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Galatians 4

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Verse 1

Galatians 4:1

Chapter 4. For context, see Ridderbos, and Sweet series The Living Word commentary, and J. Noel Merideth’s Commentary on Galatians.

"Live as Sons"

Paul here continues the argument for the inferior condition under the Mosaic Law and the end of that law. The apostle uses an illustration from contemporary life. In order to understand the argument, the student should consider the terms which are used.

child -- A minor, one not of legal age. The word is the translation of nepios which refers to an immature person, one who is not an adult.

An adult is old enough to govern his own actions. A child must have restrains put upon him. So in the spiritual world, Israel under the Law was treated like a minor.

servant -- The word doulos is used of a slave in a servile condition. The minor was legally in much the same position as a slave. He could not perform any act except though his legal representative. This person was the guardian in the case of a minor, whose sanction was necessary for the validity of any contract undertaken in his behalf.

lord -- is from kurios, which here is used in the sence of "owner."

guardians -- is from epitropos the word which designates the guardian of a minor. The guardian (a general term) looked after a child’s personal welfare.

stewards -- is from oikonomos, referring to a steward of one’s property. The Roman law stated that a minor with a deceased father would be under a guardian until he was fourteen and from then until he was twenty-five he would be under a curator or trustee.

An any rate, this period of tutelage suggest that there would be a future period where he would be free of such control at a date set by his father.

Verse 2

Galatians 4:2

Under Roman law there was a statutory period if there was no provision made in the will before coming to inheritance. One was placed under a tutor (guardian) until the age of fourteen.

but -- Greek = alla.

guardians -- is from epitropos, the word which designates the guardian of a minor. The guardian (a general term) looked after a child’s personal welfare.

stewards -- is from oikonomos, referring to a steward of one’s property. The Roman law stated that a minor with a deceased father would be under a guardian until he was fourteen and from then until he was twenty-five he would be under a curator or trustee. An any rate, this period of tutelage suggest that there would be a future period where he would be free of such control at a date set by his father.

the day appointed -- time; date, term; προθεσμίας, means a day previously appointed. The term here in Galatians suggests that the father could stipulate how long his heirs would have to remain under trustees.

Here in Paul’s illustration it may be that the father is dead though that is not necessary. In Jesus’ parable concerning the two brothers there is the statement of the father that all that is mine in yours.

Paul’s Illustrations:

Galatians 3:24 Under Law is like a school-master.

Galatians 4:2 Under Law is like a guardian.

Galatians 4:22 Under Law is like a bond-woman.

Verse 3

Galatians 4:3

we -- The "we" here refers to those who were held in bondage. Paul is stating reasons why they should not be in subjection to the Mosaic Law, and his argument is that that condition was like that of bondage or minorship.

held in bondage -- "Held in bondage" and "under the rudiments of the world" describe the condition of those under the Mosaic law.

Paul says when we were minors we were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world. The analogy is that just as the heir who was a minor had to wait until the appointed time to grow up and receive the inheritance, so those under the law of Moses "were held in bondage" "under the rudiment of the world" until Christ came and were made free.

rudiments -- elements; elementary principles; elemental things. The root stoichos means a row, rank, series. The "rudiments" in the present text are not the physical elements as in 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12, nor the heavenly bodies. Neither are they any kind of elemental spirits associated with heavenly bodies, for Paul would never have agreed that he was serving such spirits when he lived under the Mosaic law.

The meaning is that the fundamental principles of the Mosaic law and perhaps whatever law might be diffused among the heathen held those subject to it in bondage.

The use of a word in context determines its meaning. In the study of words one must look at the etymological meaning and the various significations which the word gradually acquired; however, the essential point is that of the particular sense in the connection in which the word occurs.

rudiments of the world -- Here the "rudiments of the world" may refer to the statues of the Jews on the one side and the rules among the Gentiles on the other. The expression "rudiments of the world" may draw attention to something common to Jewish and pagan religion. In both men lived in bondage to the "rudiments."

These rudiments are described as "weak and beggarly elements" in (Galatians 4:9). We know that the laws among the Gentile heathen would be weak and beggarly, and Paul tells us in Romans 8:3 that the law of Moses was weak. The Mosaic law had a "sanctuary of this world" Hebrews 9:1, "carnal ordinance" Hebrews 9:10; it was the "ministration of death, written and engrave on stones" 2 Corinthians 3:7. The law of Moses was a shadow of good things to come, Hebrews 10:1-4. The rudiments of pre-Christian religion, that were weak and impotent, that which enslaves man instead of freeing him, were to pass away.

