Summary: The central text talks about how, when you are young, you are "no more than slaves". Students can certainly relate to this! But then comes graduation day... Student ministry PowerPoint format.

[Graduation Day]

Slide Graphic – student in cap and gown

Slide Text –

Children who are under age are no better off than slaves

Galatians 4:1a

In the service this morning, we will be honoring our high school and college graduates. How many of you are graduating from high-school or college this year?

How do you expect your life to change?

The graduation ceremony is known as the “commencement exercises”. The word “commencement” means beginning. Why would the ceremony be called a commencement?

There’s a passage at the beginning of the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians that talks about a young person coming of age. Since we are honoring our graduates today, I thought it would be interesting to see what the Bible has to say on this subject.

Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, said that until you are accepted as an adult, you are little more than slaves. Anybody agree with that?

[When You Were the Same as Slaves]

Slide Graphics – kids doing chores around the house

Slide Text –

1What 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.

2He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.

3So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.

Galatians 4:1-3

Paul is actually talking about the history of Israel. God made a covenant promise with Abraham about 2000 BC. Around 1275 BC, Moses was given the 10 commandments after the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. God was still fulfilling the covenant of Abraham, but the young nation first had to go through a “childhood” under strict discipline.

In the previous chapter, Paul had compared life under the law to being imprisoned by a jailer (3:23) and being controlled by a disciplinarian (3:24-25). Why did he need yet another illustration, and one so offensive to the Jews of his day? After all, God Himself had said "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (Ex 20:2). If God had redeemed his people from slavery, how could their whole existence under the Mosaic law until Christ be depicted in terms of slavery?

This new illustration is a much more positive image of slavery to the law than the images of a jailer and a disciplinarian. Even in the best of homes, sons who are loved by their father and destined to be heirs of his estate go through a period of supervision. It is entirely appropriate for immature heirs to be subject to the care of guardians. Obedience to their guardians is evidence of their love for their father. But it would be inappropriate for sons to be kept under the supervision of guardians once they had reached the age of maturity. It is not a mark of disloyalty for sons to eagerly anticipate the day set by their father when they will no longer be subject to guardians but will enjoy their full rights as sons.

For a child, this early education is necessary to teach truths and principles by enforcing black and white laws. When the child reaches adulthood, he or she begins to be able to live according to the principles, rather than the laws. The Old Testament was the “elementary school” of the Jewish nation. In fact, the Greek word translated as “basic principles” is stoicheia, which means “things placed side by side in a row”. It is used to name the collection of letters of the alphabet. Literally, verse three says “we” (Paul was Jewish) were slaves to the ABC’s.

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! (Hebrews 5:12)

Living under the law is not a sign of spiritual maturity. Instead, like elementary school, it is a sign of immaturity.

The law says “be perfect as I am perfect” (Gal 4:12). If you are not perfect, you have failed God’s standard. Why did God command this? Do you feel like your life is this demanding? Are you being held to a perfect, impossible standard? Are your parents and your teachers doing this to torture you, or do they have some other goal in mind?

Going back to the Israelites, what does verse 2 mean by “the time set by the father”? What was the Israelites graduation day?

[How Slaves Become Sons]

Slide Graphics – Abandoned, opened handcuffs

Slide Text –

4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

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