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Galatians 4 (web)

Haven't you become sons and are no longer slaves?

4:1 But I say that so long as the heir is a child,
he is no different from a bondservant, though he is lord of all;

4:2 but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed by the father.

4:3 So we also, when we were children,
were held in bondage under the elements of the world.

4:4 But when the fullness of the time came,

God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law,
4:5 that he might redeem those who were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption of children.
4:6 And because you are children,
God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, "Abba, Father!"
{Abba is a Greek spelling for the Chaldee word
for "Father" or "Daddy" used in a familiar, respectful, and loving way.}
4:7 So you are no longer a bondservant, but a son;
and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

4:8 However at that time, not knowing God,
you were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods.

4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God,
why do you turn back again to the weak and miserable elements,
to which you desire to be in bondage all over again?

4:10 You observe days, months, seasons, and years.

Paul's Emotional Appeal 
Motivation: Paul vs. The Circumcision

4:11 I am afraid for you, that I might have wasted my labor for you.

4:12 I beg you, brothers, become as I am,
for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong,
4:13 but you know that because of weakness of the flesh I preached the gospel to you the first time.
4:14 That which was a temptation to you in my flesh, you didn't despise nor reject;
but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
4:15 What was the blessing you enjoyed? For I testify to you that, if possible,
you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.
4:16 So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?
4:17 They zealously seek you in no good way.
No, they desire to alienate you, that you may seek them.
4:18 But it is always good to be zealous in a good cause,
and not only when I am present with you.
4:19 My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ is formed in you--
4:20 but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone,
for I am perplexed about you.

The Slave who Persecutes the Son
(A perspective on the "Circumcision")

4:21 Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don't you listen to the law?

What the Law says

What the Law Implies

How the Law Applies

Discussion Questions

vs 1 When you were a kid did you feel like you were a slave?
vs 3 What does it mean that we were "in slavery under the basic principles of the world."?
vs 6 When do you receive the Holy Spirit?
vs 10 What was wrong with the Galatians observing special days?
vs 11, 19,20 Did Paul question their salvation status?
vs 13-15 Why does Paul bring up his illness? How does it support his argument?
vs 16 Have you ever made enemies by telling the truth?
vs 17-18 Ever get a phone call from some telemarketer pretends to really care about you?
What are they really after? Have you ever met religious people like that?
vs 21-31 Who associates themselves today with the son of Hagar?
Are such people also noted for persecuting the sons of Sarah today?
vs 24 What implication does this verse have for Bible interpretation?
vs 30 What does this quote from Genesis imply that Paul wants the Galatians to do?


We were Slaves

Gal 4:1-3
What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.

What he is referring to by "basic principles or elements of the world" are religious regulations and ceremonial practices upon which a relationship with God was considered contingent. Likewise Paul is saying by analogy when a child is young he too is subject to rules and regulations. In fact young children are subjected to much more restrictions than when they mature. They have very limited freedom. And that's the way it should be for them. Giving too much freedom to children is harmful.

We are now Free

Gal 4:4-7
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,  to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, <"Abba>, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

When a child comes of age he is given full rights. One of the rights of believers is right to sonship. "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 And we see here, one of the rights of sonship is to receive the Holy Spirit. And indeed a son shows his sonship by behaving in accordance with the spirit of his father. So also with Christians. But in addition to rights and privileges, he is also released from the rules and regulations that he was formerly subjected to. Thus the Galatians should not view themselves as being subject to those things. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Rom 8:1,2

Faith in Ceremony

Gal 4:8-10
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God— or rather are known by God— how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!

What was the measurable sign that the Galatians had been caught up into legalism? It was the fact that they were observing special days and months, seasons and years. It was things like that. They were zealously putting their faith in religious ceremony.

Likewise Paul wrote the Colossians saying, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." Col 2:8 and "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—— "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings."Col 2:20-22

When Christians get too much caught up into the observance of religious regulations, it may be indicative that they are being enslaved to legalism and being cheated out of the freedom which is in Christ and as such may not even be in Christ, lacking faith in Christ. And a sign of a legalistic church is one which involves itself in a good deal of ceremony. Faith in ceremony is contrary to faith in Christ. So beware of "sacramental" theology or Sabbatarian theology or the like. You shouldn't view your salvation status as being contingent upon the observance of any religious ceremony.

What a Waste

Gal 4:11
I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Likewise, in view of their behavior, Paul exhorted the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5 In view of their religious zeal with regards to ceremonial matters, Paul had doubts as to whether these Galatians were genuinely of the faith. So, much as the circumcision was trying to scare the Galatians into legalism, Paul was trying to scare them back into the concept of grace. Funny as it may seem, but their religious zeal may very well be their undoing. Such was the case with the Scribes and Pharisees. They were religously zealous. But their religious zeal would not save them on the judgment day.

Likewise if you're discipling someone, it is not a good sign if they get all religiously zealous over ceremonial matters or over the legalistic practice of the "faith".

Respecting the Messenger

Gal 4:12-16
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.  As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.  Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

Generally speaking if a person is going to accept the message he also has to accept the messenger. Have you ever notice how two preachers can give the same message and yet some people may accept one and criticize or ignore the other? This is often because they don't respect one of the preachers. In fact if a person doesn't respect you,  it may become impossible to teach that person anything, or even so much as to carry on a conversation or debate with such a person. Therefore a number of times throughout Galatians we find Paul either reminding them of the respect they had for him or otherwise trying to gain their respect.

