« Prev Galatians 4:1 Next »




The design of this chapter is to show the effect of being under the law, and the inconsistency of that kind of bondage or servitude with the freedom which is vouchsafed to the true children of God by the gospel. It is in accordance with the whole drift of the epistle, to recall the Galatians to just views of the gospel, and to convince them of their error in returning to the practice of the Mosaic rites and customs. In the previous chapter he had shown them that believers in the gospel were the true children of Abraham; that they had been delivered from the curse of the law; that the law was a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ, and that they were all the children of God. To illustrate this further, and to show them the true nature of the freedom which they had as the children of God, is the design of the argument in this chapter. He therefore states:—

(1.) That it was under the gospel only that they received the full advantages of freedom, Ga 4:1-5. Before Christ came, indeed, there were true children of God, and heirs of life. But they were in the condition of minors, they had not the privileges of sons. An heir to a great estate, says the apostle, Ga 4:1,2, is treated substantially as if he were a servant. He is under tutors and governors; he is not permitted to enter on his inheritance; he is kept under the restraint of law. So it was with the people of God under the law of Moses. They were under restraints, and were admitted to comparatively few of the privileges of the children of God. But Christ came to redeem those who were under the law, and to place them in the elevated condition of adopted sons, Ga 4:4,5. They were no longer servants; and it was as unreasonable that they should conform again to the Mosaic rites and customs, as it would be for the heir of full age, and who has entered on his inheritance, to return to the condition of minorship, and to be placed again under tutors and governors, and to be treated as a servant.

(2.) As sons of God, God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, and they were enabled to cry, Abba, Father. They were no longer servants, but heirs of God, and should avail themselves of the privileges of heirs, Ga 4:6,7.

(3.) Sustaining this relation, and being admitted to these privileges, the apostle remonstrates with them for returning again to the "weak and beggarly elements" of the former dispensation—the condition of servitude to rites and customs in which they were before they embraced the gospel, Ga 4:8-11. When they were ignorant of God, they served those who were no gods, and there was some excuse for that, Ga 4:8. But now they had known God; they were acquainted with his laws; they were admitted to the privileges of his children; they were made free, and there could be no excuse for returning again to the bondage of those who had no true knowledge of the liberty which the gospel gave. Yet they observed days and times, as though these were binding, and they had never been freed from them, Ga 4:10; and the apostle says, that he is afraid that his labours bestowed on them, to make them acquainted with the plan of redemption, had been in vain.

(4.) To bring them to a just sense of their error, he reminds them of their former attachment to him, Ga 4:12-20. He had indeed preached to them amidst much infirmity, and much that was fitted to prejudice them against him, Ga 4:13; but they had disregarded that, and had evinced towards him the highest proofs of attachment —so much so, that they had received him as an angel of God, Ga 4:14, and had been ready to pluck out their own eyes to give them to him, Ga 4:15. With great force, therefore, he asks them why they had changed their views towards him, so far as to forsake his doctrines? Had he become their enemy by telling the truth? Ga 4:16. He tenderly addresses them, therefore, as little children, and says, that he has the deepest solicitude for their welfare, and the deepest anxiety on account of their danger—a solicitude which he compares Ga 4:19 with the pains of childbirth.

(5.) In order to enforce the whole subject, and to show the true nature of the conformity to the law compared with the liberty of the gospel, he allegorizes an interesting part of the Mosaic history—the history of the two children of Abraham, Ga 4:21-31. The condition of Hagar—a slave, under the command of a master, harshly treated, cast out and disowned—was an apt illustration of the condition of those who were under the servitude of the law. It would strikingly represent Mount Sinai, and the law that was promulgated there, and the condition of those who were under the law. That, too, was a condition of servitude. The law was stern, and showed no mercy. It was like a master of a slave, and would treat those who were under it with a rigidness that might be compared with the condition of Hagar and her son, Ga 4:24,25. That same Mount Sinai also was a fair representation of Jerusalem as it was then—a city full of rites and ceremonies, where the law reigned with rigour, where there was a burdensome and expensive system of religion, and where there was none of the freedom which the gospel would furnish, Ga 4:25. On the other hand, the children of the free woman were an apt illustration of those who were made from the oppressive ceremonies of the law by the gospel, Ga 4:22. That Jerusalem was free. The new system from heaven was one of liberty and rejoicing, Ga 4:26,27. Christians were, like Isaac, the children of promise, and were not slaves to the law Ga 4:28,31. And as there was a command Ga 4:30 to cast out the bondwoman and her son, so the command now was to reject all that would bring the mind into ignoble servitude, and prevent its enjoying the full freedom of the gospel. The whole argument, is, that it would be as unreasonable for those who were Christians to submit again to the Jewish rites and ceremonies, as it would be for a freeman to sell himself into slavery. And the design of the whole is, to recall them from the conformity to Jewish rites and customs, and from their regarding them- as now binding on Christians.

VERSE 1. Now I say. He had before said; Ga 3:24,25, that while they were under the law they were in a state Of minority. This sentiment he proceeds further to illustrate by showing the true condition of one who was a minor.

That the heir. Any heir to an estate, or one who has a prospect of an inheritance. No matter how great is the estate; no matter how wealthy his father; no matter to how elevated a rank he may be raised on the moment that he enters on his inheritance, yet till that time he is in the condition of a servant.

As long as he is a child. Until he arrives at the age. The word rendered "child," nhpiov, properly means an infant; literally, one not speaking, (nh, insep, un, epov;) and hence a child, or babe, but without any definite limitation.—Rob. It is used as the word infant is with us in law, to denote a minor.

Differeth nothing from a servant. That is, he has no more control of his property; he has it not at his command. This does not mean that he does not differ in any respect, but only that in the matter under consideration he does not differ. He differs in his prospects of inheriting the property, and in the affections of the father, and usually in the advantages of education, and in the respect and attention shown him; but in regard to property he does not differ, and he is like a servant, under the control and direction of others.

Though he be lord of all. That is, in prospect. He has a prospective right to all the property, which no one else has. The word "lord" here, kuriov, is used in the same sense in which it is often in the Scriptures, to denote master or owner. The idea which this is designed to illustrate is, that the condition of the Jews before the coming of the Messiah was inferior, in many respects, to what the condition of the friends of God would be under him—as inferior as the condition of an heir was before he was of age, to what it would be when he should enter on his inheritance, The Jews claimed indeed, that they were the children or the sons of God—a title which the apostle would not withhold from the pious part of the nation; but it was a condition in which they had not entered on the full inheritance, and which was far inferior to that of those who had embraced the Messiah, and who were admitted to the full privileges of sonship. They were indeed heirs. They were interested in the promises. But still they were in a condition of comparative servitude, and could be made free only by the gospel.

{*} "lord" "Master"

« Prev Galatians 4:1 Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |