MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419
Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
We have been discussing in the Formula of Concord class the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel. There are many ways to consider this issue, which is the only way to understand the Scriptures. If someone is blind to the difference between Law and Gospel, he will read the Bible and not understand it. He may know a wealth of facts about the Bible, but he will not have any spiritual wisdom.
Spiritual wisdom does not come from academic degrees. Many who have been trained as clergy have no knowledge of this at all. Some laity attend church all their lives, serve on committees, and still cannot get up to the first principle of this matter.
The way we learn about this is: first) from studying the Word of God, the Confessions, and reliable books. And secondly) from experience in applying what the Holy Spirit teaches us in the Word.
St. Paul’s illustration in this lesson is very good and easy to learn. We know there is a world of difference between being an heir and a servant on an estate. We had the good fortune to live on the estate of a wealthy young couple in Milwaukee. We lived there and enjoyed many benefits of the estate, but we never imagined that anything was ours, in the present or in the future. On the other hand, the children were heirs. They had to listen to us at first, but they would grow up in time and inherit what was around them in abundance.
The Law confuses people, because people become too familiar with being servants under the Law and unwilling to be free with the Gospel. The Law is a tutor, leading us to Christ. The tutor teaches us individually that we have certain duties and responsibilities, that the Creator has given us a world in which certain laws must be obeyed at all times, not just when the mood strikes us.
The Law is good and useful, but limited. If we live under the Law alone, we are still servants. When family members take turns accusing each other, they are using the Law alone. We cannot help feeling like children when we only hear the Law and no Gospel, no forgiveness.
On this first Sunday after Christmas, it is important to remember that God sent His Son to be completely obedient to the Law. Jesus, true man, was born under the Law, circumcised as a Jew, raised as all children were at that time. He obeyed the 10 Commandments and taught them with the power and authority of the true Son of God. In other words, many people would like to say that they have not broken this or that commandment, but Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that even mental sins are the same as actual sins.
We cannot escape from the verdict of the Law. Many of our conflicts come from our ability to see the nature of sin in other people without seeing the sinfulness in our own behavior. All this was foreseen by God the Father, who sent His Son “in the fulness of time,” at the right time, born of a woman, to redeem us from the Law.
Jesus had to accept the verdict of the Law in order to save us from the ultimate penalty of the Law, which we all deserve, eternal death and punishment.
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
The phrase is very important – to redeem them that were under the law – because it says literally that Jesus paid the price for those under the law. A house has a price. A car has a price. Our sins have a price. The wages of sin is death.
Jesus paid that price, so we might receive adoption as sons. Some our latter day feminists are always discovering gender distinctions in the Bible, even when they don’t exist. Or they cover them up. (One notorious case is the feminist creed in the WELS hymnal. The phrase “and was made man” was perverted to read “fully human,” with the claim that the verb and root cannot mean man. However, in John 3:1 and many other cases, the root, anthrwpos, is used for man. W is used for the long o in Greek, the omega. There was an anthrwpos from the Phraisees by the name of Nicodemus. If that means “fully human,” then we should read, “There was a fully human from the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night.)
In this case we have a specific word with a precise meaning. The word is “son” and not “child.” There is quite a difference. Child is not a bad word, but “son” is special. A son inherits. In this case, if the Holy Spirit had been more sensitive to current trends, He would have had St. Paul say “adoption as children.” But he does not. We know there is a difference.
A son inherits the estate and there is a special relationship between a father and son. Abraham was promised a son and commanded to sacrifice his only son. Explain that to your only son. The binding of Isaac is intended to teach all believers from a personal standpoint what it would mean in the future and what it did mean in the past for the Father to give His only-begotten Son.
The Father/Son relationship is especially emphasized in the Gospel of John, but also in the three passages where Abba is used of the Father. We are supposed to realize and to be thankful that we have received the same relationship with God that is enjoyed by the Son, so that we can call upon our heavenly Father and ask Him just as we ask our earthly fathers.
First we have the example of Jesus in His agony of prayer, when He called His Father, Abba. His greatest request, of all His prayers, was begun with this term, Abba.
Mark 14:36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
The term Abba is familiar and not formal. Very few of us, except a few Episcopalians, would call our earthly fathers “father.” Instead we would use a familiar term. I heard on ethics professor from Texas consistently refer to his father as “mah daddy.” I have heard others say “dad” or “papa” or “pops” or “pa.” Familiar terms are loving terms, so Abba means we are given the same loving relationship to God as Jesus has.
That relationship is not based upon the Law but the Gospel. We are not redeemed by the Law but by the Gospel. Jesus did not die because we were worthy. He died on the cross to make us worthy. We receive His righteousness through faith. Gospel promises create and sustain faith. Trusting, believing hearts receive the promises of God: forgiveness, peace, love, and eternal life.
Paul also used the term Abba too in order to contrast it with the spirit of bondage, fear, and the Law.
Romans 8:15 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. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
In this passage from Romans, the language is all Gospel. While we as Lutherans do at times emphasize how sinful we are, and that is true, we also should grasp these comforting promises as well. The Gospel is freedom. We are adopted as sons and heirs. God Himself helps us in our prayers, because we are His children and heirs. We are joint-heirs with Christ, a supreme honor, and we have a promise to share in His suffering and His glory.
It is fun to watch parents with children. I remember one little girl working on her father for a certain request. Then she said, “But daddy, you always call me your princess.” He was tongue-tied.
One girl simply asked the same thing over and over, with a big smile on her face. Finally her father gave in. I praised his discipline. He laughed. The children were being so charming that he could not say no. He said no but it did not last.
Parents know that they often give in to requests because they love their children and not because the children have fulfilled their promises. In the same way, we should always think about God’s loving response to our requests. He has answered our prayers repeatedly, often before we can even ask. He has given us what we ask and far beyond that, not because we are perfect in the eyes of the Law, but because He loves us.
Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Isaiah 65:21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. 24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
These are not minor promises, because God Himself is speaking them. When people are troubled about what is happening around them, I remind them to dwell on the promises of God. It is true that the sins we can list are many. But a list will not comfort or heal. It will not bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. Only the Gospel can do that.
When people despair, they should think about a passage in Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian has been captured and is in the Castle of Despair. He is locked in a dungeon where he can hear the giant discuss how he will be tortured and killed. Eventually he realizes that he can escape the dungeon. The keys were in his pocket all along. They are the promises of God.
If you are worried to death, anxious about fears for the future, or riddle with pain over bad things that have happened, your mind can torment you just the way Christian was tormented in the Castle of Despair. Locked up and hearing the taunting words. But the promises of God will set you free, give you comfort, quiet your fears, and provide far more blessings than you can imagine.