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Study Notes on Galatians 4

Paul continues showing that believers are not under the law in any way.


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;

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

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

This follows the same line of thought from 3:23-25.


So even though we had an inheritance, the time of Israel under the law, in bondage, was like a child who was guided by tutors until he was old enough. Elements of the world refers to the elements or rudiments of the law (see verse 9).


While the law was a heavy yoke of bondage, in the gospel there is freedom. Paul is encouraging the Galatians to not go back to bondage in the Law.


Acts 15:5, But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.


Acts 15:10-11, Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.


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

The fullness of time (see Hebrews 1:2), or when the time was filled up. God's timing is perfect and the law lasted exactly as long as it was supposed to.


Great verse on the deity of Christ. Jesus was sent forth in order to be born. This sentence wouldn't make sense if Jesus was just a man since all men are born from women, but Jesus exists eternally.


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

Jesus was sent to redeem them that were under the law. What blasphemy it is to go back to the law which Christ came to redeem us from (see 3:13).


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

We are sons of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:15) and we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30). Servants (see verse 1) could not call the master of their family Abba, but only true born sons could. We are truly children of God who believe in Him. Abba (Syriac/Aramaic) means "an intimate form of father, a personal greeting."


Notice the Trinity in this verse as well.


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

We are no more children, or servants under the guiding of the law, but genuine sons and therefore heirs (See Romans 8:17).


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

Though the vast majority of bible students see this as a reference to the pagan past of the Galatians and the worship of idols, there are some (such as Adam Clarke) that see this instead as a reference to the former Judaism of some of those he is writing to (the following verse strongly supports this view). If that latter is true, then he refers to the service to the law and idolatry of that.


Either way, in the next verse Paul asks how is it possible for them to return to the old ways.


"Though it is evident, from the complexion of the whole of this epistle, that the great body of the Christians in the Churches of Galatia were converts from among the Jews or proselytes to Judaism; yet from this verse it appears that there were some who had been converted from heathenism; unless we suppose that the apostle here particularly addresses those who had been proselytes to Judaism and thence converted to Christianity; which appears to be most likely from the following verses." - Adam Clarke


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?

After being saved and being known by God (see Matthew 7:23) as sons and heirs, why would they return to following the law?


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

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

These people began to observe some of the Jewish festivals and Sabbath days, and this is such a serious thing to not do that Paul says he fears for their souls. He's afraid that for at least some of them their salvation was not genuine. Are they following the Jewish religion or following Christ? This would be deeply concerning.


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

Be followers of Christ as I am, you haven't personally offended me but I care for your souls.


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

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.

This likely refers to his "thorn in the flesh" spoken of in 2 Corinthians 12. Though he had some disability, the Galatians weren't bothered by it at all and received Paul warmly.


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.

Where is that affection you had for me? Many believe that his disability was related to eyesight since he mentions eyes here.


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

Great verse. Why is he treated like an enemy now that he's giving them the truth? They've been fooled by the judaizers.


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

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

Zeal is good, but only if it's for a noble thing.


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

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

They are his spiritual children and he feels like he has to present the gospel all over again because they have been so quickly led astray.


He is uncertain whether they all are saved or not and he questions their salvation because of their going back to the law for justification.


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

Don't you understand it?


He now proceeds to allegorize a historical situation to illustrate the difference between works and faith. They cannot mix.


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

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, by a bond maid, Hagar; the other, Isaac, by a free woman, Sarah.


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

Ishmael was born from human effort. Isaac was born as a miracle and promise of God.


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.

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

Hagar represents the law. The jews in Jerusalem were in bondage to the law.


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

The heavenly jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22) represents faith and the freedom we have in Christ.


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.

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

Taken from Isaiah 54:1, and is saying that those by faith in Christ outnumber those of the flesh.


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

"So the Jews, in every place, persecute the Christians; and show thereby that they are rather of the posterity of Hagar than of Sarah." - Adam Clarke


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.

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

They cannot mix. Be a child of promise and don't add the Law to that.


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