Verse 4

Galatians 4:4

fulness of time -- Of majority (time or age when one could receive his inheritance), or time set by the Father (according to Roman law). (see Galatians 4:2)

fullness of time -- Mark 1:15. When all the conditions were ripe and everything ready, which would include a great many things: 1) all the prophecies concerning Christ were ready to be fulfilled; 2) all the conditions of the world set in actions by the world powers of the Babylonians (Jews found in many various cities); 3) an almost universal language (Greek); 4) a condition of peace and safety and a road system for world travel (Roman); etc.

Schaff says, "the way of Christianity was prepared by the Jewish religion, by Grecian culture, by Roman conquest; by the vainly attempted amalgamation of Jewish and heathen thought by the exposed impotence of natural civilization, philosophy, art, political power, by the decay of old religions; by the universal distraction and hopeless misery of the age; and by the yearning of souls after the unknown God."

The Roman empire facilitated the progress of the gospel, and the Greek language, being all but universal and so very precise, was ready to become the vehicle of the new revelation.

made of a woman -- The divine Son was made human, the Word became flesh (John 1:14). Though the reference of being born of a woman refers to His humanity, the virgin birth would also be included. Matthew 1 and Luke 1-3 record the virgin birth of Jesus.

The reference would go back to Genesis 3:15. Here at last is the promised "seed" of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head. We should also think of the promise of Isaiah 7:14 as well.

under law -- No definite article for "law". Christ was born into the Jewish race under the law of Moses; He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17); He kept the law perfectly (1 Peter 2:21-23), and he took it out of the way (Colossians 2:14).

Some Various Comings of Christ

*1 Emmanuel, Matthew 1:23; John 1:14; John 6:38; Galatians 4:4 This was the coming of the Lord in the flesh, his birth at Bethlehem.

2 Pentecost, Matthew 16:28 (Mark 9:1) Mark 14:62, Matthew 26:64 In some significant way it could be said that Christ also came on Pentecost representatively when he sent his promise of the Holy Spirit.

3 To Paul at His Conversion __ Acts 26:16, Acts 22:7-9 ; 1 Corinthians 15:8 The Lord came to Paul so he could see him alive after his crucifixion and thus qualify him to be an apostle.

4 In Visions -- To Paul at Jerusalem, Acts 22:17-18 (after conversion); At Corinth, Acts 18:9; again at Jerusalem, Acts 23:11

5 AD 70, His coming in judgment upon the Jews for their rejection. Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:44, Matthew 24:39; Mark 13:26-30; Luke 21:20-27; Hebrews 10:37; James 5:8

This brought an end to their nation, the temple, the physical priesthood coming from Levi, the end of animal sacrifices, etc. ("Last days"[of the Jewish dispensation] plural)

*6 The Resurrection Day (His Second Coming, -- Cf. "Last Day" singular) 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff to 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 ff; John 14:1-3; John 5:28; John 11:24; John 6:39; John 6:40; John 6:44;

Verse 5

Galatians 4:5

#4 Argument: Sonship thru Jesus Christ. vs. 5-8

redeem -- pay all the costs. Redeem, (exagoradzo) means "to buy out of the slave market."

Jesus declared that the purpose of his life was "not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" Mark 10:45. The Lord Jesus was born under the law, lived under the law, and died under the penalty of the law which we broke, and by paying our penalty, he delivered us from an claims which the law had against us. Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:3.

those ... under the law -- Sinners, who had violated the Law, and who were exposed to its dread penalty.

law -- According to the count of priests and Levites, there were 613 laws and ordinances of "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not,"

that -- The further purpose (hina) was that we (Jew and Gentile) might receive the adoption as sons.

adoption of sons -- To full manhood status and privileges. The Greek word huiothesia means, "adoption, adoption as sons." The placing of adult sons.

F.B. Meyer says, "Paul could not again express himself in the third person, because the huiothesia (adoption) had been imparted to the Gentiles also, whereas the redemption referred merely to the Jews; but now both Jews and Gentiles, after having attained the huisthesia (adoption) no longer "were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world.’"

The same word is used of that relationship which God was pleased to establish between himself and the Israelites in preference to all other nations (Romans 9:4). It is also used of that relationship of adoption of Christians as sons of God (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). Finally, it is used with reference to the redemption of the body in Romans 8:23.

Lightfoot points out that we are sons of God by grace; Christ is so by nature.

"Adoption of sons" is a metaphor, but a very expressive one, to express how God takes into his spiritual family both Jews and Gentiles who believe and obey the gospel. Paul often uses metaphors and we must stay with the point of the comparison he is making. To adopt is to receive the child of another as one’s own and to bestow upon it the affection, treatment, and privileges as one’s own child.

