Galatians 4

Galatians 4

Sons and Heirs

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Example of Hagar and Sarah

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

  “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
  For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.


Galatians 4 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

I admit that sometimes I get so caught up in my own wants and needs that I miss the bigger picture. We all tend to gravitate toward a “me first” attitude even if we can’t admit it. Many times what we need is for someone to come along with a reality check. When someone else presents us with a different perspective, what is our response?

After outlining the difference between the imprisonment of the law and the freedom in Christ, Paul connects everything to the bigger picture. It’s as if he is shouting “Don’t miss this!” He uses the analogy of a slave and a son raised in the same household under their father. The slave represents the Gentiles and the son would be the Jews. Both are under the Father, but their relationship to Him is different. The Jews were God’s chosen people. They were heirs to the Kingdom. However, just like a slave, they were still subject to the discipline and guidance of their father. Even though they were heirs, they were still children in need of direction.

In the spiritual sense, Paul points out that all of us were slaves to the world. Our “system” of rules and man-made works did not please or bring glory to God. Both the children and slaves could not really please their father because they were of such low rank in both maturity and spiritual obedience. The condition of slavery was universal. With this perfect set up, he creates a problem that the Jews know deep in their hearts is true. They have failed under the law. But that’s not the end of the story!

When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:4-5 HCSB

Paul is lifting their eyes from the man-made system to the fulfillment of their deepest desires. It’s as if he is saying, “Look! Don’t you see it?” God has been telling a story through His relationship with humanity and it has culminated with Jesus Christ! He is the fulfillment of the law and the perfect sacrifice for all sin!

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Romans 10:4 HCSB

Jesus not only satisfied the law, but He was subject to the sinful temptations that opposed the law. Paul is outlining two options for Jewish believers. Either you continue in the law, which has historically produced the same results for all people, or, you receive what’s been promised to you as sons and believe in Christ! Because Jesus is the son of God, and He gave Himself up, He is able to transfer that sonship to us. And, because He lived a perfect life and served as the atonement for sin, He is able to redeem those who are enslaved under the law.

What does this mean to you today? It’s not only that your sin has been forgiven and it’s not only that you have been made a son or daughter of God. It’s BOTH! Through grace by faith, we can truly LIVE! This is the good news we can never, ever forget. This is the essence of life. Consider that God the Father turns to us as undeserving slaves and says, “Though you are a slave, I want to give up my Son and make you my son.” Incredible.

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