From Slaves to Sons | Galatians 4:3-11

July 5, 2015 Series: Stand Alone Sermons

Topic: Stand Alone Passage: Galatians 4:3–4:11

Gospel 101- Galatians 4.3-11 from Damascus Road Church on Vimeo.


Good morning, and welcome to Damascus Road Church this morning. My name is Randy, and I am one of the pastors here.

We are currently working our way through the book of Matthew – but today we’re taking a one-week break from Matthew. We anticipated that this week may be one where there was likely to be several people gone, and we didn’t want anyone to miss the rest of the Summer Eschatology series.

I like to start with the passage that we will be working through together, so open your Bibles to Galatians 4.

Gal 4:3-11 (3) In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

(8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. (9) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (10) You observe days and months and seasons and years! (11) I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

I love the book of Galatians. Damascus Road Church was going through Galatians when I first started coming in February of 2007 – the truth of the Gospel really started to come to life in my heart. Dark stains of sin on my soul that I tried to cover up with the ugly rug of self-righteousness were getting harder to conceal – in essence, I was a moralistic deist.

That is why when I first came to DRC that the book of Galatians was so appealing. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to correct a systemic misunderstanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is. In Chapter 1 he starts with a warm greeting and immediately gets down to business:

Gal 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

We later learn that the Galatians had bought into what you might call the “Jesus +” model… as opposed to a “Jesus Only” model. They were being taken off target by believing the notion that man’s justification and righteousness could not be attained through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but also by works of the law – circumcision was certainly part of it, as were the various feasts, seasons, and ceremonial aspects of the law.


When the fullness of time had come. The fundamental shift that occurs in this passage is that Jesus comes “in the fullness of time.” That is to say that he came at just the right time. The time designated beforehand by God for Jesus to come.

There is a profound encouragement here for us in the phrase “when the fullness of time had come.” Another way of translating this phrase would be “At just the right time…” God doesn’t act randomly or aimlessly. He acts with intention, with design, and with effectiveness. He intercedes on behalf of his people when the time is right.

Remember Simeon in Luke 2? He was a priest in the temple in Jerusalem who blessed Jesus as a baby… Luke says he “…was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel…” No doubt, there were many who were like Simeon – waiting for the Messiah. But, God knew what he was doing and waited until the time was right.

Perhaps you’re sitting here this morning with a particular struggle or circumstance and you’re wondering where God is in your struggle. Take confidence in the truth of the gospel that teaches us that our God looks upon our circumstances and enters into our brokenness when the time is right, and if nothing else – he has entered into your brokenness in the one way that you absolutely needed him to already.

Now, we will look at FOUR gospel transformations that are shown in this passage. There may be more – but this is the list I came up with.


First, we’ll start with a warning that I think is given in this text. In fact, I initially was only planning on going through verse 7, but felt that the warning given in verses 8 through 11 was too important to leave out.

People who travel to different parts of the world as missionaries will usually say something interesting about Satan and demons. They will say that Satan does not use the same tactics here that he does elsewhere. In the United States, we typically do not see sorcery, witchcraft, voodoo, and things like this – and if we do, it’s a fraud. But we must remember that Jesus took Satan seriously, as does Paul in passages like Ephesians 6, and so should we. I believe this passage contains a warning to believers about a deadly tactic employed by our cunning bloodthirsty enemy.

In case I confuse you in the following moments, I’ll plainly state the warning here: Our tendency toward morality as a means of righteousness is deadly. If Satan cannot convince you to engage in outright rebellion against God, he will get at you from a different way – through your morality.

(9) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Paul mentions a turning back to something that is at odds with knowing God. He is saying, “BUT NOW that you are changed how can you turn back?” He uses a Greek term that the ESV translates into ‘elementary principles’ which is a little vague. If you look at 4 translations, they won’t all agree on what this says. Based on its context within this passage, I think that this term is actually meant to refer to demonic spirits. This is in agreement with how this term is translated both times it appears in Colossians 2.

This helps us make sense of verse 8 - (8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods… and can also make sense with what verse 10 says… (10) You observe days and months and seasons and years!

The implication of this is that Paul ties the observances of the law to enslavement to demons. And though that is jarring, I believe it makes sense.

The anti-gospel teaching that the Galatians were believing was a deceptive distortion of the true gospel. The gospel says that faith in Jesus Christ is your basis for salvation – nothing more and nothing less. The distorted view presented is – the people of God look and act a certain way. You can’t be saved if you don’t look and act the part.

Be careful that you are not being deceived. We must understand that the Galatians were falling into this trap not because they were stupid but because it followed the stream of common cultural thought. Dare I say that the church today – you might say the visible church – is full of people who are buying into this distorted gospel which, as Paul says in Galatians 1, is no gospel at all. Are you squeaky clean on the outside but a hot mess on the inside? Paul is warning you – you are falling prey to a deadly scheme of the enemy to destroy you and he’d love nothing more for you to good-deed your way to hell.


