Galatians Chapter 4

Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland

Part 4 of 6 of the series Notes onGalatians

THE BELIEVER'S ADOPTION AS A SON (Verses 4-11)
Verse 1. Paul develops the thought of " heirs according to promise." 3. 29. As long as the heir is a. minor, one needing a pedagogue, 3. 24, he is like a slave, having no real possessions, and no power of independent action, though by title and birthright lord of all.
Verse 2. His person is in charge of a guardian, and his property under a house-ruler, until a date fixed beforehand by his father.
Verse 3. So it is with man. He was as a minor before Christ came ; he was subject as a slave ; following the rudiments (lit. the steps, the first principles) of religious teaching, whether Jewish or pagan. His religion was characterized by material worship— sacrifices, ritual, fire, altar.
Verse 4. But at the end of the fixed time, v. 2, God sent out from Himself His Son. This implies His essential deity and eternal Sonship. He was born {lit., He became, a word indicating a new slate of being) of a woman. This asserts His true humanity. He became, He put Himself voluntarily under the law. He was a true Israelite.
Verse 5. He did this to buy back those under the bondage of the law. Only an Israelite could redeem an Israelite (Lev. 25. 25). lie took humanity that all men, Jew and Gentile, might be placed as sons, and receive the full privileges of sonship, as contrasted with their minority during the pre-Christian era, v. 3.
Verse 6. As a proof of this sonship God sent forth the Holy Spirit into (he hearts of all believers. The Spirit causes thorn to cry " Abba " (an Aramaic word, meaning ' papa '), and " Father " (the term of maturity). Calling God Father is tantamount to trusting Him and obeying Him as such.
Verse 7.    He now applies vv,  1-6 to the individual believer
Each one, Jew or Gentile, is no longer a slave to the law, v. 3, or to idols, v. 8, but a fully privileged son. This includes, amongst other things, heirship through God, who sent His Son to redeem us, and His Spirit to cry in us. Note in these verses the interest of the triune God in the believer.
Verse 8. Paul contrasts the Gentile believers' present freedom with their past bondage to idolatry. Before conversion they did not know God. They ought to have known Him in creation but refused this knowledge (Rom. 1. 19, 20). At that lime they were in bondage to heathen gods, which were no gods.
Verse 9. At conversion they came to know God as Father, v. 6, or rather to be acknowledged by God as a member of His family. This second thought is added to direct them to the divine. rather than to the human, side of their conversion. Paul wants to know why they were turning back to a rudimentary religion, v. 3. ft was without strength to do anything for them in the matter of justification, and poor in contrast with the riches in Christ. The child is weak in not having arrived at manhood, poor in not having obtained the inheritance. They were going into a fresh bondage, even though different from the former.
Verse 10. Paul justifies his query of v. 9. Ye are carefully keeping for your own self-glory (as the middle voice implies) days (weekly sabbaths), months (new moons, Col. 2. 16), seasons (the three annual Jewish feasts) and sabbatic years. These four times refer to the four Jewish sacred seasons which they were regarding as essential for salvation.
Verse 11. He was apprehensive about them, lest his labour unto weariness had been bestowed on them to no purpose.

THE GALATIANS'  FORMER AFFECTION FOR  PAUL (Verses  12-20)
Verse 12. Paul beseeches the Galatians to become as he. He had laid aside law to lake his place alongside Gentiles and be free. They should do the same, and lay aside the Judaism with which they were contaminated, he harboured no resentment in thus rebuking them, for he had nothing but pleasant memories of his first visit.
Verse 13. He remembered that at that time instead of wronging him they had shewed kindness. An infirmity had detained him in Galatia, possibly the Holy Spirit's method of keeping him there (cf. Acts 16. 6). This bodily ailment had resulted in his preaching the gospel to them during the first of his two visits to them.
Verse 14. His affliction, which was repugnant, tested them, Yet they did not set him at nought, nor did they spit out in disgust at him. Instead, they received him as if he had been a celestial being, even as they would have received the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Verse 15. They had reckoned themselves happy when they first heard him preach. He asks what had happened that this spirit of happiness had gone. Then they would have dug out their eyes, their dearest possession, and given them to Paul, so grateful were they for his bringing them the gospel. Some suggest that his infirmity, v. 13, was blindness.    See 6. 11.
Verse 16. Does it look as if this letter means that he had become their enemy, one who hated them, because he had dealt faithfully with them, and told them unpleasant truths about them¬selves, e.g. v. 17 ? Or, Paul may possibly be referring to his second visit to them, when he had spoken plainly to them about these things.
Verse 17. The Judaizers were boiling up, taking a warm interest in them, but not for a good purpose. They sought not their good as Paul did. They wanted to exclude them from the fellowship of other Christians, so as to cause the Galatians to seek fellowship with their smaller, narrower party, a sect.
Verse 18. Zeal is alright, but its object should be right (2 Cor. 11. 2). Paul would not mind others taking an interest in their welfare, provided their motives were right. This letter affirms his love for them, not only when he was there to watch over them, but even when absent.
Verse 19. He addresses them as little children, to impress them with his great love and desire for them. He had laboured before for their spiritual birth ; now he was suffering again on their behalf, until he saw produced in them moral conformity to Christ.
Verse 20. His desire was to be with them, that they might see his burning zeal for them. He could also alter his voice to suit the need as he would see it—rebuke for those who needed it, and encour¬agement for downcast ones.    He was perplexed about them.

