Galatians 4: “God Took Our Head Out”

Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT) But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

I included more of the passage for context, but the point for today can be made directly from verse 5. As we discussed Saturday, we serve a mighty and powerful God who although can’t have anything to do with sin, loved us enough to send his one and only son to die on our behalf. This particular passage, especially verse 5 is a great example and representation of being justified, regenerated, and adopted by faith. Being a Nazarene pastor it brought to mind Article 9 from our denominations Manual.

 IX. Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption (From the Manual 2013-2017)

9 We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed, and acceptance as righteous, to all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

9.1 We believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love, and obedience.

9.2 We believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is constituted a son of God.

9.3 We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.

Paul often uses the imagery of slavery to describe our life before Christ. He also uses it to explain our life after salvation, but that’s for another time. Here in verse 5, Paul indicates that before Christ we were slaves to the law, but we could experience freedom because Jesus would buy our freedom.

God Took Our Head Out

Eugene Nida, former American Bible Society Executive Secretary for Translations, told this story in his 1952 book “God’s Word in Man’s Language”.

“How do you say ‘God redeemed us’ so that your Bambara people can understand?” the missionary asked.

“We say ‘God took our heads out,’” replied the missionary’s Mali, West African translation helper.

He then explained about the long lines of men and women wearily walking to the coast, each with a heavy iron collar around his neck and with a chain leading from one slave to another.

Sometimes as a line of condemned slaves went through a village, a local chief or king might see a friend being led away and would want to keep him from slavery. The chief or king would have to pay the Arab slave traders enough gold, silver, brass, or ivory to redeem the friend, and then the chief or king would literally “take his head out of the iron collar.”

Nida then said, “And so today Bambara evangelists explain to the huddled bands around the evening village fire that God saw us in slavery to sin and self, being driven under the lash of Satan, and so He sent His Son to die that men might live. He redeemed us. Literally, ‘He took our heads out.’

“‘And furthermore,’ the evangelists explain, ‘just as in ancient times a redeemed slave felt an obligation to serve for a lifetime the one who had redeemed him, so we may be the voluntary slaves of Jesus Christ.’”