No longer a slave but a son

Galatians 4:1-7

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.

How many of you used to not like your sibling? How many of you still not like your sibling? If you have sibling, then you would know that there were times that your sibling used to be extremely annoying. Today, me and my sister are like best friend forever. But we used to be enemies. We used to fight all the time for whatever reason. And if we don’t have reason to fight, I would create one. I remember one time I wanted to play with her but she did not want to play with me. I was annoyed. I did not understand why she refused to play with her cute younger brother. So I did what every younger sibling would do. I interrupted her and forced her to play with me. She was playing with her Barbie and I sat next to her, stripped all her Barbie of their clothes and threw them to different directions. And we fought. I don’t know how it was in your fight, but in the fight between me and my sister, the loser was the one who cried first. So, I might be stronger than her but I would lose the fight every time. She had this magic sentences that made me cry every time. She would look at me and said, “You are not my brother. You are not Dad and Mom’s biological son. You don’t even look like them. They saw you at a garbage dump and felt sorry for you. So they took you home and adopted you.” And every time she said that I lost the energy to fight and started weeping like a crybaby. When my parents came home, my sister got into big trouble because of what she said.

Here is why I tell you this story. If we are not careful, it is very easy for us to think and assume that adoptive children are somehow less than biological children. We think that adoptive children are second class. Of course, we know better than to say those things with our words but it is in our mind. That’s the reason why I cried when my sister told me that I was adopted. For the record, I am not adopted. I am my parent’s biological children, I think. But I assumed that if I was adopted, it meant that my parents loved me less than my sister. However, this is not true both on experiential and biblical ground. I can’t speak on experience since I am not adopted nor do I have adoptive children so I read few adoption stories in preparation for this sermon. They all say similar thing but one that caught my attention was David Platt’s story. David has four children, 2 biological and 2 adoptive. He listed few questions that you should not ask adoptive parents. I’ll just give you three. Question number one, “Do you have any children of your own?” David said he would put his arm around the person who asked and say, “Buddy, I’ve got a secret for you. This child is mine. Like, he is mine. I don’t have any children that is not mine. I do not divide my children between one that is biological and one that is adopted. They are my children, period.” Second question, “Have you ever met the child’s real parents?” David replied, “Sure I do. Let me introduce you to them. His dad’s name is David and his mom’s name is Heather.” And the person went, “Well, you know what I mean.” “What do you mean? Am I his fake dad and there is a real dad out there?” Third question, “How much did he cost?” And by this time, David said that he was ready to take the gloves off and fight that person in a ring. He said, “As if you can put a price tag on a child. He is my child and it does not matter how much money I have to spend on him.” The point is, adoptive children are not less than biological children. They are not consolation prize for parents who cannot have children of their own. Yes there is a difference in how they become part of the family but there is absolutely no difference in the affection of the parents for the children.

That’s on experiential ground. But on Biblical ground, do you know that we are God’s adoptive children? That is our primary identity as Christians. Adoption is always in the mind of God. In fact, Ephesians tells us that before the foundations of the world, God already had your and my adoption in mind. Adoption is not plan B. It is God’s plan from the very beginning. Praise God for justification. Praise God for salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. That is a beautiful blessing. But adoption is an even greater blessing than justification. “If you want to know how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child and having God as his Father.” – J.I. Packer. My friends, I have a good news for you. Maybe you have a good earthly father who loves you. Or maybe you do not have a good earthly father who loves you. But it does not matter. Here is my sermon in a sentence: If you put your faith in Christ, you have the God of the universe as your perfect Father who loves you better than any earthly father ever could. And he does not love you less than Jesus. You are not second class because you are adopted. He loves you as much as he loves Jesus. Do you believe that? Because if you do, it changes everything. If you know what it means to have God as your Father, you can face anything in life.

Tonight, I want to talk about Christian identity: No longer a slave, but a son. I want to talk about the glory of being God’s adoptive children. Three themes that we can see in this passage. The path to adoption; the process of adoption; the spirit of adoption.