THE  DIFFERENCE  BETWEEN  LAW  AND  GRACE  (Verses  21-31)
Verse 21. Paul adopts a new line of argument, by shewing them what the Scripture teaches concerning the law. He quotes Gen. 16, and speaks of it as the law-, the part put for the whole Pentateuch. Paul would shew them something of the typical teaching of the Old Testament.
Verse 22. This is not so much a quotation as an inference drawn from Gen. 16. 15 and 21. 2, that Abraham had two sons, one by his female bondservant, Hagar, and one by Sarah, the free-woman.
Verse 23. Ishmael was born according to the usual course of nature, but Isaac was born as the result of a promise made by God to Abraham, and fulfilled contrary to nature.
Verse 24. These facts are now allegorized, to illustrate principles. An allegory is something spoken so as to imply something other than what is said. These women represent the two covenants. Hagar illustrates the covenant given on Mount Sinai, and those born under this covenant of law, v. 4, the Israelites, who had accepted the law and were in bondage to it (Ex. 19. 8). Just as Hagar's children were bondslaves, so the offspring of those who had accepted the terms of the covenant at Mount Sinai are brought under its compulsions.
Verse 25. Hagar represents Mount Sinai, where the law was given, and stands in the same class with Jerusalem that then was, the city put for the people. They are still in bondage to the law. Thus Hagar and Ishmael are typical of the actual Jerusalem, and the Jewish people, still bound by the law.
Verse 26. But Sarah represents the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12. 22), the centre of God's spiritual kingdom, as the literal Jeru¬salem was the centre of Judaism. The heavenly city is free from the law. Sarah and Isaac thus typify the heavenly Jerusalem, the spiritual children of God born through promise, and not subject to the law.
Verse 27. In proof of v. 26 Paul quotes Isa. 54. 1. Isaiah had possibly in mind the restoration of Israel, then barren because in captivity, and one day to rejoice, as God takes her up again. But Paul uses it of the Gentiles, who had been shut out from the covenant of God at Sinai. They had been desolate, and brought forth nothing for God.    Now they will do so.
Verse 28. Paul now applies the allegory. We believers are typified by Isaac. He was born through the intervention of God. So believers, born of the Spirit, are children of promise, as distinct from Israel, children according to the flesh.
Verse 29. A further application of the type. As Ishmael persecuted (imperfect tense, suggesting a persecution still continuing) Isaac, born by supernatural power, so now the Jew is persecuting the Church.
Verse 30. What has the Scripture to say of the final outcome of such persecution ? In Gen. 21. 10 Hagar and her son were cast out, for Ishmael would not be heir with Isaac. So now, Jerusalem and the Jews are set aside by God. The Jew shall not inherit with the believer, as the inheritance is through promise. 3. 18, and by faith alone, 3. 29.
Verse 31. Paul now sums up vv. 24-30. All believers, Jew or Gentile, are not children of a bondmaid, and subject to a law. They are children of the free-woman ; they inherit according to promise. The Jew and Gentile sought acceptance with God by slavish obedience to various rudiments of religion, but faith brings the believer into the only Church acknowledged by God They are heirs, 3. 29, and as the inheritance belongs to those who are the offspring of the antitypical free-woman, they are not under. bondage, and should refuse it, 5. 1.