Galatians 4:1-6: “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: 4: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5: To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6: And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7: Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
In this section of his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains the position of the Old Testament believers in relation to those in the present dispensation of the grace of God.
In order to become a child of God, it was necessary that man, in every dispensation, be born again. The new birth has always been by faith in the divine revelation. James 1: 18, "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." What is true of us in this age has been true of believers in all ages. Each one was begotten (born again through faith) by the Word of truth.
Every person who enters the kingdom of God must have a new birth, but there are some dispensational distinctions laid down in Scripture.
In Old Testament times believers were all God's children, but they weren’t recognized as His sons. In this age, all of God's children are also His sons.
I doubt if we normally would make this distinction today, but when Paul wrote this, all his readers would have understood it clearly. In that time, a minor child wasn’t recognized as his father's heir until he came of age. Then there would be a ceremony officially adopting him as a son and declaring him an heir of his father’s estate. From that time on they were no longer considered as children, but recognized as adult sons and heirs.
Scripture shows us that Old Testament saints were in the position of children before God. New Testament saints are acknowledged by God as His sons by adoption. The very moment of our conversion, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts and we become sons and heirs of God. Romans 8: 14-17: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together."
The apostle’s reasoning on this sonship is presented in these first seven verses in Galatians 4. He tells us, "Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all."
Before a young child had attained maturity, he may actually have been heir to great wealth, but he was not allowed to enter into the possession of it before he became an adult. He was very little different than a servant. In fact, he was under a guardian or tutor until the time appointed by his father. This was for discipline and training. Here is the application. Under the Law, the Children of Israel, God's earthly people, were in this state of children to Him. Paul identifies himself with these as a Jew and says, "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world."
They were under the law, and the Law had no power to produce the new life, but it could guide them. Those who didn’t enter into the spiritual side of it found it an almost intolerable bondage. A wonderful change was brought about with the new age of grace. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." The prophetic periods of the Old Testament had been fulfilled and the time for the Messiah to appear had come. God fulfilled His Word. He sent His Son into this world, born of an Israelite mother, and born under the Law.
There are professed Christians who deny that Christ was the Son from eternity. They say He became the Son when He was born on earth. Verse 4 refutes any such teaching. "God sent forth His Son to be born of a woman." He was the Son before He ever left glory to come as a Man to die for our sins. 1 John 4: 9,10: "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
We also have the rock-solid, divinely inspired statement in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and 14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
If He is not the Eternal Son, then God is not the Eternal Father.
He was born on earth as an Israelite and, as such, He was under the law. He lived subject to the law of God for over 30 years and kept that law perfectly; He was sinless so He never could come under the curse of the Law because of any failure of His own. That is why He could go to the cross and take the curse of the Law, “that He might redeem them that were under the law” so that we "might receive the adoption of sons."
He brought His people into a place where God could publicly own them as His sons, no longer children under a servant's care, (the Law) but heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
Testimony as to the truth of this was the sending of the Holy Spirit. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father."
This is true in this dispensation of grace. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and is sealed and anointed at the moment of salvation. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." All true believers are indwelt by the Spirit of God and can rightfully call Him “Father.” No longer is there a distinction between Jew and Gentile. Through the grace of God, we are His children by the second birth and have become His sons by adoption.
"Wherefore, thou art no more a servant but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
The condition which prevailed throughout the centuries before Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification, has come to an end. By faith in the shed blood of Christ, we are God's sons and heir of all He possesses through our Lord Jesus.
Galatians 4:8: “How is it then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods."
Isn’t it amazing that after the Galatians, who had been brought out of heathen darkness into the light and liberty of the gospel through Paul’s ministry, had fallen for the false doctrine of the Judaizers who were forcing them under the law of Moses. They were told that unless they were circumcised and kept the law of Moses they couldn’t be saved. Along with faith in Christ, they had to complete their salvation by keeping the Law and the commandments.
There is a denomination that insists you are saved by faith in Christ plus baptism. I would hate to think that Christ wasn’t able to save me completely and that my salvation had to be completed in a horse tank full of water!
Paul had shown them that the law could only condemn, it could not justify, nor give life. Salvation, justification, and eternal life could come solely and completely only through faith in Christ plus nothing.
