It was a big deal in Pune, India that hot spring day. The temperature was hovering around 112 degrees. A day earlier my wife and I were in New York boarding a plane to travel half- way around the world. Now we were sitting on a bench in a tiny little building in a dark corner of the world. This place is probably very insignificant for those who pass by it every day. But for us it was life-changing. It was in that little building, on that hot May day, in Pune, India, that we met our daughter Siddhi.
Every night, before I put my little Indian daughter to bed I ask her three questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? Who are you? These are three very important questions with three very important answers. My daughter is the only child with brown skin and black hair in our family. She is the only daughter who is small for her age. She is the only daughter who has been adopted. She is the only daughter that doesn’t look anything like the other sons and daughters or mommy and daddy for that matter. Her answers to these questions must be truth to her. I cannot make her believe them, I can only ask the questions.
To the first question she answers, “My name is Mira Siddhi.” To the second question she answers, “I am from Pune, India.” And to the third question she answers, “I am Daddy’s daughter.” It doesn’t matter if she goes to bed sad or happy, mad or joyful, I always ask these three questions and she always answers. It doesn't matter that she is different, adopted, happy, sad, angry, joyful, tired or hungry, or from mommy’s belly or from Pune, India – she is Daddy’s daughter.
This is precisely what Paul wants the Gentile Christians in Galatia to know. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free – you are a son of the Living God by faith in Jesus Christ alone. We have different names. We have different backgrounds. We look different. We have different cultures and traditions. We have different theology. But under the one Gospel, we are one people, under one Father God, because of one Messiah. In the Christian faith we call this “sonship.”
At the very center of the Christian faith lies sonship. Paul sums it up in verse 26 when he says, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Our position is a son of God. The qualification is faith. Let me go back to Siddhi for a moment. I can tell her that she is my daughter, but at some point she has to believe it. At the heart of Christian faith is to believe that we are the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ. This is true freedom. We are not sons by good works. We are not sons because of what we bring to the table. We are sons because of God’s grace.
Why does Paul use the word “son” and not “children?” Because in ancient times, only sons had legal rights to that which was the father’s. Adoption in ancient times meant that the male person adopted would receive all rights to his father’s estate. He received the full rights of biological sons. Paul wanted the Galatians to know that whether they were male or female, they received all that Jesus has to offer and all that Jesus has secured. In Romans 8, Paul says that we are co-heirs with Christ. We can only receive an inheritance from God if we have come to faith in Christ.
But what does it mean that we are treated as sons through faith in Christ? First, by faith you receive the righteousness of Christ. Paul alludes to this when he says in verse 27 that we have been baptized into Christ and have put on Christ. He is speaking of the righteousness of Christ. This reminds us that we are justified. We have been dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Tim Keller makes four great points about what it means to be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. First, our identity is in Jesus Christ. Clothes say a lot about us. They tell others what we like, where we are from, how much money we have or do not have. Clothes can be a very personal choice. On a broader scale, clothing can have a lot to do with your culture. Mainstream clothing in the Middle East desert is much different than the mainstream in Los Angeles. Being clothed in Christ means our identity is in Jesus.
Second, being clothed in Christ speaks to the closeness of our relationship to Christ. Hopefully, your clothes are on you and go with you wherever you go. When your clothes aren’t on you, you might end up in jail. In the same way, Jesus is with us in all things. He is always present with us and the closest person to us.
Third, we imitate Jesus. To be in Christ by faith means we look to Jesus as our example. He is not only an example to us, but he is certainly the prime example for us.
Fourth, being clothed in Christ means we have been found acceptable by God. God has been putting clothes on us since we sinned in the Garden of Eden. Now when God looks at us clothed in the righteousness of Christ, He sees us as His sons and daughters.
In verse 27, Paul is telling us that our lives have a lot to do with Jesus. He cannot be compartmentalized. He cannot be confined to a church service or outreach program once a month. He is everything to us and gives us all things. This is what it means to be “in Christ.”
Faith also binds the church together as one church. There are times when I meet someone in public or even hear them speak on TV and I immediately know that they confess Jesus as their Savior. We are united in the faith. In verses 28-29 Paul eliminates all cultural and social divides. We do not need to be of a particular culture, race, class, or gender to be united in the church.
In my experience I have found that the church includes people of all different backgrounds and cultures. Even within one culture there are sub-cultures. The point that Paul is making is that membership in the church (which is faith in Christ) does not require a cultural, class, or even a gender change. We are all free and found equal in the sight of God.
We are all united by the Gospel. We are united by the bad news that we are all sinful. This keeps us from being self-righteous. The bad news helps us to see that our culture, upbringing, and traditions aren't our identity or a source for contention. Additionally, we are united by the good news of the Gospel. We are all sinners who have been saved by grace.
My prayer for Stone’s Throw is that we would be a church united under the Gospel, lit up by the Gospel, and bring much joy to people’s lives with the Gospel, regardless of their story.
We are either slaves or we are free. For Paul, those who are in Christ are free sons of God. How did this happen? Paul says that at just the right time, God sent Jesus. Jesus was born under the Law. This means that Jesus kept the Law and subjected himself to the Law. Why? So that he could redeem us from the curse of the Law. The redeemer had to keep the law in order to be made a righteous atonement for sins. Jesus accomplished this in his life, death, and resurrection.
The result of Jesus’ humiliation, being born under the Law and keeping it, is that we have been saved from our sins. Additionally, we have been saved into the rights and privileges of the Son of God. Many Christians focus so much on salvation from sin that they forget they have been saved to something incredible! Not only are our sins taken away, but we are given something of eternal value.
Sometimes when my children disobey me, I will take away their bedtime snack. They love bedtime snack. They look forward to it from the moment dinner is over until bedtime. It is a tradition. But it is also a privilege. There are nights where I have had to take their bedtime snack away from them. In moments of weakness, I will sometimes give their bedtime snack back to them. This is not dissimilar to God taking our sins away. But the privileges that He gives us would be like me not only giving my child their snack back, but taking them to the store to pick out their favorite snack and allow them to enjoy that snack for as long as they want. Later, we might go back to choose another one, just to change it up a little. What I mean is that God not only takes our sin away but He gives us all things!
Additionally, Paul tells us that the Spirit is at work in us so that we might cry out to God, “Daddy!” Jesus has changed our legal status before God (justification), but the Holy Spirit helps us to experience the grace of God. The tense of the words and the sense that Paul is trying to convey here is that the Spirit is actively at work in our lives. The Holy Spirit builds us up in the faith and in confidence. We have a sense that God knows us as His child and we know Him as our Father.
Being a son of God should change everything for each of us. Our Father owns the world and all that is in it. We are hanging out in our Father’s place in which everything belongs to Him. There is nothing that can separate us from our Father. There is no fear, no anguish, no grief, or any person that can tear us from the Father’s hand.