Galatians 4 - Heirs of God

INTRODUCTION: Paul has prepared a foundation about the freedom that Jews and Gentiles have in Christ that cannot be provided by trying to keep the law. He expresses his concern and even frustration that the Galatians are being drawn away from the truth of the gospel since he has been absent from them. This seems to have especially bothered him because he felt they had with love received him as an apostle, and had received his message of faith in Christ unto salvation. Paul now uses examples to illustrate the benefits of being a son of God and an heir to his blessings in Christ.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the Revised Webster Bible.


A - BEFORE BECOMING AN HEIR

Galatians 4 "1 Now I say, [That] the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he is lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by 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, born of a woman, born 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 Therefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."

COMMENTS: Paul closed the previous chapter stating that those who believe are all one in Christ Jesus through faith in him. He follows that by saying if you are Christís, then you are Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise. Paul now continues his example of an heir based on human blood line compared to a promise from God. The heir is among the common servants and cannot use his future authority over all that his father will leave to him until the time set by his father. Paul compares that to all people who were under the elements of the world until God sent his son at his own chosen time. Jesus was born of a woman and born under law to redeem those under the law that through him they could receive the adoption of sons. Paul told the Galatians that since they are among these adopted sons, God had sent the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Therefore they were no longer servants, but sons; and if sons, then heirs of God through Christ.


B - DO NOT RETURN TO A FORMER MASTER

Galatians 4 "8 However then, when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods. 9 But now, after ye have known God, or rather are known by God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which ye desire again to be in bondage? 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. 12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I [am]; for I [am] as ye [are]: ye have not injured me at all. 13 Ye know that in infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel to 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. 15 What then was the blessedness ye spoke of? for I bear you witness, that, if [it had been] possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. 16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"

COMMENTS: Paul explains that before being known by God, and thereby knowing him as God, the Galatians were servants to those things that were not of God. He told them he was surprised that they would return to practices that could not lead them to the Lord as adopted sons, but would rather keep them in bondage as common slaves. This brought Paul to the point of expressing a concern that his relationship with the Galatians and his basic teaching about Christ might have been in vain. He reminded them of their high regard for him to the point that they would have sacrificed their own eyes for him if that had been possible, even as they did not regard that infirmity to detract from his authority to teach them. They in fact treated him as though he were an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Now he wonders if he has become their enemy because he had told them the truth.


C - THOSE WHO TURN YOU FROM THE GOSPEL WANT THEIR OWN RECOGNITION

Galatians 4 "17 They zealously seek you, [but] not for good; for, they would exclude you, that ye may seek them. 18 But [it is] good to be zealously sought always in [a] good [thing], and not only when I am present with you. 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 tone; for I stand in doubt of you."

COMMENTS: Paul now makes reference to his opening comment in chapter 3 about those who are subverting the truth at Galatia. Galatians "3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been clearly set forth, crucified among you?" Paul said they may have zeal in the way they seek to convince the Galatians to follow their way, as they exclude them in hopes of convincing them that their practices are necessary for them to be included among the followers of God. It is good to be zealously sought, but that zeal must be judged as to whether it is for a bad or good thing. Paul wanted the Galatians to consider how he zealously sought them always, not only when he could be present with them. He expressed his warm personal feelings about them as he referred to them as his "little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." Paul said he desired to be present with them now, and to change his tone; for he had some doubt about their faith.


D - THE BIRTH OF ABRAHAM'S TWO SONS REPRESENT AN ALLEGORY

Galatians 4 "21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which beareth children for bondage, which is Hagar. 25 For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 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 who hath an husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born according to the flesh persecuted him [that was born] according to the Spirit, even so [it is] now. 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.Ē

COMMENTS: Paul now draws the attention of the Galatians to Isaac as the son of promise described in Genesis, and there is much more detail that he could have used from additional passages. Paul apparently believed that the Galatians were well enough versed in scripture to follow the logic he outlined. This next verse is one that Paul could have included as an additional reference. Genesis "17:19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him." Isaac also had two sons, but Paul does not address the designation of Jacob to become the patriarch renamed by the Lord as Israel. Paul stays with the two sons of Abraham to illustrate the son of a bond woman being conceived by the natural process in the flesh, while Sarah's son came by promise of the LORD even though she was past the age of normal childbirth. Paul said the Jerusalem at the time of his letter represented natural children of bondage, while the Jerusalem from above was for the children of birth by promise.

Paul next used a passage from Isaiah referring to children who came not through natural birth, and I have expanded the context of that passage to partially show the prophecy of Christ as it relates to Paul's quotation. . Isaiah "53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put [him] to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see [his] seed, he shall prolong [his] days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, [and] shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 54:1 Sing, O barren, thou [that] didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou [that] didst not travail with child: for more [are] the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.Ē

Paul makes application of the allegory as he states that "WE" (his readers and himself) are children of the promise as was Isaac. Paul then makes an important statement that the one born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, giving emphasis of a spiritual birth beyond the natural. And as the son of the bond woman would not be heir with the son of the free woman, so we who are of Christ are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. As the Lord Jesus said, John "8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."


--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord I was truly blessed as I applied this message from Paul to myself to better understand the marvelous transition provided to me when I became an heir to God after having been a slave to sin. Your word has penetrated my heart to bring me to that point of saving faith in the sacrifice that Jesus provided for me. I want to live out your word in my life as I continue to study and seek guidance by your Holy Spirit. I know that I must depend upon you to avoid reverting to attempts to satisfy you on my own effort alone now that you have set me free from that former condition. Give me discernment not to be carried astray by any teaching that is only of man, as there are those who preach the Word of God in a manner to gain followers for themselves. Thank you for guiding the apostle Paul to explain to us how the historical account in Genesis of the son of the bond woman and the son of the free woman represent an allegory. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness; and Sarah did indeed have that child of promise though she was considered past the age of childbearing. I praise you Lord that as a Gentile, I was able to become an heir to eternal life through faith according to your promise. Hallelujah, Amen!

Also see the Bible study on "The Allegory" for expanded development of Paul's use of this topic.

Galatians, Chapter 1 - No Other Gospel
Galatians, Chapter 2 - Gentile Circumcision
Galatians, Chapter 3 - Faith Came before the Law
Galatians, Chapter 5 - Liberty in Christ
Galatians, Chapter 6 - New Creation in Christ

Published 13 December 2012