"But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth
nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all; but is under
guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father."
Paul is expanding on
what he said in chapter 3:24:25 which reads, "So that the law is
become our tutor (to bring us) unto Christ, that we might be
justified by faith.
25 But now faith that is come, we are no longer under a tutor".
Those who live under the old law were in effect under the
guardianship of the law of Moses. The heir in this context is
anyone who is a Christian which we see from the last verse of
Galatians 3 which reads, "And if ye are Christ's, then are ye
Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise". Paul is using
an underage human child who is heir to his father's possessions to
illustrate the transition of heirs to Abraham's promise under the
law of Moses to being heirs of the same promises under the law of
Christ. Those who lived under the law of Moses are
illustrated here as the underage children.
An underage child in a
first century household had no legal rights that would supersede the
authority given by the master of the house to the bondservants who
were in charge of the child's safekeeping and upbringing. But
even though this underage child was under the authority of the
bondservants, he was still lord over them at the same time.
This arrangement continued until the time appointed by the child's
father where he would then be taken out of the oversight of the
bondservants, guardians, or tutors and given his rightful place as
the heir to the father's possessions.
The parallel with the
law of Moses is that God put in place the law of Moses to serve in
the capacity of guardian and steward until such time that the
underage child which represents the Israelite nation reached that
point where they could be taken out from under the law of Moses and
placed directly under Christ. It was at this point when going
from the old law to the law of Christ that Christians received the
long awaited blessing of Jesus Christ which had been promised
through Abraham to all nations of the earth.
also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the
rudiments of the world:"
Paul is now explaining
why the bondage of the law of Moses preceded the blessings of the
gospel. The old law was used for the purpose of development
similar to the way an underage youth is trained to manhood. It
is the will of the child's father that he be subject to the
authority of the appointed guardians until he matures to the point
that he can then inherit the estate and subsequently take on the
responsibilities associated with it. The "rudiments of the
world" is a reference to the various laws under which mankind lived
none of which were able to justify anyone before God. To
the Jews, this would have been the law of Moses. For the
Gentile, this could be a form of patriarchal law under which the believing
Gentiles lived. An example of this would be Cornelius who was
a God fearing Gentile prior to his conversion. Cornelius did
not live under the law of Moses. Consider the city of the
Nineveh which was in danger of being destroyed by God when Jonah
arrived and preached to them. This nation did not live under
the law of Moses, when they repented of their evil, they did not
turn to the law of Moses. They were living under God's law
under some other system.
To further illustrate,
let's consider Romans 2:12-15, "For as many as have sinned
without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned
in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the
law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be
justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature
do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a
law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their
hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between
themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)."
In other words, when the
Gentiles lived by the basic tenants of God's laws on right and wrong
from their hearts, they show that they are trying to be good and
honest people and they became a law unto themselves, just like the
Gentiles in Nineveh who repented and returned to God's basic rules
on right and wrong.
The rudiments of the
world which Paul referred to here could be a reference to more than
just the law of Moses. It could be a reference to whatever
system of right and wrong the Gentiles lived under which governed
their actions. Neither the law
of Moses, the Patriarchal law or any other natural law of the
Gentiles Paul mentioned in Romans 2:12-15, could provide freedom
from sin like the new covenant could. Only the law of Christ
can bring about the freedom of sin and the justification of man.
To illustrate what I am saying: When children which will inherit all
that their father owns are underage, they are still subject to those
in service to the father who are his appointed guardians. At
this time in their lives it doesn't matter that they will own
everything that belongs to their father. While they are yet
underage, they must obey those who are chosen to be their guardians.
But when they reach the age the father set, they are released from
the authority of their guardians. It is the same for us who have
become Christians. We were once like underage children, living under
the bondage of the earthly laws set in place by God which could
never free us from the bondage of sin.
"but when the fulness of the time came, God
sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,"
The phrase "fulness of
time" carries the meaning of 'at God's appointed time'. God sent Jesus into the
world when the time was just right. There were several
conditions and circumstances which made it the perfect time for
Jesus to come. Some of them are:
1) Sin had
become fully identified as the transgression of God's will.
Widespread rebellion against God had brought universal suffering and
condemnation upon mankind with no hope for salvation except through
Jesus Christ. Psalms 14:1-3, "The fool has said in his
heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done
abominable works, There is none who does good. 2 The Lord looks down
from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who
understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside, They have
together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one."
2) Both Jew
and Gentile had been taught that they cannot save themselves.
Jeremiah 10:23, "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps."
3) Rome had given
most of the known world an orderly system of civil law.
4) Rome had constructed
a network of roads which facilitated travel.
5) Rome had established
an empire which allowed people to travel from nation to nation
without encountering closed borders.
6) Rome ruled over the
known world which was presently for the most part at peace.
7) The universal
language of the empire was for the most part Greek due to the
Hellenizing efforts of Alexander the Great and his successors.
8) The Septuagint,
which was a common Greek translation of the old testament scriptures
in Hebrew, was available and understandable by the vast majority of
the literate citizenry of the Roman Empire.
