Seward United Methodist Church
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Children of God

Galatians 4:3-7

 “Before Christ came, we were all slaves.”  I’m not sure we really like the sound of that.  But I do think it’s true.  Apart from Christ, we are all slaves to something.  Some kinds of slavery, like addiction, are obvious.  But ultimately, the slavery that holds every human being outside of Christ is sin.  We are all slaves to sin without Christ.  We are not free from its power.  

 “But when the right time came…”  The Greek word here is KAIROS.  Greek had two different words for time.  One was a generic word for just any time, but KAIROS meant something more along the lines of “the appointed time or the proper season.”  We often struggle with God’s timing, especially when it doesn’t fit with our timing.  But I think we should have faith that God’s timing is always the right timing, because God can see time from a different perspective than we do.  

 Jesus came at the right time.  There were some factors that we think made the first century AD the “right time.”  One was the Diaspora, the dispersion of Jewish people throughout the ancient world.  There were Hebrew people living everywhere from Rome to Persia and Egypt to Macedonia.  And everywhere they lived, they took the knowledge of God with them.  So the Mediterranean world had some understanding of the one true God.

 There was also the Pax Romana, the relative time of peace that Rome brought about.  Rome also built roads, which allowed the messengers of Christ to travel easily.  And there was a common language:  Almost everyone in the first century world spoke Greek, so the early Christians could communicate the gospel more easily.

 Something else that may have been a factor was that the Greco-Roman culture of the first century was excessively decadent and hedonistic.  The rich lived as they pleased while most of the world suffered in poverty.  Injustice was a fact of life.  Slavery was commonplace.  So perhaps people were ready to hear a word from God because the world had become so opposed to God.

 “At the right time, God sent his Son, born of a woman.”  This speaks to the two natures of Christ:  He is God’s Son, and so he is divine, but he is also born of a woman, making him human.

 “Subject to the Law.”  It was only by obeying the Law without fault that Christ could become the perfect sacrifice to ransom humanity from slavery to sin and the Law.  

And after our freedom was bought, we could become sons.  Paul is referring here to the Roman custom of adoption, which would be familiar to his readers.  In Roman law, only sons were adopted, never daughters.  And the adopted son became, in the eyes of the law, a completely new person.  All connections to his former family were severed, but he became a full member of his adopted family, including the guarantee of a full share of the inheritance.  And it was not unheard of that a man with no sons would sometimes adopt a favored slave as his son.  

The contrast between slave and son is that a son received an inheritance, but a slave was a part of the inheritance.  And now it’s not just Hebrew people who could be called sons of God.  People of all nations can become sons of God.  

In Christ, we are all sons of God.  We can update the language now and say children of God.  That’s not a problem.  Paul only spoke of “sons of God” in the first century world because in that society, only sons received an inheritance.  Now we are no longer slaves but children of God, and as children, we are heirs.  

“Now we call him ABBA, Father.”  

It’s strange to find this word here, ABBA.  ABBA was the Aramaic word for father that was used as a term of family intimacy.  In other words, it’s more the sense of “Daddy,” than “Father.”  In the first century, Aramaic was basically only spoken by Hebrew people in Judea and Galilee.  Hebrew people from other parts of the world, even if they knew Aramaic, did not speak it.  Aramaic was not a common language, like Greek or Latin.  Yet here, Paul uses that word when he writes to a mostly Gentile audience in Galatia, hundreds of miles from Judea.  

That word must have been used in the early Church.  And perhaps it’s because Jesus himself used it when he spoke to the Father in Mark 14.  And for a bunch of Greek-speaking Gentiles to know an Aramaic word, it must have had special significance.

In Christ, we are set free from the fear of a holy God.  We are no longer slaves before God, but now we are his children, adopted into his family through Jesus.  We can have intimate fellowship with God now.  He can be our heavenly Father, closer to us than any other relationship.  

As we begin a new year, I want you to focus on what that means for you as a disciple of Jesus:  You can have intimate fellowship with God.  And that’s what God wants.  But you must invest in a relationship to have an intimate and meaningful one.

If you are not already doing so, I want you to start reading the Scriptures daily and praying daily in the new year.  It would also be a good idea to read some other devotional or spiritual formation writings regularly.  Also, commit to worshipping God weekly.  Join a small group for Bible study and accountability with other believers, if you haven’t already.  And do other acts of piety, such as fasting, meditating on God’s word, and partaking in times of silence and solitude.  And do God’s will.  Participate in works of mercy and compassion.  Do works of justice.  We cannot grow closer to God without doing God’s will.  

Something I heard from another pastor is to think about our relationship with God in terms of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.  We should daily read the Scriptures and pray.  We should weekly worship and meet with other believers.  We should at least monthly participate in an act of service to God.  And we should at least yearly come apart from regular life for more than one day to focus on our relationship with God.  That could be going on a retreat, serving at summer camp, taking part in a mission trip, or something similar. 

If you want to have a close relationship with God, you need to invest time in it.  And a new year can be a reminder to seek a closer walk with God.  

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