- - - - - - - - -

Romans 8:14-17; Romans 9:4 Ephesians 1:5 "Jesus was the price paid for adoption"

Adoption was common in the ancient world. But it was a serious step. Adults were also adopted. Adopted ones were to receive the inheritance. A drama was re-enacted before the highest court of the land. When a father sold is son entirely and without question to another to become his son. A person had to repudiate his gods and his family and accept the god of his new family.

All past debts and contracts were cancelled and wiped out. All claims against the adopted son had to first be settled. A complete new life -- new beginning -- looked on as a blood relative, and shared the same position as other children, they were blood kin.

Illustration: Emperor Claudius adopted Nero. Nero wanted to marry Octavia, Claudius’ daughter, but could not because now in the eyes of Roman people and law he was her brother. He had the Roman senate to pass a special law to enable him to marry her.

Verse 6

Galatians 4:6

because -- Translated rom hoti and here introduces a causal idea.

Paul says it is because you are sons that God has sent the Spirit into your hearts.

sent -- The verb "sent" (exapestexilen) is the same as that in verse 4 where God sent forth his Son.

The Son was sent forth into the world and because they are sons of God through the gospel, the Spirit is sent into their hearts.

sent ... into your hearts -- The manner of the indwelling is metaphorical, and see the notes on Ephesians 3:17 for a study on the manner of deity’s indwelling. (Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14, )

crying -- kradzon, a participle agreeing with "Spirit of his Son."

While the crying of "Abba Father" is predicated of the Spirit, this is to be understood mediately as in Romans 8:15 "Whereby we cry" or "in whom we cry".

The Spirit is said to utter this cry when he moves us through a knowledge of the gospel to utter it. The fact that he is in our hearts is the result of our sonship, and his presence makes this cry possible.

Abba, Father -- We are taught by the Holy Spirit that God is our Father. John 20:17;

We are not of the disposition of a slave under the law, but we are of the attitude of sons in the gospel. "Abba" is an Aramaic word meaning "Father," and pater is the Greek word meaning "Father."

The repetition of the idea in Aramaic and Greek form give solemnity to the expression (cf. Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15). It is possible that the use of the Aramaic word was derived from Jesus, using the every-day vocabulary of those who heard him speak. Reporting the very words Jesus used shows a sort of an affectionate fondness for the terms the Lord himself used to express the great Fatherhood of God.

Verse 7

Galatians 4:7

A Picture from the Family -- Adoption

Therefore -- In consequence of this privilege of addressing God as "Father".

no longer a slave -- You who are Christians. A son obeys through love, a slave through fear.

slave -- In the servitude of sin; or treated as a servant by being bound under the oppressive rites and ceremonies of the Law; compare the note at Galatians 4:3

and if a son -- Since the Christian is a son then he is an "heir" to the blessings of the Father. Being a son, you are no longer in bondage to the Mosaic law.

an heir -- As a son, God has marked you out to be an heir: it is your privilege to share in the inheritance which he promised of old to Abraham and his seed, and in the blessings which are the prerogative of the sons of God. All this is yours owning to God; and God expects you to rise to the height of your calling.

an heir of God -- "Jesus" was the price paid to settle all claims against us. We are now heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ. Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:7.

Verse 8

Galatians 4:8

Why Return To The Bondage From Which They Have Been Delivered (Gal 4:8-11)

But then -- Ἀλλὰ τότε, Howbeit, Formerly, However, Before. This verse and that following is evidently addressed to the Galatians who had been pagan. The reason for the particle ἀλλὰ is to denote a transition.

when you did not know God -- When in your state of paganism, when you had no knowledge of the true God and of his service. The object is to state the fact that they were in a state of gross and galling servitude.

you served those -- Paul expresses forcefully that the Gentiles were "slaves" (ἐδουλεύσατε edouleusate); to their idols, their "non-gods."

which by nature are not gods -- Idols, or false gods. The expression “by nature,” φύσει phusei, according to Grotius, means, “in fact, re ipsa.”

The sense is, that their gods really had no pretensions to divinity. Many of them were imaginary beings; many were the objects of creation, as the sun, and winds, and streams; and many were departed heroes that had been exalted to be objects of worship. Yet their servitude to them was real.

The chains of idolatry all over the world hold all people in such slavery as much as it did in Galatia, and nothing but the gospel of Christ can break those chains and set men free.

