No Longer Slaves; The Pauline Theology of Adoption

No Longer Slaves; the Pauline Theology of Adoption

By Hannah Alarid

            The first Sunday service of our church we sung the song “No Longer Slaves”. Together—this congregation of ex-convicts, ex-prostitutes, addicts, outcasts, orphans, foster children, and the like—belted out the simple, two-line chorus together:

I’m no longer a slave to fear,
I am a child of God.

Over and over, we repeated the chorus until the melody and words were branded in our minds for the days following. After service a young lady, who had been battling a meth addiction shared her experience with us. During that song she felt all her fears and insecurities about herself fall away, as the realization that God accepted her as his daughter broke through her chains and bondages. It doesn’t take a theologian to understand why that concept would be compelling to the out-casted criminal, the enslaved addict, and the fatherless gang-member. To find that you can be free, and yet belong at the same time, is one of the most compelling gifts of the gospel. The apostle Paul writes of this amazing gift called adoption in his letters written to various churches during the New Testament era.

Chronologically, Galatians is the first letter in which Paul introduces his theology of adoption. He writes in Galatians 3:23-26, 29: “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. ” Here is the beginning of a contrasting language we will see continually throughout the metaphor of adoption—captive, imprisoned, law, enslaved versus offspring, heirs, and promise. In just the next few phrases Paul begins to reveal in more clarity this relationship we have with God the Father through Christ.

In Galatians 4:4-5 he continues: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” The Greek word that Paul uses in this Scripture, and continually from this point on when referring to this metaphor, is huiothesia. This word is translated to adoption or sonship. There has been debate or which translation is more accurate. When compared to ancient Greek lexicography dating back to the New Testamental era, it becomes evident that “adoption” is the expression that Paul wanted to convey. The reason becomes clearer as when we understand the Greco-Roman practice of adoption.

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul and the Galatian church he wrote to, adoption of children was a familiar practice. The following rights of an adopted child are unequivocally liberating when applied to our personal relationship with God the Father: “(1)…an adopted son was taken out of his previous situation and placed in an entirely new relationship to his new adopting father, who became his new paterfamilias; (2)…an adopted son started a new life as a part of his new family, with all his old relationships and obligations cancelled; (3)… an adopted son was considered no less important than any other biologically born son in his adopting father’s family; and, (4)…an adopted son experienced a changed status, which his old name set aside and a new name given him by his adopting father” (72, Longenecker). What a magnificent picture of the Father restoring a lost humanity! Paul adds on in verses 6-7, “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.”

The doctrine of adoption is a miracle and a gift. To be adopted by Christ implies not only a change of situation, but of status, belonging, and identity. To have been lost, and then found…to have been a slave, but now called a child of God. I thank God that we, the once out-casted, the once imprisoned, the once abandoned, and the once fatherless, can sing together:

I’m no longer a slave to fear,

I am a child of God…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Longenecker, Richard, N. “The Metaphor of Adoption in Paul’s Letters.” The Covenant Quarterly 72.3-4 (2014): 71-78. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

Hawthorne, Gerald F., Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1993. Print.

The Holy Bible ESV: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Print.

 

The Miracle that Happened Today

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
-CS Lewis

Something incredible happened today. Something miraculous.

This morning after the alarm sounded, I coerced myself out of bed, enjoyed the coffee my husband poured for me, and we happily teased each other, filling the house with laughter as we got ready for our daily routine. Afterwards, I tackled an exam I had anxiously studied for all weekend. After a day full of classes and work, John and I returned home to unwind and prepare for the coming morrow.

Incredible, isn’t it?

Wait. You’re wondering if you missed something. You were expecting something more, weren’t you… Perhaps you were waiting to hear that I had been battling a crippling disease and was miraculously healed–today. Perhaps you were expecting to hear that I had been ministering to a friend in need and there was a breakthrough–today. No, nothing that particular. There was indeed a miracle. Did you miss it?

For those of you who are confused, I can clarify a little bit. The miracle that happened today happened before I even opened my eyes. It happened as I slept through the night. Years ago I suffered with severe insomnia. I would often go days with nothing more than an hour or two of sleep. I was tormented at night by thoughts of fear, thoughts of nonsense, thoughts of regret. Just thoughts, that I couldn’t control. Thoughts that controlled me. Yet last night, like pretty much every other night nowadays, was quiet, and full of rest. It is a miracle that I have peace.

The miracle also happened when the alarm went off. I got up, and my first thoughts were of my thankfulness for my life. You see, after attempting suicide, after several stints in various mental hospitals, after numerous overdoses from abusing my body with more drugs and alcohol it could handle at one moment, after being in and out of rehabs, I realize that life, this blessed life I live, is a gift of mercy from God. It is a miracle that I am alive.

