Galatians Chapter 4: The Adopted Child Analogy
Key Verses: (Galatians 4:1–7)
1 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. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
In chapter 4, Paul skillfully uses the analogy of the relationship between fathers and their children—their adopted children—to that of being under the law before coming of age as a child of the Holy God. In verses 1 and 2, he notes that even though the son is the heir of the estate, he is no different than a slave, subject to guardians until the time set by the father. In verse 3, Paul indicates that when we were underage, we were in effect in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.
As noted in the last posting, in this historical period, children often were placed in the control and guardianship of slaves, who were in charge of disciplining them. This was preparation for becoming a true son or daughter of age. In the same way, God meant being under the law to be preparation for a divine Father/son or Father/daughter relationship through belief and trust in His grace.
Jesus was sent when the time had come “to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (v. 5). And by being adopted into sonship, we are no longer slaves, but God’s children and also heirs to His kingdom.
I love Paul’s use of the word “adoption.” Being a father of three adopted daughters, I know the love, grace and compassion those relationships entail. It is the act of a husband and wife taking a child who is not biologically their own into their family as their own child. This indeed is what God does to us as we, too, become adopted children of God.
A Moment to Reflect:
As a child, you were under the rules of your own household and the expectations of your parents. In hindsight, do you now think of that period as preparation for adulthood? Was there a rite of passage in your life when you no longer needed external discipline and control over your behaviors?
Can you see how Paul’s analogy was a powerful way to instruct the Galatians on the progression from the law to God’s grace through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?