Explore the Bible

with Liz McGraw

Sunday,  September 23

True Heirs

Galatians 3:19-4:7

My friends Rickey and Kathy desperately wanted a baby but could not conceive. God miraculously made a way for them to adopt a precious baby girl they named Elizabeth. From the moment she was born, Elizabeth was their child and their heir. When we become believers in Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin. Instead, we are adopted into God’s family. In Galatians 3 and 4, Paul wrote about the law as an old guardian, God’s family as a new community, and our heirship as a new position.

Galatians 3:19-28. An Old Guardian. Paul began by asking the question, “Why the Law then? (v. 19). The answer to his question was, “…because of transgressions.…” Parabasis is the Greek word for transgressions meaning “a deliberate going over the line; willful disregard of God’s law.” The Children of Israel were deliberately and willfully disobeying God. Paul explained that the law served as a strict tutor or nanny, pointing out their waywardness and need for a better way to gain a relationship with God. According to one commentary, “The law had two functions. On the positive side, it reveals the nature and will of God and shows people how to live. One the negative side, it points out people’s sins and shows them that it is impossible to please God by trying to obey all his laws completely.” In other words, the law reveals our inability to save ourselves.

Paul continued in verse 19, “…having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator….” Paul may have been referring to the Jews’ belief that angels gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. In Acts 7, Luke shared Stephen’s defense of the gospel before the high priest and council. Stephen said, “This is the one (Moses) who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you” (v. 38). He also said, “You received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it” (vv. 53).

Paul was indicating the superiority of salvation through “the seed” (Jesus) over the law. Paul wrote that “we were kept in custody under the law” until faith came and “the Law became our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The law was never meant to save us. Instead, the law was given to reveal our need for a Savior.

Galatians 3:26-28. A New Community. Paul explained that faith in Jesus makes a person a son of God and unites him or her with everyone else who shares that same faith. All distinctions and divisions among people are removed through faith in Jesus. Paul wrote, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (vv. 25-28). All become part of God’s family in the same way regardless of race, occupation, position, or gender. Faith in Jesus unifies all believers as members of God’s family.

Galatians 3:29, 4:1-7. A New Position. Pointing to the maturation of a child, Paul explained that his readers were now in the position of being heirs through faith in Jesus. In accordance with God’s plan, Jesus came to redeem humanity through His death, burial, and resurrection. Faith in Jesus frees believers from the law and puts them in a position to receive the blessing of God as an heir. Paul wrote, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (v. 29). The promises to Abraham in Genesis predated the law and thus took precedence. The Greek word for heir is kleronomos, meaning “someone who inherits.” We become joint heirs with Jesus when we are spiritually adopted.

Do we really understand our new position? Regardless of what we have done, regardless of who we were, regardless of race, occupation, position or gender, from the moment we are born again, we are adopted into the family of God and become His heirs with all of the blessings promised to Abraham attached.

McGraw is a NAMB-endorsed chaplain at Louisiana State Penitentiary and member of Woodville Church, Woodville.