The path to adoption

Galatians 4:1-3 – 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.

Paul begins by saying that there was a time that we were like slaves. In the context of Galatians, Paul is referring to the use of the law of God before Jesus arrived on the scene. He equates the people of Israel to children who have yet to come to age to receive their inheritance. They are no different from slaves. That is the life under the law of God before Christ. Imagine this. Let’s say Bob is the son of a billionaire and the heir to everything his father has. One day all of his dad’s riches will be his. In fact, it is already his in name but not yet in experience because Bob is still 7 years old. During his childhood, although Bob is extremely rich, he is no better than a servant because he can’t do anything with all those riches. And in those days, his father would put Bob under a guardian who would teach Bob everything that he needs to know. This guardian would act on behalf of Bob to make sure that Bob does not squander his riches. And not only that, this guardian is also responsible to direct and discipline Bob as necessary. While Bob is the heir of great riches, he is not free. While he is a child, he is no different than a slave. Bob will remain in this condition until the date set by his father for him to be freed from his guardian and receive his inheritance. Paul uses this analogy to describes life under the law of God before salvation. The law of God is the guardian that train and discipline God’s children until the right time comes.

Paul continues in verse 3, “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” The elementary principles of the world in this verse is referring to the Old Testament laws. With another word, Paul tells us that there were times that we needed the law of God. None of us can jump straight into adulthood. Before we can go to high school, we first need to go to elementary school. Before we can learn how to read, we first need to learn the ABC of alphabet. Without learning the elementary principles, you can’t move on into adulthood. And during that time, we were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. It’s like me learning Hebrews. There are many days that I wanted to cry and give up. It is a totally foreign language to me and I have to learn a totally different alphabet system. I spent countless hours studying every week for my weekly quiz. I can say that I am enslaved by the elementary principles of Hebrews. But unless I go through that process, I won’t be able to read Hebrew Bible in the future. And this is what the Old Testament law does. The law teaches us the elementary principles to prepare us for what is to come.

Let me give you three purposes of the law. First, to restraint. The law of God keeps our sinful nature in check through threats of punishments and consequences. It does not erase the presence of sin in our hearts but it restraints it. Let me give you an example. How many of you hate speeding camera? I hate it. I especially hate speeding camera in school zone. I got caught few times in it already. Now, imagine a country in which there is no speeding laws. Do you think everyone in that country will drive 40km/hr in school zone? No. They will drive 120km/hr. It would be very dangerous. So the fact that we have speeding laws and speeding cameras are good. It helps to protect the safety of the children and it restraints us from speeding through the threat of $300 fine. But it does not remove our desire to drive fast. What do we do as soon we pass the school zone? We hit the gas pedal.

The second purpose of the law is to reveal. The law of God reveals God’s perfect standards for us and at the same time it reveals our failures to meet those standards. The law of God tells us what to do but it does not give us the power and desire to do it. It is like a thermometer. What does a thermometer do? It tells us the temperature of the room. But thermometer does not have the power to change the temperature in the room. Or maybe this will resonate more with you. It’s like weighing myself on the scales. I know what the scales says. It tells me, “My dearest boss, you need to go on diet and start going to the gym.” Every time I weigh myself, it says the same thing. But how many of you know that my weight scales does not have the power to make me go on diet and hit the gym?

The third purpose of the law is to redirect. After we have been saved, the law shows us the way that we can please God with our lives. So we do not get rid of the law after we are saved, but the law shows us the direction that we need to take in lives. I love the way J.D. Greear puts it. He says that the law is like a railroad tracks. It guides the train and make sure that the train stays on the right track but it does not have the power to move the train. The law points us in the right direction but it has no power to move us in the right direction.

