Wherefore thou art no more a servant
This is a benefit resulting from adoption, and the manifestation of it to the children of God, and supposes them to have been formerly servants; as whilst in a natural state they were the servants of sin, the vassals of Satan, slaves to the world, and the lusts of it, and in bondage to the law; but now being declared to be the sons of God under the witnessings of the Spirit, they are freed from the servitude of sin, from the captivity of Satan, from the slavery of the world, and particularly from the law, and that spirit of bondage which it brought upon them, which is chiefly designed; and from which they are delivered by the spirit of adoption, enabling and encouraging them to cry "Abba", Father; so that they are now no more under the former servile spirit, the spirit of a servant,
but a son;
whose spirit, state, and case, are vastly different from those of a servant: the servant has not that interest in his master's affections as the son has; nor that liberty of access to him; nor is he fed and clothed as he is, or shares in the same privileges he does; nor is his obedience performed in the same free generous manner, from a principle of love and gratitude, but in a servile and mercenary way; and though he may expect his wages, he cannot hope for the inheritance; nor does he always abide in the house as the son does. He that is once a son, is always so, and no more a servant: predestination to sonship is immutable; it is God's act to put any among the children, and none can put them out; the covenant of grace, in which this blessing is secured, is unalterable; union with Christ, the Son of God, on which it is founded, is indissoluble; the spirit of adoption, wherever he witnesses, abides as such. They that are the sons of God may be corrected and chastised, as they often are, in a fatherly way; but these corrections are proofs for, and not against their sonship; they may indeed judge themselves unworthy to be called the sons of God, and may be in such frames of soul as to conclude, at least fear, they are not; but still the relation abides, and ever will. They will never more be servants, but always sons. The very learned Mr. Selden F9 thinks the apostle alludes to a custom among the Jews, who allowed only freemen, and not servants and handmaids, to call any Abba, Father such an one, or "Imma", Mother such an one: but this seems to proceed upon a mistaken sense, and rendering of a passage in the Talmud F11, which is as follows, (tynwlp amaw ynwlp aba Mtwa Nyrwq Nya twxpvw Mydbe) ; which he thus renders, "neither servants nor handmaids use this kind of appellation, Abba", or "Father such an one", and "Imma", or "Mother such an one"; whereas it should be rendered, "servants and handmaids, they do not call them Abba, Father such an one", and "Imma, Mother such an one"; this is clear from what follows. "The Family of "R. Gamaliel" used to call them Father such an one, and Mother such an one"; which in the other Talmud F12 is, "the family of" R. Gamaliel "used to call their servants and their handmaids Father Tabi, and Mother Tabitha"; which were the names of the servant and handmaid of Gamaliel. Rather therefore reference is had to a tradition F13 of theirs, that
``a servant, who is carried captive, when others redeemed him, if under the notion of a servant, or in order to be one, he becomes a servant; but if under the notion of a freeman, (dbetvy al) , "he is no more a servant".''Or to the general expectation of that people, that when they are redeemed by the Messiah, they shall be servants no more; for so they say F14,
``your fathers, though they were redeemed, became servants again, but you, when ye are redeemed, (Nydbetvm Mta Nya dwe) , "shall be no more servants";''which in a spiritual sense is true of all that are redeemed by Christ, and through that redemption receive the adoption of children, and is what the apostle here means.
And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ;
which is another benefit arising from adoption. Such as are the children of God, they are heirs of God himself; he is their portion and exceeding great reward; his perfections are on their side, and engaged for their good; all his purposes run the same way, and all his promises belong to them; they are heirs of all the blessings of grace and glory, of righteousness, of life, of salvation, and a kingdom and glory; and shall inherit all things, and all "through Christ": he is the grand heir of all things; they are joint heirs with him; their sonship is through him, and so is their heirship and inheritance; their inheritance is in his possession, it is reserved safe in him; and by him, and with him they shall enjoy it. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, only read, "an heir through God", and so the Vulgate Latin version; and the Ethiopic version only, "an heir of God".
F9 De Successionibus ad Leg. Ebr. c. 4. p. 33.
F11 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 16. 2. Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Nechalot, c. 4. sect. 5.
F12 T. Hieros. Niddah, fol. 49. 2. Vid. Massech. Semachet, c. 1. sect. 13.
F13 Misn. Gittin, c. 4. sect. 4.
F14 T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 37. 2.