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Our Wonderful Adoption

Galatians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Because of faith, we have become children of God and the implications are truly amazing, but because of adoption by faith is so amazing, why would we turn our backs on it?

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It’s been said that Australia has become a land of coffee snobs.
Earlier in the week I was reading a brief article that looked at the history of coffee in this land, and while white people did bring it during the early days of their forced entry to this country, it was actually the Temperance Movement, and in particular, some Christian woman in Melbourne around the late 1800’s which caused a significant shift away from beer and onto coffee.
But when I refer to us being coffee snobs, most people would think of a more recent shift, perhaps in the last 15 or so years (although precise dating is difficult).
This recent trend has seen a growing disdain for instant coffee, and instead a growing appreciation for coffee produced by the barista.
For the hard core coffee snob, which in reality is a small but growing section of society, drinking instant coffee in anathema. Why would you go back to drinking something vastly inferior when you have access to something so amazing?
Now, for the record, I am not in that hard core group of coffee snobs. The convenience of the instant coffee is still to much for me to go past, but I do agree that the humble instant coffee pales in comparison with a well brewed coffee from a barista.
But while I might not side with the hard core coffee snob, I think they make a good point.
If you’ve got access to a superior product, why would you settle for something inferior?
We can argue that coffee isn’t actually all that important (I’ll let you have that argument with the hard core snobs), but certainly there are other things that I would argue are far more important, but yet we somehow seem to be happy to settle for the inferior.

Link to Galatians

This is in fact what we see in the section of Galatians that we find ourselves in today.
As we’ve seen in our series on Galatians so far, Paul has spent essentially the first three chapters of this letter arguing that salvation comes entirely by faith in Jesus Christ and in him alone.
What Paul is about to do in the passage that we’re looking at today, is to hold up the beautiful thing that is on offer, demonstrating how vastly superior it is, and then displaying his utter confusion as to why anyone would want something inferior.

The Superior Way

So let’s start by looking at this superior way.
I started reading in verse 26 of chapter 3, and I believe that this verse really sums up the main thrust of what Paul is trying to get at.
Galatians 3:26 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
That verse starts and ends by looking at the means in which we find this superior way - which is clearly in Christ Jesus and it’s through faith. I don’t want to gloss over that because it really is fundamental to Paul’s whole argument, but I have been exploring this up to this point in the series, so I won’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it now. Other than to remind you that my whole message this morning is predicated on the fact that the superior way that we are about to look at, comes solely from faith in Jesus Christ alone.

A child of God

But the superior thing that is at the centre of it all, and for that matter, the centre of this verse 26, is that we are all children of God.
The problem with this phrase, ‘children of God’, (or ‘sonship of God’ which some of your translations will likely have), is that it becomes a cliche. The problem with cliches is that over time they lose their meaning.
You see, it is an easy thing to say, I’m a child of God, but have you ever stopped to think of the significance of that.

Being clothed in Christ

To start his description, he uses another metaphor, although this one in some ways is even harder to understand.
He describes anyone who has been baptised as being clothed with Christ.
But what does that actually mean?
Well, when you’re clothed in something, you generally start taking on the characteristics or attributes of what you are being clothed in.
And this is what happens when you come into God’s family. It’s not just a theoretical title, but like any family, if you belong then you start acting like you belong.
Now I know that when you look at earthly families, you look at the kids and they don’t always perfectly align with the parents, but certainly you would have to say that there is a strong correlation.
Quite often you can quickly see how the opinions and actions of children mirror the opinions and actions of their parents.
This is essentially what is happening when we become clothed in Christ. We are becoming more and more like Christ - and this truly is a wonderful thing.

