Adopted - Notes on Galatians Chapter 4

Today we are going to hang out with our favorite tent maker. Paul in Galatians chapter 4

(My approach is a little different, I love bringing the bible to life in its cultural context. But if you will allow me, I’d like to share with you some of the things I observed studying this scripture.)

First our author the tent maker.  I find it interesting that the type of tent Paul made him an ideal candidate for his work in ministry.  He made prayer tents, now called prayer shawls or tallit, an essential part of the payer life of any male Jewish believer of his time.  Paul made sure that a believer was covered in prayer; and that seems to foreshadow his later spiritual covering and guidance over many churches such as Galatia.

Being in the world but not of it. Few people understood this better than Paul (Saul of Tarsus) A Jew who grew up in the Diaspora.  Born in Tarsus he is a Roman citizen able to call upon the authority of Caesar. If he had born in Judea he would not had immediate access to citizenship.  He would have been born in a land, but not a part of the empire designed to be oppressed.  Instead Paul has rights, privileges and promises provided to a citizen of Rome.  Yet he was not truly a Roman, He was a servant of the one true God and could not adopt their ways.

He dwelt in two worlds just like any modern believer - a Kingdom citizen dwelling a sinful world system.

Tip on the tight rope

Sometime it feels like you are walking a tightrope when you dwell in two worlds. There are days when you fit and days when you don’t. Hardly ever do you feel as if you belong in both places at the same time.  We dwell on earth, but we belong to a Divine Kingdom where our Lord is King. Everything about the world system we live in is different from the plan our King designed for us to live in. His Kingdom is different.  His timing is different. His justice is difference. His grace is different.  Yet we live here in a flawed place preparing for a time when we will be forever in His Kingdom without confusion or distraction.

Why am I talking about this in relation to Galatians 4?  Because when tippin’n on the tightrope between these two worlds it is easy to forget who we are and what our position is.  Paul comes to remind us of our place – we are all adopted.

Paul calls us slaves, but he also calls us sons.  (I will tend to use the term son more than the term heir because there were rules at that prevented a daughter from inheriting when there were sons in the family to inherit. Though you maybe female- in this context, you are a son.) 

The Roman Empire had a strict class system and one of the few ways that a slave could move up from his station was to be adopted by a wealthy master/benefactor. There were special slave-made-son adoptions.  In this set up the Father asks the slave to become his heir and the slave has to agree (or choose) to accept this new position.  The formal adoption is done in a public ceremony before witnesses.

These adoptions were allowed when a natural born was estranged from the Father or disowned by the Father (or there was no son at all).   The change in the slave’s social standing is immediate and permanent.  The son becomes patria potestas, the power of the father.  Everything the Father has; is now the new son’s without restraint.  We can eat from the Master’s Table as heirs.  We are family –and can call Him Abba- on day one.

 A natural born son could be disowned at any time by the Father; but an adopted son could never be disowned or put aside in favor of another child – even if the natural born son is restored.  The adopted son’s position in the family and as an heir was secure and could not be taken.

Does this sound familiar?  Our Father chose each of us to be His heirs and He give us the option to say yes.  Yet sin was in the way of harmony and Christ chose to become estranged (separated) from the Father so that we can have access to everything the Father has for us.  He saved us without breaking His principles or the law of the age.

No matter what we have done or said; how terrible we think the situation we find ourselves; The Father can never says to us – the adopted son – “I no longer want to be your Daddy”.