4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal 4:4-7 KJV)
A servant, whether a slave or an employee, works for two reasons. Either to earn a wage or to avoid punishment.
But God doesn’t want good employees, or good slaves. He wants sons and daughters. This is why the greatest commandment is:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Mat 22:37 KJV)
This is why righteousness can never come by the law. The law makes fearful slaves, but God desires our hearts.
It is true that a heart that loves God is a heart that keeps the commandments of God, but it is deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to earn a reward – whether it is final righteousness or final justification or any other “wage”. It is also deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to avoid punishment, for Jesus has already taken the cup of God’s wrath and drank the last drop. There is no more condemnation.
Work that flows from hope of reward or fear of punishment is the work of a servant. And God responds to servants this way:
9 “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luk 17:9-10 NAS)
Salvation is not learning to become a good slave, for God would have sons and daughters. Sons and daughters certainly obey and honor their father, but the motive is from a heart of love and gratitude, which is pleasing to the Lord.
Jesus did not come to make us slaves. He came to make us heirs.
And love is only learned from the gospel, received by faith. Love can never be learned from the law.
The apostle James warns of dead faith, which is faith without works. His point is NOT to add works to dead faith, but to repent of dead faith and gain a living faith in the living savior. Living faith always brings forth good works, as a loving son always obeys the father. But we are saved because we are united to Christ by faith, not because we worked hard enough to earn a reward.
The difference between a son and a slave is everything.