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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 4

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Verse 1

Gal 4:1

Galatians 4:1

But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all;—Paul il­lustrates the condition of the Jews under the law, and their deliverance from the law through the gospel of Christ by the child, who is kept under tutors and guardians, although he is heir of the throne, until he becomes of age, when he enters into the rule of his possessions.

Verse 2

Gal 4:2

Galatians 4:2

but is under guardians and stewards until the day ap­pointed of the father.—Children look to present gratification and not to future good. Just as the child, though heir of great riches, is kept under tutors and governors until he is qualified to freely follow right, and to manage his possessions looking to future good, and walking by principles of right rather than the present gratifications.

Verse 3

Gal 4:3

Galatians 4:3

So we also, when we were children,—Even when they were children, incapable of being moved by promises of future good, God kept them for a time under the law of Moses before he granted to them the high honors and privileges of the gos­pel of Christ. This family through which the seed was to come he kept under the law, training and qualifying them to enjoy the privileges of the promises through Christ.

were held in bondage under the rudiments—Paul represents the Jewish system as an elementary religion of childhood, full of external rites and ceremonies, pointing beyond themselves to an age of manhood in Christ. The whole Old Testament dispensation was an elementary or a preparatory school for the gospel, a religion of types and shadows, of hope and prom­ise, destined to lose itself in Christ as its substance and fulfill­ment.

of the world:—[Not the physical universe, but mankind which needed such a training for the coming Messiah. It may be that the expression comprehends the heathens as well as the Jews. But the Jews were in fact the religious repre­sentatives of the whole race of mankind in the motion towards Christ.]

Verse 4

Gal 4:4

Galatians 4:4

but when the fulness of the time came,—When the time came that they could walk by faith in God and look to the fu­ture rewards and punishments. [This period was fixed in the counsel of God with reference to the development of the race. The words “fulness of the time” express the whole philosophy of history before Christ, and the central position of the birth of Christ. The ancient history of Jews and Gentiles was a preparation for the coming of Christ, and Christ is the turning point of history, the end of the old world and the beginning of the new. Jesus himself began his preaching with the declara­tion: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15). The Savior could not appear in any other country, nor at any other time, nor in any other nation, according to the order of the divine government, and prear­ranged history.]

God sent forth his Son,—He certainly existed before his birth in Bethlehem, in heavenly glory, with the Father.

born of a woman,—He was born of a woman that he might sympathize with humanity. [This expresses the realness of the humanity of Jesus Christ.]

born under the law,—That he might fulfill the law, take it out of the way, and deliver his people from the bondage of the law. [These words bring the Lord Jesus into relation with the Jewish nation, (cp. Romans 15:8; Hebrews 2:14-18). He thus took upon himself the obligations imposed by God upon the Jews in the law given at Sinai. The fulfillment of this law by the Lord was the outward and evident token of his acceptance with God, and of his competence for the work he had under­taken to do.]

Verse 5

Gal 4:5

Galatians 4:5

that he might redeem them that were under the law,—[Neither his coming in the flesh nor his keeping the law in the days of his flesh availed, in whole or in part, for the redemp­tion of men. He he not been clothed in flesh, death would have been impossible for him; hence this was the condition necessary for the accomplishment of the redemption, but was itself no part of that redemption. His redemptive work proper began and ended on the cross; accordingly the statement of the Savior’s relation to sin is invariably made in terms that confine that relationship to his death. Hence it is nowhere stated in the New Testament that Christ kept the law for us. Only his death is vicarious. He is not said to have borne sin during any part of his life; it was on the cross that he became the sin bearer. (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:24; Revelation 1:5). 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). His death was in com­plete harmony with his life, and was its fitting climax, but the two are here distinguished by the Lord himself, and his dis­tinction is observed by each of the New Testament writers. Inasmuch as it was necessary that the Jews might be re­deemed from under the law, much more must the Gentiles not allow themselves to be brought under it when they become believers in him who died to accomplish that redemption. The death of Christ secures for the believers freedom from the curse (Galatians 3:13), and from the bondage of the law (Galatians 4:3; Romans 6:14).]