9) Morality was at
a distinct low point, even among the Jews. Conscientious
people knew there had to be a better way and would therefore be more
likely to respond to the high standard of the Gospel.
religions were at an all time high, their perversions and atrocities
were obviously evil to anyone capable of rational thought.
Many were able to perceive the foolishness of their idolatrous
practices and were searching for something real and something
"God sent forth his
Son, born of a woman,"
Jesus had a sonship
relationship with God the Father. He also had a sonship
relationship with mankind at the same time. That is why He is
referred to in scripture as both the Son of God and the Son of Man.
This is one of the huge advantages that the gospel through Christ has over the law
of Moses. Paul has been reinforcing this point over and over
again trying to get his readership to understand this one very vital
point. The only thing the law of Moses could do was to
keep people in the bondage of sin. But when the time was
right, God, the Father, sent God, the Son, to earth who was born of a woman which means
He was not only the Son of God, but He was a human being. The
gospel system of faith was delivered by God directly to mankind on a
face to face level.
Born of a woman means
that no man had anything to do with the conception of Jesus Christ.
This was also in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy some seven hundred
years prior as recorded by Isaiah in 7:14, "Therefore the Lord
Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and
bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." The name
"Immanuel" means "God With Us" as recorded in Matthew 1:23
where the inspired writer quoted Isaiah 7:14 as proof of the virgin
birth of Jesus Christ. This is the method God chose to usher
the savior of all mankind into the world, and is evidence of the
authenticity of Jesus Christ and of the gospel. If
Christianity were a religion devised in the minds of men, it is not
likely the arrival of the savior of all mankind onto the earth would
have been under the circumstances by which Jesus Christ arrived.
"born under the law"
In the previous verse,
Paul referenced the bondage of the various law systems He had in
place for both the Jews and Gentiles. Here, Paul identifies
which one of these systems Jesus was born under.
Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, was born at a time when the law of Moses was still in effect.
When Jesus became a physical man, He obligated
Himself to the law of Moses until such time that He fulfilled it and
brought it to an end on the cross. We learn from passages such
as 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15; 7:26, 1 Peter 2:22 and 1 John
3:5 that Jesus never sinned. It was necessary for Jesus to
live under law in order to live a sinless life. Jesus was born
under the law of Moses which kept people under the bondage of sin.
He lived under this law perfectly, thus qualifying Himself to be the
perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. Jesus lived a
perfectly sinless life under a law system that was incapable of
justifying anyone. And He did that so that He could usher in
the gospel system of faith which was capable of justifying anyone who
might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the
adoption of sons."
Jesus was born under the
law of Moses so that He could redeem those who had lived and were
living under the same law. The fact that He lived under it
perfectly and sinlessly is what made Him uniquely qualified to
accomplish this redemption. No other man living on the earth
could have accomplished this. Everyone who had ever lived
under the law of Moses needed redemption because the law of Moses
was incapable of accomplishing this. Paul has repeatedly
pointed out to his readership the inadequacies of the law of Moses
in regards to the justification of mankind, now he is touching on
what Jesus Christ did for them. The best the law of Moses had
to offer was to serve as a guardian and protector of those living
under it. Those living under the law of Moses, both alive and
deceased, were still in the bondage of their sin and needed the
redemption Jesus Christ accomplished. The Hebrew writer
teaches us that this redemption for the souls who had lived
faithfully under the law of Moses was accomplished at the cross,
Hebrews 9:15, "And for this reason He [Jesus] is the
Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption
of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are
called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."
"that we might receive the adoption of sons."
There were two groups of
people in Paul's view in this verse. The first group was those
who had lived faithfully under the law of Moses who still needed
redemption. Now this group, receiving the "adoption of
sons", is representative of those living under the gospel.
Christ accomplished the redemption of the faithful children of God
who lived under law of Moses, and at the same time made it possible
for those who lived after the cross to receive the "adoption of
sons". In other words, the faithful are adopted into
the family of God directly because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
This is another point that Paul is bringing against the law of
Moses. The Judaizers were teaching that one could not be in
the family of God, or recognized as a child of God unless they were
circumcised according to the law of Moses. The Jews thought
they were the exclusive children of God by birthright and that
anyone who wanted to be a part of the family of God with them had to
adhere to certain aspects of the law of Moses in order to do so.
Paul is telling them that this is not true and that Jesus Christ
accomplished this entrance into the family of God for them separate
and apart from the law of Moses. In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I
am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through Me." That statement by Jesus included those
who lived under the law of Moses as well.
"And because ye are sons, God sent forth the
Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
This is not a reference
to the manner in which a Christian receives the Spirit of God.
The literal eternal Spirit of Jesus does not cry Abba Father from our hearts for us.
This is a contrast between the law of Moses and the law of Christ.
Concerning this same thing, Paul teaches in Romans 8:15, "For you did not receive the spirit
of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption
by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The "spirit
of adoption" in Romans 8:15 is the same thing as the "spirit
of His Son" in Galatians 4:6. Under the law of Moses they
were kept under the bondage of sin, under the law of Christ they are
sons of God and joint heirs to the promises with Christ: Romans
8:17, "and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs
with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be
Paul is saying here that
because they are sons of God and not servants laboring under the
bondage of sin, God sent the spirit of sonship into their hearts.
