6/09/20 – Galatians 4:1-7


Galatians 4:1Now I say, [That] the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;


Nownow; but; moreover; and; nevertheless.


I say – or “I affirm” or “I maintain”


a childnepios (infant; little child; minor; not of age; childish; untaught; unskilled)


a servantdoulos (can mean servant or slave, but MacArthur maintains that this can only be interpreted “slave” which he says describes our position with God, and never a servant)


lordkyrios (he to whom a person or thing belongs; one who has power of decision-making; possessor and disposer of person or thing; sovereign prince, ruler, emperor; title of respect and reverence given by servants to their master) From kyros (supremacy) A title given to Christ as per “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord (kyrios) Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3)


Until a person actually inherits what is his, he is effectively no better off than one of the servants. It is really only the promise that might define him as lord of all. As a minor he has no legal standing on his own; he is subject to discipline and correction. He can only act under the authority of the one who has power of decision-making over his affairs. He may even be the lord of all by birth, yet until he comes of age (“the time appointed” Vs 2 below) he must be guided by the authority of another. In this case, that authority rests in tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father (see next Vs).


Even a king who is yet a child must be guided by a regent who acts on behalf of the king until he is of age to rule on his own.

Even the child who one day will be lord of the house is put under the authority of servants (tutors) to teach and discipline him.


A servant, however, will only dwell in the house while he is a servant; if he ceases to be a servant, then he ceases to dwell in that house. Yet, the child who is heir will one day be lord of the house in which he is now a child. He might currently have no more authority than a servant, but the promise is that one day he will indeed be more than a servant. Unlike the servant, the child has imputed authority by right of his future inheritance (this was regardless of whether his father was alive or dead).

John 8:35-3635And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: [but] the Son abideth ever. 36If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.


In spite of lacking independent authority of his own, the child heir has the promise of inheriting; in this he is more than a servant.

John 15:15Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.


It is likely, from the context, that Paul has in mind the nation of Israel as the heir, an inheritance that would then be taken over by the Gentile church as spiritual heirs of Abraham’s promise.

Galatians 3:29And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The passage today would then refer to the preparation of Israel to take over authority in Christ one day; until then she is kept under tutors (the law). Israel’s rejection of God’s calling for them to be to Him “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) caused the Gentiles to be called instead (1 Peter 2:5).


Galatians 4:2But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.


tutorsepitropos (curator; guardian; steward or manager of a household; overseer; one who has the care and tutelage of children – can include as a guardian if the father is dead) This is a different term to paidagogos (schoolmaster or tutor) used in Galatians 3:24 & 25. The tutors in Vs 2 here are people with authority in the house, emphasising the temporary lack of authority in the child who is under another’s authority.


governorsoikonomos (manager of household or household affairs; steward/manager; superintendent; overseer; a treasurer; metaphorically the apostles, and other Christian teachers and bishops and overseers) Similar to “tutors” but more of an authority figure rather than an educator; a manager rather than a guide person. The tutor may have authority over the child plus be a household overseer, but the governor may have a far-wider authority in the household.


The child is under the authority of both tutors and governors until such time as he comes of age, here defined as the time appointed by the father when the child should take over authority in the affairs of the household and more. This “time appointedcould be referring to the sending of Christ at a time determined by the Father: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). Christ the Son was always Lord by right of sonship, yet was not openly established as the Saviour until the time appointed by the Father arrived.


But it is more likely to be referring to “the time appointed of the father” for the coming of age of the heir (Israel). This applies that “time appointed” to Israel’s coming of age, and therefore it is the law that is their tutor and governor until their coming of age, upon which their Messiah should come (which occurred when Christ came as a child – see Vs 4 below). The “fulness of the time” would be when they were considered of age to take authority, at which point their Messiah would be sent.


Galatians 4:3Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:


Even so – or “Indeed in this manner” That is, in the same way …


in bondagedouloo (make a slave of; reduce to bondage; become a servant) Note doulos (servant; slave) of Vs 1 above.


the elementsstoicheion (the first thing from which all others derive; element; first principal; elements of religious training; ceremonial requirements of Jewish tradition; principles and practices of the old covenant world) It has the idea of the basics or rudimentaries of the world.

Translated “principles” in Hebrews 5:12For 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.

Note that “the first principles” is arche (beginning; origin; first) + stoicheion (elements; principles) while “principals” in Hebrews 6:1 is just arche (the first).


Indeed, says Paul, it was in this manner that when we (most likely referring to Israel) were children (nepios), we were in bondage (in servitude) to the ceremonial requirements of Judaism, the principles and practice of the ordinances of the old covenant law.


