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Bible Commentaries

Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Galatians 4

Verse 1

In carrying out his argument against Judaism, the apostle compares the covenant people, before the coming of Christ, to an heir under age kept in a state of servitude.

Differeth nothing ; as to the control of his person and property.

Be lord of all ; owner of the whole estate.

Verse 2

The time appointed ; for his taking possession of his inheritance.

Verse 3

We ; the covenant people of God before the advent of Christ, into whom, after his coming, the Gentiles also are incorporated by faith.

When we were children ; under the Old Testament dispensation, when the people of God were treated as in their minority, and subjected to many restraints from which under the gospel they are free.

Elements of the world ; the Mosaic rites and ceremonies. See, for a fuller explanation of these words, the note to Colossians 2:8 .

Verse 5

Receive the adoption of sons ; pass from the condition and spirit of servants to the privileges and filial spirit of sons, in a state not of minority and servitude, but of manhood and freedom.

Verse 6

Sent forth the Spirit ; God by his Spirit has given you a filial temper, and taught you to use the language not of servants, but of sons.

Abba ; a Chaldee word for Father. Compare Romans 8:15-16 , and notes. The only sure evidence of being born of God, adopted into his family, and made heirs of the blessings of his kingdom, is the possession of a filial spirit towards our Father in heaven-a spirit of confidence, affection, submission, and obedience; connected with faith in Christ and a hearty reliance on him for salvation.

Verse 8

Ye ; the gentile part of the church.

No gods ; idols.

Verse 9

Have known God ; have been led through the gospel to the knowledge of God.

Or rather are known of God ; as much as to say, I might better say that ye have been known of God-known as the objects of his love and favor; for this higher knowledge of you on God’s part, is the ground of your lower knowledge of him.

Weak and beggarly elements ; Jewish rites and forms, which can impart no real good.

Verse 10

Days , and months , and times , and years ; such as were required in the ceremonial law. This has no reference to the weekly Sabbath, which was established at the creation, and set apart by God, to be observed by all men in all ages, and was required in the moral law; but to the feasts, new moons, and sabbaths required in the ceremonial law, which was never binding except on Jews and those who embraced their religion, and when Paul wrote had for years been done away.

Verse 11

I am afraid of you ; he was fearful that they were depending for salvation on Jewish ceremonies, not on Christ; in which case his labor to bring them to Christ would be lost. There has always been a proneness in some professors of religion to depend for salvation upon the observance of rites, forms, and ceremonies, rather than on Christ. In such cases there is reason to fear that all efforts to save them and all their professions have hitherto been in vain.

Verse 12

Be as I am ; for I am as ye are ; according to some, Be united to me in love, as I am to you. Make to me the return of love which I bestow on you. Compare 2 Corinthians 6:13 , and note there. Others understand him to mean, Be as I am in renouncing dependence on Judaism; for I, though by birth a Jew, have become, in this respect, like you Gentiles. Compare 1 Corinthians 9:21 .

Ye have not injured me ; I have no injuries to charge upon you which have changed my love towards you: what I say is from pure regard to your welfare. Others suppose the apostle to mean, Hitherto ye have showed me only love and kindness, as he goes on to show.

Verse 13

Infirmity of the flesh ; 1Co 2:3 ; 2 Corinthians 10:10 ; 2 Corinthians 12:7 .

Verse 14

Received me-as Christ Jesus ; with great cordiality, affection, and confidence.

Verse 15

Plucked out your own eyes ; have made any sacrifice to comply with my wishes.

Verse 17

They ; the false teachers professed a great regard for the Galatians, that they might detach them from Paul, and attach them to themselves. This would, as the apostle saw, be at the peril of their salvation, for then the awful words of our Lord would be fulfilled to them: If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

Verse 18

As zeal in a good cause, united with judgment, is excellent and adapted to give a person influence, false teachers often make great professions, and express high regard for the welfare of the people. All should therefore be on their guard against wolves in sheep’s clothing, and take heed not only how but what they hear, prove all things by the word of God, and hold fast that only which is thus found to be good.

