Heirs of The Spirit of His Son

May 22, 2015 -- in: scripture

What is the meaning of Galatians 4:6, where God is said to have sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts? What is this great gift of his, and why should we care that we are sons of God?

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:3-6)

Because of the spirit, we are no longer bound by human nature, but free and able to see God’s glory, his claim to rule over us and to accept him as our father.

On the appointed time, (i.e., when God wanted to), he redeemed us, literally bought us from what enslaved us in this world. We could not do anything about our situation, but He could! (I might write a post on why God’s sovereignty is a useful doctrine, but that is not the point of this one) He purchased us for his glory, freeing us from our previous slavery. Now that we are his children, we have inherited his Spirit. And we have received 3 huge gifts through him:

  1. We are cleansed, purified by him, which allows us to draw near to God and be used by him.
  2. We are freed from the slavery of our flesh and continuously sanctified, which enables us to do good and serve him instead of the Devil.
  3. It bears witness that we are children of God and will be glorified with the Son.

Access to The Father

The first, vital gift of the Spirit is access to the Father. Though we technically gain this right and privilege through the new and perfect high priest, Jesus, it is the Spirit that grants us the peace and bold faith required to draw near to God: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 - c.f. Ephesians 2:18)

Through this gift, we are given the freedom to approach the LORD, seek refuge and solace, and boldly ask that we may receive. What a privilege it is to be free to have a father-son relationship with our creator!

Freedom From Slavery

The second gift is equally magnificent. Before God saved us, we were completely lost in bondage to sin – we were slaves of our flesh, as Paul states right here, among many others: Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. (v. 8) We were incapable of doing the slightest even remotely good thing, let alone serving God.

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7f)

Instead, we were utterly devoted to the Devil and spent all of our time serving and glorifying him, trying to satisfy our bottomless desires and being consumed by sensuality, thirst of trifles like power, money and fame, or spending our time with equally futile pleasures. Nowhere in us was any power to change that.

Fortunately, God sent his powerful, transforming Spirit into our heart. We are a new creation, everything changed! (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are no longer bound to sin: We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:6.22) The spirit empowers us and allows us to serve the LORD through his power. I will simply let Romans 8 speak for me:

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:2-10)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)

This is the incredibly awesome second gift. By the Spirit, we may put to death the deeds of our flesh and serve our Father in holiness! For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:17f)

We are now free to walk in the good works set before us, to enjoy the life our Father prepared for us, to see his beauty and rejoice in it, to stand before him in awe and praise him! We may do good, our life gains it’s true meaning. In addition to all of the good it directly brings, this sanctification allows us to become useful tools in the hands of our God, as is beautifully stated in 2 Timothy 2:21ff!

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

Assurance of Glorification

While the first 2 gifts are amazing, the third is disproportionally grander. Not only are we free to draw near to God and given the power of the Spirit, but now that we are sons, we become heirs as well: So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (v. 7)

What is this heritage that we have gained access to? This is, in my opinion, the greatest promise hidden in the gift of the Spirit. Paul explained it in more detail, again, in the corresponding chapter of Romans: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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. (Romans 8:16f) I’m not going to address the purpose of suffering in this post, though I might write about it at length in the future. For now, I am more interested in verse 16 and the last part of verse 17:

Firstly, the Spirit bears witness with our Spirit that we are sons of God (v. 16). Paul’s use of the word spirit when belonging to a human treats it as a specific part of us, different from flesh and soul, similar to the modern use of heart or feelings. That is why I interpret this verse like this: The Spirit gives us emotional confirmation that we are sons of God and will inherit from him. As with everything else he does, I assume that he primarily achieves this through the words of scripture, just like the cognitive assurance that he also gives us.

And secondly, the heirs of God are glorified with Christ (v. 17)! After all that we go through, every bit of sanctification through peril and pain, after a life of fighting our flesh through the Spirit and approaching God, we will finally be glorified in the ultimate gift of our new bodies in heaven! What a grand gift to look forward to indeed…