This has the idea of Israel being like children carrying out the requirements of the law in the OT. The law of sacrifices was a shadow, a type, of the sacrifice that Christ would make once for all sin. The first principles (or the basics of their religion; religious ritual) focused on required ritual in serving God through sacrifices etc. It appears to relate to Galatians 4:9-109But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements (stoicheion), whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. where they returned to observing the rituals of the law (thus putting themselves back under bondage to the elements or first principles. Although, in Galatians 4:9-10 it also would relate to the Gentiles turning back to their false god worship rituals – see next week.


But Israel has reached the age where she should have been taking over her authority as God’s people (but wasn’t, thus she was rejected in favour of the Gentiles). The law (represented by tutors and governors) should give way to the legal authority of Israel in her own right where she should have become the priesthood of the new covenant under Christ their Messiah (which the Gentile church took over when Israel failed in her duties). Christ was the mediator of the new covenant which took over from the old (the law). (See Hebrews Ch.8, especially Vss 6 & 7)


In the past, Israel, in obedience to the OT law, observed such “elements” as required by God; they were in bondage to those elements. Israel then was like a child who hadn’t yet taken possession of its inheritance. However, when their time under the law was fulfilled (marked by when Christ came, born of a woman) they should have been ready to take possession of their promised inheritance which had been held from them until then. They had always had the promise of being heirs to the promise, but when the promise came of age, were they going to return “to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Galatians 4:9)


Galatians 4:4But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,


madeginomai (to become; come into existence; begin to be; receive being; come to pass; happen) Thus Christ was brought into physical existence by a woman, brought into existence (born) under the bondage of the law.


fulnesspleroma (fulness – of time, abundance; completeness or fulness of time; that which fills or with which something is filled; of those things which a ship is filled, freight and merchandise, sailors, oarsmen, soldiers)


This word pleroma is very interesting because it denotes a completeness of something. In Romans 11:25-26, it denotes the completeness of the Gentile church before the blindness (currently on Israel) is to be lifted. That is, the Gentile church will be completed and, according to the term pleroma, have all on board and be ready to depart port before Israel may see again and be saved.

Romans 11:25-2725For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness (pleroma) of the Gentiles be come in. 26And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.


In Galatians 4:4 it defines the time when God sent forth His Son into the world. God had always determined the perfectly right time to send His Christ, and therefore it was effectively a countdown from the beginning. When the countdown was completed (pleroma), and the child (Israel) had come of age, Christ came, brought forth of a woman, brought forth under the law.


Christ had always existed; He is eternal, after all. He was in the beginning, always with the Father.

John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He didn’t just arrive one day from heaven, but was born to a woman just as all other mankind.


When Adam and Eve sinned, God made an executive statement concerning the birth of children.

Genesis 3:16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.


God had also, as part of His creation, determined by His authority just how His creatures (including man) would give birth. But since the fall, man has been cursed with the penalty of his sin according to the law. Even though the law wasn’t given until a long time later, the penalty for sin existed from the time Adam sinned. Romans 5:14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.


Sin brought the death penalty (Romans 6:23) and man could never escape this curse that the law had pronounced upon all mankind. King David said “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) King David was born under the law that defined sin, and this determined his penalty according to the law, just like every other person born.

Romans 5:12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:


Christ was born into this world under this same law, except that He was exempt from the law because (a) He was born only of a woman, not of a man, and (b) He was the innocent Lamb of God, sinless and perfect. He therefore could pay the ransom for us, redeeming us from the curse because He became our curse in our place.

Galatians 3:13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:


Galatians 4:5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.


To redeemexagorazo (to redeem; pay the price to recover from the power of another; to ransom; pay a ransom)


we might receiveapolambano (to receive that which is due or promised; to take back again, recover)


Those who were under the law (all mankind) were born cursed with the penalty of death. “under the law” here applies to all those “made under the law” (Vs 4 above). However, while Christ was not cursed, being sinless, all created mankind was cursed, being born from a direct male line from Adam (Romans 5:12).

Christ wasn’t cursed, yet became cursed for those who were cursed. He took the place of the cursed, being made cursed for us (Galatians 3:13).


Christ was born of a woman under the law but because of His sinlessness was still eligible for the inheritance promised to Him from the beginning. And Christ who was the firstfruits of the resurrection ….

1 Corinthians 15:20But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept.

… is now the captain (the one who goes in front leading by example) of the salvation of all who saved according to the promise of God.

Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain (archegos) of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (archegos is also translated “the author (of our faith)” in Hebrews 12:2)


All those who receive Christ into their lives are given (by God) the power (authority) to be adopted as God’s children.

John 1:12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:


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


Abba = “father” from the Aramaic; customary title used of God in prayer.

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

And Mark 14:36And 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.


cryingkrazo (to croak like a raven; to cry out; cry aloud) Translated “had cried” in Matthew 27:50Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.


