Adoption by God While Finding the Correct Church
[Galatians chapter 4, verses 1-20]
When we left off last week in our study of the Book of Galatians, we were examining the apostle Paul’s explanation of what it means to be a true Christian and a real disciple, and how we are literally adopted into the Family of God as his newly chosen people as a result of doing so. While it was the Israelites – the original Jewish nation freed from Egyptian captivity – that the Bible called God’s chosen people in the Old Testament, that status is now available for everyone who believes unconditionally in the name, the unequaled power of eternal salvation, and the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God. It’s just like children being adopted. Once that legal process is complete, those kids have the same last name as their adopted parents, and they have the same rights under the law that their biological siblings. That’s exactly what happens when we place our faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to eternal life. We become siblings with the Christ, and part of the family at the church we attend. Today as we begin chapter 4 of Galatians, we find Paul continuing with his commentary regarding this critical issue of Christianity and how it applies to each of us.
“What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are 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 a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal. 4, verses 1-7, NIV)
When the apostle Paul wrote that “God sent his Son … born under law, to redeem those under law …”, he is making a direct reference to what was then called the “old law”, or law of Moses – the first five books of the Old Testament. Jesus was born under the law because he was born to Jewish parents, and because He was the Jewish messiah sent to save Judaism, although He was rejected as such by his own people. Knowing this would happen, God’s plan was simply to include all non-Jews along with the Jewish people – modern Israel – in His divine plan of salvation. Since all who believe inherit eternal salvation through Christ, we are heirs according to the original promise of God to Abraham, which was that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on a beach. When God made that promise to Abraham, He was talking about us, the Gentile multitudes who claim eternal salvation by the blood of Jesus. Let’s now continue beginning at verse 8.
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God – or rather are known by Him – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are celebrating special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the Gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God, as if I were Christ Jesus Himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4, verses 8-16, NIV)
There is no doubt in my mind that as Paul was writing these words, he was referring once again to all the false teachings and twisted doctrines that he wrote about in the first two chapters of Galatians. He is returning to his original contention that the Galatians were “foolish” by believing many of these teachings, implying that the false doctrines he mentioned must have been really far-fetched and sensational in nature, presumably to attract more followers. These kinds of churches are still around today, except that the modern terminology we use to describe them is “cults”. That single word sums up what those heretic churches of Paul’s day must have been just as it sums up what cult churches are today. My advice to you all is that if you ever find yourself in a church that looks more and more like a cult each time you visit, get yourself out of there and go find a church where the Holy Spirit is present. Don’t worry about how you will know that, trust me, you just will. It is vitally important to remember here that when one is undergoing a Spiritual change such as this one should pray directly to Jesus about making the correct church selection. Through prayer, the Spirit of Christ will lead us to the church that is right for us, and in so doing steer us away from false churches with bogus doctrines, and there are plenty out there. Let’s now conclude today’s study beginning at verse 17.
“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” (Gal. 4, verses 17-20, NIV)
As it was back then, so things continue in much the same way today. Cult churches are out to win you over, but for all the wrong reasons. I’m not going to mention any names here, but some of them are well-known “Christian” denominations. Until you meet some of the members, that is, which is when you will discover that there isn’t a damn thing Christian about any of them. Jesus defined the two greatest commandments as being, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength”, and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matt. 22: 34-39). Don’t forget it was the apostle John, the half-brother of Jesus, who wrote, “This new commandment I give you, that you are to love one another”. That is one of the best ways to tell if you are in a cult or not. Are they loving, tolerant, and compassionate? Are they kind and gentle, or rough and disrespectful? Do they seem arrogant and opinionated? How do they treat other people, particularly those who are considerably different from them? That is how you tell – by the quantity and the quality of their love for other people.
It is up to us to take the responsibility of finding a good church, which can often consist of several tries before the right church for that person or family is found. Under no circumstances should we ever let this deter us from finding the right church that teaches and preaches the Truth of Christ. We are morally bound by our faith in Jesus Christ to be on the alert against false teachings and strange doctrines. The best way to accomplish this is to read our Bible and study the Word, preferably on a daily basis whenever possible. We have been given the power by Almighty God through Jesus Christ his Son to discern pure teaching from impure, and sound doctrine from that which is unsound. If anyone is unsure how to tap into and utilize this Spiritual power, they should ask God for it. Trust me, He will give it to you as soon as you are ready for it (and, if there is a delay in receiving it, that’s why). Jesus said, “Seek, and you will find, ask and you shall receive, knock and the door will be opened”. (Matt. 7: 7-8) Believe me, it works like a charm every time I apply it. Do not be concerned if you do not receive what you ask for right away. It doesn’t always work like that, but God’s timing is always perfect. I know this to be true because this has been the case in the past for me, and I have no doubt that His timing will soon be perfect once again no matter what happens. If it can work that way for me, it surely can for you was well.