The promise was: (Jeremiah 31:33), "I will put My law in their
minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and
they shall be My people". When Christ died, the new
covenant was confirmed and His laws were then written in the hearts
of the faithful and they were no longer servants under the bondage
of sin for which the old covenant could not justify them. The
spirit of fear under which those who lived under the law of Moses
served was replaced by the spirit of love. Those living
under the law of Christ do not need to fear the condemnation of sin
because justification from sin is possible where under the law of
Moses, it was not. Paul is illustrating another advantage of
the law of Christ over the law of Moses.
thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an
heir through God."
Under the law of Moses,
bondservants labored under the bondage of sin the penalty of which
was death. Under the law of Christ, bondservants labor under
the freedom from the condemnation of sin. Paul teaches in
Romans 8:12 that "we are debtors". We still owe our
lives to Jesus Christ but it is far better to owe one's life to
Christ than it is to be condemned to death with no hope which is all
the law of Moses could offer without Christ. Far better to be
the bondservant of Christ and live than the bondservant of death and
be lost. Paul wrote concerning this in Romans 6:22, "But
now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God,
you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life."
The Greek word for slave in this verse means a bondservant.
Paul is not telling his readership that they are no longer
bondservants of anything or anyone, rather he is telling them they
are no longer bondservants of a law which was unable to save them.
"but a son; and if a
son, then an heir through God"
In Romans 8:17, Paul
wrote, "and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with
Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified
together". Paul is stressing the fact that those who live
by the law of Christ are the sons of God. This is a direct
contradiction of what the Judaizers had been teaching. They
had succeeded in convincing the Christians in Galatia that one had
to be identified as a Son of Abraham through the law of Moses in
order to be considered a child of God. Paul is teaching them
that they are the sons of God without the law of Moses.
"then an heir through
Those who are the sons
of God are an heir to the promises given to Abraham through Jesus
Christ. This statement by Paul here is an affirmation of the
deity of Jesus Christ. A Christian is an heir of the promises
given to Abraham by virtue of sonship and union with Christ.
The Christian's sonship to God is a result of his unity with Christ.
Unity with Christ is the same thing as being "in Christ". Paul
wrote in Galatians 3:27 that one is baptized "into Christ".
When one is in Christ, one has become a joint heir with Christ of
the promises given to Abraham. The sign for being identified
as a child of God under the law of Moses was circumcision.
The Judaizers were
teaching the Christians in Galatia that they had to be circumcised
according to the law of Mooses in order to be a child of God.
Paul is teaching them here that the way into sonship with God is not
through the old law of Moses. Rather it's through joint
sonship with Jesus Christ which is the same thing as being "in
Christ" Those who are in Christ have become sons of God
through Christ and thereby inherit the promised blessings given to
Abraham. In short, Paul is telling them they don't need the
law of Moses to in order to be a child of God. Baptism into
sonship with God through Christ has replaced circumcision as the way
of admission into the family of God.
There are many among
those who claim Christ as savior who believe that baptism is not as
essential element in one's salvation. Those who make such
claims need to study the larger context of Galatians 3:27 and
provide an explanation on how one can be in the family of God if
they are not in a joint sonship union with Jesus Christ.
Paul's concern over
the Apostasy of the Galatians
"Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in
bondage to them that by nature are no gods:"
The King James Version
renders this verse thus: "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God,
ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. "Then"
was before the coming of the Galatian Gentiles to Christ. The
pagan society in which the Galatian Christians lived was
predominantly poly theistic. The worship of the Greek Gods we
know of today in Mythology was prominent along with several others
as well. Paul is telling his readership here that they
were in bondage to a bunch of idols who were not gods.
"but now that ye have
come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back
again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be
in bondage over again?"
Before Paul preached the
Gospel to them, the Galatian Christians did not know God, nor were
they known by God in the sense of being a child of God.
Earthly parents have a different kind of relationship with their
children than they do with those who are not their children.
We are aware of other children and we know of them, but we do not
have the kind of relationship with them that we would if they were
our own children. Paul has been previously telling them that
they were joint heirs with Christ and as such were in the family of
God as His sons. So his reference here is that of someone who
is on a much more familiar basis than just an acquaintance.
There are many many people out there today who know of God, but as a
stranger from the new covenant, don't know Him like they should or
How do Christians know
whether they just know of God, or if they know God in the sense of a
family relationship? 1 John 2:3-5 tells us how we can
put that to the test, "Now by this we know that we know Him,
if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," and
does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in
him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is
perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."
Paul also said, "or
rather to be known by God". This family relationship is a
two way thing. Not only did the Galatian Christians come to
know God as His children, God came to know them. Paul wrote
concerning this in 2 Timothy
2:19, "Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having
this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone
who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
God knows who His children are, just like we know who our earthly
It is just as important
to be known by God in the family sense as it is to know God in a
family sense. Jesus Christ spoke of those who called on Him
but were never known by God in the family sense Paul has been
speaking of here.
Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall
enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father
in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we
not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done
many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I
never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"
Those who call on Jesus as Lord but do not obey Him are liars
when they claim to know God. Jesus said in Matthew 7:23 that
those who did not do the will of God were never known by God.
