I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different than 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 a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might recieve 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)
So far in Galatians, Paul has defended the gospel that he preaches. Paul preaches a gospel of justification, not by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken the penalty of our inability to keep the law and has positively fufilled the law on our behalf. The last chapter has dealt with the promise of Abraham. No doubt Paul’s Galatian audience would know the story of Abraham well. Genesis 12 tells of God making a unilateral covenant to save a people for Himself. God promises to save and even promises that if he does not save he will bear the curses of not keeping the covenant. The question Paul is addressing is this: Who are the heirs to the promise of God given to Abraham? Paul tells us the seed is Christ, who will bless the nations in his gospel. This promise is one of justification by faith. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as rightouessness. So why the law? Paul outlines what we call the first use of the law. The law is primarily to reveal the holiness of God, leading us to be crushed by weight of our sin and inability. How then does the law relate to an heir of the promise? Galatians 4:1-7 gives some idea of what it means to be an heir of the salvation of God and just what that entails.
We know that the promise of God to save heirs of the promise for Himself is at least as old as Genesis 12. God looks into a fallen humanity and announces that He will save; providing all that He requires. However, the Bible says that God chose to have heirs before Genesis 12. Indeed, God chose before the foundation of the world to have heirs. God elected individuals based on nothing but His grace to make up His bride that He will present to Himself. In the eternal mind of God, He has chosen to save without taking account of who would be smart enough, spiritual enough, or competant enough to seek God first. This is the glory of God’s grace. It is all of grace and only of grace. That is the scandal of God’s love. You did nothing to commend yourself to God. And yet you are an heir from eternity past.
However, heirs of God are not always Christians. Don’t hear me say that some of God’s elect are not eventually called to faith and repentance. They are. All of them. But the reality of our lives is that we were not always in Christ. We were all born in Adam; depraved, God-haters. As Paul said, we were like children or slaves though owners of everything. Under the law, we were cursed. The law curses us because we are unable to keep it because we are sinful. We were all under the just wrath of God for our sin. This is the reality of someone prior to salvation. Even heirs were at one time condemned. The jews were in bondage, slaves to the law. Gentiles were in bondage to things that were by nature not gods. All once walked in the elementary principles of the world. Everything other than the gospel is an elementary principle. That is, we are all subject to the same sinful bent, turning away from God and into ourselves. We try to justify ourselves and have been doing so since our first parents mad their own fig leave coverings.
Knowing that God has heirs that He will inmutably and infallibly save is no deterrant for evangelism. In fact, this promise fuels evangelism. We do not know who it is God has purposed to save but we do know that He promises that His Word will not return void. We have been tasked with spreading the gospel (Matt 28:19-20). The urgency of the gospel is no lessened by the truth of God’s sovereign grace. We know that God leaves no elected uncalled and unjustified. In the next post, we will begin with two of the greatest words in the Bible, “But God!”