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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Galatians 4

 

 

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Verse 1

Galatians 4:1-5. Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Like little children, the Jewish believers were under the law. They observed this ceremony and that, just as children, even though they may be heirs to vast estates, yet, while they are in their minority, are under tutors and governors. But now in Christ we have come of age, and we have done with those school-books and that tutorship, and we have received the adoption of sons. Now, we have joy and peace in believing; we have begun to enter into our possession; we have the earnest of it already, and by-and-by we shall receive the fullness of the inheritance of the saints in light.

Galatians 4:6. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

While the Jewish believers, like children, were under the law, they did not have such direct access to the Father as we have. They could not enter into such close fellowship with God as now we can. We who are the sons of God, really born into his family, feel within us a something that makes us call God, “Father,” not only in prayer, saying, “Our Father, which art in heaven;” but, inwardly, when we are not in the attitude of prayer, our hearts keep on crying, “Father, Father.” The Jew may say, “Abba, and the word is very sweet; but we cry, “Father,” and it means the same thing.

Galatians 4:7. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

All God’s sons are, in a certain sense, his servants; but there is a sense in which servants are not sons. We, therefore, are not like those servants who have no relationship to their master, and no share in his possessions; but we are sons. Whatever service we render, we are still sons, and we have a share in all that our Father has; we are heirs, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Are you living up to your privileges, brethren? Are we any of us fully realizing what this heirship means? Do we not often live as if we were only servants toiling for hire? Do we not tremble at God as if we were his slaves rather than his sons? Let us remember that we are God’s sons, his heirs; and let us come close to him, let us take possession of the blessed inheritance which he has provided for us.

Galatians 4:8-11. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 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? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Among the heathen, there were divers “lucky” and “unlucky” days; sacred days, and days in which they indulged in sensual excess. They had even “holy” months and “unholy” months. Now, all that kind of thing is done away with in the case of a Christian: he is set free from such weak and beggarly superstitions. Among the Jews, there were certain sacred festivals, times that were more notable than other seasons; but they also were done away with in Christ. We observe the Christian Sabbath; but beyond that, to the true believer, there should be no special observance of days, and months, and years. All that is a return to “the weak and beggarly elements” from which Christ has delivered him. That bondage is all ended now; but there are some who still “observe days, and months, and times, and years;” and Paul says to them, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” Every day is holy, every year is holy, to a holy man; and every place is holy, too, to the man who brings a holy heart into it.

Galatians 4:12. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

“Be perfectly at home with me, for I am so with you. Though you Galatians have treated me very badly, yet ye have not really injured me, and I freely overlook your ill manners toward me.”

Galatians 4:13-15. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 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. 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.

The apostle remembers how they received him at first, his gospel was to them like life from the dead; and though he was full of infirmities, —perhaps had weak eyes, — perhaps had a stammering tongue, — perhaps was at that time very much depressed in spirit, — yet, he says, “You received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. You loved me so much that, if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.”

Galatians 4:16. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

There come times, with all God’s servants, when certain people proclaim something fresh and new in doctrine; and then the old messenger of God, who was blessed to them, comes to be despised. I have lived long enough to see dozens of very fine fancies started, but they have all come to nothing; I daresay I shall see a dozen more, and they will all come to nothing. But here I stand; I am not led astray either by novelties of excitement or novelties of doctrine. The things which I preached at the first, I preach still, and so I shall continue, as God shall help me. But I know, in some little measure, what the apostle meant when he said, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”

Galatians 4:17-20. They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

The point of doubt was, that they had been led astray by legal teachers; they had been made to believe that, after all, there was something in outward ceremonies, something in the works of the law, and so they had come under bondage again. So the apostle says, —

Galatians 4:21-23. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; —

By Abraham’s own strength; —

Galatians 4:23. But he of the freewoman was by promise.

Born when Abraham and his wife were past age, — born by the power of God’s Spirit, according to promise.

Galatians 4:24. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants: the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar.

It is the strength of the flesh which leads to bondage.

Galatians 4:25-26. For this Hgar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

That is, of all of us who believe in Christ Jesus. We are born of the free-woman, not of the bondwoman; not born of the covenant of works, and in the strength of the creature; but born of the covenant of grace, in the power of God, according to promise.

Galatians 4:27-28. 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. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

If we are God’s children, it is not by our own strength, or by the strength of the flesh, in any measure or degree; but it is by the grace of God, and the promise of God, that we are what we are.

Galatians 4:29-30. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture?

Make a compromise, and be friends? Let Isaac and Ishmael live in the same house, and lie in the same bed? No!

Galatians 4:30-31. Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Galatians 5:1. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

God grant us grace to keep to grace! God grant us faith enough to live by faith, even to the end, as the freeborn children of God, for his name’s sake! Amen.


Verses 12-31

Galatians 4:12. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

He had told them the gospel, and other teachers had come in and alienated their affections. He says, “Now I am just the same to you as ever I was; I wish you would have the same love to me.”

Galatians 4:13-14. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 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.

He dwells upon that. They had been so enthusiastic about his teaching when he first taught them, that he feels grieved that now they have gone aside to other teaching — not because it injured him, but because it injured them.

Galatians 4:15. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of?

When you said that you were happy to live in Paul’s days, glad to listen to so simple and plain a teacher.

Galatians 4:15-16. 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. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

Ah! there are many who have incurred enmity through speaking the gospel very plainly, for the natural tendency of man is towards ceremony, towards some form of legal righteousness: he must have something aesthetic, something that delights his sensuous nature, something that he can see and hear, to mix up that with the simplicity of faith; and Paul was as clear as noonday against everything of that kind, and so the Galatians got at last to be angry with him. Well, he could not help that, but it did grieve him.

Galatians 4:17. They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

They would, if they could, turn you out of our love that you might run after them. These false teachers would shut us out of your hearts that your hearts might go after them.

Galatians 4:18-21. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Will you not listen to what the law itself teaches? Here is a little bit from one of its first books, the book of Genesis.

Galatians 4:22-23. For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, and the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh;

In the strength of Abraham.

Galatians 4:23. But he of the freewoman was by promise.

In the power of God, born after both father and mother had ceased to be capable of becoming parents, born in the power of God.

Galatians 4:24. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants: the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar.

Those that are under the law are the children, therefore, of the bondwoman: they are born slaves.

Galatians 4:25. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

It is old Judaism coming from Sinai, “This do, and thou shalt live,” and all the children that are born under it are children of nature, and they are not the children of promise.

Galatians 4:26. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

This is Sarah, and they that believe are the Isaac-children, the children of holy laughter, born according to the power of God.

Galatians 4:27-29. 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, Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

The child of Hagar could not hear the child of Sarah, and they that seek salvation by the works of the law, and by outward ceremonies, cannot endure the children of faith.

Galatians 4:30-31. 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. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

This exposition consisted of readings from Galatians 4:12-31; Galatians 5:1-4; Galatians 5:19-26; Galatians 6:1-11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Galatians 4:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/galatians-4.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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