Equality

Now it is a wonderful truth that being a child of God means that we can become like Christ, but what Paul says next is something which has far reaching implications. It doesn’t sound shocking now, because it is a notion that is quite popular today, but particular back then, what Paul says next would have been truly ground breaking.
He tells that in Christ Jesus, there is true equality.
As I just alluded to, the word “equality” has become somewhat of a buzz word today, but true equality actually started with God.
Let me just read verse 28 to you again.
Galatians 3:28 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Just look at all the barriers Paul is smashing in this statement.
Firstly he smashed through the race barrier with the statement that there is neither Jew nor Gentile. This race barrier is one which we like to think we’ve moved beyond today, but the reality is there is still a long way to go.
He then smashed through the economic barrier by stating there is neither slave nor free. Our class structure again is something perhaps more pronounced then we care to usually acknowledge.
And then he smashes through the gender barrier. This is a barrier that is getting a lot of attention today.
Now I think it is important that I clarify what Paul is saying and what he’s not saying here. That’s because I think it is very easy to use this particular verse and feed it into the modern narrative regarding gender and other forms of equality, which basically becomes a gross misuse of the verse.
What Paul is saying, is that when you come to God and access the benefit of being one of his children, it doesn’t matter who you are, you all have equal access.
This equality then should also spill into the way that we deal with one another. If in Christ we all have equal access to God, who are we to say that one person should be treated preferentially over another.
In Christ, we find the type of equality that we should all be striving towards.
What Paul isn’t saying, but much of the modern narrative does, is that these distinction are unnecessary and unhelpful. Certainly we see this is in a relatively recent push regarding gender.
There are different races, there are different genders, and people do actually also come with a social status, and this diversity is actually something to be celebrated because we each add something special to society.
But this is the beauty of being a child of God. Amongst our diversity, we have equality. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian your whole life and are well studied, or whether you’ve lived a rough life and struggle on what might feel like the periphery - if you’ve accepted Christ then we are equal in terms of righteousness before God!

Freedom

Now while I’d love to explore this equality further, there is one more concept that I want to explore in terms of considering what we gain in Christ.
You see, so far we’ve seen that being a child of God means being made like Christ, it means finding equality, but it is the concept that Paul introduces in the start of chapter 4 that he is going to expound upon when he gets to chapter 5, which we’ll start looking at in 2 weeks time.
While he might not use the term in this passage, the concept that he is about to introduce, and is fundamental to being a child of God is… freedom!
Now freedom can be a bit of a funny concept because we like to think of freedom in terms of doing whatever we want, wherever we want, in any manner of doing it that we like. If we think of freedom in this sense then we need to understand that with any free choice we make, we also face corresponding consequences.
But rather than thinking of freedom in this extreme way, instead we get a better understanding of freedom when we look at it in the sense of the freedom found within family, which is what Paul describes here.
Actually what Paul does is to introduce a comparison between the “slavery” that the Jews faced under the old covenant compared with the freedom found in the new. This is going to be explained in more detail from verse 21 which we will look at next week, so I’m going to leave most of this comparison until then, but when we drop down to verse 4, we start to see how this freedom plays out.
Verse 4 tells us that it was just at the right time Jesus came to earth, and verse 5 tells us that this was all so that we could be redeemed and know sonship.
Now you might note that even the updated version of the NIV which I’m reading from uses the word sonship in verse 5 as opposed to the gender inclusive child, and that’s because Paul is using a play on words linking the sonship of Jesus with our sonship. But these words still equally apply to females as it does males.
But if we look at the argument, Paul is highlighting that Jesus was born a human and born into the old system, which meant that he was able to break us out of that system.
While it doesn’t spell it out for us here, the way he redeems us is central to what we believe us Christians, which is that Jesus died and rose again, breaking the yoke of slavery that had been put over us.
And it is because of this redemption that we become a child of God. As children we get the spirit of God, the spirit which allows us to call God Abba, Father.
The word Abba, is actually Aramaic, and it would have been used as the intimate name that children would have used of their father while in the home. Often we like to think of it in a similar way as the way we say daddy. Some commentators actually think linking Abba with the word Daddy over trivialises the word, however the important thing is to realise that what is being expressed is the closeness that a child has with his father.
The important part of Paul’s argument though, is that with this close family tie with God, we lose our slavery, and so this is the sense in which we find our freedom.
You see, earlier I mentioned that we can best understand freedom in the sense of being part of a family.
Particularly as a child grows up, they gain a lot of freedom from their parents, yet at the same time their connection to that family guides them. There is much responsibility that comes with being part of the family and the inheritance that comes with that.
You see freedom is not just about doing whatever you want, whenever you want to, but rather there is freedom found in belonging.

