Father, help me today to realize that I’m Your child. Give me the grace not to put myself in a place where I try to merit Your acceptance on the basis of my good works; that would be submitting myself again to the hopeless enslavement I knew before I became your child. Rather, let me rest in faith, delight in the fact that I’m Your child, and cry out to You faithfully today as a son cries out to his father who loves him. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Galatians 4
God intends for us not to return to the slavery we knew before we were believers, where we were always working but never able to achieve righteousness before God. Instead, He calls us to trust in the finished work of His Son and to know the freedom from condemnation God intends for all His children.
Galatians 4:1–11 In these verses, Paul reminded the Galatian believers that they used to be enslaved to the “elementary principles of the world.” That is, they used to be slaves of a mentality that says, “I must do this-or-that work in order to merit a right standing before God.” The sad reality is that, having been freed from that hopeless enslavement, the Galatians were tempted to enslave themselves once again if they turned back to the Law as their hope of being justified. Exasperated, Paul asked them, “How can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”
The reality the Galatians were missing, however, is that they already had everything they could want. They didn’t need to enslave themselves to a principle of works-righteousness; they didn’t need to try and make themselves right with God. God had already made them His sons. In fact, God had not only made them His sons, He’d sent His Spirit into their hearts so they felt in their very being that they were His sons, even crying out “Abba! Father!”
Galatians 4:12–20 Just like finding an oasis in the desert moves you to alert others to your joy, knowing the freedom from condemnation found in the gospel should move us to want others to know that freedom as well. The Galatians had once shown that degree of love toward Paul, even being willing to give him their own eyes if that were possible. Now, however, he wondered what had happened because they no longer listened to him. He asked, “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” The reality is, the truth he wanted them to see would bring them greater joy and freedom than they had known. We must make sure our hearts burn like Paul’s to see others know true freedom in Christ.
Galatians 4:21–31 In these verses, Paul looks at Hagar—the servant and mistress of Abraham—and Sarah—Abraham’s wife—as symbolic of two realities. God had promised Abraham a son who would be the product of what God alone can do. That son, Isaac, would come through Sarah. Abraham, however, tried to bring about God’s promise himself, and by sexually uniting with Hagar, he brought about a son, Ishmael. Ishmael thus represents the product of man’s labor. Isaac, however, represents what God does when we trust in His promise.
Paul’s point is obvious. If we attempt to be justified on the basis of what man can do (good works), it will only result in our being enslaved, unable to achieve the righteousness we so desire. However, if we simply place our faith in the work God has already done through the crucified and risen Christ, then we can know the freedom from condemnation God intends for all His children. Let us therefore not live as slaves but as who we truly are, children of God.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
- Do you know and feel that you are a child of God? This is your Father’s desire for you, that you will delight in Him as your Father and cry out to Him as a son.
- Paul wants believers not to act like slaves but to rest as sons by faith in Christ. Do you think of yourself as a child of God who is loved by his heavenly Father? Why do we sometimes struggle to feel that God is our Father and loves us?
- Sometimes, loving our neighbors means saying things they might despise. By telling the Galatians the truth, Paul risked making himself their enemy. Nonetheless, we need to make sure we’re warning the individuals we love of the danger that awaits those who reject the gospel. We must not replace true love with a kind of sentimentality that fails to speak the truth. Is there someone you love who is in danger because of his or her rebellion against the Lord? Pray about how you might speak to that person in love, fighting for him or her to know the freedom from condemnation that Paul so desperately wanted the Galatians to know?
- As you pray today, remember you are crying out not merely to the God of heaven and earth but also to your Father who has made you His son and given you His Spirit so you might know you belong to Him (Gal. 4:1–7). Fight the temptation to think the Lord is holding you at a distance in light of your past or until you get a number of things in your life together.