Galatians 4:1-3 – I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
Hello, again readers! We are midway through the letter of Paul to the Galatians and we find that he is still making a case for justification by faith apart from the law.
Jewish false teachers have convinced the Galatian believers that they need to keep the law in order to have salvation. Paul tears down that false doctrine with example after example from the Old Testament.
It is interesting to note that the false Judaizing teachers held onto the Old Testament with a death grip, but that is the very thing that Paul uses to make his case for justification!
In this case, Paul likens the Old Testament believers to an under-age child.
Perhaps you yourself have young children under the age of 18. Obviously, they are heirs to all that you will have in this life. This gives them advantages that other children don’t have, but at the same time they still don’t have full rights.
When your child is young (say 5-8 years old) you are the one who determines when they go to bed, and when they get up. You decide what to feed them and what they will wear. You make sure they attend school and become educated, whether they want to or not! They don’t determine the household budget – you do! In a way, they would be no different than a servant. You make the decisions and they do as they are told.
According to Paul, this is a picture of the people who lived under the law. They were children of God, but they lived under a very tightly structured system. They had to do as they were told by the law; they had to bear the burden of all the rites and observances of the law (and there were LOTS of them!).
Just as a young child does not understand everything their parents tell them to do (why do I have to go to bed?), those under the law did not understand the full meaning of the rites/ceremonies they had to obey.
So, at the time of the law, God’s people were more like children/servants than heirs.
Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
But God had an appointed time for the end of the legal dispensation. All along, according to his master plan, he had a definite, set time to put the covenant of grace in place.
Let’s take a pause here, to consider God’s timing. God decreed a definite period of time for the legal age. At the end of that time, he gave his people something MUCH better – the age of grace. Likewise, God has also established a definite period of time for the age of grace. When that is over, he will reward us with something even better – heaven! I wonder what incredible things are waiting for us there! Aren’t you glad to be a child of God?
Here is something else to consider: You have a definite lifespan here on earth, predetermined by our heavenly Father. Be sure that you redeem your time, making every day count for the kingdom of heaven!
Back to our lesson…the only person who was qualified to fulfill/end the law and institute the age of grace was Jesus Christ, the Son of God (as prophesied in the Old Testament).
Jesus agreed/submitted to taking on a body of flesh, even though he was God. Jesus agreed/submitted to earthly parents, even though he was Lord of all.
He did these things in order to fulfill the law, thus removing that terrible yoke and burden from his people. He suffered and died for us, to pay the awful price of God’s wrath against us. Because of his sacrifice, we are no longer slaves to sin; we are children of God grown up and mature.
As mature children, he gives us greater freedom and more privileges than ever.
Galatians 4:6-7 – And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Son-ship is no longer limited to the Jews. It is now available to ‘whosoever will’ (John 3:16). It was available to the Galatians back in the day of Paul, and it is still available now.
Because we are sons and daughters of God, Holy Spirit lives inside of us and leads us to call out to God as our Father. Clearly, we are no longer servants/slaves but we are adopted children. It therefore follows that if we are children of God, then we are an heir of God through Jesus Christ. As heirs, we are entitled to a heavenly inheritance.
Romans 8:16-17 – The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Who in their right mind would choose to be a servant/slave rather than a son/daughter with an inheritance? Yet, that is what the Galatians chose, when they agreed to bind themselves to the law!
Galatians 4:8 –Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.
Paul now reminds the Galatians what life was like before their conversion. During that time, they did not know the true God Yahweh and they certainly had no idea how to worship him.
Instead, they were in slavery to false gods. In fact, Gentiles were in the lowest, most grievous form of slavery possible. They served multiple idols/false gods. They were under constant pressure to give gifts, pay homage and do nothing that might be offensive to their idols. Sometimes, they even sacrificed their own children in a vain attempt to get one of these gods to help them.
Their religious duties had no power to cleanse them from sin or give them peace of mind or bring them relief from sickness and trouble. The only thing they reaped by their efforts was more bondage and death.
Can you imagine the hopelessness they experienced? They were in the worst kind of bondage imaginable. What a horrible life!
Galatians 4:9-10 – But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!
What a remarkable change! Formerly, the Galatians were slaves, not entitled to anything. But now that Jesus has touched their lives with his grace, they are totally transformed. Through the power of the gospel, their sins have been washed away and they have been made children of God, and heirs with Christ!
Again, Paul is mystified about how anyone who has obtained such freedom and privilege could want to return to their former ways of spiritual bondage (represented in this verse by observing ‘days and months’, etc). To make this choice is pure madness!