Summary of being a child of God

We’re going to explore freedom more in weeks to come, so I’m going to leave it at that for now, but for now I just want to highlight how wonderful it is to be called a child of God.
You see, being a child of God really is something special. It can really change us and make us into being more Christ like. It can help us understand what true equality is. And it being a child can also help us to understand the freedom that we can find in Christ.
You can choose to act well, you can choose to come to church, you can choose all sorts of things, but if you

Why choose the inferior

And the real amazing thing is that all of this comes just by having faith in Jesus Christ. When you understand that all of this can happen through faith, the question that naturally comes to Paul next is, why would you choose anything different? Why wouldn’t you choose adoption with God?
You can choose to act well, you can choose to come to church, you can choose all sorts of things, but if you don’t have faith in Jesus, then you aren’t actually going to experience these benefits i mentioned before of adoption.

Paul’s confusion

As I briefly look at verses 8 to 20, we begin to see Paul’s utter confusion at the Galatian Christians.
You see, what Paul describes is that they very well knew the gospel that Paul was preaching. In fact they had accepted Paul, even when Paul was going through a tough time. Paul describes how there was actually an illness which caused him to preach there in the first place. We actually don’t know with any certainty what he is talking about here. Certainly Luke, in writing the book of Acts doesn’t seem to allude to any illness. Some people suggest that maybe the illness is the same as the thorn in the flesh that Paul talks about in , although there isn’t a lot of proof for that.
Whatever it is, the point is that the Galatians accepted the gospel, and they knew all of the benefits that I just outlined, and yet they’ve turned their back on it.
Why would they do that? Certainly Paul is at a loss to explain it.
They have a choice. They can choose the far better deal, which comes at a far better price. Or they could choose the far inferior option, which effectively amounts to slavery, which comes at a far greater cost, which is works.
It seems like a no-brainer, and it is. But unfortunately, because of the work of the devil, it becomes a real choice, and unfortunately, most people tend to choose the inferior option.
I think the real reason is that people don’t actually believe that something can be free.
The devil has sold us a lie. It starts with a half truth, that nothing in life is free, but then applies it against the truth of grace. He makes us think that we are not worth it. Again a half truth, but a lie when you understand that God in his grace has made us righteous.
It is when we start to block out the devil and his lies when we begin to see how much of a no-brainer the choice is.
All of you here have access to this. This is the equality I was talking about before, but you need to accept it in faith. There is really no reason not to do it. And the benefits are real.
I really want to urge each of you here to accept Christ, because it really is the only way.

John Wesley

Many of you might know John Wesley. He was a prolific open air preacher who spoke in England and America in the 1700’s, who, along with George Whitefield saw a revival.
Well Wesley’s story is that he grew up in a Christian family and did many Christian things. He attended Church, even worked for the church. He even did wonderful work amongst the underprivileged. However it was actually after this time that he actually began having the faith of a son.
You see, before this time he was trusting in his own good works. But that is not the special thing we’re talking about today.

My own story

In some sense, I have a similar story. Like Wesley who’s father was a preacher, I too am a son of a Pastor and believed from a very early age.
But while I believed, and even made a commitment to Christ during these early years, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I first began to feel what it meant to really be a child of God. You see, I remember at about 22 or 23, I started reading the bible, and while I had read it before, for the first time it all came alive, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
From that time on, I really felt myself drawing closer to God. I felt God changing me and guiding me.

Conclusion

Becoming a child of God truly is the most wonderful thing that can happen to us. Sometimes we think of salvation only in terms of what is going to happen in the next age, but the truth is, the beauty of what God is doing for us really starts now. And you can access it just by having faith in Christ and him alone.
Don’t believe the lie of the devil and think that the choice is a hard one. It’s not. It should be as straight forward as any decision you make.
God has provided the way to come into his family, you just have to accept it through faith.
Let’s pray...
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