Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas 3: the 4 R's: Do you want God to treat you as a baby or a grown child of God? part two Reflection on Gal 3:26-27

Do you want God to treat you as a baby or a grown child of God?

In his letter to Christians at Galatia Paul says "you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus." In the NLT version there was a footnote that said "sons", i.e., the word they translated as children means "sons" in the original Greek. In my last post I wrote a few questions:

  • What is the difference between "son" and "child"? 
  • "united with Christ in baptism" - What is the role of baptism in my union with Jesus? It sounds like baptism is where I take off the old me and put on Jesus, where I take on my new identity in Christ and become one with other Christians. 
  • "true children (sons) of Abraham: What is a true son of Abraham? a false son?
  • What does any of this have to do with Christmas? Why did the Daily Bread include this in their Christmas devotional? (not an important question)
When you write questions you are beginning to Reflect on what you've read. Asking questions is the BEST way to Reflect on scripture. 

Today I want to try and answer at least the first question. How do you find answers to questions like this? 
  • Poll the audience?
  • Call a lifeline? 
  • 50/50? 
There are commentaries and Bible dictionaries that you can access online. You could wait til Sunday and ask your pastor, Rev. Knows Everything Abot the Bible, or you could try reading around. I like to search for the answer myself by reading around the paragraph to better understand what was going on. Then if I'm not sure about my conclusions I can read some online commentaries, dictionaries to see if anyone else agrees with my thinking. 

There is no way to answer most of these questions without reading around. Read the paragraphs before and after this passage. What if I don't have time? Then slow down, save it for tomorrow. Let the question cook like "long soup". Pray about it off and on during the day and at the next opportunity read around to find the answer. 
Here is what I found when I began reading around  Galatians 3:26-27. Verses 23-24 say

Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.
"For you are all children  of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.    There is no longer Jew or Gentile,  slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children  of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you."  Galatians 3:26-27
The paragraph that follows 3:26-27 says this:
Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children (babes) are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children (sons), God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child (son). And since you are his child (son), God has made you his heir.
 Paul talks about children of God in two different ways: young children and grown-up children. He's angry at the Christians in Galatia because they have gone backwards. They are trying to follow the law, but the law was meant as a guardian or nanny, a child-minder. Until Jesus came, Paul says that people needed a nanny, a guardian, a child-minder to keep us in line, but now that Jesus has come Christians have the Holy Spirit inside them to guide them. Now we are treated as adult children of God, not babies.

So when I cry out "Abba Father" it is not the whining cry of a little child "Taytay", but the cry of a grown man, "Dad, Father!" The old movie Ben Hur depicts the ceremony of adopting a full grown man as one's son. BTW, the word son can refer to a female. The meaning is referring to an adult child vs. a minor child. Here is a clip:

So what? I'm American, so I'm thinking "Can I have the car keys please?" Grown children have a whole different set of responsibilities and privileges. If I am a grown child of God, then I don't need bedtimes, curfews, rules and regulations, etc. If the Spirit of God inside of me can help me say "Abba, Father" then he can also lead me to walk in the way of Jesus. 

So what does any of this have to do with Christmas? I can't claim to know what was in the mind of the Daily Bread editors when they included this in their Christmas devotion, but 4:4 says,
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 
The right time: the first Christmas was the right time. I have all the privileges and responsibilities of an adult heir of God, child of God, because Jesus was born of Mary. He came to earth, lived under the law, and through his death on the cross, freed me from the child-minder, and adopted me as an adult son. I can now access my inheritance. The Spirit lives within me and will lead me in the way everlasting. That's what I call freedom.