Galatians 4:11 – I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
The actions of the Galatians have crushed Paul. He spent a lot of time, labor and expense in bringing them the true gospel of Christ. He preached the true word, he trained them in righteousness and he surely introduced them to Holy Spirit. As a laborer in the kingdom, Paul had the right to expect a spiritual harvest from the Galatians.
Instead, they have changed course, leaving him to wonder if his efforts had been in vain.
This lesson gives us a reason to examine ourselves. Is it possible that we too began by living spiritual lives, but later traded an exciting life in the Spirit for a set of mere rules and regulations?
Christianity is so much more than that! It is a true relationship with the God of the universe! It should never be dull or stifling. It should never be dead or dry. If your Christian walk is not constantly evolving and presenting you with new and exciting opportunities, then I encourage you to take a second look at it. Perhaps you need to return to your first love/first works.
Galatians 4:12 – Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.
Paul now reaches out to them on a personal level, addressing them as brothers, even though they had been alienated from him by the false teachers. Paul wants to lay aside any and all resentment and he desires that the relationship between himself and the Galatians be restored. This was a very noble gesture by Paul, considering he had done absolutely nothing wrong!
Though he must point out their sin, Paul still loves the Galatians tenderly as members of his own family; he expresses concern for their happiness and well-being. Paul attempts to call them back into relationship with him, so they might more easily respond to the reproof he was forced to give them.
Thus, we see that Paul’s motives were pure. He does not want to show them their error simply to prove that he is correct. He is motivated by a desire for them to know Christ.
Before we chastise someone else for their choices or behavior, it would be a good idea for us to examine our motives for doing so.
Galatians 4:13-14 – You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
Paul does not hesitate to put the Galatians in mind of their past relationship with him. Clearly, he had some type of sickness or infirmity that affected his body. We have no way to know what this infirmity was, though many opinions have been given.
Some scholars believe Paul’s eyesight was affected when Jesus appeared to him as a bright light on his way to Damascus, and this might be the ailment referred to. Others point out that Paul suffered horrific public beatings which must have affected his health and scarred him terribly. There are other possibilities as well, however, since the Galatians were already familiar with the situation, Paul does not specifically identify his ailment.
But the point is this – the infirmity (which might have caused people to reject him and his message), made no difference to the Galatians. They did not despise or reject Paul because of it. On the contrary, they received him, assisted him and revered him as one would an angel or even Christ himself!
Galatians 4:15 – What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.
As we said in our introduction, the Galatians as a whole were very fickle people.
At first, they so loved and respected Paul, that they would even have given him their very own eyes, if it would have helped him.
At first, they were so pleased and enraptured with the gospel message, that they embraced it whole-heartedly. They were satisfied and at peace being justified by grace and communing with God.
What happened?? What caused such a reversal in their thinking? Paul implores them to search their hearts and examine the reason for their sudden change in belief.
Galatians 4:16 – Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
The person who tells you the truth is the one you should love and respect. Only a true friend or brother would tell you the truth in love, especially when it hurts! Beware of those who are ‘yes men’, tickling your ears with what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear.
This is the trap the Galatians have fallen into – they now treat Paul as an enemy, despite the fact that he has dealt truthfully and faithfully with them in matters relating to their eternal salvation.
As we will see in our next post, Paul does not just give up on them, despite this awful treatment. He continues to exhort and encourage them, hoping to restore them to their place in God’s kingdom.
Let me offer you some encouragement:
Relationships sure can be difficult (just ask Paul!). Having a good one requires a lot of time and energy. This is true in friendships, marriages and even employer/employee relationships.
One way we can help keep our relationships on track is by doing what Jesus told us to do – love our neighbors as ourselves. Part of that includes telling one another the truth in love. That can sometimes be a daunting task which we would rather avoid, but I encourage you to do so, when it’s necessary. I believe that eventually, this will strengthen your relationship, not hurt it.
Let me offer you some relief:
Here is a sad truth: Some relationships are toxic. There are people who would love to consume all of your joy, resources and strength. They constantly try to drag you down into the pit that has them trapped. But let me offer you some relief: You don’t have to allow that. Set some boundaries for the relationship, and stick to them!
If that too fails or does not solve the problem, and the relationship is damaging to you and those you love, you need to end it. Don’t feel bad about doing so!
Let me offer you some strength:
In general, relationships are worth the effort needed to maintain them. All that hard work pays off when you find yourself in need of some support, encouragement, strength or advice.
Does God give us strength? Absolutely! But many times he works through others to give it to us. So pay attention to your relationships; set proper boundaries and enjoy those that God had placed in your life.