Time to Grow Up Yet?
Text: Galatians 3:23 - 4:7
Proper 7, C
7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. If you have ever asked your child to help you with the chores, or do a little extra work around the house you have probably been accused of treating them as a slave. Much like I'm sure you thought of your own parents when you were young and mistaken. But while there are some places in this world where children are actually and routinely treated as slaves, children here in Canada actually have it pretty good. Maybe too good sometimes, and thus the complaining at a little work. But then again, maybe we shouldn't blame them, because while they are worlds apart – slaves and sons – in some ways the two are not so different. Or so Paul explains to the Galatian Christians.
4:1I mean that the heir, [Paul writes] as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 3:23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. What Paul describes here is the fact that under the ancient Roman legal system the status of a child still under the care of a guardian (a pedagogue) was roughly that of a slave. The child could be punished by the guardian who was a slave himself and neither were able to enjoy the inheritance.
But what, you ask, does this have to do with anything today? The point Paul is making in this passage is not about the fairness of being a child. The point is that the Jews were slaves to the law until Christ came. Gentiles were slaves to their pagan way of life until they heard the Gospel. Each was confronted by the unfairness of this broken world. Each thought they had figured out the best way to navigate life given their restrictions. Just be better and things will go well for you the rabbi’s taught. East drink and be merry, for tomorrow is never guaranteed paganism proclaims. In the first God is a harsh and punishing Father. IN the second the gods are vain and capricious, and entirely unreliable. But in both cases, Jew or Gentile the recipients of Paul’s letter refused to grow up. They were content to be slaves in before God, instead of the heirs God had made them to be in Christ. But that's foolish.
And it is foolish because no matter how good a slave is – even if they are as righteous as Joseph in Egypt – they will never sit at the table with the master. They will never inherit the home. They will never be part of the family. No amount of following the rules or keeping your head down will change your fate. And we who strive under the sole guardianship of the Law are likewise denied any happy future. Slaves don't normally get a happy ending.
4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. And here again, is that sweetest of Gospels. At a specific and appropriate time in human history, God acted to fulfill his eternal purpose. The master of the household, the very Son of the Heavenly Father, became a slave of all. On that first Christmas Jesus was born under the Law of Moses, which He fulfilled in perfection. Every thought, word and deed giving back to God the Father the full duty owed by those enslaved to the Law. Even the final duty of dying to pay for the sins of one and all alike. And because Jesus took our place as a slave, He has now offered us the chance to live in and through Him as God's child and heir.
And just how can we be so sure? Because the adoption has already been signed, sealed and delivered. As Paul says: 3:27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Jews and Gentiles alike are all united to Christ by Baptism and so become heirs of the promise and righteous before God. Baptism is the Great Exchange, our slavery for His Sonship. Our sin for His perfection. Our guilt for His glory. Our punishment for His inheritance. In Baptism that we are freed from slavery and adopted as heirs.
So what, then, will it be? Are you happy to live as a slave, trusting in your so-called good behaviour to earn you a place in the family or will you grow up and enjoy the inheritance that is yours as Sons (and daughters) of God and heirs of His kingdom? God doesn’t treat you as a spiritual infant, but entrusts you with the very gifts of that eternal Kingdom as your inheritance. You are brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ! God doesn't treat you like a slave, so why live like one? 4:6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
One final story of sons and slaves will help us finish our thoughts for today. The story of a young man who upon reaching the age of maturity began to take upon himself the responsibilities of his spiritual life. (JJ was the one who came to me to start confirmation, not the other way round!) Through two years of diligent study and faithful worship He has grown from a child needing the prompting of mother and father to a fine young man who is now encouraging those around him to the same. And he knows that today does not mark the end of his spiritual journey but just the beginning. A slave, or a servant gets to punch out when the day is over because the household will never be theirs, they just don’t care. But a son and an heir, that is for life. For all the Father has is given to the Son and through the Son to those who belong to Him in Faith.
God loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you that you might no longer be a slave, but His beloved heir. His grace has given you an eternal inheritance and a family as big as heaven. His care for you has given you an honoured place at His very table, and gifts of forgiveness life and salvation beyond compare. He is calling you to step up and be the man (or woman) He has created you to be. For His mercy is such that in Holy Baptism He makes slaves into Sons. And why? Because He is your Abba, your Father, your loving Daddy. Today JJ gives us his answer, but what abut you dear friends? Which one will it be? Slaves or Sons?