The miracle happened when I hugged and kissed my husband this morning. With all the hurt and abuse from people in my past and with all the lies of worthlessness, failure, and hate, being buried deep in my heart, I came to Christ a wounded soul. God gave me a wonderful husband whose love brings healing into my life every day. Paul Young wrote in his book The Shack, “I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing…” Thank you, John, for being an instrument of healing. It is a miracle that I am free to love.

The miracle happened once again when I got to school early, studied, and did well on an exam I had been dreading. The Hannah years ago couldn’t handle such responsibility or stress. I was so heavily medicated that I couldn’t gather enough energy or motivation to get up earlier than 3 pm in the afternoon. I began failing my classes for excessive absences. Studying of course was no where near my thoughts. When I sought medical advice I was prescribed a pill to wake up, a pill to stay “leveled” throughout the day, a pill to go to sleep, and another pill to counter the negative health effects of the other three. At one point the mix of medications made me manic. At another point they had turned me catatonic. I was condemned by a doctor who said I would be reliant on medication for the rest of my life, lest I live, in his words, “a life of chaos–a living hell.” I wish I could write out the whole process of healing and restoration for you. I know of so many young men and women who have struggled for years with mental illnesses, a mind tormented with fear and pain… I wouldn’t know where to start. Perhaps I will one day. I do know that Jesus who heals the crippled, the blind, the bleeding, also heals the mentally broken as well. Today, without any medication as crutch, I have a sound mind, I have so much joy, and I am excited to discover what wonderful plans He has for me. Is it not a miracle?

It has been almost 6 years since I met Jesus Christ. It has been nearly six years since my life was radically transformed from that of a alcohol, opiate, pill dependent, suicidal, hateful, bitter, fearful child. He took all those things upon himself, shed his precious blood for me on the cross, and clothed me in His righteousness. Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it a miracle?

How often do we miss the miracles he has given us?

 Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” John 4:48

In the account of the official’s son, Jesus is approached by a man of authority in need of a miracle. His son was ill, on the doorstep of death. In response to the official’s request Jesus replies, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” But the man does not waver in his request. He continues to press Jesus, “Come before my son dies!” Jesus then replies, “Go, your son lives.” The man takes Jesus at his word, goes his way, and his son is healed that very hour. This man did not stop and wait for Jesus to rend the skies in a grand display of power before choosing to believe. He was firm on who he believed Jesus was–the Savior,the Healer,the Restorer.

It is a miracle that I am who I am, doing what I do. However insignificant I may seem or how mundane the deeds are, they are miracles nonetheless because of the impossible depths of sin and depravity that Christ raised me from. The destinations often seem so much greater when the journey was that much harder. I will not miss the miracles in my everyday life, waiting for the big ones to come–though they are coming!

Our miracles come daily. Are we waiting for signs across the sky? God can, and does work in HUGE, extravagant ways, but he also works quietly, in the backgrounds of the ordinary. Don’t miss what God is doing right in front of you because your eyes were busy searching the skies for a sign. He works miracles, every day.

The Fire Within the Lighthouse

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Joy is the fire within the lighthouse that draws the floundering ships of hungry souls ashore. What I have come to notice is that joy has become increasingly rare and increasingly in want among Christians. This is a sign of the health of a church. Joy is a fruit of the spirit, and therefore it should grow naturally out of our relationship and communion with the Branch.

It seems to me as though Christians in the Western Culture specifically, are lacking in joy. This opinion of course is borne from my limited experience and perspective. But it is not uncommon for me to come across a Christian who lives a comfortable life—plenty of food in the fridge, a car, friends, a job, money to spare—and yet they can’t stop complaining. To be honest, they aren’t much of a joy to hang around with. As Christians, we ought to attract those who are lost and without the salvation of Christ. I would hope that we would not find our common ground with others through a need to vent or spew negativity… Our lives should have so much joy that those who seek satisfaction and happiness through worldly substitutes would see the fruit of our lives, and want what we have.

Here are some points that will bring to light what a huge role joy has in the gospel message.

  • Angels appear at the time of Christ’s conception and birth with the message, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).
  • Christ began his public ministry in Galilee with a bold proclamation of the year of Jubilee, quoting, ““The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1,2).
  • Jesus speaks to his disciples right before his crucifixion saying, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).

Joy is in the undercurrent of Christ’s ministry. He did not come to free us so we could continue languishing in our inability to attain holiness. He freed us so we could be free to celebrate what He has done for us! What happened to the disciples immediately after Christ ascended into Heaven? Did they go back into hiding and mourn that Christ had ascended without them, leaving them behind in an imperfect world? Did they fret about what to do next? No! The party continued on!

