4:1 The Two Covenants
SUMMARY OF GALATIANS 4:
Children, While Minors, Not Free. So the Israelites Under the Bondage of the Law Until Christ Came. Christ Frees from This Bondage. The Folly of Gentiles Seeking This Bondage. How the Galatians Had Once Welcomed the Gospel. The Two Covenants, Hagar, and Sarah, and Their Significance.
[That] the heir, as long as he is a child. Paul speaks of heirs in Ga 3:29. He now shows why the bondage of the Jewish law preceded the gospel. Even an heir is not free when a child.
Differeth nothing from a servant. It is needful that he be controlled, even as though he were a servant.
4:2 Under tutors and governors. The tutors had charge of his person; the governors were stewards who managed his estate. These had control
until the time appointed of his father in his will, that he should be free and have full charge.
4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage. Both Jews and Gentiles. We were minors, children, not yet delivered from bondage, since the time had not come appointed by the Father.
Under the elements of the world. The law of Moses and whatever law might be diffused among the heathen. The law of Moses was a temporal law, having temporal promises.
4:4 When the fulness of time. The time appointed by the Father. See Ga 4:2.
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law. Not only by taking upon himself the nature of humanity, but also subjecting himself to our legal conditions.
4:5 To redeem them that were under the law. Those under bondage need redemption in order to secure freedom. Paul has shown that those under the law were in bondage. From this bondage Christ came to redeem us. How the redemption was wrought is shown in Ga 3:13.
That we might receive the adoption of sons. This adoption of sons is bestowed as a gift. We cannot have it, and still be in bondage.
4:6 Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit. The spirit is bestowed not to make us sons, but because we have become sons by the faith. See Joh 1:12.
Crying, Abba, Father. See PNT Ro 8:15. Abba is simply the Syriac for father. It is found also in Mr 14:36 Ro 8:15. This spirit of adoption helps the son to realize that he is a son, and to look up to God and to address him, if a Semitic, as Abba; if a Greek as Pater; is an Anglo-Saxon, as Father.
4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son. Because redeemed, adopted as a son, having received the spirit of adoption.
If a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Heirs of a heavenly inheritance. Compare Ro 8:17.
4:8 Howbeit then. These Galatian brethren had been idolaters, and had worshiped idols which were not gods at all. At that time they
knew not God, the true God, at all.
4:9 But now, after that ye have known God. Having learned the knowledge of the true God.
Or rather are known of God. God, himself, had sought them through the gospel, and had offered them eternal life. They knew God because God had taken note of them and sent them the gospel.
How turn ye again? How can they, known of God, called from the bondage of those that are not gods (Ga 4:8), turn back again to bondage? The bondage referred to is that of the law. They had been delivered from the bondage of idolatry, but were relapsing into another bondage.
The weak and beggarly elements. Weak, because they have no spiritual power to strengthen us; beggarly, because they have no rich promises like the gospel; elements, because they belong to a rudimentary condition, to an undeveloped state to the childhood of the race.
4:10 Ye observe. These are specifications of how they were turning back to the Jewish law. Compare Col 2:16.
Days. The Jewish Sabbaths.
Months. The new moons.
Times. The Jewish festivals.
Years. The Sabbatical years. In observing these there was legal bondage to an obsolete system.
4:11 Lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. See PNT Ga 2:2.
4:12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I [am]. Literally, Become as I am. Come to my ground.
For I [am] as ye [are]. Rather, I become as ye are. I gave up my bondage to Judaism, the religion of my fathers, and made myself as a Gentile to Gentiles.
Ye have not injured me at all. My complaint against you is not on personal grounds. You have not wronged me.
4:13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel. The Revised Version is clearer: Ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh.... Some fact, not explained to us, but well known to the Galatians, is referred to. It is implied that some physical weakness caused him to preach in Galatia the first time. Perhaps he was passing through and was stopped by an infirmity that prevented him from traveling.
At the first. This implies he had preached there more than once. The Acts speak of two visits to Galatia (Ac 16:6 18:23).
4:14 And my temptation which was in my flesh. The Revised Version follows the best manuscripts: Your temptation, which was in my flesh. His infirmity is meant. It was probably some malady which hindered his work--might have disfigured him, and been a temptation to the Galatians to ridicule and despise him. Probably 2Co 12:7 refers to the same affliction. Both these allusions show that the infirmity was one that he severely felt. But the Galatians
despised not, nor rejected him on that account, but received him heartily, even as
an angel of God, God's messenger.
