In Part 4 of our study, we learned that the purpose of the Old Testament law was to point people to their need for a savior. Paul made clear to the Galatians that they couldn’t meet the standards of the law, but Jesus did on their behalf. Paul called the Galatians to live by faith in Jesus. By having faith in Jesus, the Galatians received the promise God made to Abraham. They were considered offspring of Abraham and children of God.
In this section of our study, we will focus more on what it means to be children of God. We will see that God’s adoption of us as His children should cause us to live based upon His grace.
In the previous verses, Paul demonstrated to the Galatian church that they were offspring of Abraham because they had faith in Jesus. If they are Abraham’s offspring, they are also heirs of God’s promise of a relationship. This means they now, through faith in Jesus, have a relationship with God their Father.
This truth is the same for us who have faith in Jesus. We now have the ability to have a relationship with God the Father. This was God’s purpose since the beginning. He created man, and there was a relationship between God and man. Since sin entered the world, that relationship has been broken. “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 (or daughters).”
In verses 1 through 7, Paul makes known to the Galatians that they are children of God. He tells them that they are no longer “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world,” meaning they are no longer slaves to their sin.
Here, Paul explains to the Galatians that as children of God the power the law had over them has been broken. Jesus met the standards of the law that they couldn’t and thereby defeated the power of the law. Through their faith in Jesus, the Galatians were freed.
The problem was that the Galatians weren’t grasping this status of freedom. They were seeking to go back to their old ways of sin. Paul, in this section, is calling the Galatians to recognize the meaning of being children of God.
Verse 9 gives us a clue into what it means to be a child of God. It means (1.) we have come to know God and (2.) we are known by God. There, again, is the emphasis on relationship between God and His people. Paul uses this relationship as the foundation for his argument against the Galatians.
The Galatians, now children of God, were turning back to their sinful ways and seeking to obey the law that they had been set free from through Jesus. They forgot their status as children of God.
Let’s pause for just a moment. Don’t we do the same thing?
We as Christians are children of God, meaning we have a relationship with God our Father. We too have been set free from the enslavement of the law and from our sin. We too turn back to the things we once did. The argument Paul is making is directed to our hearts as well.
Paul’s foundation for his whole argument is this: we are now children of God. We have come to know God and are known by God. If this is Paul’s main point, then maybe we should consider it for our own lives. What does it mean to know God? What does it mean to be known by God?
What does it mean to know God? Just like any person, we come to know God by spending time with Him. We read His word. We talk to Him through prayer. We experience life with Him. Through these times, we come to know His character, His personality. We come to trust Him more and believe His is who He says He is. We see His authenticity, just like any other person.
What does it mean to be known by God? To be honest, I’m not sure what this means. I know in my own life that I find comfort in knowing that God understands when I can’t express something like I want to. I find comfort knowing that He sees my heart, my life, my desires, everything, and He still wants a relationship with me. When I can’t understand myself, I know that He gets it, and I don’t have to worry. I’m not sure of that is a good answer to that question, but it’s the answer I have.
In this section, Paul uses the story of Sarah and Hagar to further his point. Paul states that as children of God the Galatians should seek the things of God by continuing to live by faith in Jesus. In other words, they are to rely upon their Father’s grace rather than their obedience to the law.
Paul creates an allegory of two well-known Old Testament women to explain what it means to be a child of God. Paul makes his point in verse 28, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise,” meaning they are recipients of God’s promise to Abraham. Again, what’s that promise? A relationship with God, redemption and adoption into God’s family (see Gal. 4.5).
In verse 31, Paul’s example comes to a conclusion. “So, brothers, we are not children of the slave,” meaning we are no longer enslaved to the power of the law and our sin, “but of the free woman,” meaning we are free as adopted children of God.
The Galatians were returning to the things they once did before they were saved, but Paul was calling them to rely upon the grace given to them by their Father. He was pleading for the Galatians to turn back to God and receive His grace. This same call goes out to our hearts today. Will we continue to pursue the things we once did? Or will we choose to live as children of God and receive His daily sufficient grace?
The Galatians forgot who their Father was. They were spiritual children of Abraham and Sarah, meaning they were heirs of the promise and children of God. What are the implications for being a child of God? We will answer this question in Part 6.
Photo credit: Alona Kraft