  •  “And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.” Luke 24:52-53

In my own life, joy has been a struggle to find. It is a treasure I had to find after clearing away the rubbish and lies I had accepted as truths. Lies such as, “Life doesn’t get better. It only gets worse” or “You are only a burden and problem to others.” I battled for years with depression and suicide, to the point where many thought I was without help. I wish I could say that I went to church, raised my hands and was zapped with a lightning bolt of joy. No, it didn’t happen that way for me. I did have awesome experiences in God’s presence that refreshed my spirit and gave me strength. But mostly I learned through discipline. I disciplined my mind to counter lies with truth from the Scripture. Here’s an example.

  • Lie: You are worthless. There’s no point in living.
    Truth from the Scripture: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
  • Lie: Life will never get better.
    Truth: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

Like any type of training, it becomes easier with practice and effort. At first you stumble plenty… but then it begins to flow as naturally as taking a walk. I can only give God praise for how far I’ve come. I know my husband is a witness of God’s work in my life. God has used him as a vessel of healing and love that only increased this fruit of joy in my life. My days are not marked by tears, but laughter and thankfulness. God’s forgiveness, faithfulness, and love have been constant, and for that I have a reason to be joyful! I can say that joy as never been more bountiful in my life, and I hope that it will only continue to do so more and more. Life is fuller, and Christ is clearer to me, with joy.

 

 

 


(I must give credit to Richard Foster’s in his book “Celebration of Discipline”. A lot of my text was from an essay I wrote in response to his chapter “The Discipline of Celebration” and many of my Scriptural references to joy were from that chapter. It is an amazing book, full of wisdom. I highly recommend it for reading!)

A Letter from a Shadow

I write to warn you. There is a god who rules and is more powerful than ever before. It has ruled in my own life since I realized it’s power over me. Since then, my life has been centered around it. It rules in the lives of all those around me. I see people frantically pursuing this god. They awake and it is the first thought in their mind. They will forsake their own families, their own children’s pleas for attention because they are so desperately chained to this tyrant deity. I have never seen it. I have never felt it speak to me, or ever concern itself with me. Some say it is simply an idea from the thoughts of man. Yet I obey it’s every law and command. Everyone does. We live as shadows–always moving, but we never get to truly see ourselves or each other. Just shadows. It is this god who makes sure of it. This god is called Time.

Time rules my life from the moment my eyes open in the morning. I awake to the alarm, so wishing to stay in bed awhile longer, but Time does not permit. I have to make breakfast, shower, and get my things ready before Time gets away from me. I do everything… plan my goals, my dreams, my future, in reference to Time. Sometimes I brood, thinking how cruel it is to live life in such a way, but I obey, because Time is what makes life go on… Time is what draws people together… Every day I feel the burden of this unforgiving god press upon my weary shoulders, but I stay humble and submissive, for the power of Time is great. I have heard that Time can even heal the deepest of wounds.

Perhaps the most cruel thing that Time has done… the one thing I cannot reconcile with, is that it has kept me from knowing my True God. Without fail, the moments I had daily devoted to the True God who I heard loves me, concerns himself with me, waits to meet with me every day, dwindles down to barely nothing. A quick prayer of thanksgiving and praise, and then I hurry off because Time demands my attention. I am convicted, because I have spent my days serving this “god” Time who cares nothing for me, does not stop for me, and probably does not know my name–meanwhile, my True God… He knows me. He even died for me, while I was enslaved to other gods much like Time. I served many gods before. The gods of Anger, Self, Worldliness… But the True God freed me by sacrificing his own Son. He then declared his complete power, even over the most terrible god of Death, by bringing his Son back to life. The truth is, I am free, totally free, to serve this wonderful True God.

What fool would choose to serve any other god but this one? What fool would choose the false god of Time to be their master? Time does not seem to be as powerful as before. In fact, time seems to be more of a lie than ever before. I have a much greater True God to serve. Perhaps in his own time, He can transform a shadow into a light…

Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.

And now, Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in you.”

Psalm 39:6-7

The Distraction of Skyscrapers and the Secret of the Trees

“Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.” ― Vincent Van Gogh


We sing, “Our God is an awesome God…” along with other songs and hymns that declare God’s majesty and power, but while we cloud the air with noise, our hearts are drained. They are empty and void of awe. Instead of pausing to meditate upon this awesome God, we are mesmerized by colored lights on the stage and join in the fervor of the crowd― but our hearts are drained. They are emptied of awe.

