Today we continue our series entitled #instalife using the art show that happened on 1st Friday as inspiration to look at issues of identity. We will spend a total of 4 weeks looking at identity through the lens of social media as well as rooting our identity in the truths of Scripture, and what God has to say about who we are in him.
All too often our sense of identity comes from places other than from what God has to say about us. Our identity can be wrapped up in what others think about us, the number of our Facebook friends, the number of comments on our status update, the number of likes on an instagram photo, and instead of thinking about what God has to say we worry about what others say. Our identity can also come from our family of origin, our socio-economic status in the world (what kind of car we drive, our occupation), our looks, our abilities and talent and a host of other things.
And so last week we started our #instalife series out by looking at the idea that part of our identity as followers of Jesus is that we are friends of Jesus. That Jesus no longer calls us servants but he calls us friends. So believe it or not you, if you are a follower of Jesus, are a friend of Jesus. And if you aren’t there yet, Jesus wants a friendship with you, wants the best for you, and is for you (not against you).
Today we are talking about something I believe that is more significant in terms of our identity than being a friend of Jesus. I believe one of the most significant foundations for our identity is in the fact that we are called children of God. That if we are followers of Jesus, we have been adopted into the family of God and are children of the Heavenly Father.
Now before I jump into our text this morning I need to say this. The question might be raised, “aren’t all people children of God, no matter where they are with Jesus?” I would say yes that is true. Look at Acts 17:28-29 which says that we are all his offspring. We are all children of God in a way. But at the same time and according to the text we will be looking at in a minute, there are those who are also heirs and adopted children of God. There are those who have taken on the role of adopted sons and daughter’s, who claim their Father’s name (taken on his last name so to speak) and are, in a different way, children of God. But I also have to say that the door to being adopted children of God, to claiming and taking on the name of the Father, and becoming part of the family is always open and is open to everyone who has, is, and will ever walk the face of this planet.
So let’s look at our text this morning and talk about this idea of being adopted into God’s family, and being a son or daughter of God. The text that we’ll be looking at together is found in Galatians 4:1-7. “What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
So the first thing we notice in this text is that the Apostle Paul is comparing two identities if you will or two roles. The identity and role of a slave versus the role and identity of an heir or a child. So Paul is comparing the identity of slave and a child and then he also makes a transition halfway through the text from the physical reality to the deeper spiritual (yet physical reality) of the our slavery to sin, and our subsequent adoption into sonship and daughtership.
Now in the first part of the text a child, as mentioned, is a minor or underage and during that time is really no different than a servant, even though the heir truly owns the estate. The question would then become when does a child truly become an heir or an adult. In Greek and Jewish culture there was a definite “coming of age” ceremony where a boy stopped being a child, and started being a man with the legal rights as an heir. In Roman culture however there was no specific age when the son became a man. It was when the father thought that the son was ready. And when the father thought the son was ready to become an adult there was a sacred family festival known as the Liberalia, which was held annually on March 17. At this time the child was formally “adopted” by the father as his acknowledged son and heir.
We see that when the Apostle Paul uses the phrase, ‘until the time appointed by the Father” that is shows us that he has the Roman ‘coming of age” in mind more than the Jewish or Greek custom/culture. We also know that in Roman custom in relation to adoption, that the adopted sons were given absolutely equal privileges in the family and equal status as heir.
It is there that the Apostle Paul makes the transition from talking about physical adoption and becoming an heir to the deeper spirituality reality (though nonetheless real and physical) of being adopted into the family of God and an heir to the spiritual blessings bought by Jesus Christ.
So the first thing we see in this transition is the phrase, “But when the set time had fully come.” Have you ever wondered why Jesus came to earth when and where he did? Why did he come to earth in the 1st century? Why did he come to earth in a Jewish context? Jesus came at just the right time in God’s redemptive plan, when the world was perfectly prepared for Gods’ work. But there was more to it than that. It was a time when the pax Romana extended over most of the civilized earth and when travel and commerce were therefore possible in a way that had formerly been impossible. Great roads linked the empire of the Caesars, and its diverse regions were linked far more significantly by the all-pervasive language of the Greeks. Add the fact that the world was sunk in a moral abyss so low that even the pagan cried out against it and that spiritual hunger was everywhere evident, and one has a perfect time for the coming of Christ and for the early expansion of the Christian gospel.
Paul makes it crystal clear when he says, “to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” that our adopted to sonship and daughtership is only possible through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Only through that, do we have the privilege, ability, and the right to cry out to God using the same intimate term that Jesus used, that of Abba, which is best translated as daddy. Just like it is not possible to be adopted into a family by your own strength, merit, or will, you can’t be adopted into the family of God through your own strength, merit, or will. But what a privilege, what an amazing gift that we are adopted into sonship and daughtership, into the family of God, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
And so the Apostle Paul then ending this thought about sonship/daughtership and adoption into God’s family wraps the entire process that he has talked about into 3 parts. First, Paul states that we are no longer slaves. That we have been set free by Jesus from what he calls the, “elemental spiritual forces of the world.” It is then, once we have been freed from slavery, that we are then declared sons and daughters and adopted in God’s family. And finally, reminiscent of the Roman adoption that I mentioned before, once we have been adopted into God’s family we become heirs. But what is an heir? Heirs inherit something, and what do we inherit? Paul makes it clear: an heir of God through Christ. We inherit God Himself. For some, this might seem like a paltry inheritance. But for those who are really in Christ, who really love God, to be an heir of God is the richest inheritance of all. And one of the best inheritances that we can’t truly even being to fathom is the fact that, as I mentioned before, and as the Apostle Paul mentions in verse 6, that we can call God father, just not father in a “formal” sense, but also “Abba. Daddy.” That our inheritance, at least part of it, is that we have access to the same intimacy with God the Father that God the Son, that Jesus had. That we get to call God the Father who is the Creator of the Universe, Sustainer of the cosmos, Redeemer of the world, King, Lord of all. We get to call him Dad and that we are adopted children. Adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
But what does this mean for you and I and for our identity? How does this giving meaning to our lives? What does this look like played out each and every day, in our on the ground reality? And what might being adopted sons and daughters say to us and to our world as we go about a missional Kingdom life? How might this be good news to people that we meet each and every day? These are some of the questions that we are going to unpack together in our time of discussion.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture text and the message? 2. How does this idea of being adopted sons and daughters of God give meaning to our lives? What does this or how can this look like played out each and every day, in our on the ground reality? 3. How could this idea of being adopted sons and daughters be good news in our missional contexts? How might this impact the way we share the good news about Jesus in the world? 4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it?