These are the purposes of the law. The law is the elementary principles that prepares us for something else. And that something is else is the gospel. God’s intention for the law is to reveal our sinfulness and drive us to Christ. The law prepares us for the gospel. The law is our guardian until the gospel comes. And when the gospel comes, we are no longer enslaved by the law. The good news for us is that we no longer need to wait for the gospel to come. The gospel has come and brought us from slavery into sonship.

The process of adoption

Galatians 4:4-5 – 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.

Here is the good news of the gospel. For those of you who put your faith in Christ, you are no longer under the slavery of the law. Christ had come to redeem us from the law. Paul says that “when the fullness of time had come.” I love that. It means that Christ’s entrance to the world is not an accident. God has planned it from the very beginning. It means that Christ did not come a year too soon or a year too late. Christ came to the world at the exact time that God has planned from the foundation of the world. If you know your history, then you would know that Jesus came to the world at a very precise moment in history. During that time, the majority of the world spoke the same language, koine Greek. It is the equivalent of speaking in English today. And not only that, it was also a time of Pax Romana, where there was peace and stability throughout all Roman Empire. They built road from one city to another, which made it so much easier and safer to travel. Jesus came into the world at the perfect time for the gospel to spread to all nations. And don’t make mistake thinking that God was in heaven, anxiously waiting for the perfect time to come. Oh no. It is so much better than that. God in his sovereignty was working to bring together all the pieces of the puzzle to send forth his Son from heaven to earth to redeem his people who were under the law and adopt them as sons.

However, there is a process to this adoption. Just like there is a long and hard process to adopt a child today, there is a long and hard process to our adoptions as sons of God. There are certain qualifications that need to be met for our adoptions. First, God sent forth his Son. In order to adopt us as sons, God cannot send an angel. God cannot send a prophet. God cannot send a heroic human. God must send his Son. It takes the Son of God to adopt us as sons of God. Second, born of woman. Because it is human that sins against God, it takes another human to redeem them. Only human can redeem human. So in these two qualifications, we can see both the divinity and the humanity of Christ. Christ has to be fully human in order to redeem human, but he also need to be divine in order to make us sons of God. Third, born under the law. Jesus was born of a Jewish mother, into a Jewish nation and subject to all Jewish laws. God’s standard of acceptance is perfection and that is what Jesus did. Jesus obeyed the law in its entirety and he did what no one else could do. Jesus lived his human life without any sin. He perfectly fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. Sinless perfection. This is breathtaking. The God who made the law came down to us, became us, and subject himself to his law for us. Can you think of another God like this? This is what makes Christianity different from every other religion. All religion says that there is a standard that we must meet in order for us to be accepted by God. But Christianity is different. Christianity is God came down to us and meet us where we are. The gospel does not tell you to meet a certain standard in order for you to be accepted by God but the gospel begins where you are.

Fourth, redeem those who were under the law. So now the stage is set. Jesus has all the qualifications to adopt us. Because Jesus is fully righteous, he can redeem the unrighteous. Because Jesus is human, he can redeem human. Because Jesus is the Son of God, he can make us the sons of God. But that is not enough. In order to redeem us, a payment must be made. Make no mistake. Our adoption is extremely costly. It is not enough for Jesus to live a perfect sinless life on our behalf. Jesus had to pay the penalty of our sins. Galatians 3:13 – 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” This is why at the cross Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Never before in his life has Jesus refers to God the Father as God. And never before in his life has Jesus feels abandoned by his Father. But at the cross, in order to redeem us from the curse of the law, he became our curse. And Jesus did all of that, not only to forgive us from our sins. And forgiveness from sins is awesome. Not only to free us from slavery of sins. And freedom from slavery of sins is great. But it’s better than that. Jesus redeems us from the curse of the law so that we might receive adoptions as sons.