Verse 9

Galatians 4:9

But now -- Since they had been made free from their ignoble servitude in the worship of false gods, and had been admitted to the freedom found in the worship of the true God, it was absurd that they should return again to that which was truly slavery or bondage, the observance of the rites of the Jewish law.

you have known God -- The true and living God, and the freedom of his service in the gospel. The Gentiles in their heathen state did not have the true knowledge of God.

or rather are known by God -- The sense is, “Or, to speak more accurately or precisely, are known by God.”

Paul reminds the Galatians that the divine side of salvation is to be "known by God", that is, to be approved and accepted by him (1 Corinthians 8:3; 2 Timothy 2:19). God "knows" those who come to him in faith and obedience (Matthew 7:21).

how can you turn back -- The Greek is "turn again" ("back" is implied or meant.) The question implies surprise and indignation that they should do it. (See Galatians 1:6 "I marvel" KJV; "I am astonished" ESV; "I am amazed" NASB; "I am shocked" NLT)

to the weak and worthless elemental things -- "to those weak and useless rules" NCV. "weak and miserable" NIV. "weak and useless principles of this world:"

They are called "weak" because they had no power to save the soul.

They are "beggarly" (Greek πτωχὰ ptōcha, poor), because they could not impart spiritual riches. They really could confer few benefits on man.

enslaved all over again -- In turning to accept the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law they were accepting the chains of slavery again from which they had been freed in Christ.

They began entangled again by observing sabbaths, sacrifices, diet laws and the like. The law of Moses had outward worldly rules (Hebrews 9:1). Jewish laws and ceremonies were but symbols of Christ and the new covenant. Turning back to exalt mere forms would be to fall away from God.

Verse 10

Galatians 4:10

you observe -- The object of this verse is to specify some of the things to which they had become enslaved.

days -- Days of the Jewish festivals.

They had numerous days of observances in addition to those specified in the O.T.

and months -- The festivals of the new moon, Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11-14. On this festival, in addition to the daily sacrifice, two bullocks, a ram, and seven sheep of a year old were offered in sacrifice.

and seasons -- The festivals at stated times that returned periodically, as the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, which were specified in the O.T. and many others the Jews had added such a Purim, etc.

and years -- The sabbatical year, or the year of jubilee, Leviticus 25:10-13. It might include the celebration of the beginning of the civil year.

"This passage, and that in Colossians (Colossians 2:16) if taken together, show very clearly that the Christians are not required to keep the Jewish Sabbath..." McGarvey, Commentary, p. 273-4.

Verse 11

Galatians 4:11

I am agraid for you -- I have fears respecting you. He feared they had abandoned Christian freedom and turned back to the servitude of ceremonies and rites.

Paul realized they could fall from grace. cf. Galatians 5:2-4

lest I have labored for you in vain -- Paul was afraid that his work among them would result in nothing, that his work was all in vain.

"I have wasted by efforts on you" NIV;

"perhaps I have labored over you in vain." ESV

"that my work for you has been wasted." NCV

Verse 12

Galatians 4:12

A Personal Appeal For Better Relations (Galatians 4:12-20)

Brethren -- A tender word of endearment that shows Paul’s love and concern for the Galatians.

I entreat you -- beg, plead, beseech.

become as I am -- As I am free from the bondage of Jewish ritualism and ordinances.

for I am as you are -- As a Gentile, not under the Law of Moses.

did me no wrong -- Paul refers to the time he was with them and preaching to them "You did me no wrong" in those days, and of course he does not want them to do it now.

Believing the letter to be addressed to those in "South Galatia" the recipients of the letter could remember the occasion when at the close of Paul’s address at Pisidian Antioch, the Jews departed from the synagogue, but the Gentiles sought him to repeat to them the words of life on the next Sabbath (Acts 13:42)

They could remember how the Jews had expelled Paul from the city, and even at one city even been stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19 ). Paul had bravely maintained the freedom of the gospel and is appealing to them now to maintain that freedom in the same gospel.

Verse 13

Galatians 4:13

You know -- Paul appeals now to something they personally know about him.

because of physical infirmity -- bodily ailment; bodily illness; Greek “weakness” (ἀσθένειαν astheneian); compare the 1 Corinthians 2:3 note; 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:7 notes.

δι’ ἀσθένειαν (di’ asthenesian) may mean "amid bodily weakness" or "because of bodily weakness" Dia may be interpreted as simply speaking of this infirmity as an accompanying circumstance (cf. Acts 14:20-22) It can also be constructed causally so that the infirmity or illness becomes the occasion or cause of Paul’s preaching the gospel to them. He may have been prevented by it, from travelling farther, or he may have taken and found refuge from it among them.

physical infirmity -- an illness; bodily ailment. feebleness of health, sickness. The reference appears to be general.

