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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Galatians 4

Verses 1-31

  1. Intro:
    1. Let’s start with this 25 sec heartwarming video showing the reunion between 2 toddlers who became best friends at a Chinese orphanage, only to be separated when one was adopted. Hannah, 4, and Dawson, 3, hadn’t seen each other for 11 months when they embraced at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last week. Now, they each have a new home in Texas.
    2. When a child is adopted or fostered, or even brought into a blended marriage, often they wondering, can I/should I call you mom/dad?
      1. Asking, will they accept me not just into their home, but also into their family?...there is a big difference.
        1. It’s important that it is more than a positional relationship, but that it is an experiential one?
    3. Would you rather be a slave or a son? Cleaning the mansion or living in one? Being property or owning property? Watching over someone’s estate or inheriting a father’s fortune? (Charles Swindoll, pg.76)
  2. SONS & HEIRS (1-7) title: Position & Privilege
    1. SONS (1-6)
    2. Remember from last week we are no longer imprisoned/confined because of sin (22) & no longer kept under guard with the Law standing duty (23).
    3. (1,2) As an underage child or slave, there is no possession or inheritance, no decision-making rights, and no freedom.
    4. Coming of age, child to adult…
      1. In Judaism a boy passed into manhood shortly after age 12, Barmitsva.
      2. In the Greek world it was at about 18 years old at a festival called Apatouria.
      3. Under Roman law the time was not fixed. The father had discretion in setting the time of his son’s maturity. It took place at a festival called Liberalia, held annually on March 17th. (The Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol.10, pg.471.)
    5. (4) The fullness of time - a time appointed by the father (2).
      1. Humanly speaking – It was a perfect time on earth for Jesus to come.
        1. Roman Law was in place & thus political stability.
        2. The famed Roman Roads connected the known world.
        3. The Greek Language brought the world of trade together.
      2. Heavenly speaking – This was a gift of Grace from God.
    6. (5) Adoption: the giving to any one the name & place & privileges of a son who is not a son by birth. 3 Biblical ways it’s used…
      1. Natural - Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses Ex 2:10. Mordecai adopted Esther Es.2:7
      2. National - God adopted Israel, Thus says the Lord: Israel is My son, My firstborn. Ex4:22
      3. Spiritual - An act of God’s grace by which he brings men into the # of his redeemed family & makes them partakers of all the blessings He has provided for them. Rom.8:12-17
    7. Usually 1st century adoption wasn’t a cute little baby. In the 1st century Roman world they didn’t adopt an infant because infant mortality rate was very high.
      1. Nor was it the norm to adopt toddlers, as you were not sure what they were going to turn out like. It was usually when they were older.
    8. Adoption – is a family concept.
      1. Adoption involves the placing of a family member into the privileges & blessings of adulthood.
      2. The adopted person had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family, & completely lost all rights in his old family.
      3. In the eyes of the law he was a new person.
      4. Even all debts & obligations from his previous family were abolished.
    9. (6) Ok, God is in your mind…you know about Him...but what about His Spirit living today in your heart?
      1. Just as the Father sent forth His Son into the World, So He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. (Shepherd’s Notes; pg.54)
    10. Abba – more associated with intimacy than infancy.
      1. Before that, it had been much too familiar & personal. But now if you are in Christ you enter into this intimate relation w/God & inherit the promises of God.
    11. HEIRS (7)
    12. In the Roman Empire, people were either slaves or they were free. These 2 statuses were central to the social and the legal fabric of the Roman world. Unlike in recent history, slavery in Rome was not based on race or ethnicity; anyone could become a slave and nearly any slave could become free. Consequently, the Roman world was composed of these 2 groups of people who lived & worked together & were distinguishable by their social status. (Faith Life Study Bible. Logos.)
    13. No longer a slave – Do you still find yourself enslaved to anything Christian?
      1. You say as a Christian...I still struggle with alcohol, or drugs, or getting off prescription med’s, eating disorders, or pornography.
        1. ​​​​​​​I have good news Christians you don’t have to be.
      2. Read this again, you are no longer a slave!!! Say this w/me, I am no longer a slave! Now say this w/me, I am no longer a slave to ________ !
    14. Then an heir – Read Eph.1:3.
      1. A child must wait until maturity to inherit the family wealth, but God’s children can have His wealth now.
        1. My dad gave each of my brothers & sisters an early inheritance after my mom died, so we could “enjoy it while he was still alive, & when we could use it most.”
        2. Kelly’s mom left her things that were very special to her before she died. She marked them with Kel’s name on them, so they specifically would go to her.
      2. What are you going to leave as an inheritance to your kids?
        1. No, not money & possessions per se.
        2. What’s important to you? How are you going to leave it behind?...or convey it? What about your stories? Family traditions? What do you want to show them, teach them?
    15. Notice: redemption (5a), adoption (5b) regeneration (6,7).
  3. FEAR & DOUBTS (8-20)
    1. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Known by God (8-11)
    2. Before the Galatians became Christians, they worshiped the pagan deities.
    3. (9) Paul’s deep concern was that they were about to exchange their spiritual heritage for a bowl of red stew...like Esau.
