Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, April 13th, 2024
the Second Week after Easter
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Galatians 4

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-7

The Law: Explaining the Law in Light of the New Covenant In 2 Corinthians 3:19 to 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul explains the Law in light of the new covenant in Christ Jesus. He does this by using two illustrations from their culture, that of the house keeper attending the son, and that of the son as an heir.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Illustration of the House Attendant Galatians 3:19-29

2. Illustration of the Son as an Heir Galatians 4:1-7

Verses 1-31

The Defense of Paul’s Gospel In Galatians 3:1 to Galatians 4:31 Paul defends his Gospel of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone. As a basis for this argument he explains to them how the faith that allowed them to receive the Holy Spirit was operated in the Old Testament through Abraham (Galatians 3:1-18). Paul then explains the meaning of the Mosaic Law in light of the New Testament Church (Galatians 3:19 to Galatians 4:7). Finally, he admonishes them to stand fast in their liberties in Christ (Galatians 4:8-31). Thus, Paul contrasts the difference between the New Testament, which establishes righteousness in our lives through the promise of the Spirit, and between the Old Testament Law, which failed to establish righteousness in any individual because of man’s weakness towards sin. In this three-fold defense Paul attempts to stir up their faith in Christ (Galatians 3:1-18), their understanding of Christ (Galatians 3:19 to Galatians 4:7), and their actions for Christ (Galatians 4:8-31), which applies to our spirit, mind and body.

Outline - Note the proposed outline:

1. The Promise of the Spirit Galatians 3:1-18

a. The Promise Comes by Faith Galatians 3:1-5

b. The Promise Began in Abraham Galatians 3:6-9

c. The Promise Comes Thru Christ Galatians 3:10-14

d. The Promise Ratified by Covenant Galatians 3:15-18

2. The Law Galatians 3:19-29

a. The Illustration of the House Attendant Galatians 3:19-29

b. Illustration of the Son as an Heir Galatians 4:1-7

3. The Admonition to Stand Fast Galatians 4:8-31

a. Personal Admonition Galatians 4:8-20

b. Biblical Illustration of Sarah & Hagar Galatians 4:21-31

Verses 8-20

Personal Admonition Paul then rebukes the Galatians for retracting from their liberties in Christ (Galatians 4:8-11) and admonishes them to stand fast in these liberties and not return to the bondages of this world (Galatians 4:12-20).

Galatians 4:8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

Galatians 4:8 Ancient history tells us that these ancient Gauls, now called Galatians, worshiped a number of gods. One of the more popular gods being called Cybele, the mother of their gods. Their city of Tolistoboii was famous as the chief center for the worship of this goddess. These priests are known to have organized frenzied acts of worship for their devotees. These priests also practiced self-mutilation, something that Paul alludes to in Galatians 5:12.

Galatians 5:12, “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”

At another one of their cities called Tavium a large, bronze statue of Zeus was the center of worship. Their city of Ancyra housed the magnificent temple of Augustus, built of white marble.

Comments (2) - Paul makes a similar reference to such idol-worship in his epistle to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 8:4, “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world , and that there is none other God but one.”

1 Corinthians 12:2, “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols , even as ye were led.”

Galatians 4:10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

Galatians 4:10 Comments - All of these seasonal observations are found in Jewish history and tradition (Nehemiah 10:33).

Nehemiah 10:33, “For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts , and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.”

Jesus has not commanded us to observe certain days, or months, as was done under the Mosaic Law. For us every day is the Sabbath day (Hebrews 4:9). We observe Sunday because we have chosen to do so. Jesus rose on the first day of the week, and this became the day of worship in the early church (Acts 20:7).

Hebrews 4:9, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”

Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”

Galatians 4:15 “ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” Comments - Many scholars suggest from Galatians 4:15 that Paul had problems with his eyes. An argument used to support this view is the fact that Paul used an amanuensis to write at least one of his epistles (Romans 16:22). Philip Schaff tells us the oldest extant picture of Paul is found on “a large bronze medallion” unearthed in the cemetery of Domitilla, a member of the Flavian family, and dated back to the late first century or early second century. He says this artifact portrays Paul “with apparently diseased eyes, open mouth, bald head and short thick beard, but thoughtful, solemn, and dignified.” [101]

[101] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 295.

Romans 16:22, “I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.”

However, Paul did write his salutations and other epistles:

1 Corinthians 16:21, “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.”

Galatians 6:11, “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.”

Colossians 4:18, “The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.”

2 Thessalonians 3:17, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”

Philemon 1:19, “I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.”

Note that Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:9, “And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”

However, God healed him.

