One time someone asked me to explain the gospel to them and, in retrospect, I didn’t do the best job. I rightly told them all about how we are sinners in need of rescuing, that we can’t save ourselves because we are more sinful than we realize, etc. and that if we believe in Christ we can be forgiven. But I didn’t go much beyond that and as a result I only shared half of the gospel. The other half is that once forgiven of our sins we become the children of God.
Being forgiven is good news, but the really good news is that we become the children of God.
Christians are Children of God both legally, and experientially. In God’s eyes the adoption papers have been signed and our status as His children is a done deal. Legally we are His children but it goes beyond that. He gives us His Spirit so we can experientially know we belong to Him, too.
This message has seven points. That’s a lot but most of them I’ll go through quickly.
1. We are sons of God
26 for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.
There are three things about this verse:
1) We are sons in the present. It’s not something we have to strive for. Christ has done all that is necessary.
2) We are sons but not everyone is. Everyone is a child of God in the sense that we are all made in His image. But the kind of sonship Paul is talking about here isn’t for everyone. This kind of sonship only comes “through faith” in Christ.
Quoting from one commentary: “A cabinetmaker constructs a cabinet. But this does not make the cabinet a “child” of the cabinetmaker. A birth process would be necessary for this. The unregenerate man who claims sonship with God ‘because he made me’ is basing his claim merely on the fact that he is a product of God’s handiwork. Like the cabinet, he lacks the new birth necessary for a sonship relationship.”
3) We are sons, not daughters. In Paul’s day only Son’s were heirs and women didn’t have have the same rights. So what Paul is saying is all of us, men and women, are equal heirs! Everyone, who is in christ, has full rights as sons, even if they are daughters.
2. We are clothed with Christ
27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.
The public sign of belonging to Christ is baptism. We aren’t saved by baptism but those who belong to him should be. If you are a believer in Jesus and aren’t baptized then talk with me because you should be ASAP.
Now, there are a couple implications of Paul’s clothing metaphor…
1) Our identity is in Christ. People wear clothes to identify who they are be it a policeman, a fire fighter, a rich person, a poor person, etc. A poor person may not want to appear poor so they dress up. A rich person may not want to appear rich so they dress down. A Christian is clothed with Christ because our identity is in Him!
2) Our acceptability is in Christ. When God looks at us He sees Christ. We are accepted because of Christ. Our nakedness and shame have been covered up by Christ. As Christians we wear Jesus’ righteousness and perfection.
So, as God’s children we are clothed with Christ. We have put on Christ. He is the basis for identity and our acceptability.
3. We are one in Christ
28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The closeness we have in Christ spills out into our relationships with other sons of God.
There are still distinctions between Christians, of course. We don’t all become exactly alike but we are alike in the sense of valuing what’s most important. As God’s children, we shouldn’t let any of our cultural, social, or gender differences become reasons for division.
There is no Jew or Greek. One culture is just as good as another when we are in Christ. Our love for each other isn’t based upon nationality or skin color, but on Christ.
There is no slave or free. As Christians, we shouldn’t divide over our economic status. Because we are one in Christ, even our financial situations don’t divide us.
The truth of the gospel leads to this kind of unity, and if I’m a child of God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness, how could I look down on someone else who is also clothed in Christ? Why would I ever look upon someone else with jealousy when I am a son of God?
As sons of God what more could we want?
4. We are heirs through Christ
29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.
Our world has a fascination with the Royal Family in England. We seem to sense that pedigree does matter and isn’t totally insignificant. Many trace their ancestry back hundreds of years to prove they are related to someone famous.
As Christians we come from the most notable family line of all. We belong to the seed of Abraham. Our lives aren’t insignificant. We belong to a family, to Abrahams’ family, which is greater than any royal line. And this connection with Abraham isn’t just a metaphor. Everything promised to Abraham is our inheritance, through Christ.
Romans 4:13 says,
“For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”
By faith Christians inherit the whole world and by implication everything He has made.
5. We are God’s children who have “come of age”
4:1 Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. 2 Instead, he is under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world.