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs…” Psalm 65:5-8 ESV

I grew up in a crowded Brooklyn neighborhood as a child and spent most of my life living in different areas of NYC, the city that never sleeps. At any hour, day or night, there is always a peddler peddling, a jogger jogging, a bum bumming, cars honking, a boisterous round of youthful laughter, chatter from some patio high above, and down below the dimly lit bars filling the crisp night air with off-tune karaoke. I love the liveliness of the city, but with so much going on, there are not many corners of town left where one can retreat and enjoy the purity of nature… Unless Central Park and the gray-tinged Hudson River are enough to satisfy your craving for the great outdoors. To be honest, until I moved out of the city, to a strange faraway land, I only had an obscure understanding of what it meant to get away and just be with you and your Maker.

I’ve visited a good share of great cities in the U.S. and abroad, and they are usually in some away or another an epicenter of culture, as well as the prime location for prestigious universities. Knowledge, power, and money―most people come to the city to find one or more of these. Tourists flock to see the skyscrapers and the beautiful buildings, just as the disciples did at Jerusalem (Mark 13:1), pointing and gawking at the great works done by the hands of man. There is something about mankind, that after we’ve been settled for awhile and done a few big things we start getting ahead of ourselves. We call our findings Science, and Science answers all our questions. We know how to explain where we came from. We know lots of things. Like how to add 2+2, like how babies are made, how to cook a carb free alfredo dinner, how to build lots and lots of important, shiny things. With all this knowing, our hearts begin to drain. Because even with all the books amassed on earth, there is no cure for death, no cure for poverty, no cure for corruption… The world is still full of fear. There is no man-made answer that can make us immortal. In the meanwhile, we have stuffed our heads with knowledge and fear, and emptied our hearts of awe.

Awe is “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime”(Merriam-Webster Dictionary). I can personally admit that this feeling is not one that is a part of my day-to-day life… even as a Christian. I, too, am guilty. I usually spend my time managing my schedule, watching a good TV show, dazzling at things to buy, thinking of fun activities to do with my husband, working, or studying. The funny thing is that most of these things are good things, some are even essential. But in the end they are all distractions. All of these things are colored lights on the stage, while we are straying from the divine line that draws us back to the basics. We are emptied of awe.

The strange and faraway land I mentioned before is probably not so strange after all, but it was quite a culture shock to this city-girl. I live with my husband in Springfield, Missouri. It is a much smaller city (about 160,000 in population). Take a thirty minute drive in any direction and you will find yourself immersed in green country side with lakes and caverns at every exit, and miles and miles of thick, wooded hills. Here, people will slow down, and let you turn into the lane with a smile and nod. My husband is amazed every time!

You cannot deny it. There is something about being in nature that makes you vastly more aware of God. Psalms 19:1-6 so perfectly describes the relationship between God and nature:

 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The NASB version says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” If you find yourself distracted, and distanced from God, the Bible has given us a pretty straight-forward answer. Take after Jesus himself. Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” Jesus, our compassionate, people-loving Jesus, knew that in order to keep himself connected with the Father, He still needed to withdraw from time to time from the neediness of his disciples, the hunger of the poor, and the weeping of the lost. These things, while they call, they never quiet. They are important, but if they are constant, they can distract. Is your heart drained of that awe you once had of your great Heavenly Father? Take after Jesus and get away. Find your place of solace.

Perhaps as you take in the view of the painted sunrise castings its colorful beams over those hills, a gentle breeze finds you and brings word that all of this beauty exists without having anything to do with it. The multitudes of trees grow, but it is not your hand that guides them heavenward. The sun will set and rise again to run its course with no concern of your approval or disapproval. It sits close enough to darken our skin in the heated summer, but knows the boundary set for it so that it does not destroy us, but instead sustains our life. Is this not a wonder? Is this not amazing? When you find that moment for yourself, you will find yourself closer to God, in awe.

Afraid to Wait

The word “wait” might as well be ranked with the other foul, four letter words of the English language. American culture does not associate many good feelings with that word. It means delayed gratification. It means a loss of precious time. It means actually practicing that other foul word we talk a lot about: patience. Even many dictionaries define the word “wait” with negative undertones. “To remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens; to remain neglected for a time.” (dictionary.com)

Inactive? Neglected? Surely this is not what the psalmist, David, meant when he counsels himself and us to “wait for the Lord.”

The hebrew root word that David uses is qavah. It means “to wait for–expect, hope, hopefully wait, look eagerly.” It is not used only once, but twice in the same thought.

“I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait or the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.”
Psalms 27:13-14

David believed in God’s goodness. His faith was in the promises of God. Out of that faith was born a hope– not an inactive, neglected form of paralysis, but a living hope so active and vibrant it moved his heart to bravery in the very midst of adversity and trial.

Does it trouble you still? Does the idea of waiting for the Lord to move and reveal his goodness once again cause a feeling of anxiety to rise within you? Where have you put your faith then? Perhaps, friend, it is not the Lord who needs to reveal himself, but it is your eyes that need be opened. Ask yourself once more time: Are you afraid to wait?