Galatians Chapter 4

Paul begins this chapter supporting his argument that the law’s purpose for God’s children was fulfilled when Christ came, so we're no longer bound by it. He uses the illustration that an heir is in a better position than a slave, reminding the Galatians that believers in the gospel are the true children of Abraham. Delivered from the curse of a Law given only to lead them to Christ, they had been delivered from sin and become children of God. He does this to convince them of their error in abandoning the freedom they had as the children of God by returning to Mosaic rites and rituals.

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Paul reminded the Galatians that it was only after they accepted the gospel that they became God’s sons and thereby his heirs. The people of God were restrained under the Law of Moses, but Christ came to free those under the Law and elevate them to the position of adopted sons. As sons of God, the Spirit of his Son entered their hearts and they were now God’s heirs. And because they were no longer slaves to the Law, it was as unreasonable to return to Mosaic rites, rituals, and restraints.

When they were ignorant of God, there was some excuse, but now they’d been given the privilege of being His children, there was no excuse for returning to bondage. Paul feared for the Galatians, that his labors to acquaint them with God’s plan of redemption had been in vain. He questioned if he’d become their enemy by telling them the truth, then tenderly addressed them like children, comparing his concern for them with the pains of childbirth (as if he knew).

Paul enforces his plea with the story of Abraham’s two children. The child born to the slave woman was cast out and disowned, an apt illustration of the condition of those under servitude to the Law. The Law was stern and treated those under it with a rigidness Paul compared to the condition of Hagar and her son. He also compared Mount Sinai with Jerusalem, a city filled with rites and ceremonies, where the burdensome Laws of religion reigned and there was none of the freedom the gospel furnished.

On the other hand, the children of the free woman illustrated those who were freed from the oppressive ceremonies of the Law by the gospel. Christians are, like Isaac, heirs of the promise God made to Abraham and not slaves to the Law. Paul’s argument is that it would be as unreasonable for Christians to submit to Jewish rites and ceremonies as it would for a freeman to sell himself into slavery.

Romans 8:15-17 clarifies what we receive when we become sons of God. “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

Food for Thought:

  • What does Paul mean by when we were children?

  • What does we were enslaved under the basic principles of the world mean?

  • What do we receive when we become sons of God?

  • How does the Spirit of His Son in our hearts change us?

  • What did Paul fear for the Galatians?

  • Having been trained as a rabbi, Paul uses the allegorical technique of rabbinic Judaism to out-ague the Judaizers using their own methods. So, what is Paul’s conclusion?

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