God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son – Note John 15:26But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

It might be possible to receive a document that proves our position of authority in Christ, much like a house title. But that is nothing compared with actually receiving the Spirit of the Son of God into our lives, such that we are literally the dwelling place of God.

1 Corinthians 3:16-1716Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.

1 Corinthians 6:19-2019What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.


Thus, it is the Spirit of God who cries out with us, “Abba, Father” who also bears witness in our lives that we are the children of God. And if we are truly children of God, then we are joint-heirs with Christ, something Paul was trying to get across to the Galatians.

Romans 8:15-1715For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And 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.


The Galatians were tempted to add the legalism of the law to their promise of an inheritance, but, instead of making it better, were really taking away from what they had already been promised in Christ. Paul is leading them toward what he wrote in Galatians 4:9But 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?

How, he asks, could you think about returning to that bondage of the law which you have already escaped through the inheritance that is yours in Christ through the hearing of faith? How could you give up so much for the sake of returning to the bondage of the law? (We’ll look more at this next week.)


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


WhereforeTherefore; So that


no more – or “no longer”


an heirkleronomos (one who receives by lot; an heir; one who receives his allotted possession by right of sonship – particularly applicable to Christ) From kleros (object for casting lots; that which is obtained by lot) and nomos (the law). nomos is translated “law” in Vss 4 & 5 above.


Thus “an heir” here is one who will receive his allotted portion according to the law.

Therefore, you are no longer a servant but a son (even if it is by promise of the Father through faith).

Note Romans 8:17-1817And 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. 18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


If we are heirs, then we also share in the suffering of Christ that we may also share His glory. The sufferings of this world cannot be compared with the glory that one day will be ours. Remember that Christians are called to suffer after the example of Christ’s suffering.

1 Peter 2:19-2119For this [is] thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20For what glory [is it], if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer [for it], ye take it patiently, this [is] acceptable with God. 21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:


And it is the good Christians who are persecuted, according to the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:12Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.


It is difficult to avoid this aspect of being a Christian. To avoid suffering would be to be not as good a Christian. This flies in the face of so much of today’s teachings that tell us that suffering is a sign of sin in our lives. If suffering were the consequence of sin in our lives, then Christ must have been the greatest sinner of all, and Paul must have been a serious sinner as well.

2 Corinthians 11:24-2724Of the Jews five times received I forty [stripes] save one. 25Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26[In] journeyings often, [in] perils of waters, [in] perils of robbers, [in] perils by [mine own] countrymen, [in] perils by the heathen, [in] perils in the city, [in] perils in the wilderness, [in] perils in the sea, [in] perils among false brethren; 27In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.


The health and wealth gospel of today assesses Christians on the basis of their health and wealth. If you are sick or poor, then you must have sinned. Ask God for forgiveness, give more money to the church (very important!), and brother, God will repay you with good health and wealth. (If you are both sick and poor, then they probably don’t want to know you, oh great sinner that you must be!)


So here are some questions to think about.

Were the Galatians reacting to persecution? Were they taking a bit of religious insurance by maybe trying to be seen as more agreeable to the unsaved Christians of their area? Or were they just trying to assess the Gentile Christians according to their level of Jewishness? Did they recognise a good Gentile Christian as one who ticked all the required boxes regarding the law? That to be a good Christian you had to also be a good Jew? The latter is probably true, for Paul doesn’t appear to specifically mention persecution in their area. (Though, a look at Galatians 3:4 does strongly suggest that they could have been suffering for the sake of the gospel. The allegory of Galatians 4:29 also strongly suggests that persecution was a factor here.)


Remember, though, that many of the Hebrew Christians in Judea at that time were tempted to return to the sacrificial system of the law. A major subject of Hebrews is the need to stay the course, to not give in under pressure. Note Hebrews 12:1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, where “race” is agon (a place of contest such as at their games; any struggle or contest; a battle; a fight). We get our word “agony” from this term.


Paul writes about the same in 2 Timothy 4:7I have fought (agonizomai – to fight) a good fight (agon – a fight), I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith:

The Hebrews were being asked to do this too. It was a battle to stay the course with so much persecution. Remember that Paul earlier on (in his earlier life as the pharisee, Saul) had severely persecuted the Church before his conversion. It wasn’t easy being a good Christian in those days. Could the Galatian problem have had something to do with not trying to stand out as a good Christian?

Maybe persecution wasn’t a serious issue. However, in those days it would have been hard to find a place in that part of the world where being a Christian wasn’t persecuted to some extent. Thus some persecution has to be assumed in Galatia at this time for Christians, including Christian Jews.


Jesus did warn us of the opposition of the world to Christians.

John 15:18-1918If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you. 19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

Worth thinking about! Are we good enough Christians for the world to hate us? (As the persecuted Christians in Russia not so long ago would say, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”)


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