“Baptized Children of Our Heavenly Father” (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7)
Today is Fathers’ Day, a day when we honor our fathers for the blessing that they are to us. And it is good and right that we do this. Now for many of us, our fathers are long gone. But that does not mean we don’t have a Father to honor today. In fact, I want to suggest to you that this is a great day to thank and praise our Father, that is, our heavenly Father. For you and I, we are “Baptized Children of Our Heavenly Father.”
But how did we get to be baptized children of our heavenly Father. That’s what we’ll find out this morning. Our text is the Epistle reading from Galatians. Here in this passage we will see how we have become our Father’s baptized children. Our text gives us these three reasons to praise our Father in heaven: 1) God the Father sent forth his Son to redeem us. 2) God the Father has made us his sons also. And 3) God the Father has sent the Spirit into our hearts.
First, we thank and praise God the Father because he sent forth his Son. Our text reads: “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.” Here is the mystery of the incarnation and the marvel of our redemption. Let’s explore that a little bit.
“When the fullness of time had come. . . .” God knew just the right time to do this, to send forth his Son. Everything was in place, the time was right. This would be the most important event in the history of the world, the sending forth of God’s Son. We’re talking about the only-begotten Son of God from eternity, the only Son of the Father. The Second Person of the Trinity, who was with God in the beginning–at a certain point in time, the Father sent his Son, who came down from heaven to earth. You see, “God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son.” “He who did not spare his own Son,” the Bible says, “but gave him up for us all.” That is where this sending forth will lead.
So God the Father sends forth his Son. “Born of woman,” our text says. Yes, the Son of God became incarnate, in the flesh, made man, born of the virgin Mary. This is Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. “True God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary.” The mission that the Father sent the Son on required this enfleshment, that Christ be true man, just like you and I are.
Why? To what end? “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” That is why God the Father sent his Son–to redeem us! This was a rescue mission, to set us free, to liberate us from the captivity we were under. And that meant the Son had to become like us, in order to take our place.
“Born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” By “the law” here, we mean God’s law. Christ became subject to the law in order to fulfill it where we had failed. And that, we have. God’s law says to love: Love God, love your neighbor. Trust in God with everything that is in you, love and serve him wholeheartedly. Serve your neighbor, do good to him, unselfishly, as much as you love yourself. Do that and you will live, live forever. Don’t do that and you die, you perish eternally.
That is the quandary, the captivity, we found ourselves in. We could not keep God’s law. We kept on breaking it. The law says we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. But we don’t. The law says you should love our neighbor as yourself. But you don’t. Think how we hurt one another! Think how you hurt yourself and those around you by your sinful, selfish desires. Yes, be honest with yourself. That’s sin you’re looking at. It’s ugly and it stinks. That is our natural condition as fallen sinners. That describes our captivity under the law.
But “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” This is why the Father sent the Son, to do what we could not do to set ourselves free, to rescue and redeem us. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, did keep the law of God perfectly, in our place, as a man. He always did the loving thing the way it was supposed to be done. And Jesus then, though sinless, suffered the punishment that the law prescribes for sinners–again, in our place. He died under God’s judgment, forsaken and abandoned, left on a cross to die.
But this is our redemption. This is what sets us free. The law has been kept. The punishment has been paid. The judgment is lifted from us, since it has already been served. Thus we are justified, pronounced not guilty, for Christ’s sake. Jesus’ righteousness becomes our righteousness. And because God the Father raised up his righteous Son, raised him from the dead, Christ’s resurrection becomes our resurrection, too, by our being joined to Jesus through faith, in Holy Baptism.
That brings us to our second point, which is this: God the Father has made us his sons. Yes, it’s true! Because of what the Father did in sending his Son, you and I now are God’s sons also. Listen again to our text: “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.” This is how we become God’s sons–through Christ.
Becoming God’s sons–that’s about the greatest thing there could be for us! It puts us in a whole new status. Formerly slaves, now sons. We get to come inside the house. We have access to the Father. We are in line for the inheritance. That’s great! There’s no better place to be than in God’s household, his family, as sons.
That’s who you are! Listen to Galatians: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” You believe in Christ, don’t you? You have been baptized into Christ, haven’t you? Then you are God’s sons. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” “Neither male nor female.” Yes, even you ladies: You are God’s sons, too.
That’s important. Because it is the son who receives the inheritance. And there is an inheritance waiting for God’s sons. It is eternal life, the treasures of heaven, an inheritance guaranteed to us now, and which we will receive in full at the Last Day, when Christ returns.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are baptized children of our heavenly Father. Maybe you have noticed this theme coming through in our hymns this morning. At the beginning of the service, we sang, about our baptism: “My loving Father, here you take me to be henceforth your child and heir.” And then, of Christ: “I through Him am reconciled, I through Him become your child. Abba, Father, give me grace in Your courts Your love to trace.” “Father welcomes all His children to His fam’ly through His Son.” “God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ.” Can you hear the message coming through? We are “Children of the heavenly Father,” as we will sing a little later in the service. Baptized children of our heavenly Father. We can sing it, we can rejoice in our identity as God’s children, because God has made it so.
God has made us his children. We now know God as our Father. How do we know this? By the Spirit he has given us. That, then, is our third point: God the Father has sent the Spirit into our hearts. Our text says: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
If God had not given you the Spirit of his Son, you would not know God in this way. You would just think, “Oh, there must be a God up there somewhere, but I don’t really know him or how to get close to him. I don’t know if he even cares for me.” You would not know God on your own. But God has given you the Spirit, so that now you do know him. You know God as your kind and loving heavenly Father. He cares for you. You can call on him, in faith and in prayer and in worship. “Abba! Father!” Your heart and your mouth can now pray in this warm, familiar way. Through Christ we have access to the Father. We come to “our Father, who art in heaven.” We hallow his name and seek his help in all our daily needs. This is what we are able to do now that the Father “has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.”
Do you realize what God has done in your baptism? He joined you to Jesus and washed away your sins. He took you as his own dear child, placed his name upon you, and made you an heir of heaven. And he gave you the Holy Spirit, by whom you know God as he really is, so that now you call upon him as your dear Father. These are the wonderful things the Father did for you when he baptized you.
What a Father’s Day this is! Actually it is “The Father’s Day,” God the Father’s. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This is the day to thank and praise our heavenly Father for all that he has done for us: 1) God sent forth his Son to redeem us. 2) God has made us his sons also. And 3) God has sent his Spirit into our hearts. Plenty of reasons to honor God our Father!
So go ahead and honor your earthly fathers today. That is well and good. But even better is to honor and thank and praise the God and Father of us all, namely, our heavenly Father. Because, dear friends–because, dear brothers and sisters in Christ–we are baptized children of our heavenly Father.