Galatians 3:26-4:20

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith …. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

James Samra describes the context as Paul questioning the manner in which the Galatians are approaching the process of spiritual development (p. 106). Paul claims that Christ was incarnated under the Law for the purpose of redeeming those under the Law so that they could become sons (v 4:4-5). In other words, Samra writes, Christ became what believers are so that they might become what he is.

In doing so, Paul likewise points to no plainer evidence in scripture for the supernatural reconciliation of men and women into relationship with their eternal father. In the Family of God, as children of the Father, there are no longer individual identities as defined by human characteristics such as sex, religion, or social status. Wherein as a child of Adam earthly identity was paramount, in Christ only spiritual family identity matters.

Not only is this codified by the Cross at present but immediately one is made full portion of the heritage of the Family of God, all the way back through the original family covenant with Abraham, and simultaneously made legal and eternal heir to all of what is promised by God to his children in the future. This would substantiate the transitional aspect of spiritual formation, but what about maturity? Along with Samra’s argument that participation in Christ is in fact participation in maturity, Paul continues by leading the Galatians through an interesting analogy:

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to son-ship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (v. 4:1-7).

Paul’s use of legal frameworks specific to bond-slavery and adoption is striking on two counts. He describes the pre-resurrection people of God as being in a state of spiritual immaturity needing a guardian and trustees (i.e. the law and prophets, etc.) to manage their affairs until the father determined the proper time. By the old law they were bond-slaves at the mercy of their surroundings. Christ’s birth within the framework of the human family bought their freedom and enabled their adoption.

More important is what Paul seems to describe as the evidence of fully matured faith at this juncture. Spiritual adulthood is not demonstrated by the usual significant feats of charity or mercy or good works unto righteousness. Instead, the evidence he points to of one fully like Christ above all else – and thus fully spiritually formed by Samra’s estimation – is the deliberate movement of the Holy Spirit that causes that believer to acknowledge God not just as Lord, but known intimately as a loving Father.

In other words, if we are not cultivating the primary relationship with God the Father within the Christian community, we are not cultivating spiritual maturity at all.

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