Many suppositions have been offered including such things as malaria fever, headache, a period of suffering from his "thorn in the flesh" eye trouble, and others. But of course we do not know exactly what kind of sickness this was.

I preached the gospel to you -- There are two basic elements in all gospel preaching: the human and the divine. 1) The gospel, the thing to be preached (Mark 16:15-16) originated with God (1 Timothy 1:11), has to do with Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:2), and 2) is proclaimed by man (2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:21).

The chief glory pf preaching stems from the divine, rather than the human element in in the ministry of the word. (1 Corinthians 9:16).

at the first time -- τὸ πρότερον(to proteron) may be understood as "on the first of my visits" or simply "formerly." It is obvious that if the meaning is "on the first of my visits" that the book of Galatians would be written after Paul had made at least two visits to Galatia. So it would have a bearing on the date of the epistle.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer says, "The phrase to proteron seems to imply that more than one visit to Galatia preceded this letter."

Verse 14

Galatians 4:14

And my trial -- "my condition was a trial" ESV; "you did not despised by affliction"; "my sickness"

The meaning is, that he was afflicted with various calamities and infirmity, but that this did not hinder their receiving him as a messenger (angel) from God.

Many Jews and Gentiles would have seen Paul’s illness as a judgment from God. The fact that Paul was in God’s will, and sick, forces us to rethink the link between sin and sickness (cf. John 9:2).

you did not despise or reject -- "scorn or despise", "despise or disdain"’ "despise or loathe" "contempt or scorn"

The Galatians did not reject Paul’s preaching or despise him because of his illness.

Some think they have reason to speculate that Paul’s affliction had to do with his eyes. [That he may have had red eyes that mattered and watered a lot due to contacting malaria upon entering Perga at Pamphylia , Acts 13:12, and fear of contacting it himself is why John Mark deserted Paul’s and Barnabas’ company.] That the "throne in his flesh" 2 Corinthians 12:7; was the injury he suffered from from appearance of Christ on the Damascus road, Acts 9:3; Acts 9:8; Acts 22:6-9; Acts 26:13; and the subsequence contact with Ananias Acts 9:17-18; Acts 22:13; Such passages as Galatians 4:15; Galatians 6:16 (that Paul wrote large letters so he could see them); that others wrote Paul’s epistles and he only signed them at the end 2 Thessalonians 3:17; etc.

But the final analysis is that we do not know in fact what Paul’s ailment was, or what was his "throne in the flesh." This is one of those questions we just do not know.

but welcomed me as an angel -- With the utmost respect they received Paul as if he were an angel sent from God.

even a Christ Jesus -- They received Paul as they would have received the Redeemer himself.

Verse 15

Galatians 4:15

What has become of your blessedness? -- Where is the joy, happiness, and satisfaction that was yours? The Galatians expressed great joy when they had received the gospel, where is it now, asks Paul.

The NCV "You were very happy then, but where is that joy now?"

Some think this refers to the benedictions they poured out upon Paul.

For I bear you witness -- I can testify, give assured testimony.

if possible -- shows that Paul is speaking hypothetically only.

you would have gorged our your own eyes and given them to me -- Torn out, plucked, gorged, taken out. No higher proof of attachment they had for Paul could be given. The eye is a symbol of one of most precious pssessions.

your eyes -- Perhaps was just a metaphor to show the depth of their feeling for him. A modern metaphor in English today might be, "I’d give you my right arm."

your eyes -- Some take this as possible indication that Paul’s ailment was connected with this eyes.

Verse 16

Galatians 4:16

Am I now become your enemy -- Have I ceased to be your friend? They had once consider him the beloved angel of God (Galatians 4:14). Certainly Paul did not consider them enemies.

because I am telling you the truth -- "Telling" is the present participle and indicating continuous action. Paul had preached the truth when among them, and is now continuing to preach the truth.

We are reminded of Proverbs 27:6.

Too many people want a soothing deceitful message instead of the truth (Isaiah 30:10; 2 Timothy 4:3;).

Verse 17

Galatians 4:17

3. Vs. 17-20 A Contrast of Matters

What is the motive of the false teachers? (Galatians 6:12-13) Not for "your salvation", but to have a following!

They zealously court you -- The false teachers were eager to win over the Galatians but not for a good purpose.

The word used here (Ζηλόω Zēloō), means to be “zealous” toward, that is, for or against any person or thing; usually, in a good sense, to be eager for. Here it means, that the false teachers made a show of zeal toward the Galatians, or professed affection for them in order to gain them as their followers.

but not for a good purpose -- Not with good motives, or with good designs.

they want to exclude you -- "shut you up". The word “exclude” here probably means, that they endeavored to exclude the Galatians from the love and affection of Paul. They would shut them out from that, that is, away from Paul, in order that they might secure them for their own purposes.

