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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Galatians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-7

The Illustration of the Son as an Heir- Paul uses a second illustration from the Graeco-Roman culture in order to explain the diminished role of the Law in light of the New Covenant. The illustration in Galatians 4:1-7 explains our liberties by comparing slavery to a free man. This illustration draws from the culture of Paul's day in which slavery was commonplace. The Gentiles believers could easily relate to such an illustration from their everyday lives. He takes his argument for their right standing before God further by explaining how the fullness of time has come and they are now sons of God and heirs through Jesus Christ. He does this by comparing Judaism to a son who is a minor and Christianity to a son who has reached the age of maturity ( Galatians 4:1-7).

Our Liberties in Christ Jesus - In Galatians 4:1-7 Paul illustrates our deliverance from the bondages of this earth by describing us as heirs of God. He explains that as long as someone is a small child, he is under the same rules and regulations as his father's servants. There is no difference. When this child reaches an appointed time, the father delegates to his son the authority to rule his household. The son is now under different rules and regulations. He is free from the rules of servanthood. In the same way, before Christ we were subjected to the rules and elements of this fallen world. However, in Christ we have become heirs of God and now have heavenly privileges by now living under the rules of the kingdom of God. This is an appropriate illustration to use in this Graeco-Roman culture in which there were many slaves used to serve within the Roman Empire. Paul would later write his epistle to Philemon and address the issue of slavery within the Church.

One elderly African-American preacher used the following illustration of sonship so well. He explained that during the years of African slavery in the United States, the slave children would often play outside of the master's house in the dirt while their parents worked in the field. Often the master's little child would come outside to play with these children of slavery. In this child's mind, he saw no difference between himself and the slave children, although he was the heir of his father's plantation. When the master called his son into the house, the child was often reluctant because he wanted to play and live like the slave children. But there came a time when the master had to separate his child from the slave children and teach him that he was not to live like they lived, that he had a much higher position in life. In the same way, God has called us to a much higher position in life than being in bondage to the elements of this world that the nonbeliever is subjected to. We have been set free and are to live like heirs of the kingdom, like priests and kings unto our God. After pleading for the heart of the Galatians to receive him above his competitors ( Galatians 4:12-20), Paul then uses the allegory of Sarai and Hagar to give them a second illustration of their freedom in Christ ( Galatians 4:21 to Galatians 5:1).

Galatians 4:3Word Study on "elements" - Strong says the Greek word "elements" ( στοιχεῖον) (G 4747) means, "something orderly in arrangement," and my implication, "a serial (basal, fundamental, initial) constituent (literally), proposition (figuratively)," and it is derived from the word ( στοιχέω) (G 4748), which means, "to march in (military) rank (keep step)," and figuratively, "to conform to virtue and piety." BDAG says the word ( στοιχεῖον) (G 4747) means, "elements (of learning), fundamental principles," or "elemental substances."

Comments- This same Greek word is used in Hebrews 5:12 to describe the "principles," or foundational teachings, of the Word of God. This word is used in Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20 to describe the "rudiments," or fundamental systems, of this world. This word is also used in 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12 to describe the basic elements that make up the world and universe that we live in. Scientists recognize one hundred three elements upon which serve as the building blocks of all of creation. 94] These basic elements, listed in the Periodic Table of Elements, are combined in various ways to form all substances known to mankind.

94] Carol P. Anderson, "Element, Chemical," in The Word Book Encyclopedia, vol 6 (Chicago: World Book, Inc, 1994), 219-223.

Hebrews 5:12, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."

Colossians 2:8, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Colossians 2:20, "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,"

2 Peter 3:10, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

2 Peter 3:12, "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"

Comments- The elements of this world refer to the fundamental structures of this world's system. In his book Making Jesus Lord: The Dynamic Power of Laying Down Your Rights, Loren Cunningham identifies seven of these fundamental structures. He says the Lord laid on his heart seven aspects of culture that Christians must focus upon in order to transform a society: (1) the home, (2) the church, (3) schools, (4) government and politics, (5) the media, (6) arts, entertainment, and sports, (7) commerce, science, and technology." He says, "These seven spheres of influence will help us shape societies for Christ." 95] In man's fallen depravity, these seven aspects of man's culture have become sources of bondages in sin. Satan has corrupted these elements of society, causing destruction rather than prosperity. In contrast, Jesus Christ serves as man's the source of liberty.

95] Loren Cunningham, Making Jesus Lord: The Dynamic Power of Laying Down Your Rights (Seattle Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1988), 134.

In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul makes a similar statement, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world." The course of this world collectively refers to the various systems that men serve in human societies.

Ephesians 2:2, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:"

However, the reason Paul states our bondages to this world in two different ways in his epistles is because each letter carries a different emphasis. The epistle of Galatians emphasizes the need for believers to walk in the freedom and liberties in which Christ Jesus provided for us. In contrast, the epistle of Ephesians places emphasis upon the Father's work in our lives so that we might walk worthily and participate in fulfilling His divine plan of redemption, which is the course of Heaven.

God calls new believers to "forsake all and follow Him," a phrase used in the Gospels when Jesus called His disciples. When we forsake all to follow Jesus, we must break loose from the entanglement of this world's system, and associate ourselves with the Kingdom of Heaven. This event is often seen when a person quits what he is doing and goes to Bible college. This decision to break free can be a difficult decision to make, and it can become more challenging to make ends meet financially at first; but in the long run, a person's life can be fulfilling as he/she enters into a divine calling and ministry.

