Galatians 4: 4 – 7 (Sunday After Christmas -2013)
“God’s Son Makes Us Sons”
“When the time had fully come …” God does all things in decency and in order. God designed salvation to occur in time and in tune with all the signs and prophecies he had given to mankind. Luke retells the birth of God’s Son in such great detail: names of cities and rulers, references to real people and real dates in time; he even mentions the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. She was not only a relative of Mary, she was the wife of one of the temple priests. God ties the birth of his Son to actually history. Roman culture and languages, events that are recorded in other places, even the very kind of death his Son would die was introduced “when the time had fully come.”
Paul was taking time in this letter to review the clear and simple Gospel with the Galatians. He and others had taught the pure truth that Christ had come to die for sin. The foundation of Christianity had been laid. Through the Law, the Holy Spirit had convicted them of their sins and brought them to repentance. Through Baptism and the message of Christ the Holy Spirit created saving faith in their hearts. But Paul’s band of enemies followed his trail. Through them, the devil began to plant doubt in the hearts of these early Christians by planting false notions. They began to tear down the thought that Jesus was God’s Son. They began to talk about taking confidence in their own goodness. They were ripping away the new freedom in Christ from these converts and making them slaves. Their idea of religion was slavery again to the Law, slavery to guilt, slavery to sin, slavery to fear, and slavery to the world. They ripped Christ out of their doctrines and were left with nothing but lies and fancy ideas that led to hell.
Hence Paul’s question in the third chapter: “Who has bewitched you?!” (3:1). Hence Paul’s stern warning: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” (1:8). Christ’s gospel freed them from that slavery. This is why Paul was taking the time to calm their troubled hearts. Paul explained that the good news of Christ Jesus has rescued them from their slavery. Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.” (3: 11). Paul’s message was in line with the gospel of Christ and his other apostles: God’s Son had come to make us his sons.
No Longer Slaves
As he draws closer to his illustration of slavery and son-ship, Paul brings out one of his many clear passages on the power of Baptism “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ” (3: 26-27).
We were slaves. We were blind fools thinking that the King would give us his kingdom if we worked hard enough to please him. We are natural slaves at heart, if we think about it. God will like me if I do enough good things. God will give me heaven if I impress him enough. God must be impressed with me in order to over look the things of which I am ashamed. “Doing Things” has become one of our favorite gods. Being busy is how we cope with the guilt of what we have left undone. We are so convinced that salvation is found when we get things done. That is a natural way for the human heart to find peace. That is often how we try to foster our human relationships. We hope to busy our lives in front each other hoping to impress upon each other how vitally important we are. Deep down we are afraid of how invaluable we are. So we sinfully look for peace in “Doing Things.” It is more slavery; slavery to fear; slavery to the way of the world; slavery to guilt; slavery to sinful idolatry of self.
That is spiritual slavery. Slaves cannot have the inheritance of the King. But sons can. So God had a different plan. Rather than forcing us to impress him with our slavery, he changed our status before him. To show us that he loved us before we were sons, he sent his Son to become our servant, or brother. “He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2: 17).
Having the Full Rights of Sons
“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.” In one of our Christmas hymns we sing: We are rich for he was poor, is not this a wonder. The Prince became a pauper so that the paupers could live in the King’s castle. True God and yet True Man, Christ came for sinners - the godly for the ungodly, the righteous for the unrighteous. This is the Gospel which Paul preached to the Galatians. This is the apostolic message that leads to eternal life. This is the only gospel that saves you. It is the gospel that released us from spiritual slavery to sin and self. It is the gospel of Christ that makes us all Sons of God.
It is through this message that God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” This is the message the Holy Spirit has planted in your hearts through Word and Sacrament. Earlier Paul had written: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” You have been given the royal robes of the King’s Son. You have all the privileges of being a Son from heaven. You who once were slaves now address the Lord Almighty as “Abba,” Father. By his grace and knowledge, the Holy Spirit brings us to the throne of Grace each day, confident in the blood of Christ and the name of Jesus to say “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
“You are no longer a slave but a son; and since you are a son God has made you also an heir.” What belongs to the Father belongs to you. Behind that throne of grace lies a kingdom of heavenly blessings. At his finger tips the father desires to give his new sons all that is his: righteousness and peace; providence and protection; eternal inheritance. With Isaiah we are moved to sing his beautiful words from the lesson this morning: I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us – yes the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, “Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me”; and so he became their Savior (Isaiah 63: 7-8).
The Gospel that Christ had given to Paul is a status changing Gospel. The doing of the slaves could never impress the king. It is the doing of the King that rescues the slaves. God has sent his son. That Son became a slave to his own laws. That Son became a servant of the world of sinners. That servant purchased Sons for God with his holy precious blood and his innocent sufferings and death. The Lord has done many good things. God has made us his sons and heirs of heaven with Christ our dear brother.
Softly from his manger lowly
One and all,
“You are safe from danger.
Children from the sins that grieve you
You are freed
All you need
I will surely give you.” (CW 37: 5). Amen.