Both aspects of knowing God and being known by God are all centered
around our obedience to God's will. For the Galatian
Christians and Christians living today this means obedience to the
new covenant, otherwise known as the gospel, and the law of Christ.
Anyone who desires to be in that close family relationship with God
where they know Him as their Father and He knows them as His
children must be obedient to the will of God.
The "weak and
beggarly rudiments" in this verse must be the same as the
"rudiments of the world" mentioned in verse 3 which was a
reference to various belief systems which governed the actions of
men and were completely powerless to justify anyone in the sight of
God. The point Paul is making here is very important.
He has been contrasting the law of Moses with the law of Christ
throughout this letter. He has been elevating the law of Faith
over the law of Moses, and now, he is doing something different.
Now he is lowering the law of Moses into the same bracket as the
laws of the world. The significance of this cannot be
overstated. The law of Moses had a purpose which Paul
explained earlier, but now that this purpose is over, the law of
Moses is nothing more than a rudiment of the world, no better than
any other natural law of man. It is worthless as a means of
justification and Paul wants to know why after they had become the
children of God under the system of Faith, that they would throw
that away and turn back to a system which was incapable of
accomplishing this kind of relationship with God.
"whereunto ye desire
to be in bondage over again"
Why would anyone want to
be in the kind of bondage to sin that the former systems were
incapable of dealing with? Why would anyone want to be a child
of God and then forfeit that for the bondage of the old law of
Moses? Paul is a making a statement here that is a precursor
to something coming up later in this letter. Paul continues to
build the case for the law of Christ and against the law of Moses.
Each point he makes builds on the next and reinforces each
successive thought in the over all case he is presenting to his
readership. when Paul has finished his case against the law of
Moses, it will be clear that not only do those who try and follow
after the old law desire to be in the bondage of the rudiments of
the world, they will be under the bondage of this law. And not
just under the bondage of sin either, they will be obligated to
follow the whole old law and as a result will fall from the grace of
"Ye observe days, and months, and seasons,
Earlier in this study we
observed that the Judaizers were trying to bind much more of the law
of Moses than just circumcision on the Galatians Christians.
Here is the proof of this in that they were teaching them to keep
the religious holy days, months, seasons and years pertaining to the
law of Moses. These could have included the Sabbath day, the feast days
such as the Passover, Pentecost, the feast of the new moon, the
feast of weeks, the feast of the trumpets, the feast of ingathering
and numerous other special Jewish religious occasions such as the
year of the Jubilee. The Judaizers did not stop with
just circumcision. By the time Paul wrote this letter, their
infiltration into the Galatian congregations had reached the point
where they were binding all sorts of additional elements of the law
of Moses upon them.
it should be noted here
that the Galatia was not the only place where the Judaizers were at
work. Paul makes a reference to this in Colossians 2:16-18,
where he wrote by inspiration, "So let no one judge you in food
or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of
Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false
humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he
has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." The
keeping of the Sabbath day was an exclusive element of the law of
Moses, so when we see a reference to that, it is a reference to
those who would bind that law on others. Paul was instructing
his readership in Colossi to disregard the teachings of those who
would judge them for not observing holy days under the law of Moses.
Within this was included an unmistakable warning about losing their
reward if they heeded the Judaizers which takes us to Galatians
"I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed
labor upon you in vain."
Paul has made several
references to the consequences for allowing the Judaizers to
influence them and here is yet another. Each time he mentions
this, the point gets a little stronger. Here, Paul expresses
fear for their souls and concern that he had exposed them to the
teachings of the gospel for nothing. The labor he mentions
here is the work required by all Christians which is benevolence
(Matthew 25:31-46, evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20), and edification
(Romans 15:1-2). Paul is concerned that because they had
submitted to the doctrine of the Judaizers that the work of a
Christian that he had committed to them and that they had been doing
was for nothing and that they would all be lost anyway. In
other words, they were no better off now than they were before Paul
arrived because they had accepted what the Judaizers were teaching.
The KJV and the ASV
render this verse as "bestowed labor upon you". Most of the
other modern English translations render this verse as Paul saying
he had labored for them in vain. The actual order of the words
in the original language is "I am afraid of you lest in vain I
have bestowed labor upon you." Many modern translations
appear to go out of their way at any opportunity to shift the
language away from there being any commitment for a Christian to
work. I either event, It makes no difference whether it was
Paul's labor or the Galatian Christian's labor which was wasted.
The end results are the same. If Paul's labor was for nothing,
the Galatians became Christians for nothing. Likewise, if the
Galatian Christians labor was for nothing, they became Christians
for nothing. The consequences under both translations are the
same which is loss of salvation and eternal condemnation from the
presence of God.
"I beseech you, brethren, become as I (am),
for I also (am become) as ye (are). Ye did me no wrong:"
This is an expression of
a painfully agitated, loving and affectionate heart. The word
"beseech" carries the meaning of to 'plead' or 'beg'.
Paul is genuinely afraid for their spiritual well being.
Paul's state of mind here is one of agony and great anxiety over the
souls of his Galatian brethren.
"become as I (am),"
Paul had abandoned the
law of Moses completely along with all the Jewish rites and customs.
