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4. Concern for the Galatians
1But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all; 2but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father. 3So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world: 4but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: 9but 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? 10Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. 11I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain. 12I beseech you, brethren, become as I am, for I also am become as ye are. Ye did me no wrong: 13but ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you the first time: 14and 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. 15Where 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 me. 16So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth? 17They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them. 18But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you. 19My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you-- 20but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone; for I am perplexed about you. 21Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. 23Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. 24Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. 25Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother. 27For 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.
28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now. 30Howbeit 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. 31Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
24. These are the two covenants. I have thought it better to adopt this translation, in order not to lose sight of the beauty of the comparison; for Paul compares the two διαθὢκαι, to two mothers, and to employ testamentum, (a testament,) which is a neuter noun, for denoting a mother, would be harsh. The word pactio (a covenant) appears to be, on that account, more appropriate; and indeed the desire of obtaining perspicuity, as well as elegance, has led me to make this choice. 7676 To a Latin scholar the author’s meaning is obvious enough. But it may be proper to apprize the English reader, that pactio (a covenant) is a feminine noun, and, on that account, is pronounced to be more natural and graceful, in a metaphorical description of a mother, than testamentum, (a testament,) which, being a neuter noun, sounds harshly in this connection. In that point of view, the preference is little else than a matter of taste; but, on far higher grounds, “covenant” is a more faithful translation than “testament;” and a careful investigation of the meaning of διαθήκη would contribute greatly to elucidate many passages of Scripture. — Ed.
The comparison is now formally introduced. As in the house of Abraham there were two mothers, so are there also in the Church of God. Doctrine is the mother of whom we are born, and is twofold, Legal and Evangelical. The legal mother, whom Hagar resembles, gendereth to bondage. Sarah again, represents the second, which gendereth to freedom; though Paul begins higher, and makes our first mother Sinai, and our second, Jerusalem. The two covenants, then, are the mothers, of whom children unlike one another are born; for the legal covenant makes slaves, and the evangelical covenant makes freemen.
But all this may, at first sight, appear absurd; for there are none of God’s children who are not born to freedom, and therefore the comparison does not apply. I answer, what Paul says is true in two respects; for the law formerly brought forth its disciples, (among whom were included the holy prophets, and other believers,) to slavery, though not to permanent slavery, but because God placed them for a time under the law as “a schoolmaster.” 7777 “C’est a dire, les conduisoit comme petits enfans.” “That is, treated them like little children.” (Galatians 3:25.) Under the vail of ceremonies, and of the whole economy by which they were governed, their freedom was concealed: to the outward eye nothing but slavery appeared. “Ye have not,” says Paul to the Romans, “received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” (Romans 8:15.) Those holy fathers, though inwardly they were free in the sight of God, yet in outward appearance differed nothing from slaves, and thus resembled their mother’s condition. But the doctrine of the gospel bestows upon its children perfect freedom as soon as they are born, and brings them up in a liberal manner.
Paul does not, I acknowledge, speak of that kind of children, as the context will show. By the children of Sinai, it will afterwards be explained, are meant hypocrites, who are at length expelled from the Church of God, and deprived of the inheritance. What, then, is the gendering to bondage, which forms the subject of the present dispute? It denotes those who make a wicked abuse of the law, by finding in it nothing but what tends to slavery. Not so the pious fathers, who lived under the Old Testament; for their slavish birth by the law did not hinder them from having Jerusalem for their mother in spirit. But those who adhere to the bare law, and do not acknowledge it to be “a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ,” (Galatians 3:24,) but rather make it a hinderance to prevent their coming to him, are the Ishmaelites born to slavery.
It will again be objected, why does the apostle say that such persons are born of God’s covenant, and are considered to belong to the Church? I answer, strictly speaking, they are not God’s children, but are degenerate and spurious, and are disclaimed by God, whom they falsely call their Father. They receive this name in the Church, not because they are members of it in reality, but because for a time they presume to occupy that place, and impose on men by the disguise which they wear. The apostle here views the Church, as it appears in this world: but on this subject we shall afterwards speak.