Verse 19

Until Christ be formed in you ; till the new man that lives by faith in Christ be fully formed in you, so that you shall no longer be in you, so that you shall no longer be in danger of being drawn away from Christ to Judaism.

Verse 20

To change my voice ; from this expression of doubt and concern to one of satisfaction and joy.

For I stand in doubt of you ; am perplexed respecting you. He intimates his fervent desire to be delivered from this perplexity, by seeing them established in the faith of Christ, so that he should no longer be obliged to employ towards them the tone of severity.

Verse 21

Hear the law ; attend to and receive the instruction which may be drawn from this portion of it to which I invite your attention.

Verse 22

It is written ; Genesis 16:15 ; Genesis 21:2-3 .

Verse 23

Born after the flesh ; without any special divine interposition.

By promise ; the special and peculiar favor of God, graciously and unexpectedly bestowed.

Verse 24

Which things ; those which relate to these two sons, Ishmael and Isaac.

An allegory ; aptly represent the bondage of those who are under the ceremonial law and seek justification from it, and the freedom of those who embrace the gospel and expect justification only through faith in Christ.

For these ; these two women, Sarah and Hagar.

Are the two covenants ; fit representations of the two; namely, that with Abraham, which was confirmed of God in Christ, and that with Moses, which was made at mount Sinai.

Gendereth to bondage ; bears children to bondage; is herself a bond women, and bears children in the same condition with herself. There is here a blending together of Hagar and the covenant which she represents. The children of the Mosaic covenant represented by Hagar are those who live under it.

Agar ; in Hebrew, Hagar. Facts recorded by direction of the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament, are often striking illustrations of truths revealed in the New, and were designed by God to convey momentous instruction to man-kind. Hence the reason why so great a portion of the Old Testament is history; and the more it is understood, the more, by all good men, will it be valued.

Verse 25

Agar is mount Sinai ; her case and that of her son Ishmael well represent the covenant at Sinai and those who are in bondage to its burdensome rites.

Answereth to Jerusalem which now is ; as is the case with the present inhabitants of Jerusalem who reject the Messiah, and are therefore in bondage to the Mosaic law.

Verse 26

Jerusalem which is above ; the true spiritual Jerusalem, which has its centre in heaven, where Christ its head is. The Christian church, which is made up of believers in Christ, both Jews and Gentiles, may well be represented by Sarah the free princess, and Isaac her free son and heir of the covenant blessings promised through grace to his father.

Of us all ; all who are in Christ through faith.

Verse 27

For it is written ; Isaiah 54:1 ; a prophecy which plainly relates to the Christian dispensation.

Thou barren-desolate ; the gentile church, or rather the church under the Christian dispensation, which knows no distinction between Jews and Gentiles. She is represented as remaining unmarried and barren till the coming of Christ.

She which hath a husband ; the old Jewish church, whose husband was God.

Verse 28

We ; believers in Christ.

Verse 29

So it is now ; as Ishmael opposed Isaac, so the unbelieving Jews, called, in verse Galatians 4:25 , Jerusalem which now is, and who were still in bondage to the law, persecuted Christians.

Verse 30

The scripture ; Genesis 21:10-12 . As the bond woman and her son were cast out, so all subjection to Mosaic rites should be cast out or excluded from the Christian church; and so all who continue to seek justification by the law, will be cast off by God for rejecting the way of salvation which he has provided through his Son.

Verse 31

Not children of the bondwoman ; not under the Mosaic dispensation represented by her, but under the gospel dispensation represented by the free-woman. Of course we are free from subjection to Mosaic rites and ceremonies, and cannot without great guilt and danger seek salvation from the observance of them. A state of freedom is much to be preferred to a state of bondage. One in the view of God is a fit representation of the darkness and burdensome restrictions of the Mosaic dispensation, a yoke which, the apostle says, neither the first Christians nor their fathers were able to bear. The other is a fit emblem of the light, liberty, and glory of the gospel. Under the blessings of the one, men have no right to take upon themselves or impose upon their fellow-men the disabilities and burdens of the other.

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Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Galatians 4". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fam/galatians-4.html. American Tract Society. 1851.