Galatians Chapter 4

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Introduction

The design of this chapter is to show the effect of being under the law, and the inconsistency of that kind of bondage or servitude with the freedom which is vouchsafed to the true children of God by the gospel. It is in accordance with the whole drift of the epistle, to recall the Galatians to just views of the gospel, and to convince them of their error in returning to the practice of the Mosaic rites and customs. In the previous chapter he had shown them that believers in the gospel were the true children of Abraham; that they had been delivered from the curse of the law; that the law was a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ, and that they were all the children of God. To illustrate this further, and to show them the true nature of the freedom which they had as the children of God, is the design of the argument in this chapter. He therefore states: --

(1.) That it was under the gospel only that they received the full advantages of freedom, Gal 4:1ff. Before Christ came, indeed, there were true children of God, and heirs of life. But they were in the condition of minors, they had not the privileges of sons. An heir to a great estate, says the apostle, Gal 4:1, Gal 4:2, is treated substantially as if he were a servant. He is under tutors and governors; he is not permitted to enter on his inheritance; he is kept under the restraint of law. So it was with the people of God under the law of Moses. They were under restraints, and were admitted to comparatively few of the privileges of the children of God. But Christ came to redeem those who were under the law, and to place them in the elevated condition of adopted sons, Gal 4:4, Gal 4:5. They were no longer servants; and it was as unreasonable that they should conform again to the Mosaic rites and customs, as it would be for the heir of full age, and who has entered on his inheritance, to return to the condition of minorship, and to be placed again under tutors and governors, and to be treated as a servant.

(2.) As sons of God, God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, and they were enabled to cry, Abba, Father. They were no longer servants, but heirs of God, and should avail themselves of the privileges of heirs, Gal 4:6, Gal 4:7.

(3.) Sustaining this relation, and being admitted to these privileges, the apostle remonstrates with them for returning again to the "weak and beggarly elements" of the former dispensation -- the condition of servitude to rites and customs in which they were before they embraced the gospel, Gal 4:8ff. When they were ignorant of God, they served those who were no gods, and there was some excuse for that, Gal 4:8. But now they had known God; they were acquainted with his laws; they were admitted to the privileges of his children; they were made free, and there could be no excuse for returning again to the bondage of those who had no true knowledge of the liberty which the gospel gave. Yet they observed days and times, as though these were binding, and they had never been freed from them, Gal 4:10; and the apostle says, that he is afraid that his labours bestowed on them, to make them acquainted with the plan of redemption, had been in vain.

(4.) To bring them to a just sense of their error, he reminds them of their former attachment to him, Gal 4:12ff. He had indeed preached to them amidst much infirmity, and much that was fitted to prejudice them against him, Gal 4:13; but they had disregarded that, and had evinced towards him the highest proofs of attachment -- so much so, that they had received him as an angel of God, Gal 4:14, and had been ready to pluck out their own eyes to give them to him, Gal 4:15. With great force, therefore, he asks them why they had changed their views towards him, so far as to forsake his doctrines? Had he become their enemy by telling the truth? Gal 4:16. He tenderly addresses them, therefore, as little children, and says, that he has the deepest solicitude for their welfare, and the deepest anxiety on account of their danger -- a solicitude which he compares Gal 4:19 with the pains of childbirth.

(5.) In order to enforce the whole subject, and to show the true nature of the conformity to the law compared with the liberty of the gospel, he allegorizes an interesting part of the Mosaic history -- the history of the two children of Abraham, Gal 4:21ff. The condition of Hagar -- a slave, under the command of a master, harshly treated, cast out and disowned -- was an apt illustration of the condition of those who were under the servitude of the law. It would strikingly represent Mount Sinai, and the law that was promulgated there, and the condition of those who were under the law. That, too, was a condition of servitude. The law was stern, and showed no mercy. It was like a master of a slave, and would treat those who were under it with a rigidness that might be compared with the condition of Hagar and her son, Gal 4:24, Gal 4:25. That same Mount Sinai also was a fair representation of Jerusalem as it was then -- a city full of rites and ceremonies, where the law reigned with rigour, where there was a burdensome and expensive system of religion, and where there was none of the freedom which the gospel would furnish, Gal 4:25. On the other hand, the children of the free woman were an apt illustration of those who were made from the oppressive ceremonies of the law by the gospel, Gal 4:22. That Jerusalem was free. The new system from heaven was one of liberty and rejoicing, Gal 4:26, Gal 4:27. Christians were, like Isaac, the children of promise, and were not slaves to the law Gal 4:28, Gal 4:31. And as there was a command Gal 4:30 to cast out the bondwoman and her son, so the command now was to reject all that would bring the mind into ignoble servitude, and prevent its enjoying the full freedom of the gospel. The whole argument, is, that it would be as unreasonable for those who were Christians to submit again to the Jewish rites and ceremonies, as it would be for a freeman to sell himself into slavery. And the design of the whole is, to recall them from the conformity to Jewish rites and customs, and from their regarding them- as now binding on Christians.

Text

Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all: edit

2: But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. edit

3: Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: edit

4: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, edit

5: To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. edit

6: And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. edit

7: Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. edit

8: Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. edit

9: But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? edit

10: Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. edit

11: I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. edit

12: Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. edit

13: Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. edit

14: And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. edit

15: Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. edit

16: Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? edit

17: They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. edit

18: But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. edit

19: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, edit

20: I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. edit

21: Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? edit

22: For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. edit

23: But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. edit

24: Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. edit

25: For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. edit

26: But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. edit

27: For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. edit

28: Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. edit

29: But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. edit

30: Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. edit

31: So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. edit

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