It means that for those who put their faith in Christ, we have a new relationship with God from which we operate. It means that God of the universe is not just our God, but he is also our Father. Everyone who put their trust in Jesus is adopted as sons. There is a shift from seeing God primarily as Master to God as Father. Why is this important? Because it shows that we have a unique relationship with God. We often used the phrase “God loves you” to everyone we know. Although it is true that God loves everyone, it is not true that God loves everyone equally. God is the Creator of all but he is not the Father of all. God has a special love for his children. It’s like this. Ps. Semuel, our senior pastor, loves everyone in this church. But the way Ps. Semuel loves me and my sister, especially his granddaughter, is very different from the way he loves you. He would gladly give his life for his family but I am not so sure he would do the same for you. There is a specific special kind of love that God has for his children. Christians are adopted as sons.

I want to highlight one important word that Paul says about our adoption. Listen. You cannot work your way toward adoption. You cannot earn your adoption. Paul is very clear. He says that adoptions as sons of God is something that you receive. It does not matter how awesome and capable a servant is, a servant is still a servant. Adoption is only given at the mercy of the father. Here is where we need to be careful. We were not sweet innocent cute orphans just waiting to be adopted. That’s not the picture the Bible gives us. We were extremely problematic orphans with a lot of issues who rejected God. Picture a boy who had a father who was a serial killer and a grandfather who was a child molester. Both ended their own lives and the boy has a history of serious violence and has been in and out psychotherapy ever since he was three years old. He loves to burn things and skin animals alive. Would you adopt the boy? That is the picture of you and me. There is nothing in us that is appealing. But even then, God screams out, “Yes, I want to make him my son.” My friend, don’t miss this. If you have yet to become sons of God, the invitation of the gospel is for you to receive it. God is extending his invitation to you. He wants to adopt you. He sent his one and only Son to redeem you. You do not need to be good enough to be adopted as sons. The gospel is not God declaring and turning a disobedient slave into an obedient faithful slave. The gospel is God declaring and turning a disobedient slave into his child. All you have to do is receive.

Let me put all of these truths in one picture. What happen is, you are a criminal who is guilty of your crime. You know you are guilty and you deserve a capital punishment. But then Jesus shows up and offers to be your defence attorney. Jesus is the best attorney and he never lose his case. And now in the courtroom of Heaven, Jesus is arguing your case before God the Judge. And Jesus is not arguing your case based on mercy. He is not pleading with God saying, “God please be kind to Yosi. I know he did many stupid sinful things but deep inside he is a nice kid. Look at him. He is 33 and he still lived with his parents. He is very busy serving the church and study. Poor guy. Let’s be nice to him. Let’s just let him off this time. Pretty please?” That’s not the way Jesus argue your case. Jesus does not appeal for mercy; he appeals for justice. He says to God, “Father, look at what I’ve done. I have paid the full price. I absorbed every ounce of your wrath against him and my blood was shed. I suffered a horrific death at Calvary on his behalf. I have satisfied all your claim against him. Therefore it is only right and just for you to forgive him. Yosi cannot be hold accountable for his sin because I have paid the price.” And when God hears Jesus’ argument, he declares, “Not guilty!” How many of you are thankful that we have such an amazing attorney? This is why God is just to forgive us of our sins. God forgives us not because he is soft on sin. God hates sin but he is just. He cannot demand two payments for the same sin. But that’s not the end of the story. You are happy and excited. Then the Judge gets up from the bench, walks up to you, takes off the handcuffs from your hands, looks at you in the eyes and says, “From this moment, you are my son. You are coming home with me.” My friend, this is the gospel. It is a beautiful news that the God of the universe looks at you and declares “Not guilty” for all your sins. But it so much better news for the God of the universe calls you his son. It is too good to be true but it is true.

The Spirit of adoption

Galatians 4:6-7 – 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.

I love this. In verses 4 and 5, Paul deals with our status as sons. Christ has all the right qualification to adopt us as sons. We have legal status as sons. But legal status alone is not enough. In verses 6 and 7, Paul deals with our experience as sons. We need both legal status and experience, facts and feelings. If all we have is facts, how do we know if God truly loves us? If all we have is feeling, how do we know that it is true? God does not want to leave us in doubt as to what he feels and thinks about us. So God does the unthinkable. God sent the Spirit of Jesus into our heart, crying “Abba! Father!”