He is begging them to do the same thing. We must acknowledge
and bear in mind Paul's emotional state while writing this. He
is agonizing over them, begging with them, pleading with them to
abandon these things just as he had. Their eternal well being
is hanging in the balance here.
"for I also (am
become) as ye (are)."
To the degree possible,
Paul had also abandoned some of his own customs and practices in
order to save them. In other words, Paul assimilated himself
into their culture going so far as to adopt some of their customs or
behavioral mannerisms in order for them to be comfortable with each
other. This is not the only time Paul has made mention of this
practice of his, 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, "For though I am free
from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win
the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might
win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I
might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are
without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but
under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without
law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I
have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save
some." Paul would go to great lengths to preach the
gospel, even so far as observing their customs and practices which
obviously did not transgress the will of God. It would be an
abuse of this text to try and say that Paul routinely did what he
was condemning in his letter to the Galatian Christians in order to
gain an audience with them in hopes of teaching them the truth later
on. What Paul was saying to his readership here is that he
tried to become like them to the degree possible that they were
comfortable with one another in order to facilitate the spreading of
"Ye did me no wrong:"
We need to keep in mind
here that Paul has been using some very strong language in this
letter. He had just finished telling them in so many words
that he was afraid they had become Christians for nothing. One
does not not lightly use such language with no expectations of a
negative response. You don't just tell someone their
Christianity is vain and worthless and expect them to receive such a
message with great joy and thanksgiving. Paul wants his
readership to understand that he is not saying these things out of
anger or in retribution because of anything hurtful they may have
done to him. He is assuring them that his motives with these
strong words are of genuine concern for their wellbeing.
know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel
unto you the first time:
Not only does Paul want
them to understand that he was not writing out of personal anger
over some prior treatment and holding a grudge over something, he
gives them an example of a great kindness they had shown him
previously. Paul had some kind of infirmity of the flesh which
was very obviously visible and of such a nature that it could even
be a cause for rejection by some people, yet they chose to overlook
it with Paul and accept him and his teaching whole heartedly.
Paul is telling them that not only had they accepted him, they
accepted him with his handicap and did not hold it against him.
His motive for bringing this up is to demonstrate to his readership
that he was not writing to them out of anger for past poor
"and that which was a temptation to you in
my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but ye received me as an
angel of God, (even) as Christ Jesus."
infirmity was such that it would compel many to despise and/or
reject him outright. Many have been the speculations as to
exactly what his handicap was. The Bible never comes out and
specifically tells us what his handicap really was, but there
are a number of clues which have led many to the conclusion that
Paul's eyesight was just a little better than outright blindness.
We know that Paul requested through prayer on three occasions to
have it removed and was denied (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). We know
from Acts 19:11-12 that while Paul spent 2 years in Ephesus, many
special miracles were worked at the hands of Paul. It is
interesting to note that Paul never used his miraculous abilities
for self serving measures. His miracles of healing were such
that his handkerchief or napkin could be taken to someone sick and
they would recover, yet his own handicap remained with him.
Where then is that gratulation of yourselves? for I bear you witness, that, if
possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to
The New American
Standard Bible translates this more properly as "Where then is
that sense of blessing you had?" The Galatian Christians
had received Paul with great enthusiasm and were very excited about
their new found Christianity. Paul wanted to know what had
happened to their spirit and fervor that had energized them when he
first preached the gospel to them.
"for I bear you
witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and
given them to me"
The depth of feeling the
Galatians showed Paul was such that if it had been within their
power, they would have torn their own eyes out and given them to
him. This is the strongest evidence we have in all of
scripture as to the nature of Paul's infirmary. In either
event, it is obvious that they had run from one extreme to the
other. When Paul first preached the Gospel to them, they
embraced it, and Paul, with open arms fervently and with great
enthusiasm. Now, they had received the teachings of the
Judaizers and had abandoned Paul's teachings altogether. Paul
wants to know what happened to their great enthusiasm over having
been accepted into the family of God. He wants to know where
that excitement went and he gave them an example of just how much he
had meant to them. This not only served to call to their minds
the events surrounding his original preaching, it also served to
demonstrate that Paul had no reason whatsoever for being angry with
them. He wants them to fully understand that his motives
behind his chastisement of them for their defection from Jesus
Christ was not fueled by any hard feelings on his part.
"So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth?"
The Judaizers had been
successful in their efforts to bring the Galatian Christians under
some form of the old law of Moses. They accomplished this
in part by attacking Paul's credibility and apostleship thereby
convincing the Galatians that Paul was an imposter. They
managed to persuade the Galatians to accept the idea that Paul had
not been preaching the truth to them all along. Paul is
writing this letter in response to these claims by the Judaizers.
He is directly confronting and refuting everything the Judaizers had
tried to teach them about any part of Judaism. He wants them to understand that he is
not their enemy. This entire epistle to them has been all
about following after the system of faith in Christ and rejecting
the law of Moses.
Some people just don't
want to know the truth. And when confronted by it, have a
negative reaction and consider the messenger to be their enemy
instead of someone who is looking out for their best interests.