that we might receive the adoption of sons.—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. Christians are spoken of by God as his adopted children. They are his by adoption. This would indicate that they are not his naturally—they are not born by natural birth into his family. Man was in the beginning a child of God. God created him as his own child, and as his child placed him to reign over the world. The genealogy of the human family, as given in the New Testament, traces all back to “Adam, the son of God.” He was created by God as a member of his family. But now the children of Adam are not by virtue of their birth in the family of God. Adam sinned against God, accepted the devil as his ruler, and thus alienated himself and the world from the family of God. In order that man might be reinstated in God’s favor, God proposes to re-adopt him into his family, or so many of the children of men as will trust and follow him. As preparatory to being received as sons, the Spirit of adoption must be in their hearts, a desire to become members of his family. This desire is imparted through faith in God. When the person has been fitted in heart and life by faith and repentance towards God, for the enjoyment of the privileges of the family of God, he is then by a burial out of his old family relations and a resurrection in the new ones adopted into the family of God. Baptism is the act of adop­tion by which we pass out of one family, and are brought into the new one with God as our Father, and Jesus Christ as our elder brother, and by which we acquire the right to the bless­ings and favors of the family of God. After we have been le­gally adopted into the family of God, we must drink more and more into the spirit of the family that we may not lose our fitness for its privileges and forfeit our rights to its inheri­tance. The adoption does not help us unless it is legally per­fected.

Verse 6

Gal 4:6

Galatians 4:6

And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,—This has no reference to the time or the manner of receiving the Spirit of God. It is a contrast be­tween the law of Moses and the law of Christ. Under the law of Moses they were servants; under the law of Christ they are sons. Because they are sons, not servants, God sent the spirit of a son into their hearts. Taken in connection with corre­sponding passages, this scripture settles the point that the spirit of a son is put into the heart by writing the law in his heart. The promise was: “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33). When Christ came the new covenant was made, the law was written in their hearts; they were no longer servants with a spirit of fear, but sons with a spirit of love. Writing the law in their hearts and sending the spirit of a son are the same thing, be­cause the word is the seed of the kingdom, in which the Spirit, which gives life, dwells. The scriptures show that the Spirit of God dwells in the word of God. (Luke 8:11; John 6:63; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 3:16; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22-23). I do not know a single scripture, taken in its connec­tion, that does not teach the same thing. All scripture, with the facts and analogies of nature, teaches that the spirit of him who begets passes to him that is begotten in the act of begetting. It passes in the seed that begets. This law was stamped upon creation—vegetable, animal, and spiritual. Every tree, every animal, every being was created, yielding fruit after his kind. It is a contradiction of the law of God in nature and in grace to say that the spirit of the father is im­parted to the child after birth. The person who believes is just as much begotten by the Father, the child of God, before it is baptized as it is afterwards. The difference is: one is a born child, the other an unborn child. Unless the unborn child is brought by the birth into a state suited for developing life, it will perish. The spirit is imparted in the begetting, the spirit enters with the seed. The word of God is the seed of the kingdom. The Spirit enters the heart with the word of God; it grows with the growth of the word of God in the heart and life of man. If a man ever becomes a truly spiritual man, it must be by taking the word of God fully into his heart and bringing his life into harmony with God’s laws.

crying, Abba, Father.—The Spirit was given unto them by which they could regard and call on God as Father. They felt not as servants, but as children. [Abba, the Chaldean or Ar­amaic word for father, was a word used by Jesus. (Mark 14:36). No one had hitherto approached God as Jesus did. His utterance of this word, expressing the attitude of his life of prayer and breathing the whole attitude of his life, profoundly affected his disciples. So that word became a watchword of the early church, being the proper name of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Gentile believers used it conscious that in doing so they were joined in spirit to the Lord who said: “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” (John 20:17). Greek-speaking Christians supplemented it by their own equivalent as we by the English Father. This precious word is carried down the ages and around the whole world in the mother tongue of Jesus, a memorial of the hour when through him men learned to call God Father.]

Verse 7

Gal 4:7

Galatians 4:7

So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son;—Un­der the Jewish law they had felt that they were slaves or ser­vants. Now through faith they can feel that they are sons—children. A son obeys from love, a servant from fear. Now they are no longer servants, but sons, and the son is the heir of the heritage of the father.

and if a son, then an heir through God.—Then as son an heir of the Father, and that kinship comes through Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God. He redeemed them, he pur­chased them, he pardoned them. They entered into him through faith, and in him they became heirs with him of his Father and their Father. Their Father because Jesus is his Son, and they are in him.