2(a). From Slaves to Freedmen
We are told that Jesus was born of woman and born under the law… let that soak in for a moment. The Creator of the universe and sustainer of all things humbled himself in two unbelievable ways – not counting equality with God a thing to be grasped, he took the form of a servant and entered into the womb of a woman so that he could then be born under the law that He gave.

When Paul says that Jesus was born under the law, he is saying that Jesus was born with the same demands of Gods law that any human would have. The standard of righteousness was exactly what was required of you and of me.

Why is that necessary? Paul makes it plain to understand. He says, “Jesus was born under the law TO redeem those who were under the law.” That is, by Jesus’s perfect adherence to the law we are redeemed from the law. The Greek word that is translated into redeemed literally means “bought out of.”

Isn’t that good news? We were lost and dying under the weight of God’s law – a law we could never keep – we were slaves to the law, but we were bought out of slavery and given freedom. And more than that, God meets us where we are – he doesn’t wait to help us until we are worthy.

In Romans 7, Paul puts it this way…
Romans 7:4-6 ESV Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (5) For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. (6) But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

There is a significant transformation that has taken place through the work of Jesus Christ, and that’s just part of it.

2(b). From Enemies to Adopted Sons
God’s pursuit of us doesn’t end with him erasing our debt and setting us free. His love for us goes far beyond. Paul says that God has adopted us as his sons!

This aspect of the gospel is breath-taking… particularly when you consider where we started.

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (2) in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (3) among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

When God adopted us as his children, I was not a cute and cuddly baby that could do nothing but please him. On the contrary, I was a child of wrath. An enemy of God. The bible clearly teaches that we are born with a sin nature… we are born in great trouble and in need of a savior before we can utter a single word.

But God, in his love for us and for His desire for us to enjoy Him immensely, has brought us into his family through adoption. We haeve been given a new identity – sons of the living God and as verse 7 says, we are heirs with Jesus through God.

What are we heirs to?
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ESV (21) So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, (22) whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, (23) and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.


Verse 6: and because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

We can be certain here that the Spirit of His Son mentioned by Paul is the Holy Spirit – the third person of the holy trinity.

One effect that is stated directly in the passage is that the Spirit enables us to interact with God on the basis of our new identity in Jesus. The term Abba is the Hebrew word a small child would use to address their daddy, and is an expression of unreasoning trust. God becomes our daddy in the most intimate sense.

There are only 2 other places where this term occurs in the New Testament. One is Jesus praying to God the Father in the garden before his betrayal, the other is in Romans 8:

Romans 8:15-17 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (16) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (17) and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

With the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts, we are…
• given life (Romans 8:11),
• empowered with spiritual gifts for service to God (1Corinthians 12:4-11),
• given power over the enemy (Matthew 12:28),
• guided through life’s decisions (Acts 15:28, Acts 20:22-23)
• given understanding (John 14:26)
• helped in prayer when we don’t know what to say (Romans 8:26)
• unity as brothers and sisters in the same family
• hearts that submit to our Father

In Galatians 5, we get some further encouragement about how the Spirit works in us –

Galatians 5:18, 22-23 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law… (22) the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


Lastly we see that the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms our life in a holistic way – with all that has been transformed by the work of Jesus, those of us who are in Christ Jesus simply cannot remain the same.

The grace of God was never meant to terminate on us. This is contrary to the way that our culture thinks and operates, but it is essential for the Christian to understand this.

In verse 11, Paul laments, “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain” because the Galatians have reverted back to a way of living that was either the same as or similar to that which they used to have. He is saying this because he knows that while the true gospel of Jesus Christ means that all the work has been done on our behalf, he also knows that things should be different after the Holy Spirit grabs a hold of someone.

Woman at the Well
A very familiar story is found in John 4 when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. If you don’t know the story, Jesus was weary from walking and sits at a well. A woman comes to draw water, and this woman has a past. Jesus starts talking with her and offers her LIVING WATER – which he says will cause her to never thirst again.

By the way, it’s easy to miss something remarkable that happens here. The woman says, “Sir, give me this water…” We can surmise, based on the woman’s response to Jesus, that the Spirit of God was already at work within her. Jesus says something that is completely ridiculous if not understood in the way he meant it.

The woman accepts Jesus’s invitation, and then he cuts through to her heart…
John 4:16-18 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." (17) The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; (18) for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true."

He’s addressing her sinful way of living… something that would not be popular today.

The woman then proceeds to go into the town, telling everyone what had happened. And the results are amazing…

John 4:39-42 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." (40) So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. (41) And many more believed because of his word. (42) They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."

The gospel teaches that we are accepted as we are at the foot of the cross. But we also should not expect to remain the same either. Our job as God’s children is to be in the world but not of the world so that we might fulfill the call of the Great Commission to make disciples.

As we do, we don’t do so in fear but in confidence as we know beyond a shadow of a doubt – from Galatians 4 – that Jesus Christ has done all that is required for our salvation. We simply get to walk in that reality reflecting the transformational effects of the gospel to a world around us that needs good news.

Trust Jesus.