I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children,were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:1:7)
To an extent, the answer to the question “Are we sons or slaves?” may at first be fairly considered to be “Yes.” The bible uses both the imagery of slavery and adoption in reference to our relationship with God. Trouble is, we come across passages like this, which state explicitly that we are either slaves or we’re sons and cannot be both at the same time. So how do we make sense of the passages which use slavery imagery?
Let’s go back to the beginning of the Galatians passage: ” the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave.” Though we are adopted as sons by God, slavery metaphors can still be apt so long as we’ve not fully matured and received our full inheritance in God’s kingdom.
In this passage, Paul is speaking to Christians who’d been swayed by Judaizers who were insisting converting to Judaism and keeping the Jewish law was necessary for salvation along side the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. In reality, Christ fulfilled the Jewish law on the cross and we must trust Christ alone for salvation. That was what Paul was gunning after. He viewed Jews who refused to accept Christ, and the Christians who taught that we have to also practice Judaism, as behaving like sons who refused to grow up, put away the things of childhood, and accept the freedoms and responsibilities of adulthood.
In another sense, though, no Christian on this earth is a fully mature saint since the fall has corrupted/damaged both our software (spirit) and our physical hardware (body.) We won’t fully come into our own as God’s children until we physically die and awake in the new bodies we’ll receive in Heaven.
Christ died to save us from our sins, free us and make us sons–both men and women have the full rights of inheritance and freedom that only sons had when the Bible was penned. However, Christ did tell us, if we love him, we’ll obey him. God yearns for his children to obey him freely out of love and trust, not fear and obligation. Only obedience from a grateful heart that sincerely desires to please him more than ourselves or anyone else and is acting freely rather than under compulsion is pleasing to the Lord.
Let’s remember also why “love” should motivate us to “obey.” If we are in Christ, Christ is in us. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost. He experiences everything we experience. When we mistreat ourselves or someone else and suffer the consequences, God suffers them right along with us, and what God declares righteous or sin isn’t arbitrary, it’s based upon 1) how he designed creation to operate and 2) his personality/tastes. When we sin, we either bring bad things on ourselves and others due to violating how the world is supposed to work, or we’re doing something he finds disgusting, and usually it’s both. Whenever Christians sin, we’re hurting God.
What is more amazing, though? That the one being who has the right to be above the law chose to be born under it and thus subjected himself to it, or that he who knew no sin willingly endures experiencing all of our sins right along with us while he repairs us?
Lord, you are amazing. Thank you for freeing us from slavery and adopting us as your own children. Thank you for the work you are doing in our lives to restore us to reflect your righteousness as you intended us to from the beginning. Open our eyes to the ways in which we are grieving your spirit and causing you pain. Give us the strength to love you enough to turn from anything that hurts you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.