"Slaves Vs. Sons" Page 4 of 4 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
The second time it is used in Romans 8.15, 16 where Paul says: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ABBA, FATHER. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
The third time this word “Abba” is in this verse in Galatians. It is then a term used only by the children of God who are under grace, being contrasted to the position of a servant under the Law, and called the “spirit of bondage again to fear.”
“Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son.” The Spirit gives us an experience of being a son of God, whereby we can cry out—not just saying the word or putting on a false piety—and call God our Father, because the Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit. This gives us the experience of being a son of God.
There are many people who believe the only way you can have an experience is either by reaching a high degree of sanctification—you’ve got to become holy—or you have to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as they call it. They insist that if you don’t get up to that level, you will never have an experience. My friend, let me assure you, if you are a new believer or a weak believer, that you can have an experience as a son of God without reaching those levels, because sonship comes to you through faith in Jesus Christ. When people have reached that high level of spirituality, they tend to think they are superior to the rest of us. However, we are always God’s foolish little children. We are always filled with ignorance, and stubbornness, and sin, and fears, and weaknesses. We are never wonderful; He is wonderful. The Lord Jesus is wonderful, and faith in Him will give us an experience. I believe in experience, and I believe that a lot of people today need an experience with God.
Many times you and I plod along in our Christian lives, and we don’t have an experience with God. Sometimes life becomes drab and a little monotonous. But there are other times, especially when God puts us on trial and really tests us, that we have a wonderful experience with our Heavenly father.
God makes Himself real during times of distress. When Paul was in prison, he could say, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding THE LORD STOOD WITH ME, AND STRENGTHENED ME . . .” (2 Tim 4.16, 17). The Lord stood by Paul, the Lord has stood by me, and the Lord will stand by you. How reassuring it is to have a Father like that! At such a time He says, “. . . I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13.5). I hope you are His son.
Verse seven tells us what we are; we are not only “sons,” we are also “heirs.” The entire Trinity is involved in our Christian experience:
• God the Father sent the Son to die for us.
• God the Son sent His Spirit to live in us.
• God the Spirit living in us gives us many wonderful experiences.
The contrast here is not between immature children and adult sons, but between servants and sons. Like the Prodigal son the Galatians wanted God to accept them as servants, when they really were sons—“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired SERVANTS” (Luke 15. 18, 19). The contrasts between sons and servants are easy to see. For example:
• The son has the same nature as the father, but the servant does not. When we trust Christ the Holy Spirit comes to live within us; and this means we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pe. 1.4). The Law could never give a person God’s divine nature within. All it could do was to reveal to the person his desperate need for God’s nature. So, when the believer goes back into the Law, he is denying the divine nature he has within, and he is giving the old nature (the flesh) the opportunity to do its work.
• The son has a father, while the servant has a master. No servant could ever say “Father” to his master. When a sinner trusts Christ, he receives the Holy Spirit within, and the Spirit tells him he is a child of the Father (Rom. 8.15, 16). It is natural for a baby to cry, but not for a baby to talk to his father. When the Spirit enters the Heart, He says, “Abba, Father;” and in response the believer cries “Abba, Father!” (Rom 8.15) One opinion is that “Abba” is an Aramaic word which is the equivalent of the English word “papa.” This shows the closeness of the child to the Father. No servant has this closeness to his master.
• The son obeys out of love, while the servant obeys out of fear. The Spirit works in the heart of the believer to increase his love for God. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the LOVE OF GOD is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5.5). “But THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5.5). The Judaizers told the Galatians that they would become better Christians by submitting to the law, but the Law can never produce obedience. Only love can do that. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14.15).
• The son is rich, while the servant is poor. We are both “sons and heirs.” And since we are adopted—placed as adult sons in the family—we may begin to draw on our inheritance right now. God has made available to us the riches of His grace (Eph. 1.7; 2.7), the riches of His glory (Phil. 4.19), the riches of His goodness (Rom. 2.4), and the riches of His wisdom (Rom. 11.33)—and all the riches of God are found in Christ: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell . . . IN WHOM ARE HID ALL THE TREASURES of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 1.19; 2.3).
• The son has a future, while the servant does not. While many kind masters did provide for their slaves in old age, it was not required of them. The father always provides for his son: “. . . for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children (2 Cor. 12.14).
In one sense, our adoption is not yet final, because we are awaiting the return of Christ and the redemption of our bodies—“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODY” (Rom. 8.23). Some scholars think this second stage in our adoption corresponds to the Roman practice when a man adopted someone outside his family to be his son. At first there was a private ceremony at which the son was purchased; then there was a public ceremony at which the adoption was declared openly before the officials.
Christians have experienced the first stage; we have been purchased by Christ and indwelt by the Spirit. We are awaiting the second stage; the public declaration at the return of Christ when “we shall be like Him” (1 John3.1-3). We are “sons and heirs,” and the best part of our inheritance is still ahead of us (1 Pe. 1-5).