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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 4

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

Differeth nothing from a servant — In allusion whereunto there is written upon the prince’s arms, Ich dien, that is, I serve. Henry the Second, king of England, crowned his eldest son Henry while he was yet alive; which made his ambition quite turn off his obedience. Ambition ever rides without reins. That king, at his son’s coronation, renounced the name of king for that day, and as a servant, served at the table; for which he was thus requited, My father, said he, is not dishonoured by attending on me, for I am both a king and a queen’s son, and so is not he. After this he bore arms against his father, and died in open rebellion.

Verse 2

But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

But is under tutors — Those under the law were but alphabetaries (rudimentaries) in comparison of those under the gospel. ο μηδε τον Αισωπον πεπατηκως . Aristophanes. The sea about the altar was brazen,1 Kings 7:23; 1 Kings 7:23 , and what eyes could pierce through it? Now our sea about the throne is glassy, Revelation 4:6 , like to crystal, clearly conveying the light and sight of God to our eyes.

Verse 3

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

When we were children — Gr. νηπιοι , infants, babies, that must be pleased with rattles; so the old Church with carnal ceremonies.

Verse 4

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

But when the fulness of the time — This answers to that time appointed of the Father, Galatians 4:2 . Plato said that God doth always γεωμετρειν , he doth all things in number, weight, and measure; he never comes too soon, neither stays he too long.

God sent forth his Son — Out of his own bosom. May not we say as they did, John 11:36 , Lo! how he loved us. This was a hyperbole of love. Should we not say again, as they did, Judges 8:22 ; "Rule thou over us, …, for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian."

Made of a woman — Of the sanctified substance of the holy Virgin. Note this against Marcionites and Anabaptists.

Made under the law — Circumcised the eighth day, and so made a debtor to do the whole law; which he perfectly fulfilled, and yet (for us) suffered the curse.

Verse 5

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

To redeem them, … — To buy them off, who were in worse case than the Turkish galley slaves chained to an oar.

That we might receive the adoption — That is, the possession of our adoption, the full enjoyment of our inheritance.

Verse 6

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Crying, Abba, Father — God hath no stillborn children. Paul was no sooner converted, but behold he prayed, Acts 9:11 . The spirit of grace is a spirit of supplication, Zechariah 12:10 . And when God sends this spirit of prayer into our hearts, it is a sure sign that he means to answer our desires; like as when we bid our children say, I pray you, father, give me this, we do it not, but when we mean to give them that which we teach them to ask. The gemination, "Abba, Father," noteth fiducial, filial, vehement affection; and it is made the first word we can speak when we are made sons, to cry "Abba, Father."

Verse 7

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

And if a son, …See Trapp on " Romans 8:17 "

Verse 8

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

Ye did service — Here all religious service done to any but God is manifestly condemned as impious, whether in pagans or papagans (papists).

Verse 9

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

Or rather are known of God — Whose gracious foreknowing and foreappointing of us to eternal life is the ground and foundation of our illumination and conversion, our love to him a reflex of his love to us.

Verse 10

Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

Ye observe days — The Christian Church knows no holy days, besides that honourable Lord’s day, Isaiah 57:14 ; Revelation 1:10 , and such holy feasts, as upon special occasions the Church shall see fit to celebrate, as Novemb. 5, … (Guy Fawkes Day and the gunpowder plot)

Verse 11

I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Lest I have bestowed labour — Gr. κεκοπιακα , even to lassitude, as a day labourer. Other work folks find their work as they left it; but a minister hath all marred many times between sabbath and sabbath, or if but awhile absent, as Moses was in the mount.

Verse 12

Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am ; for I am as ye are : ye have not injured me at all.

Be as I am — No longer a legalist, as once,Philippians 3:5; Philippians 3:5 ; Philippians 3:8 .