Paul deliberately uses the word “Abba” to make a strong point. In Jewish context, they hold God in such a high reverence until they are even afraid to pronounce his name. They are very careful about using God’s name. However, there was one person who showed up and boldly referred to God as “Abba.” Jesus entered the scene and he taught his disciples to refer to God as “our Father.” And Paul says that God sent the Spirit of Jesus into our hearts. So here is the point. The Spirit not only gives us a new relationship with God, but the new relationship that we have with God is as intimate and precious as the relationship that Jesus has with the Father. With another word, the kind of joy and delight that Jesus has in his relationship with the Father is also ours. God delights in us as much as he delights in Jesus. This is incredible. The same intimate relationship that Jesus has with God the Father is also ours through the Holy Spirit. If Jesus makes us legally sons, the Spirit makes us feel like sons. We are the sons of God!

And in all these process of adoptions, God is the active agent that makes everything work. Not you. Your salvation and your adoption is the work of the triune God alone. It is God the Father who appoints you for adoption from before the foundation the world. It is God the Son who completes the process of your adoption on earth. It is God the Spirit who applies the adoption into your heart. It is not us who do the pursuing but it is God who pursues us and adopts us into his family. It is by his grace and mercy alone from beginning to the end.

So now Paul concludes his argument by saying in verse 7, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” My friend, you are no longer a slave but a son. What a glorious truth. If you know you are a son of God, it changes everything about you. Let me tell you the biggest difference between a slave and a son. A slave obey because he has to. The mentality of a slave is always about performance. “If I perform well, then my master will be pleased with me. If I don’t perform well, my master will be angry with me.” But a son is different. A son rests in his father’s love for him. A son obeys his father because he wants to please his father. The mentality of a son is always about relationship. A son has the confidence that even though he messes up, his father is there to clean up the mess with him. If we still think that we are not worthy to draw near to God because of our sins and if we still think that we have to somehow payback for our sins, we have yet to understand that we are sons of God. Sadly, many Christians still think and act like a slave even though they are a son.

There is a wonderful story about Alexander the Great that illustrates this point. One day, one of Alexander’s generals comes up to him and says, “I have to marry off my daughter and I need money for the wedding. Can you help me?” Alexander replies, “Well, of course. You are one of my generals and I would love to help you. How much do you need?” And the general asks for a large sum of money. Let’s say it’s about $100 million. Everyone in the room is shocked. Total silent. And everyone is staring at Alexander to see how he will respond. And to everyone surprise, Alexander laughs. He says, “For sure. Go ahead. You can ask my treasurer for the money. Tell him that you have my approval. I am looking forward to have a good time at your wedding.” And the general walks away. As soon as he leaves the room, all of Alexander’s advisor comes up to him and say, “Why did you give him so much money and why are you so happy about it?” Listen to Alexander’s answer. He says, “This man has done me a great honour. By asking for such a large amount, he shows that he believes that I am actually that wealthy and generous. He knows what it means to be my general.” Christians, do we know what it means to be the sons of God? You no longer have to strive for God’s affection. To say that you have to work to earn God’s love is an insult to God. God’s love for you is settled once and for all at the cross of Christ and he sent his Spirit into our hearts so that we can experience his love at every moment. So Paul is saying, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if son then an heir through God. So don’t go back to being a slave. Don’t go back to performance mentality. Don’t go back to relating to God on the basis of law. Don’t go back to Kindergarten when you are already Ph.D. You are not a slave. You are a son of God. That’s who you are.


