What does it mean to be an heirs according to promise? (3:29) The simple answer is this! You are no longer a slave, but a son or daughter of God. This means you have been purchased from the slave market with a promise that cannot be stolen or taken away from you if you are a genuine child of the Living God. This statement that Paul makes is not referring to the promises given to Abraham regarding the Land in (Gen 12:1). “Heir” “Under the patriarchs, the property of a father was divided among the sons of his legitimate wives (Gen 21:10; 24:36; 25:5), the eldest son getting a larger portion than the rest. The Mosaic law made specific regulations regarding the transmission of real property, which are given in detail in Deuteronomy 21:17 ; Numbers 27:8 ; 36:6 ; 27:9-11 . Succession to property was a matter of right and not of favour.
What it’s referring to for you and me is this! The spiritual blessing that come to all who being justified by faith just as Abraham was. “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Gen 15:6. In Romans 4:3-11 we read “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Christ is the "heir of all things" (Heb 1:2; Col 1:15 ). Believers are heirs of the "promise," "of righteousness," "of the kingdom," "of the world," "of God," "joint heirs" with Christ (Gal 3:29; Heb 6:17 ; 11:7 ; James 2:5 ; Romans 4:13 ; 8:17 ).
This inheritance is not by the obedience of the Law; it is by faith. From salvation of unmerited grace to justification to adoption, we possess new identities in Christ, but not only that, we are heirs in this blessing founded in the gospel. Here is the catch or the conditions of this promise! This inheritance is only for the genuine believer…those who have been transformed by the gospel through Christ alone. It’s not gained by man’s merit or works but solely by God’s sovereign grace working through man’s faith. The literal meaning of heir is “someone who has been appointed to receive an inheritance.” But we see something here that should cause us to ponder in (v7 of chapter 4) Let me ask you! Are you afraid of freedom? They were (v9) “how can you turn back again...” Have you forgotten what slavery and bondage did to you? Let’s examine this!
1. You did not know God (v8)
What is Paul saying here? Before the gospel penetrated your wicked heart you never knew God (ever). The only god you knew was yourself! Not only did you not acknowledge God as God but you praised those who practice wickedness. Why do I say that hurtful statement, because Paul said it first! “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Rom 1:28-32
Paul even goes on to say in Rom 3:10-12 “as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." Paul even goes on to say what we were like before Christ transformed our lives. "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Rom 3:13-18
Do you want to go back to that way of living again my Galatian brothers and sisters? This is what Paul is asking. Do you want to go back to that this morning church family? Living your life, not knowing truly the God that allows us to walk, talk, smell, and see and everything else. See Paul doesn’t let them stew it that too long! He quickly reminds them that our salvation and relationship with God isn’t based on our knowledge or ability of knowing God. (v9). What does it mean to be known by God? John Piper said this “Deeper than knowing God is being known by God. What defines us as Christians is not most profoundly that we have come to know him but that he took note of us and made us his own.” Being known by God is another way of talking about election. God freely choose us for Himself, in spite of our not deserving it. Amos 3:2 says ‘you only have I known of all the families of the earth.’ God had chosen Israel as his people, though they were no better than any others. And Paul is reminding these believers the same truth to us today “God freely choosing us for himself, in spite of our not deserving it.” Paul was reminding them of this wonderful gift of life and to be known by God is a blessing not a curse or a burden to carry. Isn’t this liberating and exciting that our freedom is not based on my ability or faith, but in Him who gives me the faith to believe and find rest in His Son alone. As Peter said in his letter “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter 1:1. When we accept the finished work of Christ on our behalf, we act by the faith supplied by God’s grace. That is the supreme act of human faith, the act which, though it is ours, is primarily God’s—His gift to us out of His grace.
2. You were enslaved in bondage by man-made things…religion. (v8)
We were all slaves at one point time to gods who were not gods at all. Unredeemed people are not only slaves to Law but also to idols. Jesus is not a quick fix pill or genie in a bottle, like some little fat Budda seating on your shelf. So many people are entangled with this present world it consumes them (literally). Leaving them blind and ignorant to their eternal things and freedom in Christ. As the Law reveals our inability and sin, this world blinds us to those truths. This is why John warns us in his first epistle. In 1 John 2:15-26 it says “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.”