Paul may have used this powerful argument. He could have said; "You were heathen when I came to here, enslaved to heathen customs. You served deaf and dumb idols who really are not gods, you even worshipped those idols. You were misled by pagan priests and you know it. You couldn’t eat certain things, you couldn’t go certain places, there were certain things you couldn’t touch. You had to continually bring different kinds of offerings. You wore charms against evil spirits. You were nothing if not slaves to the customs of heathenism. Now, I hear that you are willing to go into another bondage after having known something of the liberty of grace. That just plain amazes me that you would even consider doing that.”
Verse 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 to be in bondage?"
They were turning to the Law of Moses, observing Jewish feasts, Jewish Sabbaths, and Jewish ceremonies. But they never knew anything about those things in their heathen days.
Why does he say, “How turn ye again?" Because the principle was exactly the same. The heathens go through their rituals and ceremonies hoping to gain merit and save their souls. The Jews go through their rites and ceremonies trying to please God, and in that way, hope to eventually save their souls.
The principle is no different whether you try to save yourself by offering your child on a heathen altar, or whether you keep the Sabbath as some people do today, and hope that will save them. It’s all the same.
The ceremonial laws have been fulfilled in Christ, and you can’t go back to them, hoping to please God that way.
They had their place once, but that place is not theirs now, because "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" ROMANS 10:4.
The rituals and ceremonies of the Law were shadows of things to come. Reality is already here, we’re not relying on shadows. Why go back to the shadow of things to come?
You may have heard this before, but there are only two religions in the world, the true one and the false. False religion wants you to do something or bring something. The true religion asks only for true faith. The true religion is the revelation from heaven.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).
Verse 11: "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain."
Paul was beginning to wonder if these people were really saved or if they had made false professions. Sometimes people make a good start and appear to be real Christians, but the next thing you know they are taken up with something a Christian should never do. If people are saved, they’re sealed by the Holy Spirit and He comes to guide them into all truth. But, He won’t force them. 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
Verse 12: "Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all." What they did couldn’t discredit Paul before God. God knew he had led them rightly. They were going back into the same condition God took Paul out of before He saved him. Paul wanted them to forsake their worldly way of life and live the Christian life as he did. Their place was under grace, not under the Law.
Verse 13-14: "Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 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." In an effort to touch their hearts, he reminding them of those early days when he came to their cities and preached the Word among them. He came as a crippled man with a message of love. He didn’t come with pomp and ceremony and candles and images. He came preaching Christ and Him crucified. "Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first."
Paul was used of God to heal many sick people, but he never healed himself, or asked anybody to heal him except God. He prayed for deliverance three times, but God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee," and Paul answered, 2 Corinthians 12: 9 "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
He would come and preach to people and if there wasn’t money enough to support him he would go to work and make tents to earn money for food, and then at night would go and look for people to preach Christ to. He brought the gospel to these Galatians by his self-denying service and his readiness to suffer. They looked on him and wondered why he should love them, and they marveled at his message, and believed it, and were saved.
Now he might say, "You have lost all that; you don’t care anything about me any more; you have gone off after these false teachers, and you have lost your joy."
Verse 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." I take it that the suffering he endured had to do with his eyes, and some of these Galatian believers may have expressed the wish that, if they could, they would give their eyes to Paul.
His affliction may have made it difficult for him to read and to see an audience, and made him look odd when he stood before them. His eye problem may have come from the stoning in Lystra or possibly from the bright light that came from heaven when he was converted on the Damascus Road.
Verse 17: "They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them." In other words, they have come to convert you to their false teaching so that you might join them. They aren’t seeking your good, they’re trying to extend their own influence.
Verse 18: "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you." That is, it’s good for a man to be zealous in what is right, it’s good to go to people with the truth and bring them into the light, and you, who had started in the truth, should continue in it.
Verse 19: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." He remembered when they were saved, he went through the very pangs of birth in his soul, and now he was going through it all again because of his anxiety over them.
Verse 20:"I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you." He was writing some strong words to them, but he would rather talk tenderly and lovingly to them. He wanted to be there and reassure them that false religion never can give certainty, but the glorious gospel of the grace of God does. It assures us of complete and final salvation if we believe God.
Paul couldn’t understand why anyone, once they knew the truth and had accepted it, would ever consider the bondage of some false system. Why would one ever deliberately turn away from the liberty that we have in Christ?