Verse 8

Gal 4:8

Galatians 4:8

Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bond­age to them that by nature are no gods:—This seems more especially spoken to the Gentile converts among the Galatian Christians. They had known God only a short while, and be­fore they knew him they had worshipped idols which are no gods. They are in their very nature devoid of all qualities of God. The Jews were liable to this same charge, for they had, in time past, while claiming to believe in God, gone into the worship of idols.

Verse 9

Gal 4:9

Galatians 4:9

but now that ye have come to Know God, or rather to be known by God,—But having learned of the true God, or what is more important, God having owned them as his children by the gift of his Spirit.

how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudi­ments,—How could they, the apostle asks, turn from the rich spiritual services, promises, and rewards of eternal life to these weak and beggarly elements? To serve in them was a bondage of slavery, and how could they return to them?

whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?—[Relaps­ing into bondage, to begin anew its rudiments in the form of Judaism, instead of the former heathenism. The Galatians had never been under the Mosaic yoke; yet they had been under the elements of the world—the common designation for Jewish and Gentile systems in contrast with the gospel. Both consisted in outward, sensuous worship, and were in bondage to the elements of sense as though these could give justifica­tion and sanctification, which the power of God through Jesus Christ alone could give.]

Verse 10

Gal 4:10

Galatians 4:10

Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.—They kept these Jewish feasts and observances which all found fulfillment in Christ. God, in the Mosaic law, had ap­pointed the daily offering, the feast of the new moon, the feast of the Passover, the feast of weeks, the feast of trumpets, the feast of ingathering, and quite a number of others. They had all found their fulfillment in Christ, and the law of Moses was done away. [While it is probable that these were the occa­sions in the mind of Paul when he wrote, still they need not be taken too literally, as though the Galatians had already ac­tually observed all these, and had been observing the year of jubilee. If they observed the least of them they acknowl­edged the principle. It was as though they observed all. Heretofore he had mentioned circumcision only as indicative of the declension of these believers, but of course they could now draw the line at that; once they put themselves under the law, they became debtors to do all the law enjoined (Galatians 5:3).]

Verse 11

Gal 4:11

Galatians 4:11

I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.—The zeal for these things was an in­dication of waning faith and interest in the law of Christ, and filled Paul with fear lest the labor he had bestowed on them had failed to bear fruit. Fondness for observing these days was regarded as indicative of indifference to Christ. It is true that those churches which lay most stress on the observance of the days not authorized in the scriptures pay least regard to the observances ordained by God. The churches that observe Easter, and other days ordained by men, pay the least regard to the scriptural observance of the first day of the week. Paul discusses the observance of days in worship to God not especially required by the Scriptures (Romans 15:4-5), and says if a man wishes to observe a day, and is satisfied in his own mind, let him do it; let him have his faith to himself; but he is to do it as an individual, so as not to impose it on others. When a church has a special Easter service or any such service, it imposes its service on every member of the congregation. This Paul clearly condemns. Sometimes things harmless in themselves becomes harmful from the use made of them. Jesus illustrates this by the washing of hands, harmless in itself, but when done as a reli­gious ceremony, Jesus says it is sin. (Matthew 15:2). God con­demns those whose fear of him is a commandment of men, which has been taught them. (Isaiah 29:13). Then a service that may be right under some circumstances, when done as a religious service because taught by man, becomes sin. The Christians ought to be careful to do all they do, in the name of the Lord, and only what he commands. When men start out to do those things not required by the scriptures, where will it end? One step leads to another, till the service of God is lost sight of in the multiplicity of human observances. To observe Easter now is to honor the Roman Catholic Church, not Christ; for it, not he, ordained the service.

Verse 12

Gal 4:12

Galatians 4:12

I beseech you, brethren,—This is the expression of a painfully agitated, affectionate, and loving heart.

become as I am,—His object was to persuade them to aban­don the Jewish rites and customs. He appealed to them, therefore, by his own example, for he had laid aside its sup­posed advantages, and his lifelong prejudice (Philippians 3:7) in order to take his place beside the Gentiles. Now he entreats those who put themselves under the law, or who contemplate doing so, to take their place beside him—be as free as he was free.

for I also am become as ye are,—He had conformed to their customs in many things; had abandoned his own peculiarities; had given up his customs as far as possible to benefit and save them. He was a Jew of the Jews. Of himself he said: “Though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blame­less.” (Philippians 3:4-6). He had all the Jewish feelings and re­gard for Jewish services that they could possibly have, yet he had given them all up for Christ. He appeals to them to do as he had done.