No one likes to be told they are wrong. Paul preached the
truth to the Galatian Christians in the beginning. They later
allowed the Judaizers to lead them astray into a variant form of
doctrine which would cost them their fellowship with God and
ultimately their salvation. They were the real enemies the
Galatians needed to beware of. Paul preached the truth of the
gospel to them, and now in their time of apostasy he is teaching
them the truth about the consequences for leaving the faith of
Christ to embrace the old law of Moses. Paul is most certainly
not their enemy and he wants them to know that.
"They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you
out, that ye may seek them."
The Judaizers were
fervent and eager in their pursuit of the Gentile Christians but
there was nothing good that would come of it. Their strategy
was to convince them that Paul was not an authentic
apostle and that he was not teaching them the whole truth.
When Paul said their desire was to "shut you out, that ye may seek
them" his meaning was that he stood in the way of their designs. The
Galatians were truly attached to Paul, and in order to accomplish
their ends it was necessary to convince the Galatians to abandon
their trust and devotion from him. They Judaizers knew that if
they could succeed in convincing them that Paul was not who he said
he was, then they would stop seeking the counsel of Paul and seek
after theirs instead.
"But it is good to be zealously sought
in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with
Being zealously sought
after is a good thing if those who are doing the seeking are
genuinely acting in the best interests of others. But that is
not the case in this instance. The Judaizers were intent on
bringing the Gentile Christians under the bondage of the old law of
Moses and Paul has repeatedly told them that this was going to
result in the condemnation of everyone involved both Judaizer and
By saying this, Paul is
letting them know that he was not merely jealous of the attention
the Galatians were getting from others. He wants them to know
that being sought after by anyone is a good thing so long as they
are being led in the right direction. And he wants them to
know they need to be zealous for the truth whether he is there or
"My little children, of whom I am again in travail until
Christ be formed in you"
Paul shows his affection
of them by addressing them as his little children. Indeed,
Paul had been the chief overseer of the planting of the Galatian
congregations of the Lord's church. As an apostle of Christ,
he was personally directing the mission. Paul loves them like
a father would love his children and addresses them in such a way as
to communicate his love for them. Paul had used some harsh
words previously, and now he using kind words so that his readership
will know how he feels about their relationship.
"of whom I am again
Two things are evident
(1) Notice the word "again". There had been an agony of
travail, like that of a woman in childbirth, on Paul's part at the
founding of those churches. Acts 13 and 14 document many of
the details of his sorrows and hardships during the time of their
(2) He was going through the same deep anxieties over them again at
the prospect of losing them to the Judaizers. Paul's emotional
state is just as bad for them now as it was when he was trying to
"Until Christ be formed in you" ...
Their acceptance of
Judaism had blurred and distorted the image of Christ in their
hearts, and Paul wishes their knowledge of Christ to be perfectly
formed within them. This is what the issue with the Judaizers
was about. They were inserting Moses where Christ ought to
have been exclusively. Concerning this very thing, Paul wrote
in Romans 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness to everyone who believes" (NKJV). When
Christ is fully formed within, there is no room for Moses, or the
law of Moses, or anything else the Judaizers were trying to push
over onto the Gentile Christians.
"but I could wish to be present with you
now, and to change my tone
Paul expresses his
desire to be with them personally. He knows how much more
effective he could be against the Judaizers if he were present.
He also letting them know by telling them this how important they
are to him. He wants them know this, especially in this letter
because he has said some harsh things. Paul felt that If he
were there in person, perhaps the harshness of the letter could have
to change my tone; for I am perplexed about you."
Here Paul admits to his
readership that the tone or manner in which he is communicating is
severe. It needs to be. The things he has been telling
them are serious indeed. Their acceptance of the Judaizing
doctrine will cost each and every one of them their souls if they
let it continue. Paul obviously does not like using this kind
of tone with them and he wants them to know that. Paul is
practicing what he preached concerning this very things in Ephesians
4:14-15, "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro
and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of
men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking
the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the
head — Christ —"(NKJV).
The Allegory of the
ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?"
Let us keep in mind
Paul's background as a Pharisee. His entire letter to this
point has been all about contrasting the law of Moses and the law of
Christ. The main issue advocated by the Judaizers has been
their claim that Gentile Christians had to become a son of Abraham
before becoming a child of God. Paul, being a Pharisee and a
former student of law under Gamaliel, he possessed a considerable
knowledge of the law of Moses. The Judaizers had been pulling
things out of the law of Moses in order to promote their doctrine,
now Paul is about to use the very law they were advocating to
illustrate the point he has been making about the bondage of the old
law and the freedom we have in the law of Christ under the gospel.
To make this distinction, he chooses two sons of Abraham, Isaac and
Ishmael to make his point. It was no accident Paul chose
the sons of Abraham for the lesson he was about to present to his
readership. He chose the sons of Abraham in order to make a
point against the claims by the Judaizers that Gentiles had to
become sons of Abraham first before coming to Christ.
is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one
by the freewoman."
First we need to
understand from verse 24 that Paul is using the account of Isaac and
Ishmael to illustrate the contrast between the bondage of the law of
Moses and freedom of the law of Christ. He is laying out the
facts that he is going to use to make his comparison. The
freewoman in Paul's illustration here is Sarah, the wife of Abraham
as recorded in Genesis 17:15, "Then God said to Abraham, "As for
Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall
be her name" (NKJV).
