the world or life or death
or the present or the future—
all are yours,
and you are of Christ,
and Christ is of God."

John Frame again, (Systematic Theology, p. 978)

"Adoption also gives us forward-looking vision… then… comes the fullness of privilege, the final inheritance… The privilege of reigning with Christ over the entire world (Rev. 2:26-27)."

The third great thing about God's adopting us is the fact that

because we have been adopted we have been given the Spirit.

Verse 6 says,

"Because you are sons, God sent
the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
the Spirit who calls out,
'Abba, Father."

Where would we be without the Spirit in our hearts? According to Romans 8:16,

"The Spirit himself testifies with
our spirit that we are God's children."

Without the Spirit we would have no assurance of closeness to God. We would have no assurance of the forgiveness of sins. We would have no assurance of being in God's family.

But with the Spirit—what a change. As Ephesians 1:13–14 says,

"Having believed,
you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit,
who is a deposit guaranteeing
our inheritance until the redemption
of those who are God's possession—
to the praise of his glory."

The fourth thing great thing about our adoption by God has to do with how we are adopted into God's family. What is the basis for this? How are we brought into God's family?

We are brought into God's family through Jesus and His work.

We get this through faith in Jesus. It's a free gift. We don't deserve it. As we read in Galatians 3:26,

"You are all sons of God
through faith in Christ Jesus…"

It's through Jesus that we are brought into God's family. Phillip Ryken writes, (Galatians, p. 159)

"What brought God's people from slavery to sonship was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

That's what our text is about. In the fullness of time God sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem those under the law, that we might be adopted into God's family.

In Matthew 28:10, after the women came to the empty tomb and were told by the angel that Jesus was risen, they hurried away from the tomb filled with joy. Suddenly Jesus met them and said,

"Do not be afraid.
Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee;
there they will see me."

Although there is one other instance where Jesus called His disciples His family before His death and resurrection, (Matthew 12:46-49) I think that was anticipatory. Here after His death and resurrection, He calls His disciples His brothers.

John M. Frame writes, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: Systematic Theology (The Collected Works of John M. Frame 1: Theology; p. 207)

"Adoption, like justification, is through faith (John 1:12; Gal. 3:23–26). We are not entitled to the privileges of sonship, but we receive them as a gift, reaching out with the empty hands of faith."

Jesus' work brought us into His family.

What does this mean in practical terms? It means many things but let's consider two of them.

First, this has tremendous implications for your sense of esteem in Christ.

We all have problems with self-esteem. Most of us have too much of it. Some have too little of it—but they are the ones that get it right. We're nothing without Christ. We're sinners. There's nothing to boast in there.

But self-esteem is not what we should have. Our sense of worth should come from Christ, from His grace.

Who are you in Christ? What you do think of yourself in Christ? Wow. You belong to His family. You are a son of God. Jesus is your brother. This is something that is incredible. These are things you should rejoice in.

Let me tell you a story about my brother. Most of you know that he died of cancer 10 years ago. When I was at his wake I met a lot of his friends—I had never met most of them. They were his co-workers or neighbors, or university friends. When I was introduced to them, it was interesting the same thing was said to me by so many of them,

"Oh, we know all about you."

And then they'd say things like,

"Oh, yeah, we knew that Paul went to New York State hiking with you. Paul always talked about you."

One of them summarized it this way,

"Everyone knew that Paul had a brother."

That made me feel good. I was important to my brother. He talked about me. He told others about me.

If you're a Christian, Jesus is like that with you. I suspect that everyone in heaven—all the angels, all the saints—know that you're His brother or sister. In a certain sense, you are His joy. Remember how in 1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 Paul said about the Thessalonian Christians,

"For what is our hope,
our joy, or the crown in which
we will glory in the presence
of our Lord Jesus when he comes?
Is it not you?
Indeed, you are our glory and joy."

I think in Paul writing that He was giving us an insight into how Jesus will feel about us on the last day. Again, Hebrews 2 where it talks about Jesus bringing many sons to glory, (verse 10) and says that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers. Not ashamed to call us brothers—on that day we will be His joy, the crown of His work. Hebrews 2 has Jesus declaring on that day, (verse 13)

"Here am I, and
the children God has given me."

As Jesus said in Matthew 10:32,

"Whoever acknowledges me
before men, I will also
acknowledge him
before my Father in heaven."

Secondly, this has great implications for your prayer life.

Being adopted as sons means that you have incredible access to God. You can call him, "Daddy". Adoption means, (John Frame, p. 978)

"We can count on his compassion and care."

John M. Frame says about Jesus, (Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 206, 208)

"He also taught them to speak intimately with God, using the Aramaic term Abba, a child's name for his father, like our word Daddy (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:4–7). We would not dare speak to God with such familiarity, except that Jesus has given us permission."

Frame continues, (Systematic Theology, p. 978)

"Mature sonship gives us new freedom and confidence in prayer (Matt. 6:9). The Jews of the old covenant also prayed to God, but they feared coming into the most intimate sphere of God's presence; and, indeed, they were barred from it by temple curtains and many regulations. But when Christ died, the veil of the temple was torn in two. Now there is no barrier between us and the greatest intimacy with God a human being can enjoy."

Psalm 103:13 says,

"As a father has compassion
on his children, so the Lord
has compassion on those who fear him;"

And in Matthew 7:11 Jesus said,

"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!"

Christian, when you pray you ought to have such confidence that God hears you, that He cares for you and that He will answer you.

Lastly, if there is anyone here who is not a Christian.

You need Jesus.

Marg's sister L. and her husband went to China three years ago to adopt a child. I think the whole process took almost two years of preparation. The Chinese authorities had paired them with a child even before they traveled there. Her name was PP. When they traveled to China to pick her up they realized right away that something was wrong. The child was like a wild animal. She would bite and kick them. She would urinate over their clothing. She would break all the toys they had for her, just being destructive with them. She would even attack their other daughter, leaving her with many bruises. They stayed in China with her for two weeks, trying to make it work but they realized that they couldn't keep PP. So was so wild and uncontrollable that they weren't even sure that the airline would let her on the plane to bring her back to North America. So they had to say no and they cancelled their adoption of PP. At some points they thought that this would mean that they wouldn't get a child to adopt at all—but the authorities there gave them another child, and they have her today.

PP missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime—to go from poverty, neglect and loneliness to a loving, caring and affluent family. What an opportunity missed.

What about you? If you're not a Christian, the choice before you is not just about an earthly lifetime—but about eternity. Jesus offers Himself to you. You can accept Jesus, you can accept His offer to bring you into His family and make you a joint-heir with Him—or you can reject Him and choose an eternity of misery, loneliness and rejection. Jesus offers to bring you into His family. It's a free gift. How can you reject that? Don't do it. Go to Jesus today.