In our study of Galatians chapter four, we look at what it means to be a true son of God. We will look at Abraham's sons and see how it relates to our adoption into God's family.
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What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.
In chapter three, we saw how we, as Christians, were all made to be sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. This passage is talking about the period of time in a child's life before they are mature and considered to be legally of age. Today, in the USA, that is determined in many cases by the law such as legal drinking age, drivers license, etc. During Paul's time, it was not up to the government or a law but the father of the child. Until the father decided that the son was mature enough, he was considered to be a child and, though he was a legal heir, he did not have control of anything to do with the estate. The child was still, in effect, a slave to the guardian or trustee that was put in charge of them.
So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.
Paul is talking about his Jewish heritage and the fact that he was a slave to the law.
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Freedom from the law only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Through Him, we all are given the "full rights of sons".
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then, the Holy Spirit lives in us and testifies that we are sons of God. Because we are sons, we also are heirs meaning we inherit all that is God's (which is everything).
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Before the Jews had came to faith in Jesus, they had been under the high priests and other religious leaders who were mere men. After accepting Christ, they were freed from that religious system and brought into a right relationship with God. Now, some of them were allowing the religious system to creep back into their lives and bind them to the law once again. Paul asks them these questions to get them to see how ridiculous it is to be set free and then turn back to bondage. We too are set free from all of the rituals and traditions when we accept Jesus but we must also be ready for those leaders who would try to put us back under the law.
You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Paul uses some pretty strong words to get them to see how dangerous it is to try to mix law with grace. People were trying to put them back under the Sabbath restrictions (which were a part of the law) and once you add a little bit of law then you no longer have grace. We are adopted in God's family and become "sons of God" by His grace and not through our own efforts.
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of my illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.
Paul had a pretty nasty eye disease in which excess pus ran out of his eyes. This would have been tough to look at and "a trial" to show him kindness and love. We see, here, that it was because of this disease that Paul had been able to tell them about Jesus. They welcomed him instead of shunning him and that is what we are called to do with the less fortunate and those that the world looks on as being lower than the rest.
What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
The Galatians had loved Paul so much that they would have even been willing to give him their eyes but that has changed. Paul asks them a question to get them to see how ridiculous their behavior is now. Because he loved them enough to tell them the truth, they turned on him. In our world today, it is much the same way in that many will just go along with whatever in order to keep the peace. They will say that they are doing so out of love but we must ask ourselves if that really is love or is love warning someone about a dangerous condition. Paul's love for the Galatians required him to tell them that they were turning back to be enslaved again by the law. Are we ready to share the truth with people that we say we love? That is the question that we must each answer in our minds but we must also remember that our answer has eternal consequences for ourselves as well as them.
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us so that you may be zealous for them.
Paul always preached of grace but others were trying to put a little bit of law back into it. They were not doing so to benefit the believers but were doing so to further their own goals. The same is true today in many places for example: If you go to just about any church for a year, you can bet that you are going to get at least a month long focus (if not a sermon series) on tithing. In many cases, this is done at the end of the year to make people feel guilty about their financial contribution so that they will give more. There are many other examples but our reaction should be the same as what we see here in Paul.
It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.
Paul is talking, here, about people that are playing both sides of the fence. When he was around, they would be sold on grace and their freedom in Christ. When he was away, they would go back to trying to set up another religious system. It is sorta the way it is with many believers today that will attend a place of worship once (or even twice) each week but when they are outside of that building they are totally different. This is the same type of thing that Jesus warned the church of Laodicea about in Revelation 3.
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
Paul considered the Galatian believers to be his children because of the fact that he had initially shared the gospel with them. He was trying to get them to mature but he says that it is back to as if they were newborns again. He did not like the fact that he had to be corrective in his tone towards them but realized it was for their own good. Everyone wants to give good news to people but sometimes it is necessary to speak the truth in love even if the truth contains things that they do not want to hear.
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?
Once again, Paul asks a question to try and get them to see how ridiculous their answer would be. It seems crazy to want to be under the law without even knowing what it says but, in a way, that is happening even more today. Many people (pastors included) want to pick out a certain part of the law and dig in their heels. They will even go so far as to call it their statement of faith or some other religious sounding thing. They forget the rest of the law and the devil uses them to divide God's people. The truth of the matter (and what Paul was trying to get them to see) is that, if you put your hope in the law, then, you are bound to the entire law and not just a little part that you tend to like or agree with.
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
This passage shows us the heart of many of the problems in the world today. Abraham, like Adam (in Genesis 3), chose to listen to his wife instead of obeying God. The result for Adam (and us) was sin and death. The result for Abraham (and us) is Islam and the jealousy between Muslims and Jews. Isaac (the Jews) are children of the promise and all who accept Jesus Christ are added to the family of the Jews. Ishmael (and those who follow the teachings of Islam) cannot claim the promise that was given to Abraham. They are children of man's work and works do not gain you salvation.
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
Mount Sinai represents the Mosaic Law and, as we saw in chapter three, the law does not have the power to free us. Therefore, those who trust in the law remain slaves and this corresponds to Hagar and her son Ishmael. Today, the equivalent are those who practice Islam, which began in Arabia, as they are slaves to rituals that cannot bring salvation and freedom. Likewise, the city of Jerusalem today is captive to those who are trying to earn their freedom. But, the new Jerusalem which is coming (see Revelation21) is not for those who try to earn it but those that accept the freedom that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
For it is written: 'Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.' Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah (54:1), in order for us to see that we are children of the same promise that was given to Abraham and Sarah. The quote is a call for the relatively small nation of Israel (God's people) to rejoice in the fact that there was more of God's people than what they were seeing. Although they could not see it at the time, God was looking down through time and speaking about the adoption of Gentiles through the blood of Jesus Christ (a Jew).
At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.
After Isaac was born, Ishmael mocked him by trying to claim his promise. It is the same today as we see the battle between Islam (Ishmael) & Judaism (Isaac). This battle is displayed in attempts to claim Jerusalem and parts of Israel as well as the shedding of Jewish and Christian blood.
But what does the Scripture say? 'Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.' Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Paul quotes from Genesis 21 and this is where God tells Abraham these words. Those who are identified with Ishmael and his descendants do not share in the inheritance which is salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus was a descendant of Isaac and so all who are his are also descendants of Abraham through Isaac. Therefore, we are children of the promise and share in the inheritance through Jesus. We are, in fact, sons of God.