Too often in evangelical Christian circles salvation is thought of as a pit stop rather than as an invitation into a relationship with the Triune God; the Bible is quite clear that humanity has salvation from Christ on the cross, who died in order to open a way for humans to be adopted by God. Paul lays out an incredible summary of salvation in Galatians 4:3-7. Paul’s summary shows that without Christ both natural revelation and written revelation were inadequate to open a relationship to God. All either revelation did was open humanity up to condemnation. However, since humanity’s sins were committed against God, He sent His Son to become a human, live under the human curse, and serve as a sacrifice. Once Christ raised from the grave, God then sent His Spirit to indwell the new believers, not so that they would be robots, but instead that they would act like children of God. Paul’s intention in Galatians is to show that salvation is much more than saying a prayer (though a prayer is a beginning), but rather salvation is an invitation into a family.
Paul’s summarization of the Christian faith, found in Galatians 4:3-7, reads as such:
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!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
In order to understand the passage, one must first understand the immediate context of the passage in the book of Galatians. Paul was writing to a diverse group composed of both Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. Galatians stands out as almost unique among the epistles as it was written to an eclectic congregation made up of both Jewish converts and former pagan. The main theme of Galatians, however, was to combat some who were saying that Christians had to be circumcised in order to truly be saved. These false teachers were saying that one had to obey the Law of Moses even after one came to Christ. Galatians 4 serves to combat the belief that the Law was still necessary for salvation, with Paul using imagery of slavery and sonship, indicating that those under the Law are slaves while those under grace are adopted sons of God.
Paul’s concern for the Galatians is found in the first chapter of Galatians, where he expresses how upset he is that some in the church were already turning away (Galatians 1:3). The entire first chapter of Galatians speaks of the dangers of pursuing a Gospel other than the one taught by the Apostles. He follows his teaching by relating a story in the second chapter of how the Apostles had given him the charge to go to the gentiles. What is interesting is that he points out that when Peter and other prominent Christians began to act superior to the gentiles, Paul chastised them for justifying themselves by works rather than by faith. In the third chapter, Paul puts an emphasis on the fact that Christians are saved by faith and not by the works of the Law, with the fourth chapter serving to show more of the dangers of following the Law. Both the fifth and sixth chapters of Galatians state that Christians live in liberty and that though they struggle against their sinful desires, they should still seek to please God by loving Him, avoiding sin, and doing good to others.