But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6)
No doubt you are aware of the legal/judicial implications of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross for us. You are aware that because of our rebellion against God back in Eden, we were in a debt-debtor relationship with Him, with a debt that we could not possibly hope to pay. Jesus stepped in and paid this debt on our behalf.
But there was much more to this than just a legal transaction. This initiated a new manner of relationship with God as well: we are now sons of God. Adopted into the family of God, with all the rights and privileges of sons.
In first century Judea, in the time that Paul wrote this, adoption served a completely different purpose than what we are accustomed to nowadays. Nowadays we think of adoption as being for babies and very young children. But in Paul’s day, people did not adopt young children. In the first place, infant mortality rates were excruciatingly high. Why leave all your property and titles to someone who might not even live to adulthood? In the second place, you never knew how a child would turn out upon growing up into adulthood. Why take the chance of leaving property and titles to someone who might prove to be unworthy of them?
Thus, in Paul’s day people only adopted adults. Typically a close relative would be adopted as a son, and this would only happen if the real sons had proven themselves unworthy of inheriting the father’s property and titles.
Adoption was, in effect, a way of saying, “I do not have any children who are worthy of inheriting my property and titles. But I have found you to be worthy. So enter into my family and enjoy the blessing of being called my son.”
Could we have expected God to do this for us? No. We have broken the law of God. We cannot keep even our own laws that we set for ourselves (New Year’s resolutions are a testament to this); how can we possibly expect to keep the law that has been set for us by God?
But there it is. We are in the family. We are called sons of God. We are blessed with all the privileges associated with being sons of God.
Staggering, isn’t it?
Yet this is exactly what we await with the coming of the Christmas season.