Ye have not injured me at all — He was above their buffooneries and indignities. When an inconsiderate fellow had stricken Cato in the bath, and afterwards cried him mercy, he replied, I remember not that thou didst strike me. (Seneca.) Tu linguae, ego aurium dominus, said one to another that railed on him. I cannot be master of thy tongue, but I will be master of mine own ears. (Tacit.) One having made a long and idle discourse before Aristotle concluded it thus, I doubt I have been too tedious to you, sir philosopher, with my many words. In good sooth, said Aristotle, you have not been tedious to me, for I gave no heed to anything you said. Plutar. de Garralit. ουδεν πασχεις κακον, δν μη προσποιης . Momus in Lucian tells Jupiter, It is in thy power whether any one shall vex or wrong thee. St Paul here shakes off the affronts and injuries offered unto him with as much ease as once he did the viper, Acts 28:5 . Some would have swelled, and almost died at the sight of such a thing; he only shook it off, and there was no hurt done.

Verse 13

Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

Through infirmity of the flesh — That is, though much broken with many miseries, yet I spared not to take pains among you. Zachariah, though he ceased to speak, yet he ceased not to minister; he took not his dumbness for a dismission, but stayed out the eight days of his course, Luke 1:23 .

Verse 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.

And my temptation — That is, mine afflictions, whereby the Lord tempts his, feels which way their pulses beat, and how they stand affected toward him.

Which was in my flesh — My spirit being haply untouched. For often the body is weak, the soul well. Afflictions may reach but to the outward man. Job never complained till he was wet through, till the waters went over his soul.

Nor rejected — Gr. εξετυσατε , ye spit not on, as they did that spat in Christ’s face.

Even as Christ Jesus — Who hath said, "He that receiveth you, receiveth me." It was a common saying at Constantinople, Better the sun should not shine than that Chrysostom should not preach.

Verse 15

Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

Where is then the blessednessq.d. There was a time when ye held yourselves happy in me, and blessed the time that ever ye saw and heard me. a Is the change now in me or in yourselves? Thus the Jews rejoiced in John for a season, but he soon grew stale to them, John 5:35 . See the note there. Neutrum modo, mas modo vulgus.

a μακαρισμος , Beatitudinis praedicatio. Beza.

Verse 16

Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

Am I therefore become, … — Truth breeds hatred, as the fair nymphs did the ugly fauns One of a class of rural deities; at first represented like men with horns and the tail of a goat, afterwards with goats’ legs like the Satyrs, to whom they were assimilated in lustful character. ŒD and satyrs. The hearing of truth galls, as they write of some creatures, that they have fel in aure, gall in their ears. It was not for nothing therefore that the orator called upon his countrymen to get their ears healed before they came any more to hear him. To preach, saith Luther, is nothing else but to derive upon a man’s self the rage of all the country. And therefore when one defined the ministerial function to be Artem artium et scientiam scientiarum, the art of arts and science of sciences, Melancthon said, If he had defined it to be miseriam miseriatom, the misery of miseries, he had hit it.

Because I tell you the truth? — He that prizeth truth (saith Sir Walter Raleigh) shall never prosper by the possession or profession thereof. An expectus, ut Quintilianus ametur? When we seek to fetch men out of their sins, they are apt to fret and snarl; like men when wakened out of their sleep, they are unquiet, ready to brawl with their best friend.

Verse 17

They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

They zealously affect youDepereunt vos; as jealous woers they would have you whole to themselves without a co-rival, ερως and ερις are related.

They would exclude us — As standing in their way. This is the guise of all sectaries and seducers, they denigrate the true teachers that they may be the only men.

That you might affect them — Our Antinomians call upon their hearers to mark, it may be they shall hear that which they have not heard before, when the thing is either false, or if true, no more than ordinarily is taught by others.

" Quid dignum tanto ferat hic promissor hiatu? "

Her. de Art. Poet.

Verse 18

But it is good to be zealously affected always in A jocular name for a hangman’s rope: usually Tyburn tippet . ŒD good thing , and not only when I am present with you.

To be zealously affected in a good thing — In a good cause, for a good end, and in a good manner. There is a counterfeit zeal, as is that of the Popish martyrs, or traitors rather, of whom Campian in his epistle to the honourable counsellors of Queen Elizabeth, Quamdiu vel unus quispiam e nobis supererit qui Tiburno vestro fruatur, … As long as there shall be left any one of us to wear a Tyburn tippet, a we will not cease our suit.

And not only when I am present — Since even absent I teach and tell you the truth of God by letters.