    4. We ask do you know the Lord? Oh, but to be known by God. He knows me so intimately.
      1. He knows my weaknesses (& how to meet my needs of encouragement, or support)
      2. He knows my strengths (& how I might be puff up w/pride, thus He keeps them in check)
        1. Known by God – reminds us salvation is a work of God.
          1. He knows my hurts, my phobias, my concerns, my stumbling blocks, my name, He knows me!
    5. Turn again – backsliding. [It’s not because God sent them out like a Hoola Hoop w/a backspin. Nor did he send them forward uphill, only to roll back down again]
      1. They were turning back or sliding back themselves - You might have thought it was Paul Simon who 1st sang, Slip sliding away, slip sliding away…You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away. But no, it was the Judaizers.
    6. You desire again to be in bondage? I saw this bondage in India.
      1. Having to feed their gods, or bring them flowers. Appease them. Ornate flowered decorations in front of Houses. Washing their sins away in the dirty Ganges (Gan-jeez) River. [To wash in its waters or to be cremated on its banks & have your ashes immersed in its waters, ensures salvation of the soul]
    7. Paul checked on those he loved.
      1. He made time to write or visit, encourage or admonish, spank them or hug them.
      2. How about doing that this week w/someone you love?
    8. (10) Paul implies that bondage to the Law is the same as their bondage to pagan gods. (ouch)
      1. Both systems demanded that their followers observe special days & seasons.
    9. Are you more of a Christian Sunday morning than on Friday nights? (Should there be a difference)
    10. (11) Ever feel maybe you’ve failed in discipling someone? Paul did.
    11. Let’s stop trying to earn the approval of our Father, who has already accepted us & adopted us in Christ Jesus.
    12. Personal Plea (12-16)
    13. (12) Paul had become like the Galatians so they could hear the gospel. Now he was urging the Galatians to become like him & live the gospel.
    14. (15) Eye disease? Malaria? Epilepsy? We don’t know.
    15. Passionate Plea (17-20)
    16. (17) Don’t support ministries that make you zealous for them & their ministry, rather than for Jesus.
    17. (19) Do you love those whom you minister to?
      1. Could you compare any experience w/one person you’ve tried to reach with the gospel, or someone you’ve tried to disciple, as labor pains?
    18. Is Christ being formed in you?
      1. The essential form, not the outward shape (i.e. real Christlike character)
      2. 2 Cor.3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
        1. ​​​​​​​Paul wasn’t interested in just getting them saved…but shaping them into the image of Christ.
    19. (20) Haven’t you said the same about anyone? They say they are a Christian…but I don’t see any fruit in their lives. I have doubts about them.
  4. BOND & FREE (21-26)
    1. ​​​​​​​Remember when Daffy Duck would somehow get blown up? His feathers would be ruffled or blown off & often times his bill would spin around backwards. [despicable]
      1. That’s how I picture these Judaizers, when Paul gets done with this next allegory.
    2. An allegory of contrasting spiritual slavery & spiritual sonship.
      1. Note 5 sets of 2’s: 2 mothers, 2 sons, 2 covenants, 2 mountains (Zion implied) & 2 cities.
    3. Children of the Slave Lady (21-27)
      1. Hagar is the Law (also, the slave woman, & symbolizes Mnt Sinai, the system of obedience to the Mosaic Law).
      2. Sarah stands for God’s Grace (And freedom in Christ).
      3. Ishmael was born after the flesh (natural means – represents those enslaved to legalism. Also represents our 1st birth/phys).
      4. Isaac was born by the power of God (supernatural means - represents our new birth. And, represented spiritual children of Abraham, who were free from the Law by faith in Christ).
      5. Abraham represents faith, so…Isaac was born by grace (Sarah) through faith (Abraham). (Warren Wiersbe, With The Word, pg.769.)
        1. Spiritually speaking the Judaizers wanted to bring Hagar back again, but she was sent away because law & grace cannot coexist.
        2. Like Hagar, the law was a servant that had a temporary ministry. Once the Son arrived, that ministry was fulfilled.
      6. How do you think the Judaizers felt about hearing they were from Ishmael & not Isaac?
        1. Of course Paul wasn’t speaking of biological relationships but spiritual realities.
    4. Children of Lady Liberty (28-31)
    5. (30) Cast out – Paul sees a reenactment of this trouble.
      1. The inheritance can’t go to both. Paul is calling for a strong solution.
      2. What needs to be cast out of your life? Are you intoxicated with your title, position, or the letters after you name?
    6. (31) Is your Christianity a free one?
      1. Unshackled, unfettered, unencumbered, no longer imprisoned by the Law or rituals.
      2. Not frolicking foolishly…but FREE.
      3. The statue of Liberty is a perfect picture of this, look close next time. The chains underfoot stand for Liberty crushing the chains of slavery.
      4. We are children...of the free.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Galatians 4". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/galatians-4.html. 2017.