Acts 9:18, “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”

Note that Moses stuttered (Exodus 4:19). God was able to use Moses in this weakness. Oral Roberts [102] and Benny Hinn [103] were born with a stuttering problem. When God anointed their lips, they were able to preach the Word of God clearly.

[102] Oral Roberts, A Daily Guide to Miracles and Successful Living Through SEED-FAITH (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Pinoak Publications, c1975, 1976), 29, 32, 76.

[103] Benny Hinn, Good Morning, Holy Spirit (Nashville: Tennessee, c1990, 1997), 44-5.

Exodus 4:10, “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”

We see how Jacob wrestled with an angel and became Israel when the angel struck his thigh and caused him to limp the rest of his life (Genesis 32:31).

Genesis 32:31, “And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.”

In these experiences, Moses, Jacob and even Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn have learned to depend upon God. Benny Hinn says that around his house, he still sometimes has a problem stuttering. [104]

[104] Benny Hinn, This is Your Day (Irving, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

It may be possible that Paul, the apostle, had to deal with this problem occasionally, as he also learned to depend upon God.

Galatians 4:17 “They zealously affected you” Word Study on “zealously affected” - BDAG says ζηλόω means to “court someone’s favor,” or “deeply concerned about.” (see ζηλόω 1b)

Comments Note the following modern English translations:

1. NASB “They eagerly seek you.”

2. Phillips “They are kin to win you over.”

Galatians 4:17 “but not well” Comments - That is, not for good intents or purposes.

Galatians 4:17 “they would exclude you” Comments - Note the following modern English translations:

1. BDAG - “To shut out, exclude in the sense of withdrawal of fellowship.”

2. Thayer “To shut (you) out from intercourse with me and with teachers cooperating with me.”

3. NIV “What they want is to alienate you from us.”

4. NLT “They are trying to shut you off from me.”

Galatians 4:17 “that you might affect them” Comments - The NIV reads, “so that you may be zealous for them.”

Galatians 4:17 Comments - These Judaizers of the Law were trying to separate believers from Paul and form their own group that would bring honor to themselves. Their motives were evil.

Illustration - I have seen this happen often while working in the mission fields of Africa. This happens when a corrupt pastor or group of ministers tries to bring in an international minister for the purpose of soliciting financial aid. These corrupt men will keep this visiting guest isolated from genuine Christian leaders in their community so that this guest will believe that these corrupt leaders are the pillars of the local church and yield to sponsoring them financially. These corrupt preachers want the guests to recognize them as great local leaders and exalt them with financial aid. Unfortunately, this method proves effective with some of these international guests.

Galatians 4:18 Comments Paraphrasing Galatians 4:18, we could say, “It is good when others are concerned about you with sincere motives, at all times, and not just when I’m with you.”

Galatians 4:19 “My little children” Comments Paul calls the Galatians “little children” to describe the fact that he gave spiritual birth to them and is now bringing them up in the Lord. This phrase reflects their spiritual birth and growth through the labors of Paul.

Galatians 4:19 “of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you” Comments - Paul travailed, as a mother giving birth, when he first brought the Galatians to Jesus for salvation. Now, he is in travail again in order to bring them to maturity. How? Not through worry, but through prayer. This is why God gave the woman the curse of pain in childbearing. It was spiritually symbolic of the fact that children are now born into this world in sin, and only through much painstaking labour and prayer by the parents can they be taught the truth to experience spiritual birth. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they would have given birth to righteous offspring.

The believers in Galatians, were born as babes in Christ (1 Peter 2:2). Now they must grow. How does spiritual growth take place?

1 Peter 2:2 “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”

Note that Epaphras done the same for those saints at Colossi, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:12-13). He must have been a powerful intercessor.

Colossians 4:12-13, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers , that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”

Note how prayer is described as an effort that is exerted (Romans 15:30).

Romans 15:30, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me ;”

Galatians 4:19 Comments - Galatians 4:19 refers to travailing in the Spirit. Isaiah 66:8 is used by Kenneth Hagin to speak of prevailing in the spirit in prayer to bring lost souls to Jesus. He interprets this verse, to say that Paul was again interceding in the spirit for their souls. This deep travail brings about intense suffering in the inner man, like that of child birth. It is hard on the outer man (i.e., the flesh). [105]

[105] Kenneth Hagin, The Art of Intercession (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1980, 1984), 51-62.

Isaiah 66:8, “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.”