Verse 19

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

Till Christ be formed — That you may seek for salvation by him alone. Together with the word there goes forth a regenerating power, James 1:18 . It is not a dead letter and empty sound, as some have blasphemed. Only let us not, as Hosea’s unwise son, stay in the place of breaking forth of children, proceed no further than to conviction; much less stifle those inward workings for sin, as harlots destroy their conceptions, that they may not bear the pain of childbirth.

Verse 20

I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

And to change my vaice — To speak to your necessity; for now being absent I shoot at rovers, and am at some uncertainty ( απορουμαι ) how to frame my discourse to you.

Verse 21

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Ye that desire, … — That are ambitious of slavery, of beggary, Galatians 4:9 . How many have we at this day that rejoice in their bondage and dance to hell in their bolts!

Verse 22

For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

For it is written — It was enough of old to say, "It is written;" there was no need to quote chapter and verse, as now. Men were so ready (skilled) in the Scriptures, they could tell where to turn to anything at first hearing.

Verse 23

But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

Was born after the flesh — In an ordinary way, as all others are; for Hagar was young, and Abraham not old.

Was by promisei.e. By a supernatural power, by a divine miracle.

Verse 24

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

Which things are an allegory — That is, they signify or import an allegory, αλληγορουμενα ; or they, being the things that they were, represented and typed out the things that they were not. So did the brazen serpent, the deluge, the Red Sea, … As for those allegories of Origen, and other wanton wits, luxuriant this way, what are they else but Scripturarum spuma, as one calleth them, Scripture froth?

Verse 25

For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

For this Agar is mount — The Arabians call Mount Sinai, Agar. Twice Hagar fled thither, Genesis 16:7 ; Genesis 16:14 ; Genesis 21:14 , it being in her way home to Egypt. From her the Arabians are called Hagarenes, and since (for more honour’ sake) Saracens, of Sarah, Hagar’s mistress.

Answereth to Jerusalem — That is, to the Jewish synagogue, born to bondage, as Tiberius said of the Romans, that they were homines ad servitutem parati. men prepared for slavery.

Verse 26

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

But Jerusalem which is above — That is, the Christian Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, the panegyris and congregation of the firstborn, whose names are enrolled in heaven, Hebrews 12:23 . The Hebrew word for Jerusalem is of the dual number; to show, say the Cabalists, that there is a heavenly as well as an earthly Jerusalem, and that the taking away of the earthly was intimated by the taking away of the letter jod out of Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 5:13 . Hebrew Text Note (Amama in Coronide.) Let us upon the sight of any famous city lift up our hearts with holy Fulgentius and say, Si talis est Roma terrestris, qualis est Roma caelestis? If there be such stateliness and sweetness here, what is there in that "City of the great King?"

Verse 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 which hath an husband.

For it is written — When these testimonies of the Old Testament are thus cited in the New, it is not only by way of accommodation, but because they are the proper meaning of the places.

Verse 28

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

Now we, brethren, as Isaac — This the Jews to this day will not hear of, but call us Mamzer Goi, bastardly Gentiles.

Verse 29

But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Persecuted him — By cruel mockings and real injuries, challenging the birthright and deriding the covenant, … Moses’s word, îöæç÷ Genesis 21:9 , holds forth, that Ishmael did not only himself mock Isaac, but made others also to mock him, exposing him to their jeers. The Papists made way for their great project of perdition in 1588, (Spanish Armada) by dividing the people here under the terms of Protestant and Puritan, and provoking them thereby to real and mutual both hate and contempt. (George Abbot’s Answer.)

Even so it is now — And so also it is now, may we say at this day. For what do Papists persecute us for else, but because we reject their justification by works? They poisoned their own Cardinal Contarenus, for that he declared himself sound in this point, by a book that he set forth some four years before the Council of Trent.

Verse 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.

Shall not be heir — No justiciary (official of justice) can be saved. A Papist cannot go beyond a reprobate. Purus putus Papista non potest servari. Revelation 19:21 .

Verse 31

So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

We are not children, …q.d. We are in a far better condition than legalists. "I have blessed Ishmael," saith God; "twelve princes shall he beget; but my covenant will I establish with Isaac," Genesis 17:20-21 . And such honour have all his saints.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Galatians 4". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/galatians-4.html. 1865-1868.
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