Galatians 4:4 — "But when the fulness of the time was come" - Comments- Mark makes a similar statement in his Gospel regarding the fact that Jesus was born in the fullness of time ( Mark 1:14-15).

Mark 1:14-15, "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."

Galatians 4:4Comments- For years, Bible scholars have recognized that the time in which God sent His Son on earth to be born of a woman was a unique time in history for this event. It was the first time in the history of the world that the Gospel could be quickly and effectively spread throughout the known world.

In the nation of Israel during the time of Jesus" birth, three cultures merged, the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans. The Jews carried the torch of religious zeal. To them belonged the message of God"s redemption. The Greek culture brought its language and arts. The Roman culture brought its law and order to develop an infrastructure for a civilized society to function.

1. The Jewish Influence- It was a time of strong Messianic hope. Since the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 B.C. (Josephus, Antiquities 1444, Tacitus, History 59 96]), the Jewish people began to earnestly look for the Messiah to deliver them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. The Jewish people were a humbled nation, and were looking for divine intervention. Many Jewish people were able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. However, its greatest impact was the fact that Temple worship Jewish festivals were attended in Jerusalem by thousands, if not millions, of Jewish pilgrims. Eusebius, the early Christian historian, writes that up to three million Jews were in Jerusalem on the feast days when Titus destroyed the city in A.D 70. 97] Therefore, the story of Jesus of Nazareth was spread throughout the civilized world by both believing and unbelieving Jews.

96] Tacitus: Histories, vol 2, trans. Clifford H. Moore, and The Annals, trans. John Jackson, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1928), 191-193.

97] See Eusebius writes, "But it is necessary to state that this writer records that the multitude of those who were assembled from all Judea at the time of the Passover, to the number of three million souls, were shut up in Jerusalem "as in a prison," to use his own words." (Ecclesiastical History 355).

2. The Roman Influence- It was a time of world peace. This period in history is called the "Pax Romana," (Latin for ‘Roman Peace'). 98] The Roman Empire, ruled by Caesar Augustus, was focusing on developing its infrastructure rather than expanding its territories by conquest. The Gospel was then spread during a time of relative peace.

98] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Palestine Under Roman Rule (The Gospels and Acts): Preparation of the World for Christ and the Church: Roman Political Contribution,"

It was also a time when travel was easy. The Romans had developed a structure of roads and trade routes by land and sea that unequaled by any other empire in history. The Gospel was then spread on these Roman roads.

3. The Greek Influence- The Roman Empire built upon the Greek culture. It had one common language, which was called Koine Greek, or the Greek, which was spoken by the common people. The Greek language developed as one of the most highly inflected languages known to man. Therefore, it became a language capable of communicating precise details, accurate beyond the capabilities of other written languages.

The entire New Testament was either originally written or quickly translated into this language. Therefore, the Gospel could be sent to the world by one precise, universal language.

Galatians 4:6 — "Abba, Father" - Comments- F. F. Bruce tells us that this is an Aramaic word that has come to be used even today when a Hebrew-speaking son addresses his father. However, the Jews in Jesus' day reserved this affectionate word strictly for family members. They used the more formal "Abi" (my father) or "Abinu" (our Father) instead when addressing God. 99]

99] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 56.

Jesus was not following the customs of His day by addressing the Heavenly Father so affectionately. Paul followed this example of affection for God by addressing Him with the same words.

Mark 14:36, "And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."

Romans 8:15, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."

Galatians 4:6Comments- We have been adopted as sons. Therefore, God is our Father, so we call Him "Father." I laid down in bed one night (July 21, 2002) after reading portions from Frances J. Roberts' book Come Away My Beloved. This book is about learning how to walk in an intimacy with God that is beyond the average Christian walk. As I lay down, I heard my little two-year old child's voice say, "Daddy." Her voice will instantly bring a reply from me. No other voice will move me to respond as quickly as the cry of one of my children. Then, I realized that it was God telling me to cry out to him as my heavenly Father, so that He could become intimate with me; for this is his greatest desire, to spend time with His children. Note these words from Frances J. Roberts:

"Do not wait to feel more worthy, for no man is worthy of My blessings. My grace by passes all thy shortcomings, and I give to My children because they ask of Me and because I love them, and I do not love one more than another. I give most liberally to those who ask the most of Me. For I love to have thee depend upon Me. This is why the Spirit within thee crieth ‘Abba - Father'. As thy father I anticipate thy dependence upon Me. Thou mayest by maturity outgrow thy dependence upon human parentage, but as My child, ye shall never "outgrow" thy spiritual sonship, nor shall thyself come into this position of father in human relationship. Thou shalt then appreciate even more fully My feelings toward thee. For thou shalt know by thine own human experience the love of a father, and the desire to care for and provide, and ye shall know more fully how much I love thee, and how ready I am to help thee, and how available I am to counsel with thee and give thee My support." 100]

100] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King's Farspan, Inc, 1973), 110.

Galatians 4:7Comments- We are children of God ( Romans 8:17), and because we are His children, we are heirs.

Romans 8:17, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."


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 4:8Ancient 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 4:10Comments- 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, c 1975, 1976), 29, 32, 76.

103] Benny Hinn, Good Morning, Holy Spirit (Nashville: Tennessee, c 1990, 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 Isaiah , 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 4:18Comments - 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 4:19Comments- 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 Prayer of Manasseh , 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, c 1980, 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 Psalm 126:6.

Psalm 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, c 1994), 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 4:26Comments- 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 4:29Comments- 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.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

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

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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