So many people are listening to the lies of Satan and his fallen angels of death. The freedom that the gospel brings scares you back into bondage and slavery..It’s like the Israelites complaining to Moses. Moses do you forget we were happy in Egypt. We had food, shelter and everything else to survive. We know this to be a lie from the ignorance of the Israelites “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,” Exo 16:2. In Numbers 14:2 “And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!” We are no different at times….I liked it the way it once was, change is hard but complacency is easy. Change is hard and so is freedom…..this is why so many ex-cons return to the jails. They only how to live the way it’s always been and change scares them so they are always reverting back to what they know.…..this is why many ex-cons return to the jails. They only how to live the way it’s always been, and changes scares them so they are always reverting back to what they know. Just as many here were attempting to do and we see that today in the church. Thinking I need to do something in order for things to go better in life and in my Christian life. When all we need to do is submit and humble ourselves under His sovereign hand and right over our lives. As Samuel said to King Saul “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam 15:22. Do you want to go back to enslavement and rot in your sin awaiting God’s flaming wrath and judgment?
3. You were entangled with elementary principles of this world. (v4, 9b-v11)
Just some here in the church were returning to ritualistic performances of the days and months and seasons and years. Why are we/you living for this world?
- Why are we so concerned about what others say and think about God?
- Why are we so concerned to argue about non-essentials found in the scripture?
- Why are we so easily tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine?
- Why are we so scared of change for the good?
- Why are we so ignorant to the simple truth found in the scriptures?
- Why are we no different at times like the Galatian believers?
This is what Paul was trying to get into their think heads. Stop this madness and listen to what was preached to you from the beginning. See freedom gives us access and everlasting joy knowing God personally and intimately. How? God made himself known to us through the gospel by the Holy Spirit. First He gave us the Law to show our inability to save ourselves and so in the “fullness of time” (v4). Which means at a pre-appointed day Jesus came to save us from the bondage of the slave market. As Jesus said to His disciples “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John 15:15. Jesus Christ came at the right time appointed before the foundations of the world were put into place. See, God was neither too soon nor too late, but right on time. And Paul’s fear was that they were afraid of this freedom by reverting back to the traditions of men. Where have we seen this “appointed time” in scripture? The life of Abraham with the birth of his son Isaac. The life of Joseph when He became the right hand man to Pharaoh to save the Israelites from starvation. The life of Job when he was having his best life now and how quickly it was taken away from him to test the genuineness of his heart. The life of Rahab who was preserved during the fall of Jericho as her walls stood and everyone else’s didn’t. The life of Ruth, a widow and outcast to the Israelites, became the wife to Boaz the Kinsman redeemer …the linage that lead to David’s birth and ultimately Christ’s. The life of Mary when the Holy Spirit came upon her and gave her a son to save her and many from their sins.
So! Are you still afraid of freedom? Or are you free in Christ? (4:4-7) You might recall a man named John Newton, who was nurtured by a devoted Christian mother who dreamed that her only son would become a preacher. But she died when John was a child, and he followed his sea-captain father to a sailor's life. John didn't care for the discipline of the Royal Navy: he deserted ship and eventually was discharged. He then headed for regions where he could "sin freely," and ended up on the western coast of Africa, working for a slave trader who mistreated him.
Newton's life during that period bore the appearance of a modern Prodigal Son "a wretched looking man toiling in a farmstead of lemon trees, his clothes had become rags, no shelter and begging for unhealthy roots to relieve his hunger." After more than a year of such treatment, he managed to escape from the island, in 1747.
The following year his ship was battered by a severe storm. Newton had read “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas Kempis and during the life-threatening voyage he became a Christian. Ironically, Newton then served as captain of a slave ship for six years. He gradually came to abhor slavery and later crusaded against it. Newton became greatly influenced by George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers. He married his long-time sweetheart and began studying for the ministry and preaching in whatever vacant building he could obtain. Known as the "old converted sea captain," he attracted large audiences. Newton felt dissatisfied with the hymns of the traditional psalter. He began writing "Amazing Grace!" He also befriended poet William Cowper, and they collaborated to produce Olney Hymns, which became the standard hymnal of evangelical churches.
The hymnal, which includes Newton's hymns "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" and "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds," was reprinted in England and America for the next century. In his old age, it was suggested that Newton retire because of bad health and failing memory. He replied, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!"
He was a man who was lost, in bondage and slave to sin….but Christ came to set him free as He did for you and me. My Sunday question is this! Do you want to be set free or do you want to retreat back into bondage and death?