The handmaid here is
Sarah's Egyptian slave, Hagar, who is identified in Genesis 16:1 and
following. Abraham's wife, Sarah had been unable to bear
Abraham a son so in her grief over this predicament she decided it
would be a good idea to have Hagar bear Abraham a son in her stead.
Hagar did bear Abraham a son, Ishmael, and Sarah was unable to cope
with the results of this arrangement and Hagar ended up being cast
out of Abraham's household.
"Howbeit the (son) by the handmaid is born after
the flesh; but the (son) by the freewoman (is born) through
Polygamy has always been
wrong in God's eyes. This arrangement between Abraham and
Hagar was not the means God had in mind in order to keep his promise
to Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth. Abraham
already had a wife when he took Hagar as another one (Genesis 16:3).
Ishmael was born out of a union not sanctioned by God, therefore his
existence came about as a result of a fleshly arrangement.
Isaac, who was later
born by Sarah was the son God intended for Abraham all along and the
son God had in mind when He made his initial promise to Abraham.
So the key figures in Paul's illustration here are Hagar, an
Egyptian slave who bore Abraham a son in bondage. And Sarah,
who was Abraham's legal wife, who was not a slave and bore Abraham
another son. Paul has now provided the characters and the
circumstances pertaining to the case. Now he moves on to
define who these characters represent in his illustration.
"Which things contain an allegory: for these (women) are
two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage,
which is Hagar."
Paul now uses Sarah to
represent the new covenant, the gospel of Christ, and Hagar to
represent the old covenant which was the law of Moses.
"Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with
The law of Moses was
given on Mount Sinai. Paul used Abraham's slave, Hagar to
represent the old law of Moses. Her children are those who are
still living under the law of Moses and they are living under the
bondage of the old covenant. The "Jerusalem that now is"
is contrasted with the "Jerusalem that is above" in the next
"But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is
The two covenants are
represented by Sarah and Hagar. There are two Jerusalems
mentioned in Paul's illustration. The old law of Moses pertains to
the "Jerusalem that now is" mentioned in the previous verse.
The Jerusalem that is above is contrasted here and represents the
children of that covenant who are free. The Hebrew writer
makes mention of the heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews 12:22-23, "But
you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the
heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the
general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in
heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made
perfect" (NKJV). This Jerusalem that is above in Paul's
illustration is representative of the body (church), of Christ.
"which is our
Paul is using the
imagery of the new covenant being the mother of the church in order
to be consistent with the illustration of Sarah and Hagar who were
mothers. Hagar, as the old law of Moses had children which
lived under bondage. Sarah, as the new covenant had children
which lived under the freedom of the law of Christ, also referred to
as the law of liberty by James in 1:26 and 2:12.
It should be mentioned
here that the liberty Christians enjoy under the new covenant system
of faith does not provide the freedom to live our lives as we
please. The liberty Christians enjoy is the liberty from the
bondage of sin which the law of Moses was unable to achieve.
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.
Paul here quotes Isaiah
54:1 and by so doing he ties the account of Sarah and Hagar to
Isaiah's prophecy. The children of the desolate are obviously
the children of Hagar in that she was exiled from Abraham's house
over the birth of Ishmael. Paul's reference to "her that hath
the husband" must therefore be Sarah who was the legal wife of
Abraham under the law of God. Notice that Paul said the
children of the desolate would out number the children of "her
that hath the husband". Paul is letting his readership
know that they are definitely going to be in the minority and such
as has been the case ever since. Jesus said in Matthew
7:13-14, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and
broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who
go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the
way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise."
We learned from the end
of Galatians 3 that all Christians are the sons of Abraham and heirs
to the promises given to Abraham without having to go through the
law of Moses in any way. Now Paul is reinforcing what he had
already taught with his illustration of Sarah and Hagar. Isaac
was the child God promised to Abraham. Isaac was the child by
which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Isaac was
the child promised who's seed would be Jesus Christ. And Paul
makes the statement here that "we" meaning all Christians every
where are the sons of Abraham just like Isaac was.
The Galatian Christians
did not have to first become a son of Hagar before they could become
a son of Abraham like Isaac was. Paul used this illustration
to help his readership understand that as a Christian, through
Christ, they already are the sons of Abraham, or the children of
Galatians 4:29 But as then
he that was born after the flesh persecuted him (that was born)
after the Spirit, so also it is now.
Genesis 21:8, "So the
child [Isaac] grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on
the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of
Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing" (NKJV).
Ishmael, the son of Hagar was the first born. Evidently there
was a contention over who was the rightful heir of Abraham because
of the circumstances surrounding the entire affair.
"so also it is now"
Isaac who was the child
of promise was persecuted by Ishmael who was born after the flesh.
We need to keep in mind that Paul's entire illustration is between
those living under the old law of Moses and those living under the
law of Christ. In particular here, the Galatians were
being persecuted by those who insisted on living under the law of
Moses. They were being told they really were not Christians
and could not be until they first became sons of Abraham. Paul
is telling his readership that the Judaizers were persecuting them
by telling them they had no birthright with Abraham just like
"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."