Galatians 4:19 is not the only reference in the Scriptures to travailing in the Spirit. John 11:33-35 describes an occasion when Jesus was deeply troubled in His spirit and began to weep. We must be careful not to interpret this event in Jesus’ life as something that took place in His emotions; for it tells us that before Jesus wept, He “groaned in the spirit, and was troubled”. We must interpret is as a work and manifestation of the Holy Spirit stirring inside of Him and breaking forth through weeping. We call it travailing in the Spirit. I remember watching one of my mentors in the early 1980’s having this similar experience. After the church service, the pastor and several of us gathered around in a circle and began to pray. Within a few minutes, Jack Emerson began to tremble and groan, then fell to the floor and began to weep. We all waited while he regained his composure and strength and stood up. He later told some of us that this was not him weeping, but the moving of the Holy Spirit within him. When Jesus began to weep, the people around only saw it in the natural realm (John 11:36-37). However, it was this type travail and weeping in the Spirit that was necessary in order for this miracle to break forth and manifest as the resurrection of Lazarus.

We will read about another incident of Jesus in travail in the Garden of Gethsemane; for there Jesus said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” (Matthew 26:38). This is a description of Jesus experiencing a heavy weight in His Spirit and being moved into prayer for a release of this weight. Dutch Sheets says that this event was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:11, “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.” [106]

[106] Dutch Sheets, Intercessory Prayer (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1996), 129.

We also see a reference to this type of travail and weeping in Psalms 126:6.

Psalms 126:6, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

In his book God’s Armor Bearer: Book II, Terry Nance says that the Lord revealed to him the key to seeing the fulfillment of the call of God on his life. It is by intimacy, pregnancy, travail and birth. He explains that spiritual birth on this earth follows the same pattern as natural birth. As we become intimate with God, He plants within us a seed that we nurture and develop into His plan and purpose for our lives. As we labour and travail to follow this plan, we will see the manifestation of His plan for our lives. [107] Paul understood this principle, as he alludes to it in this verse. Paul refers to his labour and travail for the churches in other passages. Note:

[107] Terry Nance, God’s Armor Bearer: Book II (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, Inc., c1994), 19-21, 25.

1 Thessalonians 2:9, “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.”

2 Thessalonians 3:8, “Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:”

Verses 8-31

The Admonition to Stand Fast in their Liberties in Christ After explaining to the Galatians their liberties in Christ Paul admonishes them to walk in these liberties. He will give them an illustration of liberty and bondage from the story of Sarah and Hagar.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Personal Admonition to Liberty Galatians 4:8-20

2. Biblical Illustration of Sarah & Hagar Galatians 4:21-31

Verses 21-31

Biblical Illustration of Christian Liberty: the Bondwoman and the Freewoman - In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul gives us an allegory from the Old Testament Law to explain that we are born of the free woman, and not to the bondwoman. Paul draws upon the biblical analogy of Sarah and Hagar in order to illustrate their heritage of freedom. He explains to them that they are the children of promise, as was the child of Sarah, while Judaism represents the children of bondage, which are the children of Hagar.

We are born in the spirit, not after the flesh. In the fourth chapter of Galatians Paul uses two illustrations to explain their liberties in Christ Jesus. He first uses the illustration of sonship as an heir of Christ (Galatians 4:1-11). Then in Galatians 4:12-20, Paul pleads for the heart of the Galatians to receive him above his competitors. Paul will then use the allegory of Sarai and Hagar to give them a second illustration of their freedom in Christ (Galatians 4:21-31). After giving a Greco-Roman illustration from their culture (Galatians 4:1-7) Paul then takes an illustration from the Hebrew culture, which was the comparison of Sarah and Hagar (Galatians 4:21-31). This illustration could be easily understood by those Jewish converts who were a part of the churches in Galatia.

Note how appropriate this illustration is since in John 8:33-47 the Pharisees claimed that their inheritance was in the lineage of Abraham, rather than in the faith of Abraham.

Galatians 4:26 Comments - The Jews called Jerusalem the “mother” city. Therefore, Paul writes to the Galatians and calls heavenly Jerusalem the mother of all of the believers.

It is within this context that Jesus tells a Jewish scholar named Nicodemus that he must be born again, or from above, from the heavenly mother, and not the earthly mother (John 3:3).

John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Galatians 4:29 Comments - Not only do we see this as a reference to Isaac and Ishmael, but also to their descendants as well.

Illustration - The Medianites were also Ishmaelites, who were warring against Israel (Judges 8:24).

Judges 8:24, “And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)”

Galatians 4:30 “Cast out the bond woman and her son” - Comments - In Galatians 4:23-24, we see that the bondwoman is the old covenant from Mt Sinai and her sons are those in the flesh under the Law. We see from this that to cast them out means that we put aside the Law and realize those who seek to be justified by the Law have no inheritance with those under the New Covenant.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Galatians 4". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/galatians-4.html. 2013.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile