We are looking at this great epistle, which emphasizes salvation by faith alone. That is the Christian message. That is why there was a Protestant Reformation. Salvation is not by faith plus works. It’s not a cooperative effort between the sinner and God. The Bible is clear that salvation is totally a work of God, and we just reach out to receive the gift by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
All false religions, including false forms of Christianity, want to make salvation a combination of God’s work and ours, faith and works. That God does a part, and we do a part, and in that kind of synergism God brings about our salvation. That is the defining heresy in all false religions, where somehow you can contribute to being rescued from judgment by your own works.
So Paul in Galatians is giving arguments against salvation by faith and works. And the one that we looked at before in Galatians 4:1-11 is the powerful argument of adoption. “You have already been adopted as sons of God, with all the rights and privileges that come with becoming a son. Galatians 4:7-11, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
“8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”
Paul is affirming the reality of their salvation in verse 9. You are believers now, you have experienced the power of the Spirit, and your lives have been transformed. Now why are you going back to a system of external behavior? When Christ came, we were redeemed. We were mature in Christ, and received the adoption as sons. And Paul is the only one who uses the word “adoption” in the New Testament.
Adoption as Paul uses it, is God placing us as His sons in His family. Now when we talk about adoption we’re talking about something different from what was in the mind of a Roman-Greek person in New Testament times. And as with all Bible interpretation, we have to go back and recreate the social structure, the cultural structure, so we know what something meant in that day, because that’s what it still means.
So we need to separate ourselves from the contemporary concept of adoption and go back. Jewish people adopt for two reasons. One, because they were childless. Secondly, when parents were in old age and needed someone to care for them; as a caretaker. Paul is not talking about that. Typically adoption in the Western world is an adoption of babies or small children from foster homes. People don’t adopt adults; they adopt children.
In the ancient Roman world they did not adopt children. They adopted male adults. Very rarely was a female adopted. That is why when Paul talks about adoption he talks about sons, because roman adoption is almost always an adult male twenty years of age and up. They were adopted into wealthy families, families of prominence, and virtually all those kinds of families did adoptions.
Even if they had sons, they would adopt. If they had no sons, they would adopt in order to have an heir. But if they had sons that they didn’t think were suited for the future, they would adopt another son. There was power in ancient Rome called patria potestas, which means “the father’s power.” A father could disown his son or daughter. He could also sell a son for adoption.
Often they waited until their children were in their twenties so they could see their leadership potential, their physical strength and their wisdom. They were looking for someone who would be the next patria familias, “father of the family.” The purpose was really to bring an heir into the family who was worthy of this estate and could guarantee the future of that estate.
There was an elite class of patricians in the Roman world that was unapproachable and unavailable to the rest of society. And it wasn’t secret. It was very public and official. In fact, it required senate confirmation. This involved wealthy families with estates and reputations. That was true in adoption. But the previous family in the future would be able to enjoy something of the success of the adopted son.
However, he would take the new father’s name for the rest of his life. He would get all of the rights and privileges of that family. Roman adoption meant having a son by choice, granting him complete rights and inheritance of everything.” There were four results of adoption. One: You had a new father. Two: You were heir to his estate. Three: all your previous debts were wiped out.
Four: he would have to be purchased with a high price, which is one of the reasons that poor families would make this overture of a son that was desired by a wealthy family. One other thing, “A man cannot disown an adopted son.” Once you were adopted, it was permanent. The adopted son then is more secure in his inheritance than a born son. A born son could be disowned, sold or even killed.
Nine of the Caesars were adopted. Julius Caesar had no children, so he adopted Augustus. Augustus had no sons, so he adopted Tiberius. Nine Caesars were adopted from other families into the royal line. So this is a very rich picture of what Christian believers experience in being adopted into God’s family. Paul intended these believers to understand what happens when God adopts us into His family.
We have a new Father, and we’re so intimately connected to Him that we say, “Abba, Father.” It’s an intense relationship. And we have all the rights and privileges, so that Jesus says in John 1:12, to those who believed in Him, He gave “the authority to be called sons of God.” In the millennial kingdom we will rule over the world with Christ. In heaven we will sit with Him on His throne.
In the adoption ceremony there were always seven witnesses. Why? To establish the legality of it and testify to it, in case in the future other children of that wealthy family would contest that adoption. Look at verse 6, “because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.” For what? Romans 8 says, “To witness that we are the sons of God.”
And according to Isaiah 11:2, the Holy Spirit is the sevenfold spirit. In Isaiah 11:2 there are seven features of the Holy Spirit. They are demonstrated in the menorah with its seven flames. The fullness of the Spirit is a sevenfold fullness. And so the fullness of the sevenfold Spirit is God’s witness to the legality of our adoption that can never be contested, because of the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Now let us study the consummation of that adoption in verse 7, “Therefore you are no longer a slave.” And by the way, slaves could be adopted; both slaves and free men could be adopted. Slaves, by the way, were not all the kind of slaves you might think. Many of them were highly educated; many of them were professionally skilled people. That was just their social status.