The heir to his father’s estate while he’s a child isn’t literally a slave, but as a child he’s under the control of others. The child might even have a slave put in charge of his teaching and care. His guardians and trustees are in authority over him and it’s not until he “comes of age”, at a time set by his father, that he comes into his own.
In a Roman society a child heir didn’t gain full control of the estate until age 25. Before then there was only limited authority.
One way that Christians are like slaves is when we fail to experience the freedom and joy of salvation in Christ. Even though we have been given the greatest gift of all—we are God’s adopted children—we act as if our status still depends upon our performance.
Imagine someone giving you an expensive gift, a house or a car with no strings attached, but in your pride you give it back so you can earn it. That’s what some Christians do with salvation.
But God wants us to “come of age.” He doesn’t want us to live with a slavery mindset. How does this happen? There are two ways which make up points 6 and 7.
6. We are God’s children by The Work of the Son
4 When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
We “come of age” by the work of the Son. He does this by redeeming those under the law. We are under the law because we are obligated to keep it but unable to do so. In that sense we are slaves to the law, and we are subjected to the penalty for breaking the law.
Only Christ by taking the penalty upon himself that we deserve can we be set free. That’s what it means to be redeemed.
God sent a real human being, Jesus, born of a woman, to redeem those under the law. He paid the price, on the cross. It was a price that was necessary to release the slaves and He paid it in full.
In doing so the slaves receive adoption as sons. The moment we are adopted we have the full rights as sons and cease being slaves. In the Roman world the moment a slave or a servant was adopted they were no longer a slave.
A commentator says, “Under the Roman system, adoption implied complete identification between a father and his adoptive son. The new relationship was understood to be permanent, total, irreversible, and incontestable.”
Adoption as sons is permanent, total, irreversible, and incontestable. That’s the good news.
Often, when we think of salvation, we only think of half of it. We think of being forgiven, of being pardoned by sin but forget that we also have a new status.
We are not just released from prison to go make our way in the world as a freed slave. We have been set free and declared to be a child of the king. We have been forgiven and given all of the rights and privileges of sonship. Our inheritance isn’t a prize to be won by us, it is a gift won by Jesus.
The work of Christ does this accomplishes this for us but it is also a work of the Spirit. Whereas Jesus’ work legally acquires sonship for us, the Spirit acquires the actual experience of it.
7. We are God’s children by The Work of the Spirit
6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”
What Christ has done for us is objectively true, whether we feel it or not. We may not always feel like God’s child but that doesn’t make it any less true.
But the Spirit’s job is help us experience the reality of what Christ has done.
The Spirit leads us to passionately call out “Abba, Father!” The Spirt leads us to pray with passion like a child calling out to his Father. And the Spirit enables us to feel our Father’s presence. The Spirit helps us be assured of God’s love for us. We experience his love and know that we belong to Him.
Another way to say it is that while Christ works externally, the Spirit works internally giving us confidence of what Christ has done. They work together ensuring that we experience the objective reality of being God’s children.
Conclusion: We are children with all the privileges of sonship.
7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.
If you are trusting in Christ for salvation this is your status. You are a son and a heir. And there are so many benefits to being a heir.
There is intimacy. You are clothed with Christ. You can call Him “Abba, Father” which is similar to calling him your daddy.
There is also the benefit of boldness and confidence. Our Father is the boss so we don’t live in fear anymore. We no longe fear rejection because our status is sure.
Also, as fellow heir in Christ there are the benefits of possessions. In the future we will have authority over all things with Christ.
And it can’t be stressed enough that this sonship is real, present tense real. God sees you as his child, his son, now.
A new mother stayed with her parents for several days after the birth of her first child. One afternoon she said to her mother that it was surprising her baby had dark hair, since both her husband and she had blond hair.
The grandmother said, “Well, your daddy has black hair.” To which the daughter replied, “But, Mama, that doesn’t matter, because I’m adopted.” With an embarrassed smile, that mother said the most wonderful words her daughter had ever heard: “I always forget.”
All Christians are adopted children of God who are accepted by God with the same unconditional love that this mother had for her daughter.
God doesn’t see you as an adopted child with less rights than a “real” child. You are his. If you’re trusting in Jesus you are God’s son. It’s permanent, total, irreversible, and incontestable. That’s the good news.