Recently I was reading through Galatians 4. In this book in general, and more specifically in this chapter, Paul addresses the issue of identity. That is, how we see ourselves after salvation. Many scholars believe that Galatians is the first of Paul’s letters written in about 49 AD prior to the Jerusalem Council in 50 AD (see Acts 15). The significance of Galatians being written prior to the Jerusalem Council is that the focus there was on whether the Gentile converts had to follow the Jewish Law to be saved. The answer at the Council was a resounding no. However, Paul addressed the issue and the theological implications prior to the Council because many believers from the Jewish community were trying to get the Gentile converts to embrace circumcision and other elements of the Jewish Law.
We might wonder why someone who had found salvation in Jesus would even consider adding something else to their salvation. Yet at this time the church was less than two decades old and many of the theological positions we take for granted had not yet been sorted through and discerned by the church.
A key here is that Paul presented theological truth in Galatians 4 that needed to be internalized. He compared the old covenant with the new and said the old one led to bondage and the new one to freedom. To walk in the freedom meant truly living out of the truth of the new covenant.
4:1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Galatians 4:1–7 (NKJV)
It is one thing to know theologically that we are sons (or daughters) and not slaves. It is another to walk in that reality. I have believed for many years that Paul’s apostolic heart cry is encapsulated in a single verse in his very first letter.
19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)
We can be saved, have our sins forgiven, have received Jesus righteousness instead of our own, and yet still not live like it. Paul’s heart in Galatians was not that the Galatians would receive something in addition to their salvation. His heart cry was that they would understand what they had already received! Hence his statements about adoption and being a son. Paul presents it not as something to be earned or received but as something to be walked out.
The issue before us then is whether we understand and believe what we already have and live it out in our daily lives. Understanding our adoption into the family and Christ in us means we pursue regular intimacy and fellowship with the one who dwells in us. It means we seek to encounter Him in relationship and in relationship with His word. If we actually believe it we actually live it. I pray we as the church embrace our adoption not merely as a theological reality but as a living experiential reality that changes us and those around us.