4:15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? They then congratulated themselves that Paul had come to them with the gospel.
I bear you record. So great was then their joy and sense of obligation, that they could not do enough to show their gratitude.
Ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Why, they would even have given him their own eyes!--a proverbial expression denoting very strong devotion.
4:15 for I bear you record, that, if [it had been] possible,
4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy. Then, you were so devoted to me.
Because I tell you the truth? Has the fact that I tell you the truth alienated you? It is probable that he refers to truth told on his second visit.
4:17 They zealously affect you, [but] not well. The false, Judaizing teachers are meant. They showed great zeal for them, but they were not seeking their good.
Yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. Exclude you from the great body of Gentile believers and bind you to their clique.
4:18 [It is] good to be zealously sought affected always in [a] good [thing]. To exhibit zeal and feeling is a good thing. It was good to show this feeling when he was present with them. But now it was changed in respect of himself. It was only when he was present.
4:19 My little children. He addresses them very tenderly as their spiritual parent.
Of whom I travail in birth again. He is more than a father; he travails for them as a mother. He had done so when they were converted; he did not now again
Until Christ be formed in you. Until they were so matured in Christ that they would cling to the gospel.
4:20 I desire to be present with you now. When present they had shown warm feeling for him (Ga 4:18). He would now that they were face to face.
To change my voice. To speak, not severely, as a letter would sound, but tenderly.
I stand in doubt of you. Is perplexed by what he hears, and filled with fears.
4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law. What troubled him was their tendency to accept the obsolete law of Moses. He now addressed all such a question.
Do ye not hear the law? Will they hear the law itself?
4:22 Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid. Hagar, whose child was Ishmael (Ge 16:15).
The other by a freewoman. Sarah, whose child was Isaac (Ge 21:3).
4:23 He [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the flesh. The son of the bondwoman was born in the ordinary course of nature.
He of the freewoman [was] by promise. The son of Sarah was a child of promise, born when she was long past the age of bearing children. See Ge 18:1,14 21:1,2 Heb 11:11.
4:24 Which things are an allegory. Though literally true, the facts had an allegorical interpretation. The two women and their children were types.
For these are the two covenants. One, the bondwoman, represents the covenant given at Sinai, the covenant of bondage. The other, the freewoman, represents the covenant of Christ, the gospel.
4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia. Represents Sinai. This Mount Sinai is in Arabia, the very home of Ishmael and his race. Some also add that one name of the mountain is Hagar, but this is not certain.
Answereth to Jerusalem which is now. Represents the earthly Jerusalem, under bondage, bondage to the law herself, and also her children, as Hagar and her child were under bondage.
4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free. The freewoman and her free child represent the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Christ.
The mother of us all. The mother of those in Christ.
4:27 For it is written. See Isa 54:1. In that connection the prophet speaks of the Babylonian bondage, of Abraham and Sarah, and then of the deliverance, looking onward to the glorious deliverance in Christ. Chapter 53 is all concerning Christ, and chapter 54 speaks of the great deliverance.
[Thou] barren that bearest not. Sarah, the type of the church, long childless.
The desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Sarah, or rather the church, that has more children by far than the children of the old covenant.
4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. As Isaac was the child of promise, so are we, Gentile and Jewish Christians, of the promise to Abraham of a Seed in which all nations should be blessed.
4:29 As then he that was born according the flesh persecuted him. See Ge 21:9. Ishmael persecuted Isaac.
Even so [it is] now. So the Jews still persecuted God's spiritual children, the heirs of the promise. Paul of the Jews had five times received forty stripes save one (2Co 11:24).
4:30 What saith the scripture? See Ge 21:10.
Cast out the bondwoman and her son. The allegory will hold good still further. Abraham, when it was impossible that the two families should get along in peace, cast out the bondwoman and her son.
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So, too, the Jews, the children of the old covenant, had lost the divine favor, and the children of the promise, whether Jews or Gentiles, made heirs.
4:31 So then, brethren. This, then, is the conclusion.
We are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. We Christians are not children of the bondwoman, and are not under the bondage of the law. Dr. Schaff contrasts the two covenants as follows:
HAGAR AND ISHMAEL--JUDAISM SARAH AND ISAAC--CHRISTIANITY ----------------------------------------------------------------------- The Old Covenant The New Covenant The Law The Gospel Natural Birth Spiritual Birth Mount Sinai in Arabia Mount Sion Above The Earthly Jerusalem The Heavenly Jerusalem Bondage Freedom Persecuting Persecuted To be Cast Out and Off Heirs of the Inheritance