The false teachers did not want the Galatians to remain under the influence of Paul. They sought to separate Paul’s converts from Christ and tie the Galatians to themselves. (Galatians 5:4)

in order that you might have affection for them -- The same word as in the former part of the verse, “that for them you be zealous" - that is, that ye might show ardent attachment to them.

NLT: "so that you will pay attention only to them."

Verse 18

Galatians 4:18

It is good to be zealous always in a good matter -- The meaning seems to be: “Understand me: I do not speak against zeal. I have not a word to say in its disparagement. In itself, it is good; and their zeal would be good if it were in a good cause.”

1) The false teachers may have indicated that their zeal was sufficient evidence of the goodness of their cause, and that persons who are so very zealous could not possibly be bad men. This is a plea often used by deceivers.

And not only when I am present with you -- That is, "let them do it all the time, not just when I am with you" (NLT). The idea is that the "zealousness" in this matter was not consistent, it didn’t show itself when Paul was not present.

2) There may be another understanding of this verse. The sense may be, “You were exceedingly zealous in a good cause when I was with you. You loved the truth; you loved me. Since I left you, and as soon almost as I was out of your sight, your zeal died away, and your ardent love for me was transferred to others. Allow me to remind you, that it would be well to be zealous of good when I am away, as well as when I am with you. (BN)

Verse 19

Galatians 4:19

My little children -- Paul had called the Galatians "brethren" in Galatians 4:12. But now he uses the language of tender affection, such as a parent would use toward his own offspring. Paul seems to have considered himself as a spiritual father of the Galatians, having been instrumental in converting them to Christ.

Compare Matthew 18:3; John 13:33; 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12-13; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21. The idea here is, that Paul felt that he sustained toward them the relation of a father, and he had for them the deep and tender feelings of a parent.

again -- Again in labor NASB; Having already converted them to Christ, he is now a second time it seems in labor pains with them.

in travail in birth -- ὠδίνω, experience the pains of birth. See 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul expresses his deep anguish and anxiety for their welfare.

until -- Seems to indicate that they had now yet reached a Christ-like life.

Christ be formed in you -- The name of Christ is used to denote the principles of his gospel. Romans 13:14. Colossians 1:27. Here it means, until Christ reigns wholly in your hearts and lives, until you wholly and entirely embrace his doctrines, and like a Christ-like life yourself.

be formed -- μορφωθῇ morphwthe. G3445 V-APS-3S , be formed. The term is particularly revealing and refers to the newly forming embryo in the womb. In Colossians 1:27 it relates to Christ in the Christian. cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:11.

See Ephesians 3:17 note on "Indwelling"

Verse 20

Galatians 4:20

I would like to be present with you now -- They had lost much by his absence; they had changed their views; they had in some measure become alienated from him; and he wishes that he might be again with them, as he was before. He would hope to accomplish much more by his personal presence than he could by letter. - BN

and to change my tone -- That is, from complaint and censure, to tones of entire confidence.

for I am perplexed about you -- disturbed, stand in doubt, unsure. (ἀπορούμενοι aporoumenoi). This word (from ἄπορος aporos, which is derived from α a, the negative (“not”), and πόρος poros, way, or exit) means to be without a way out (unsure of the way) to know not what to do; to hesitate; to be in doubt and anxiety, as a traveler is, who is ignorant of the way, or who has not the means of continuing his journey. See note at 2 Corinthians 4:8.

Here the sense is plain. Paul had much reason to doubt the sincerity and the solidity of their Christian principles, and he was deeply anxious on that account.

Verse 21

Galatians 4:21

Tell me -- Show me fully, explain to me. cf. Isaiah 1:18; Luke 7:42

Paul’s illustration: Paul here introduces an illustration from an important fact in the Jewish history. It is to show the effect of being under the bondage or servitude of the Jewish law, compared with the freedom which the gospel imparts. Paul had addressed the Galatians as having a real desire to be under bondage, or to be servants; the note at Galatians 4:9. He had represented Christianity as a state of freedom, and Christians as the sons of God - not servants, but freemen.

you who desire to be under the law -- Paul addresses the Judaizers and those who would sympathize with them. "You" who maintain that conformity to those laws is necessary to justification.

do you hear [listen] to the law? -- Do you really understand what the law say?

The word “law” here refers not to the commands that were uttered on Mount Sinai, but to the book of the Law. The passage to which reference is made is in the Book of Genesis; but; all the five books of Moses were by the Jews classed under the general name of the Law; see the note at Luke 24:44.