Let me give you quick daily life applications on what it means to be adopted as sons. First, it destroys barrier between us. Ladies, don’t be offended when the Bible refers to you as sons of God. In those days, sons have special privileges that daughters does not. And Paul is very specific in his use of words. The God of heaven and earth adopts those who have faith in Christ as sons of God, which mean that you have all the privileges that sons would have. That is why Paul says in Galatians 3:28 – 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. It does not mean that there is no longer distinction between male and female. Male will continue to be male and female will continue to be female. There is no “shemale” in Christ. God created male and female with equal value but distinctive role. But it does mean that there is no difference in legal status between male and female in Christ. It does not matter what is your race, social class or gender. Race, class and gender are the three things that divides our world. But in Christ, it does not matter. We are all one in Christ. We all have the same problem and it is called sin. And we all need the same cure and it is called the gospel. And we all have the same access to God the Father through our adoption as sons. There is no second class children in God’s family. Our ethnic, social and gender distinctions remains but these distinctions do not divide us. Our differences are less important than our unity in Christ. All of us are adopted and given the same privilege as Jesus, the Son of God. Christ is the one who connects us together. Therefore, we don’t look to other things to connect us. We should be able to look at one another and say, “The only thing I have in common with this person is Christ, and that is enough.”

Second, it changes the way we pray. There should be boldness and confidence in the way we pray. When we pray, we do not come to God in our own name. Whenever we call God “Father,” we come to him in Jesus’ name as sons. God treats us as if we deserves what Jesus deserves. And in Jesus, all the promise of God are yes and amen. Jesus himself commands us to “ask, seek and knock!” He does not want us simply to ask, he wants us to seek and if that’s not enough, knock! Can you feel the weight of what Jesus is saying? Yes, God is all powerful and he knows everything you need without you telling him. And some time he does that. He gives you what you need without you even asking. But that’s not the norm. The norm is that God has set an order through which we humble ourselves in prayer and ask him for what we need. And in return, he promises to answer. There is no such thing such as unanswered prayer. If what we ask is good and in line with what he desires for us, then we can boldly bring our requests to God. We are confident that God is able to answer our prayer and give us what we need. He is our good Father. But we do so with open hand knowing that God knows best. There are many times that God withhold something good from us because he wants something better for us. And if that is the case, then we trust that God knows better than we do.

Third, it gives us assurance in our relationship with God. Christianity is the only religion that offers you assurance in your relationship with God. You no longer have to constantly worry about your standing in front of God. It is settled once for all at the cross of Christ. God your Father is for you and not against you. I told you earlier about my constant fight with my sister and how she made me cry by questioning my status as my parent’s child. But that’s not the end of the story. That fight also led to one of the sweetest memory of my childhood. My parents took me aside, hugged me, kissed me, looked at me in the eyes and told me, “You are our son. We love you. We want you.” And just like that, all the fear and doubt that were planted by my evil sister went away. My parents gave me the assurance I needed that I am their son and they loved me. Am I more of a son after my parents embraced and kissed me? Of course not. My parent’s action did not change my status but it gave me the assurance and enjoyment of my status. And that’s what the Holy Spirit does inside of us. Yes our status as sons is done once and for all at the cross of Christ. We are eternally righteous because of Christ. However, we know that we are sons of God not just based on what happened 2000 years ago but also based on the affection and love that God pours out on us at every moment. He send his Spirit into our hearts by which we cry, “Abba! Father!”


  1. “Adoptive children are less than biological children.” What do you think of this statement? What comes to your mind when you think of adoption?
  2. “The law prepares us for the gospel.” Explain the validity and the meaning of this statement.
  3. Why is it important for Jesus to meet all four qualifications to adopts us as sons? What happen if Jesus fail to meet one of those qualifications?
  4. Why did God the Father sent the Spirit of Christ into our hearts?
  5. Having the God of the universe as our Father gives us boldness and confidence in the way we pray. Is this true about your prayer life? Why or why not?
  6. List out all differences you can think of between a slave and a son. Are you more like a slave or a son in your relationship with God?
  7. How can we have assurance in our relationship with God?
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