Ye did me no wrong:—Many expositors understand this to mean that they did him no personal injury in turning to Juda­ism, for his interest in them was that they might be saved; others connect it with the following verse, and make it refer to the treatment they gave him while he was among them.

Verse 13

Gal 4:13

Galatians 4:13

but ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you the first time:—They did not while he was among them injure or annoy him, but in infir­mity of the flesh he preached to them and they kindly received him, more than kindly received him, as the following verses show. He at his first coming among them preached with some fleshly infirmity. That infirmity is referred to on sev­eral occasions, but no clue is given by which to determine what it was. Of it Paul says: “And by reason of the exceed­ing greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a mes­senger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). I take it that this refers to some fleshly weak­ness of Paul.

Verse 14

Gal 4:14

Galatians 4:14

and that which was a temptation to you in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected;—There seems to have been a temptation which grew out of the infirmity. It was of a char­acter that they could see and understand.

but ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.—He seems to have thought they would despise and reject him, but says, as something to their credit, that they received him as though he had been an angel from heaven, and more than an angel, as Jesus Christ himself. [Out of the most unpropitious circumstances under which he had ever introduced the gospel to a new community, there sprang up the sweetest fruits of all his labors; for there are no other churches of whose devotion to him he speaks in similar terms. Such ex­perience as this illustrated to him the Lord’s meaning, when he said unto him, in answer to his prayer about the thorn in the flesh, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and it was experience like this which enabled him at length to say: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in dis­tresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).]

Verse 15

Gal 4:15

Galatians 4:15

Where then is that gratulation of yourselves?—If they received him “even as Christ Jesus,” they rejoiced greatly in his presence and spoke of it. [What had become of that spirit which animated them not so long ago? (Galatians 1:6).]

for I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.—The manifesta­tion of feeling toward him was such that he testified, if it had been in their power, they would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him. The Galatians were of the same na­tion as the French, noted for their excitability and intensity of feeling. Such people are liable to run from one extreme to an­other. So they had run to the extreme of denying that Paul was an apostle sent by Jesus.

Verse 16

Gal 4:16

Galatians 4:16

So then am I become your enemy,—He had told them the truth in reference to their determination to turn to the Jewish law, and they had become offended, and had mani­fested feeling against him.

by telling you the truth?—Truth alone can help man. It is sometimes disagreeable, contrary to his feelings and wishes. It is nonetheless good for him because disagreeable, but he is very prone to regard him who tells him disagreeable truths as any enemy. He who tells one the truth ought to do it in a kind manner, but we should regard him who tells us the truth as a friend because truth alone can benefit man.

Verse 17

Gal 4:17

Galatians 4:17

They zealously seek you in no good way;—These Ju­daizers who turned them to Moses and turned their feelings against Paul, aroused their zeal, but not in a proper direction nor from a proper motive.

nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them.—They would lead them away from Christ that they might serve their selfish ends. Paul denounces unsparingly those who sought to subvert the faith of Christians. (2 Corinthians 11:4­14). [If the Judaizing teachers could persuade those who had been taught that faith and obedience to the gospel alone were necessary to salvation, that circumcision and submission to the law of Moses were also essential, the effect would invaria­bly be just what Paul describes. They must turn to their new teachers for that assurance of salvation, which, they would suppose, the gospel as preached by Paul could not supply.]

Verse 18

Gal 4:18

Galatians 4:18

But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you.—It is well to be excited to zeal in a good thing. He assures them that the zeal they showed for God under his teaching was a worthy zeal in a good cause, and he desired that they should continue that zeal for Jesus Christ and not be diverted from it as well when he was absent as when he was present with them. They were of that class of people easily led by plausi­ble men who might be present with them. This class of peo­ple are common, and have no convictions of their own, but are led by every wind of doctrine.

Verse 19

Gal 4:19

Galatians 4:19

My little children,—Paul spoke of those whom he had been instrumental in converting as begotten of him. “In Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel.” ( 1 Corinthians 4:15).

of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you—He had once begotten them, and they were turning from Christ to Judaism, and he is now striving with anxiety to bring them back to Christ; calling this a travailing with them in birth again until Christ be formed in them. To restore them to a true faith in Christ was to have Christ formed in them again. [Just as the undeveloped embryo by degrees takes the shape of man, so the undeveloped Christian by de­grees takes the likeness of Christ. As he grows in grace that likeness becomes more and more defined, till at last he reaches “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13).]