Paul called the
persecution of Isaac by Ishmael to the attention of his readership
by referencing the account in Genesis 21:8. He then went on to
directly quote Genesis 21:10 where Sarah said to Abraham, "Cast
out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall
not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac" (NKJV). Notice
that Sarah said "for the son of this bondwoman shall not be
heir with my son". Sarah wanted no part of
Ishmael having any inheritance whatsoever with her son Isaac.
She wanted no joint inheritance of any kind. She wanted Isaac
to have it all. And as a result of this, Hagar and Ishmael
were exiled and banished from Abraham's house completely. The
application we can draw from this is unmistakable. The
children of Hagar would receive no inheritance from Abraham
whatsoever, likewise those living under the law of Moses would
receive no inheritance from Abraham whatsoever. Just like
Ishmael was cast out and cut off from Abraham's inheritance, so to
are any who try and live under the law of Moses.
The conclusion is clear.
Those who wish to be the sons of Abraham must cast off the old law
and embrace Jesus Christ wholly, completely and exclusively.
And this cannot be done by any adherence to the law of Moses in any
way shape or form.
"Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the
Paul makes the summary
statement here that contradicts what the Judaizers had been claiming
all along. Christians are not the children of the handmaid
with no inheritance in Abraham's blessings. Christians are the
children of Sarah, the children of promise and the children of
Abraham without any part of the handmaid which represented the law
of Moses in Paul's illustration.
The conclusion here is a
reinforced restatement of what Paul said in Galatians 3:26-29, "For
you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as
many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,
there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ
Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and
heirs according to the promise" (NKJV).
Now, to further
illustrate what I have been saying, an heir to his father's house is
subject to the oversight of the household bondservants as long as he
is underage. The fact that he will one day be the master in his
father's estate does not make any difference in the authority his
overseers have over him. He lives under the authority given to
them as his guardians until the time his father says he can take
over his role as a mature member of the household.
Now, just like the
underage child in my illustration, we were in a similar bondage
under the guidance of God's law in the world whether it was the law
of Moses or God's laws of right and wrong which the Gentiles lived
by. But when the time came for us to take on our roles
as mature members of God's family, God sent Jesus Christ to the
earth as His physical Son, having been born of an earthly woman and
born under the rule of the law of Moses. He did this in order
to purchase those under the laws of God back from the bondage of sin
so that we all could receive adoption into sonship with God the
Father. And now because we have entered into a sonship
relationship with God, we now have the disposition of Jesus within
our hearts by which we worship Him fervently and earnestly. So now we are no
longer the bondservants of a law which could only bring
condemnation. Through Jesus Christ, we are now the sons of God
and because of that, we are the heirs of eternal life.
Before obeying the
gospel, you did not know the one true and living God and you were
slaves to gods who were not real. But now that you know God as
his children and God now knows you as a part of His family, why do
you desire to return to a system which was weak and worldly?
Do you really want to be in bondage to a system which cannot make
you a child of God?
You are observing Jewish
holy days and months and seasons and years which are part of the law
of Moses. I am afraid that the work I have committed to
you was for nothing and that you have wasted your time and efforts.
Brethren, I am pleading with you to become like me as I have
rejected the traditions of the law of Moses, and I embraced many of
your customs and practices to become more like you. Please
don't think I am speaking out of anger here because you have never
done me any wrong. You did not even reject me because of my
physical infirmity when I came to you at first, but received me like
you would have welcomed an angel of God or even Christ Jesus
Where is the joy you had
when I first came to you? I can say without a doubt that you
would have done anything to help me. If it had been possible, you
would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me. Now,
have I suddenly become your enemy because I am telling you the
truth? The Judaizers are zealous to persuade you to their
doctrine. But nothing good can come of that. They are
trying to come between us so that you will seek their counsel and
not listen to me anymore. It is always good to be zealous in
things that are right. But you need to be zealous for the
truth whether I am there or not.
My little children, I
find myself laboring like a woman in childbirth over you all over
again and I will continue to do this until you have the knowledge of
Christ fully formed within you. I wish I could be there with
now so that perhaps I would not have to be so harsh with you, but I am
sincerely concerned for you about this.
Those of you who desire
to live under the law of Moses, tell me, do you even know what the
law teaches? It is written in the law that Abraham had two
sons. One of them was born of Hagar, a slave and the other was
born by a Sarah who was Abraham's wife who was not a slave.
The child born of the slave was born according to a fleshly
arrangement between Abraham and his wife. But the other son,
born by Abraham's lawful wife was the child God previously promised
I'm using this account
to illustrate to you the difference between the law of Moses and the
law of Christ. Hagar, the bondwoman of Sarah represents the
law of Moses given on Mount Sinai while Sarah, the free woman and
wife of Abraham represents the new covenant which is the mother of
us all. For the prophecy of Isaiah says, "Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in
labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a
Now we, brethren, just
like Isaac, are the children of promise. Now Ishmael who was
born according to a fleshly arrangement persecuted Isaac who was
born according to the plan of God. The persecution of the
Judaizers is like that and going on even now. But don't let
that bother you because the scriptures say "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 law of Moses represented by the bondwoman.
Rather, we are children of the new covenant which was represented by
the free woman.