Read Galatians 4
Though it may seem like his attention has shifted, Paul continues here to lay out the foundation of what it means to be in Christ by grace through faith rather than through works. He uses the themes of slavery and adoption to illustrate this. Where slaves do their master’s bidding, working at whatever they are told to earn their place, through Christ, we are set free from that. No longer do we need to work to earn favor with God or our place in His Kingdom.
The same is true with adoption. A child that is orphaned has no family, no inheritance, no future (or so it was at that time). Orphans would often become slaves or worse. Paul casts us as orphans until God, in Christ, adopts us into His own family by His grace. When this happens, we are made heirs of God’s Kingdom and God calls us His child.
Paul has spent a considerable amount of time talking about the role of faith in this argument. Faith is crucial to salvation because it is through faith that we receive the gift of God. It is important that we not confuse what Paul is saying here though because faith itself can be a “work” of our own.
Biblical theology points to faith as a work of the Holy Spirit inside of us, another act of grace by God. We, in turn, come to a point of acceptance, claiming that faith as our own. This is when, using Paul’s language, that we “know” God, or at least begin to know Him.
However, Paul makes a distinction here that is important. He says that we are “known” by God. He has been at work in our lives since the very beginning bringing us to the point of faith and salvation. God knows us more deeply and more fully than we even know ourselves. When we come to the point of salvation and know God, we enter into a family of believers where our “abba Father” knows each one of us and loves us unconditionally and eternally.