Verse 22

Galatians 4:22

For it is written -- Genesis 16:2 - Genesis 21:1-2 ff.

Abraham had two sons -- Ishmael and Isaac.

Abraham subsequently had several sons by Keturah after the death of Sarah; Genesis 26:1-6. But the two sons by Hagar and Sarah were the most prominent, and the events of their lives furnished the particular illustration which Paul desired.

the one by a bond-maid -- Ishmael, the son of Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian slave, whom Sarah gave to Abraham in order that he might not be wholly without posterity; Genesis 16:3.

the other by a free woman -- Isaac, the son of Sarah; Genesis 21:1-2.

Verse 23

Galatians 4:23

But the son of the slave-woman was born according to the flesh, -- After the ordinary course of nature, without any special promise, or any unusual divine interposition, as in the case of Isaac.

while the son of the free woman was born through promise. -- The birth of Isaac was in accordance with a special promise, and by a remarkable divine interposition; see Genesis 18:10; Genesis 21:1-2; Hebrews 11:11-12; compare the notes at Romans 4:19-21.

The idea here of Paul is, that the son of the slave was in a humble and inferior condition from his very birth. There was no special promise attending him. He was born into a state of inferiority and servitude which attended him through his whole life.

Isaac, however, was met with promises as soon as he was born, and was under the benefit of those promises as long as he lived.

The object of Paul is, to state the truth in regard to a condition of servitude and slavery. It is attended with evils from beginning to end; from the birth to the grave. By this illustration he means to show them the folly of becoming the voluntary slaves of the Law after they had once been made free.

Verse 24

Galatians 4:24

which things [story] -- The historical story of Hagar and Sarah which Paul is about to relate.

allegory --The word which is used here by Paul (ἀλληγορέω allēgoreō) is derived from ἄλλος allos, another, and ἀγορεύω agoreuō, to speak, to speak openly or in public - Passow.

It properly means to speak something with another meaning. to speak allegorically; to allegorize. An allegory is a continued metaphor;

The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, nor is it found in the Septuagint, though it occurs often in the classic writers.

an allegory -- symbolic, figurative. A story which symbolizes something.

1) The Jews enjoyed allegories, but the Rabies misused them.

(No doubt the false teachers had used one.)

2) It doesn’t teach anything -- only illustrates what has already been taught.

3) The story is symbolic; it has a deeper meaning than at first appears. Thus, the true story of Isaac and Ishmael represents deep spiritual truth, which Paul now proceeds to explain.

4) Hagar and Sarah illustrate the two covenants, the OC and the NC.

two covenants -- the Old Covenant ratified at Sinai, and the New Covenant ratified in Jerusalem on Pentecost, represented by the two women, Hagar and Sarah. (Acts 2:1-4; Acts 11:15)

covenant -- It may be noted that this is the first time in this epistle that Paul has called the Christian dispensation a "covenant" διαθήκη (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:14).

Sinai, bearing children for slavery -- Hagar, a slave, produced offspring tended for bondage.

Those under this legal covenant were slaves. As Hagar brought forth a slave, so does the Law. - BKC

Hagar could only bring forth children in a state of slavery, and according to law, slaves themselves. Paul’s comparison is that those following the covenant made at Sinai are in bondage themselves to that covenant. A covenant of slavery, fear, and duty.

Verse 25

Galatians 4:25

Hagar is -- represents, or illustrates.

Hagar is Mount Sinai -- "Hagar" represents, or is symbolic, of the covenant given at Sinai.

1) The law was given at Mount Sinai. Strangely enough, the word “Hagar” in the Arabic language means “Rock,” and the Arabs called Mt. Sinai “the Rock.” - BBC

2) The word Hagar in Arabic is said to signify a rock; and it has been supposed that the name was appropriately given to Mount Sinai, because it was a pile of rocks, and that Paul had allusion to this meaning of the word here. So Chandler, Rosenmuller, and others interpret it. But I cannot find in Castell or Gesenius that the word Hagar in Arabic has this signification; still less is there evidence that the name was ever given to Mount Sinai by the Arabs, or that such a signification was known to Paul. - BN

Sinai in Arabia -- The term "Arabia" in Paul’s day covered a much larger area, cf. Galatians 1:17.

corresponds to the present Jerusalem -- The Jerusalem of the first century with its temple representing those in bondage to that covenant made at Sinai.

in bondage [slavery] with her children -- In bondage to the laws, customs and rites of the Law. The literal Jerusalem of Paul’s day as the mother of Judaism, and her inhabitants, the Jews,are in the condition of the son of Hagar.

