An Exploration of Galatians: Abba! Father!
Galatians 4:4-7 - We have a wonderful life with our adoption as children of God! God’s timing is always perfect!
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Galatians 4:4-7 NASB1995
God’s timing is always perfect - never too early, never too late. I have often pondered the historical event of Jesus and the time that was selected for His coming. There are many reasons why it was a perfect time, to have this universe-shaking event happen during the days of the Roman Empire, including the fulfillment of OT prophecy. I like this explanation in Enduring Word from James Montgomery Boice:
“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.”
Can you imagine what would happen if the Messiah appeared NOW for the first time? This conspiracy-driven, social media-addicted, lying, skeptical, hateful age of ours (the world of the enemy) would go into overdrive to ensure that doubts over His appearance and divinity would be sown immediately. Just look at what has happened since the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7, 2023 (this was just two months ago). The stories have been told by those supporting the terrorists (a shocking number of people, especially young people) that the Israeli Defense Forces committed the atrocities themselves (even though the actions were filmed by the perpetrators) or that it never happened or that they deserved it because they are Jews. These stories are starting to take hold in the minds of many, just like how other conspiracies have been embraced, regardless of the factual evidence. Our Lord’s second coming will leave no doubt as to what is going on (in most minds), but we are truly and sadly living in the modern age of ignorance.
I prefer to think about this perfect timing of Jesus in light of an old favorite Christmas movie that we watched last night for the umpteenth time: It’s a Wonderful Life. At the beginning of the movie, we can hear the voices of people praying for George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) because they love him and are his dear friends and family. If you have not seen this movie, then skip the next sections because I am giving away the main plot. Forgive the length, but I thought this was a good example of God’s timing, even though it is a fictional movie.
The prayers about George get the attention of Heaven and they select an angel (second-class) named Clarence to see the details of George’s life. George was a dreamer, a boy who became a man who wanted to escape Bedford Falls and see the world and build great things. Alas, this never happens because events in George’s life conspire against this dream. He reluctantly runs the business his father started (a building and loan company), marries a local girl, and they have four children and live in a rehabilitated old house. His brother Harry (who George saved from drowning when they were children), promises to help with the business, but then Harry goes to college, gets married and is offered a job by his father-in-law away from Bedford Falls (Harry goes on to become a war hero). George is always being watched and harrassed by an evil old miser named Mr. Potter; Potter hopes to destroy the Building and Loan company because of pure selfish viciousness.
Things come to a head on Christmas Eve, 1945, when George’s ditzy and lovable uncle Billy loses $8,000 that he planned to deposit at the bank after he has a nasty run-in with Potter. George is distraught because a bank examiner is at the Building and Loan looking at the books and Potter (who has the money) threatens George with jail. George runs home and is angered and annoyed by his wife and children. He drives away and has some drinks at a local bar, then decides to kill himself by falling off a bridge so that his family can have his insurance, after praying desperately and admitting he is not a praying man.
This is where Clarence enters the picture - he jumps into the water so George can save him and then shows George what life would be like for others without him, as if he had never been born. It is not a wonderful life, to say the least. George’s real life is restored by Clarence and he is ecstatic. He runs through the town in the beautiful snow (the town is getting ready to honor Harry, his brother) and to his home, knowing that he will be arrested, but he gets there just in time for all of the townspeople to show up with thousands of dollars to give him after getting phone calls and telegrams from Mary, his wife. The debt is covered!
The timing for George is perfect, like God’s timing. He thought he was alone and the situation seemed desperate, but the prayers save him (including his own desperate prayer) and through the efforts of Clarence (who gets his wings) George knows that he is loved and cherished and has truly had a “wonderful” life. I was surprised at how moved I was by the movie, despite having seen it so many times. Jesus did come at the perfect time, like those who come to George’s aid, to demonstrate to us that while we were sinners, He would suffer and die for us so we can have eternal life. His blood has bought our freedom. We cannot begin to imagine how it would be if He did not come as our Messiah and savior.
Jesus redeemed those of us under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as children of God. We are filled with His Spirit, so that we can cry out “Abba, Father” and be heirs of God. Here are some great points made in the Enduring Word commentary for this passage:
To redeem those who were under the law: Because Jesus is God, He has the power and the resources to redeem us. Because Jesus is man, He has the right and the ability to redeem us. He came to purchase us out of the slave market, from our bondage to sin and the elements of the world.
John Newton, the man who wrote the most popular and famous hymn in America, Amazing Grace, knew how to remember this. He was an only child whose mother died when he was only seven years old. He became a sailor and went out to sea at eleven years old. As he grew up, he became the captain of a slave ship and had an active hand in the horrible degradation and inhumanity of the slave trade. But when he was twenty-three, on March 10, 1748, when his ship was in imminent danger of sinking off the coast of Newfoundland, he cried to God for mercy, and he found it. He never forgot how amazing it was that God had received him, as bad as he was. To keep it fresh in his memory, he fastened across the wall over the fireplace mantel of his study the words of Deuteronomy 15:15: You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you. If we keep fresh in our mind what we once were, and what we are now in Jesus Christ, we will do well.
That we might receive the adoption as sons: It would be enough that we are purchased out of the slave market. But God’s work for us doesn’t end there; we are then elevated to the place of sons and daughters of God by adoption.
Every human being is a child of God in the sense of being His offspring (Acts 17:28-29). Yet not every human being is a child of God in the sense of this close, adoptive relationship Paul writes of here. In this sense, there are children of God and children of the devil (John 8:44).
Paul probably has in mind the Roman custom of adoption, where adopted sons were given absolutely equal privileges in the family and equal status as heirs.
There is a sense in which this is a totally unnecessary blessing that God has given in the course of salvation, and a demonstration of His true and deep love for us. We can picture someone helping or saving someone, but not going so far as to make them a part of the family – but this is what God did for us.
We receive the adoption of sons; we do not recover it. In this sense, we gain something in Jesus that is greater than what Adam ever had. Adam was never adopted as a son of God in the way believers are. So we are mistaken when we think of redemption as merely a restoration of what was lost with Adam. We are granted more in Jesus than Adam ever had.
What a blessed and wonderful life for those who believe! Pray that the children of the devil, those caught up in the things of the world and the lies of the enemy, can be brought into this eternal light of salvation and become children of God. We are heirs to the Kingdom!
My next devotional examines Galatians 4:8-11: Do we turn back to the elemental things?
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Your timing is always perfect in how you relentlessly pursue your children and bring them into your fold, like you did with Steve and I. I am so grateful to be a child of God, who loves and fears you more than anything in this world. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.