Verse 20

Gal 4:20

Galatians 4:20

but I could wish to be present with you now,—[To adapt his speech more fully to their present condition and wants, in this critical juncture in their spiritual history when the future of the work of the gospel in Galatia hangs in the balance, to use severity or gentle persuasion as may be best. (1 Corinthians 4:21).]

and to change my tone; — [He longed to speak to them with confidence in their fidelity to the true gospel of Christ instead of with the mingled apprehension, expostulation, and appeal of this letter. This he could do only if they should turn from the Judaizing teachers. He longed to be able to say to them as he was able to say to those at Corinth: “I rejoice that in everything I am of good courage concerning you.” (2 Corinthians 7:16).]

for I am perplexed about you.—He is absent from them; and he is perplexed as to what he ought to think of them, and what he ought to say to them.

Verse 21

Gal 4:21

Galatians 4:21

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law,—This is ad­dressed to those who were inclined to follow the Judaizing teachers, and make legal observance as well as faith in Christ the ground of acceptance with God.

do ye not hear the law?—The law of Moses is, of course, in this argument, the great embodiment of the principle of law. Moreover it had a divine sanction which belongs to none other. It is immaterial whether we restrict the word law to the Pentateuch, or regard it as synonymous with the Old Tes­tament generally.

Verse 22

Gal 4:22

Galatians 4:22

For it is written,—These words generally introduce a quotation from the Old Testament; here they introduce a brief summary of Old Testament history, and take the Judaiz­ers on their own ground.

that Abraham had two sons,—Ishmael and Isaac.

one by the handmaid,—Hagar, an Egyptian servant, servant to Sarah and mother of Ishmael.

and one by the freewoman.—Sarah, Abraham’s wife (Genesis 20:12), and mother of Isaac. [The article is attached to each of these words as to persons whose history was well known to Jews and Christians in Galatia.]

Verse 23

Gal 4:23

Galatians 4:23

Howbeit the son by the handmaid is bom after the flesh;—Notwithstanding the fact that they were the children of one father, there was a further difference between them beyond that consequent on the different states of their respective mothers. Abraham and Hagar were united in accordance with natural counsels and with results after the order of na­ture. Sarah was aware, indeed, of the promise of God to Abraham that he should have a son, but her own name had not yet been mentioned in connection therewith, and assuming that the promise was impossible of fulfillment through herself, she planned to bring it about through Hagar, her handmaid. (Genesis 16:1-2). To Sarah’s device Paul refers. From it sprang evils innumerable, first for Abraham and Sarah, then for Isaac, then for the people of Israel at large. God’s word is settled forever in heaven, and cannot fail of its fulfillment; but God is not to be hindered or hurried in any. [Whoever at­tempts one of the other dooms himself to disaster. Scheming and faith are mutually exclusive. He who trusts God will not scheme; he who schemes makes its manifest that he does not trust God.]

but the son by the freewoman is born through promise.—Isaac was the child of promise, was conceived after both par­ents were past age, and his conception was of the direct power of God—not after the fleshly desires.

Verse 24

Gal 4:24

Galatians 4:24

Which things contain an allegory:—Allegory means a description of one thing under the figure of another, so that the real or intended meaning differs from the obvious sense of the words.

for these women are two covenants;—They represent the two covenants.

one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar.—Hagar represents the covenant and law of mount Sinai.

Verse 25

Gal 4:25

Galatians 4:25

Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children.—Hagar answers to the Jerusalem that now is, or the present fleshly Israel, bearing children in bondage. Ishmael was born of the impulses of the flesh, while Abraham impa­tiently waited and lost faith in the child of promise; just as the law was added, while the child of promise delayed his coming, and served as the tutor to bring them to Christ. [We should not overlook the distinction that Paul draws between the two Israels, a spiritual Israel which embraces all obedient believers in Christ, whether of the circumcision or of the un­circumcision, and is the true heir of the promise, and the car­nal Israel, which has only the circumcision of the flesh, and not of the heart, which is of the blood, but not of the faith of Abraham, and is cast out like Hagar and Ishmael. (Romans 4:12-17; Romans 9:6-9).]