Verse 26

Galatians 4:26

Jerusalem which is above -- The heavenly, spiritual Jerusalem, the church Christ came to build (Matthew 16:18, John 14:2-3) Hebrews 12:22. Philippians 3:20.

is free -- The new Jerusalem; and the spirit of the gospel is that of freedom. It is freedom from sin, freedom from the bondage of rites and customs, and it tends to promote universal freedom; see the note at Galatians 4:7; compare John 8:32, John 8:36;

mother of us all -- The church, Hebrews 12:22-23; all Christians, whether they are Jew or Gentiles. cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Verse 27

Galatians 4:27

For it is written -- Isaiah 54:1;

The object of the apostle in introducing it here seems to be to prove that the Gentiles as well as the Jews would partake of the privileges connected with the heavenly Jerusalem.

Paul’s statement that the Jerusalem from above is the mother of us all, Jew and Gentile, might be disputed by the Jews, now this passage Paul gives is proof from the Old Testament.

Rejoice , O barren -- "Our mother," rejoicing because she is going to have children. (Genesis 11:30) Sarah is now pictured as the mother of the faithful.

This probably represent the pagan Gentile world as having been forsaken and abandoned, with whom God had no true children.

break forth and shout -- The cry here referred to was to be a joyful cry or shout; the language of exultation.

for the desolate -- Probably in context of Galatians referring to the Gentile world.

Some maintain that the "desolate ones" were the first century church.

many more children -- The phrase seems to have somewhat of a proverbial tone, and probably the idea is that there would be a much greater increase than she had any reason to expect.

In this context it seems to indicate there would be many more converts (children) among the Gentiles (who were not married to God through the Law) than converts from the Jews themselves.

Because those who have faith in Christ are Sarah’s children (Galatians 4:26), they fulfill the promise that Sarah (the childless woman) would be more abundantly fruitful than the slave-wife Hagar. - NLT

Verse 28

Galatians 4:28

we brethren -- We who are Christians, Jews and Gentiles.

children of promise -- "In they seed shall all nations be blessed." Jews and Gentiles resemble Isaac and are recipients of the precious promise. Not like Ishmael, to whom no promise was made!

Roses are reddish, violet are bluish,

If you are not Gentile, you must be Jewish!

Verse 29

Galatians 4:29

he ... flesh -- Ishmael, (Galatians 4:23) That is, through natural process and without a promise.

persecuted -- This refers to the injurious treatment which Isaac received from Ishmael and the hostility that existed toward him. Genesis 21:9-10.

Jewish traditions elaborate on the "mockery" and "persecution" of Isaac by Ishmael.

Paul may even be referring to the fact that the descendants of Ishmael were hostile and enemies of the descendants of Isaac.

according to the Spirit -- This phrase seem synonymous with "according to the promise." It stands opposed to the phrase "after the flesh."

as it is also now -- The Christians (Jews and Gentiles) were persecuted by the Jews who represented Ishmael, who were not interested in the promise to Abraham, that "all the world" would be blessed through Abraham’s seed (Christ).

The persecution is seen throughout Acts, (1 Thessalonians 2:15 ff) and indicated even in Christ’s letters to the churches in Revelation before Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70. (Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9)

So unbelievers have always persecuted believers (cf. Matthew 5:11; Matthew 10:22-25; Mark 10:30; John 15:19-20; John 16:2, John 16:33; John 17:14; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 11:32-37; 1 Peter 2:20-21; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:12-14). - MSB

Verse 30

Galatians 4:30

Nevertheless -- But Ἀλλὰ (Alla).

what does the Scripture say -- What does the O.T. scriptures teach about this in regard to the bond-woman, Hagar? .

Cast out the slave woman and her son -- This was done, not because of Sarah’s wish, Genesis 21:10; but by God’s command to Abraham. Genesis 21:12; Law found on clay tablets: the son was to be heir.

never share in the inheritance -- Again Paul is teaching that those following the Law (the way of bondage) would not receive the promised inheritance from God.

the free-woman’s son -- Representing the true recipients of the the promise. The prodigy of Abraham were those who are made righteous by the system of "faith," the gospel.

Verse 31

Galatians 4:31

So then, brethren -- It follows from all this. Not just from the allegory, but from all considerations on this subject.

we -- Paul includes himself and the Galatian Christians in this statement.

we are ... children ... of the free -- Paul’s point is to maintain that all Christians (Jew and Gentiles) are set free by Christ for freedom, and not for slavery.

free -- See not on Galatians 5:1 "Christ has made us free"

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Galatians 4". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/galatians-4.html. 2021.
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