Some have speculated that the illness he refers to was an eye disease known as ophthalmia. Kenneth Wuest comments:

Regarding Paul's illness at Antioch, the following facts should be noted

Word Studies in the Greek New Testament
by Kenneth Wuest

Suspecting the Opposition

Gal 4:17,18
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.

People often become followers of a movement not because they are attracted to its beliefs, but because they are attracted to the zealousness of its charismatic leaders. Sometimes Christians are just too gullible and need to learn to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1John 4:1 On the other hand there are also many Christians today who are too quick to judge and end up committing slander, bearing false witness against their brothers. This is particularly the case when it comes to making accusations concerning "motivations". Often when one person hates another for no good reason, they will make up all kinds of accusations concerning their opposition's motivation without dealing with the actual facts - namely what the person actually says and does. However, as we note in Galatians, Paul deals with his opposition much more objectively, revealing their doctrinal folly, and with regards to their motivation realize that Paul had much experience with such people as he records in chapter two, and so his critique of their motivations has a significant basis.

With respect to "zeal", it says in Prov 19:2 "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." But on the other hand it also says, "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD." Pr 23:17  Or if you'd like contrasting verses in the New Testament on zeal, there's:Rom 10:2  "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge." And Rom 12:11  "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." So zeal is good and commendable as long as it is directed appropriately.

Expressing Parental Compassion

Gal 4:19,20
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Paul often expresses his attitude towards his churches as being likened to that of a parent. For example in  1Thess 2:7 he says, "we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children." And in 1Thess 2:11 "you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children." His parental attitude is in contrast to that of the circumcision. The circumcision was simply out to promote their cause and as such they didn't really care for the Galatians, in contrast to which parents are concerned for the edification of their children.

Here is a lesson to those involved in ministering. Evaluate your motivation as to whether you're just out to make a name for yourself, your cause, your organization, or whether you would sacrifice it all for the sake of the sheep. Do you care about those you're ministering to as a parent does their children, or is it just a task?

Examine the Scriptures

Gal 4:21
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?

The gullible uncritically believe whatever they hear from leaders they trust without examining the source materials themselves. Those who have been denominationally indoctrinated often exhibit this weakness. But even concerning Paul's teachings the Bereans were commended for their skepticism in examining the scriptures every day to confirm whether what Paul said was scriptural.

Furthermore the gullible often don't consider the implications of their faith, since they lazily rely upon others to think for them. Examine your beliefs and consider whether there are implications you may have overlooked.

What the Law Says

Gal 4:22,23
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. (Genesis 16-18,21)

There's alot of historic content in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. Wouldn't it be nice to learn Biblical principles of application of such passages? From here to the end of chapter 4 we'll see how Paul develops applications from some historic sections of the Bible. And given verse 21, it seems these will be the kind of things he expected the Galatians to infer from the scriptures.

First he starts with historic facts. The two sons he's referring to here are, of course, Ishmael and Isaac. (The Koran actually gets this history backwards in many cases, putting Ishmael in the place of Isaac - A fact from which I'll later infer my own application) Isaac had a promises associate with him, of which Paul has already spoken of.

What are the implications of these facts? Read on.

What the Law Implies

Gal 4:24-27
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." (Isaiah 54:1)

Here Paul infers a number of analogies, of which I'll also add a modern extension.
Ishmael Isaac
Hagar Sarah
Covenant of Law Covenant of Grace
from Mt. Sinai (Arabia) from heaven
Present Jerusalem The New Jerusalem
Enslaved Free
Judaism (Then) Christianity (Then)
Judaism & Islam (Now) Christianity (Now)

Islam today has much in common with the legalism Paul was dealing with then. And besides, Muslims themselves identify their origin with Ishmael.

The offspring of the desolate woman are spiritual in nature. Like the Gentile Galatians were reckoned children of Abraham. Thus even if a Christian is not married and has no children of their own, they may end up having more offspring that those who are married.

How the Law Applies 1

Gal 4:28,29  Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.

One of the primary identifying marks distinguishing children of God from children of the devil is that children of God love their fellow Christians, but children of the devil hate them. (1John 3:10,15) So "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death." 1John 3:13,14

This is particularly the case concerning those of a superficial religious origin. Back then it was the zealous unbelieving Jews persecuting the Christians (which I remind you was compose of those who believe in Christ - both Jews and Gentiles). Today this is largely played out in the Muslim's persecution of Christians, particularly in the Third World - The sons of Ishmael (Muslims) persecuting the sons of Isaac (Christians).

How the Law Applies 2

Gal 4:30,31  But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son." (Gen 21:10) Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

The idea is to not mix yeast in the dough, the yeast being the false teachings of the circumcision. It is the spirit - the idea - of these false teachings which constitute the "slave woman". Her children are those who propagate her ideas, in this case being the group of the circumcision. What Paul is instructing them to do is to not consider their legalistic doctrine to be a part of Christian doctrine, and also to not consider those who propagate such doctrine as being Christians. Such people are not to have a say in the Christian community.

More generally, this is the position concerning cults. While dialogue may be necessary for the purpose of evangelism, Christians are not to define their doctrine based upon cults, like Islam. Mohammed is not a prophet of God, and the "Jesus" of the Islam is not the Biblical Jesus. And Muslims are to be reckoned unsaved and are not among the children of God. (See also Islam and the Bible)

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 18,2020