And, verse 7 continues, “if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” The point of adoption was to give the estate to that adopted son. It was that he would be the heir through God, He is choosing an heir. God chose you before the foundation of the world to be an heir of everything that He possesses. This is the nature of the grace and love of God. This is truly incredibly astonishing.
If you have been called into His family as a child, everything that happens in your life works together for good. And what is good? It’s your eternal inheritance. No one is going to be replaced. No one is going to be disowned, because Romans 8:29 says, “Whom He foreknew, He predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
“You have everything by faith in Christ,” Paul is saying to the Galatians. “You have all that God possesses. You are a son, as Christ is a son, a joint heir. Everything in God’s glorious heaven is yours. We don’t have it yet. That’s why Romans 8:23 says, “We ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” But we know there is that inheritance reserved for us.
Look at verse 8, because here is the responsibility of being a son. Adoption brought responsibility in the ancient world. You needed to show gratitude and loyalty for his love, gratitude for his grace. You needed to show appreciation for the inheritance that you were given. Before you came to know Christ, you didn’t know God, verse 8, “You served those which by nature are not God.”
There’s only one true God in the universe. And the only one way to know God is through Christ, John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” People talk about God; but they don’t know God. They invent their own god or they have a religion that has invented the god for them, and the god is impersonated by demons. But the whole world of religious people, apart from Christians, doesn’t know God.
First Corinthians 1 says to the people who don’t know God, “You will never find God by human wisdom.” It pleased God that He would not be found by human wisdom. Where is the wise man? They see the gospel as foolishness; but they are the real fools. Romans 1 says when they had an innate knowledge God, they glorified Him not as God; but created non-gods and made idols.
“But now,” verse 9, “that you have come to know God.” What does the word “know” mean? “Know in a deep and intimate sense.” You have that intimate love relationship with God, so that you can cry out to God, “Abba, Father!” That’s where you go in your struggles of life. And the reason is that you know God” verse 9, “or rather are known by God.” That’s where it all starts.
You can’t know Him until He’s first set His love on you. He initiates that relationship. We love Him because He first loved us. We know Him because He first knew us. God knew you before you knew Him. God loved you before you loved Him. God called you before you called out to Him. First Thessalonians 1:9 says that we were rescued from idols, turning from idols to the living God.
And you’re known by God because, “No one can come to Me,” Jesus said, “unless the Father draws him” (John 6:44). Verse 9 continues, “How is it that you turn again to the weak and worthless elemental things?” Any form of false religion, including the Mosaic Law on the part of Jews, is a weak and worthless elemental thing compared to the true gospel in Christ.
Legalism is a false religion. Going back to dietary laws, going back to Sabbath observance, going back to feasts and Passover festivals. “Are you going back to what you were delivered from? Are you going back to your old family, your old bondage? Isn’t being a son enough for you? Are you regressing?” Paul says at the end of verse 9, “do you want to be like Israel?” The history of Israel might be a good warning.
Israel was led out of Egypt. They saw the hand of God in the plagues, and their protection. In Exodus 14, Pharaoh starts coming after them. So they became very frightened and faulted Moses. And then Moses says, “Don’t fear! See the salvation of the Lord.” And the Red Sea parts, and they walk through. And they get on the other side. “Wow!” I wish they learned their lesson.
They had seen miracle after miracle, the parting of the Red Sea; water and food created; and yet they were seduced to go back to Egypt. That’s what the Judaizers were trying to tell the Galatian believers to do. Verse 10, “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” They were beginning to absorb the external rituals and ceremonies again. But none of them are bound on the church anywhere in the New Testament.
Colossians 2:16-17, “Don’t let anyone act as your judge in regard to food or drink or a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath; things that are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” It’s worse than that. “Those of you who are drifting back to that,” verse 11, “I fear for you, that perhaps I’ve labored over you in vain.” That is the idea, that you earn your salvation through your adherence to religious ritual.
People who disappear, were they real believers? No. First John 2:19, “They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would have continued with us. They went out from us, that it might be made manifest they never were of us.” In John 8, Jesus says, “If you continue in My word, then you’re My real disciple.” Remember, Jesus joined Himself to you in love and awakened your heart.
He came to you, before you came to Him. He knew you, before you knew Him. He loved you, before you loved Him in return. And now after your salvation, you are waiting for the unfolding of your inheritance. This is the gospel. It’s about what God has prepared for those who love Him in heaven. All your past debts were canceled when you came to Christ. Your whole former life was erased.
And by the power of the Spirit through the preaching and hearing of the gospel, He establishes a relationship with you, and you with Him. He knows you, and you know Him. He loves you, and you love Him. You’re freed from bondage. It’s all by faith in Christ alone. All of this because the precious blood of Jesus Christ is applied as a payment for your son-ship. Let us pray.