Galatians 4:1–7 (ESV)
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.
This passage amplifies Paul’s point about being heirs in two significant ways.
First, Paul turns up the volume by describing a child being under the tutelage of guardians and managers as being like slavery. Importantly, it’s “we” who “were enslaved.”
But this time, Paul describes it in more general terms than just the law. It’s the elementary principles of the world that enslaves. There’s some uncertainty around the exact meaning of the Greek word that’s translated as elementary principles (στοιχεῖα, stoichea). It can mean elementary spirits or even just elements (back then the elements were air, earth, fire, and water).
While the meaning of stoichea is unclear, the passage is not. They were enslaved. The Jews were enslaved under the law, but Gentiles were enslaved under something more like superstition or pagan religion or even pagan science. It doesn’t make that much difference which one it is. It’s likely a combination.
In any case, in the fullness of time Jesus came to redeem us, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
But here’s the kicker; that’s a purpose construction in the Greek. This is Paul’s second amplification and it’s a biggie. Jesus came to redeem us, [for the purpose] that we might receive adoption as sons.
The purpose of redemption is adoption! It isn’t just to save us. Our adoption is central to what it’s all about. It forms the foundation of the logical progression that Paul uses to wrap up this passage.
Because we are adopted sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Thus, you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir.
We praise the plan of salvation, but mostly because we make out so well.
Its glorious structure is what we should be praising.
Humans seem to have the attitude that God has to save us. We’re just so cute or something. Thus, not saving us is ridiculous. That’s why many people cannot stomach the doctrine of hell. To them it’s absurd.
Losing that attitude is a big part of becoming truly humble in Christ. We all deserve hell.
And it’s a perfectly reasonable option.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.