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. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Sonship! I’m not really sure that is a proper English word, spell check doesn’t like it, that’s for sure, but I must admit that it works for Paul’s message to the Galatians. These seven verses sum up his argument in a way that is so simple and so uncomplicated that anyone who gets lost in discussions of covenants and laws and patriarchs can’t miss. For once, I really like the “new” NIV rendering; man, they nailed it!
Check out Paul’s use of metaphors here; a son who is destined to inherit the entire estate of his fathers. For us in the US, leave it at that, but those of you in the UK have an advantage, because you can think in terms of the ‘nobility.’ An heir not only to a great estate and great wealth, but heir to a great title, yet the son is not of age. His life is privileged, yes, but he must follow the orders of everyone from his parents, to the “upper servants.” In a way, he is like a slave, for even though he holds within himself the potential of command and power, he is still subject to those around him, and his father isn’t putting up with any nonsense. Yes, I’ve read too much British literature over the years, but that’s for another time…
Before Jesus came, “we” lived according to the “elemental spiritual forces of this world,” sin, death, form, ritual, lusts and law that produces condemnation. Them Jesus came. By the time He had completed His work on this earth, everything had changed. We had been redeemed from “slavery” to those elemental forces and were set free, as though an earthly heir had reached the age of majority. Now, we have achieved “sonship” as God’s children, co-heirs with the Son to everything. We are the children of God, and as such we have inherited eternal life and co-dominion with Christ, and all of this is made possible by the fact that the old ways are now gone for good. Yes, we are used to thinking about this in terms of our sins and guilt, but there is another dimension to it that Paul has been addressing for three chapters now that we, like some of the Galatians, often forget or overlook. The very Law is also gone, for it has been made obsolete and useless, its time has passed.
Now, as you think about these things, it would be very easy to think of them in Jewish terms, for they were God’s chosen ones under the Law, but if you are thinking in Jewish terms, you’ve missed something profoundly important. Paul isn’t writing to Jews in this letter, he is writing to the Galatians, and they were never Jewish, they were Gentiles. Think about that for a while, consider the theological ramifications of that fact… There is no Jew, there is no Gentile…
That can only be true if the Law was buried with Christ in death’s tomb.