Verse 26

Gal 4:26

Galatians 4:26

But the Jerusalem that is above is free,—Sarah, the free­woman, mount Zion, or the Jerusalem which is above—the church of God. [Sarah, with Isaac, born in fulfillment of a promise, points to the heavenly, the ideal Jerusalem with its inhabitants, under no control of this world; and these in turn point to those Jews and Gentiles who have trusted Christ and who are free from the law in him; for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:2).]

which is our mother.—She, this church of God, is the mother of all true Christians. [This language is, of course, figurative, and forms a basis for what is said of Abraham, when it is declared that “he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:16). And it is further declared that believers in Christ “are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” But while, spiritually and poten­tially, obedient believers have already come to that city, yet, and indeed, on this account, they have here no permanent dwelling place, they “seek after the city which is to come.” (Acts 13:14). To the church in Philadelphia the Lord said: “He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and mine own new name.” (Revelation 3:12-13). And before the close of the vision, John sees the city descend­ing, and is invited to a closer view of it under the guidance of the angel. (Acts 21:2; Acts 21:9-10). The city exhibits the hosts of the redeemed in the renewed conditions of life when the purposes of God have been accomplished and all things have been made new. (Acts 21:5). To this figure of an ideal city the language of Paul conforms: “For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fash­ion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be con­formed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21). That city of God is dominated by the pow­ers of the age to come, the same powers that work in the be­liever now for his establishment in holiness and love.]

Verse 27

Gal 4:27

Galatians 4:27

For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband.—Isaiah 54:1 had foretold this state, that she who first was barren, brought forth no children, would rejoice in the num­ber of her children, for she would have more children than the one that bore children. Sarah, the lawful wife, childless until the child of promise came, had more children than Hagar, who early bore children of the flesh. So the church of prom­ise, or the promise through the seed of promise, had in these last days burst forth and bore children not only among the fleshly children of Abraham, but among the Gentiles not mar­ried to Christ. And there were many more converts among the Gentiles who had not been in covenant relation with God than among the Jews who had been.

Verse 28

Gal 4:28

Galatians 4:28

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.—The Christians, as Isaac, are the children of promise. The Jews are the children of Abraham according to the flesh. They are the children of Hagar, not of Sarah. [Whatever priv­ileges the Judaizers could claim as descendants of Abraham, whatever they might hold out to others on condition of being circumcised and keeping the law of Moses, Paul also could claim the same. (2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5). The Galatians, being Gentiles, of course, could claim none of them. But Paul knew that neither did his natural descent confer any advan­tage upon him, nor did theirs disqualify them. He, though Jew he was, must be justified by faith, not by works of the law, or on account of his fleshly relationship to Abraham. They, Gentiles, though they were, could be justified through faith, impossible as it was claimed by the Judaizers. (Romans 3:30). Thus he and they alike were children of God in virtue of the promise to Abraham, which promise had received its pledge of fulfillment in the birth of Isaac. (Galatians 3:6-7).]

Verse 29

Gal 4:29

Galatians 4:29

But as then he that was bom after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now.—Ishmael persecuted Isaac. (Genesis 21:9). It is likely that Ishmael de­nied the birthright, Isaac claimed that he himself was the first-born, Sarah saw and heard it and said to Abraham: “Cast out this handmaid and her son: for the son of this handmaid shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10). While Ishmael was the older, he, as not the child of promise, was not the lawful child.

Verse 30

Gal 4:30

Galatians 4:30

Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the hand­maid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not in­herit with the son of the freewoman.—The slave woman must be cast out to give place to the lawful wife. The covenant of Sinai must be done away, taken out of the way to give place to the covenant made with Abraham and his seed, which the law, given afterward, could not annul, and which had its ful­fillment in Christ. Which means that the law of Sinai, the law of works, the law written on the tables of stone were taken out of the way and superseded by the law of faith, the law written in the tables of the heart, that are spiritual and eternal in their character.

Verse 31

Gal 4:31

Galatians 4:31

Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid,—The apostle having fully established the difference between the law and grace, flesh and spirit, bondage and freedom, and their incompatibility one with another, now makes direct ap­plication of the inference drawn from the allegory, which is that the inheritance is given by promise, to faith, and cannot be obtained by work done in obedience to the law.

but of the freewoman.—There may be many slaves, but one true wife, one freewoman. So there are many ways along which men seek acceptance with God, there is but one of his appointment, and by it alone men may draw near to him.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Galatians 4". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/galatians-4.html.
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