“Adopted as Sons” (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 19, 2022

“Adopted as Sons” (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7)

Today is Father’s Day. Some of us here have a father we can honor and thank today. Some of us, though–our fathers are long gone. In my case, for instance, my father, LeRoy Henrickson, was born 103 years ago this past Friday. But he died when I was just a baby, so I only had one Father’s Day with him. I don’t know what it’s like to have a father you grow up with and have still around when you’re an adult, but I bet it’s pretty cool.

Whatever your situation is, whether you still have a dad to spend time with or not, today I want to assure you that you do have a Father to honor and thank and spend time with today and every day, really. And that, of course, is your heavenly Father. Our earthly fathers, fallible sinners though they are–nevertheless, our earthly fathers are to model and be a picture of the warmth and care we receive from our dear Father in heaven.

And so, yes, we all are being embraced today by the Father we all have in common. You and I are his dearly beloved children. We are his sons, in fact–all of us are, whether we are male or female. And because we are sons, we are also heirs, in line for an inheritance. We are sons and therefore heirs, because of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. My fellow baptized believers in Christ, we all have been “Adopted as Sons.”

Our text for this day is the Epistle from Galatians 3 and 4. There St. Paul tells us that we have been adopted as sons, which in turn makes us heirs. Sons and heirs. That is quite different from what we were before. Before, we were slaves and outsiders, not sons and heirs. But all that has changed. What happened? Let’s find out.

Our text begins in Galatians 3, where Paul writes: “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” Captive, imprisoned–not good! That was our status under the law. Under God’s law, you and I were condemned, convicted, captive. Stuck in prison, sentenced to death, no way out. The law says: “Do this, and you will live. Fail to do it, fail to keep God’s law, break it at any point, and you will die.” That was our sad condition as sinners.

Paul says: “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” The law was our “guardian.” The Greek word here is “paidagogos.” Literally it means “one who leads or guides a child.” In the ancient Greco-Roman world, a rich man would assign one of his slaves to serve as the paidagogue for his son. The slave would be the boy’s guardian, his escort, to make sure he got to school safely and didn’t run off on his own. The paidagogue, though a slave himself, was allowed a certain degree of discipline over the boy, even though the son had a higher rank than the slave.

So the law acted as our paidagogue, to make sure we got to where we needed to go. It exercised a degree of discipline over us, keeping our behavior within certain bounds and teaching us the difference between right and wrong. But the goal was not to leave us with the paidagogue. The goal was not to leave us under the law. The goal is to get us to Christ. And the law has a part to play in that. The law shows us our need. By exercising discipline over us and exposing our lack of righteousness, the law helps to direct us to where we need to go, which is to Christ. The law cannot save us, but Christ can, and he does. You and I need to know our need for a Savior, and the law serves that purpose as our paidagogue.

But now that Christ has come, the law has done its job of showing us our need for him. Now when we hear the good news that Christ has fulfilled the law for us, we are justified by faith. We are declared righteous before God for Christ’s sake, through faith in him.

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” With the coming of the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ, we are no longer under the guardianship of the law. No longer do we need the supervision of a paidagogue, to be led by compulsion and restricted in our freedom. Now we are treated as sons, sons of God, with all the freedom that comes with that. And as I said, when God’s Word here calls us “sons,” that in no way excludes women. Rather, it’s simply a way to emphasize the inheritance we are in line for as heirs.

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” How so? What has happened to put us into that status? Paul tells us: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” You and I were baptized, baptized into Christ. We were united to our Savior in the waters of Holy Baptism. Something great and magnificent happened in your baptism. You were clothed with Christ. His perfect righteousness is the white garment that covers all your sin. This robe of Christ’s righteousness is your daily apparel as a baptized child of God. You share in Christ’s standing as God’s beloved Son. That’s what the Father said at Jesus’ baptism, wasn’t it? “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Well, now that you are united with Christ in your baptism, God says the same thing about you. You are God’s beloved child.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t matter your background, your ancestry, or your status in the world. Whether or not you are marginalized in society, you are not marginalized in God’s kingdom. We all have equal standing before God. We all are united in Christ and his church. Our common baptism, our common faith, bind us together as one.

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” “Abraham’s offspring?” What does that mean? Well, long ago God made a covenant with Abraham, a covenant of blessing. God made a promise. He committed himself to Abraham and his descendants to bless them. And now, in Christ, the ultimate offspring of Abraham, we too come into the blessing, because we have been joined to Christ.

And that makes us heirs. We are heirs, receiving as our inheritance all the blessings God has promised. We receive membership in the kingdom of God. We have God’s perpetual protection. God blesses us with every blessing in Christ, and he guards and protects us from all evil. Christ will lead us into the Promised Land of heaven, to inherit eternal life. All this is our inheritance, brothers and sisters, and we’re only scratching the surface.

Continuing in Galatians: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” At just the right time in history, from God’s perspective, God sent his eternal Son into the world, in human flesh. “Born of woman, born under the law”: Born of the virgin Mary, Jesus was born a Jew, and he kept the law of Moses perfectly, even from infancy. Circumcised on the eighth day, presented in the temple, Jesus fulfilled the law, the whole thing–the ceremonial law of Israel and the moral law of the Ten Commandments. Jesus did everything the law requires. He loved God with his whole heart. He loved his neighbor as himself. Everything we fall short at, Jesus fulfilled.

Jesus then took the punishment the law requires, even though he didn’t deserve it. We did, but he took it, in our place. On the cross, Christ suffered death under God’s judgment. Now that judgment is lifted from you. Jesus took it away. Therefore, you are forgiven. Your sin is not held against you. God sent his Son “to redeem those who were under the law.” That’s us. You and I are redeemed, set free from what stood against us.

To what end? “So that we might receive adoption as sons.” God has brought us into his family. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” “Abba” is the Aramaic equivalent of a little child saying “Papa” or “Daddy.” That’s how warm and personal our relationship with God is now. As his children we get to call God “Abba.” We have intimate access to call on God as our dear Father. Jesus even teaches us to pray God as “Our Father.” Jesus teaches us to trust in our Father, who cares for his children more than he cares for the flowers of the field or the birds of the air. What a joy it is to know that we are children of the heavenly Father!

Paul concludes: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Sons and heirs, that’s who we are. No longer slaves or outsiders, now we are members of God’s family. We have a bundle full of promises and blessings. They are all ours in Christ, and it will take an eternity to enjoy them.

All because we have been adopted as sons. I mentioned earlier that today is Father’s Day, and that my father, LeRoy Henrickson, was born 103 years ago. Only, he wasn’t LeRoy Henrickson when he was born. He had some other name, and he was put up for adoption at an orphanage in Chicago. Well, a Swedish immigrant couple, Charles and Alma Henrickson, who were childless, adopted this baby boy as their son. They gave him his name, LeRoy Walfred Henrickson. They gave him a home. They gave him warmth and love and a family to belong to. They had him baptized, and brought him up in the church.

And because they had adopted him as their son, when I was born, I got the name of my grandfather, Charles Henrickson. I was baptized and brought into the church. And when my father died, when I was just a baby, I had my grandparents right next door to help raise me and take care of me. All because my dad had been adopted as a son.

Now multiply that by ten bazillion, and you’re beginning to get at the incredible blessings we have now and will yet inherit, because God has made us his sons through his Son Jesus Christ. Fellow baptized believers in Christ, members of God’s family, we all have been “Adopted as Sons.”

Published in: on June 18, 2022 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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