AN EXPOSITION OF GALATIANS 4:1-7
There are five important doctrines to be looked for in Galatians 4.
Doctrine of the Divinity of Christ
Doctrine of the Humanity of Christ
Doctrine of Redemption
Doctrine of Adoption
Doctrine of the Indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit.
1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant [slave], though he be Lord of all;
The Greek word for child (nepios), refers to one that does not speak. There was a time in American culture when it was common for a parent to say, “”Children should be seen, but not heard.” The point Paul will make is that a child, though he be the heir to a great estate, is positionally no better off than a servant or slave, until the circumstances of life change. Someone is telling the child what to do. The illustration comes from a lord of a vast estate.
The larger point Paul was making to the Galatians, is that to be an heir of Abraham is to have extreme spiritual wealth, such as life, justification, an imputed righteousness, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and His indwelling presence. However, these spiritual privileges are not given until an appointed time. The analogy continues.
2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
The child is under tutors (epi-tro-pous). This is a reference to a domestic manager, a guardian. The child is also under governors (oi-kon-om-ous). This is a reference to a keeper of one’s possessions, a treasurer. A good overseer would assign someone to guard what was most valuable. With that thought in mind, Paul makes his main observation.
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Here, a transition is made from doctrinal illustration to application. The word for elements (stoi-xe-ion) refers to something orderly in arrangement, like the alphabet. The Mosaic Law was an orderly arrangement. There were 613 codices to tell the Hebrew people what was right, what was wrong, and how they should act. That is not bad. In fact the Law is called holy, just, and good. Most people want order to their lives. They do not want an existential existence. When we drive on the roads of America, we want there to be rules for everyone. Otherwise, there will be chaos and uncontrollable road rage. When we go to a sports event, we want the rules of the game to be observed. And when they are not, we let the referees know about it.
In like manner the Jews wanted an orderly way to live their lives, and then, based on that good life being lived, they wanted to be justified, or declared righteous, in the sight of God. They came to believe they could earn, and thereby deserve salvation. The problem is that the Jews misunderstood the purpose and place of the Law in their lives, and now the Galatians were being misled about the Law as well. The Jews took the Law, which was designed to condemn and show the need for a Savior, and turned it into an organized legal works salvation, so great did sin pervert their thinking. A person must move from the alphabet, the ABC’s of human thinking, to the divine Alpha and Omega of the Christian faith. In order to move away from the Law, the heart and thoughts must be turned to Jesus.
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
The phrase, “the fullness of time,” refers to that time in human history “when the Law had discharged its duty as a pedagogue [school teacher] to bring souls to the Savior.” At that point, God sent forth His Son. The world had been told that a Son like Jesus would one day be born. Isaiah the prophet said, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). In the fullness of time, the promised Son came, because the world was prepared for His arrival. There were eight preparations for the coming of Christ
The world was prepared politically. Rome had united the east and the west.
The world was prepared socially, manifested in the Pax Romana, or Roman people.
The world was prepared linguistically, for Greek, and Latin, were universal languages. As a result of the conquests of Alexander, Greek became the lingua franca, the working language, or the unifying language of the people.
The world was prepared hygienically, for the Romans were clean people. They built baths everywhere. Jesus would use this cultural inclination in His ministry. “And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:7).
The world was prepared economically, for there was widespread trade and prosperity, based on a wonderful transportation system. Five main highways led from Rome to the different points of the ancient world.
The world was prepared intellectually. There was a hunger for knowledge, and openness to new ideas, reflected in Paul’s preaching to the Athenians.
The world was prepared as far as timing. A hundred years earlier, and Rome would not have been in control of Jerusalem. A hundred years later, and the Jews would not have had control of their city.
The world was prepared spiritually. Judaism was legalistic and oppressive. Paganism was morally bankrupt. The homes of Rome were decadent, as men had a wife for bearing children, and kept a mistress for sexual pleasure. Millions of slaves longed to be free. There was a spiritual hunger.
Everything was prepared for the coming of the Messianic king, our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore God sent His Son into the world to redeem them that were under the Law (Gal. 4:5). The Plan of Redemption is God’s sovereign plan. If there is any question about the love of God, or His care to save souls, one needs look no further than the Cross. Our Father God sent forth His Son to redeem sinful men.
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Jesus did not come to make men redeemable. He came to purchase them from spiritual bondage. Christ did not come to make men savable. He came to save individuals from the power and pollution of sin. Did the Lord accomplish what He came to accomplish? Praise be unto God, He did. Galatians 3:13 declares that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Redemption was accomplished! Behold the triune work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It is the Father who elects those who are to be the heirs of salvation.
It is the Son who redeems those whom the Father has chosen to give to Him.
It is the Spirit who regenerates those the Father has predestined to salvation, and for whom Jesus died.
Whom does the Son redeem? Whom does the Son purchase? Whom does the Son buy back from the slave market of sin? Those that are under the Law. What Law is Paul referencing?
Generally, the Mosaic Law. Specifically, the Moral Law of God, which every person has broken. Jesus came to redeem us from being under the Law, and for good reason. The Law was oppressive. The Law regulated every facet of a person’s life. Peter spoke of the Law as being a yolk which even the fathers were not able to bear (Acts 15:10). The Law crushed a person, because it commanded perfect obedience, but gave no ability to be perfect. The Law placed a curse on every one who broke it. It was the curse of death, first physical, and then spiritual. So Jesus came to redeem those who are under the Law, and then to adopt those who are redeemed so that they can be called the children of God (Gal. 4:5).
The Greek word for adoption (hui-o-thes-i-a), refers to an official ceremony whereby a child was given an adult status. Adoption conferred on the individual full legal rights. Therefore, a signet ring was given to transact legal business. A long robe, indicating maturity, was placed on the recipient. There was a special meal prepared, indicating fellowship. The adoptee could sit among adults as an equal. Roman adoption emphasizes a privilege position. It was the position of a legal heir. A grateful heart would cry out with thanksgiving, in appreciation. Paul speaks of this emotional response to the gospel.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father.
Abba is an Aramaic term. It is a word of domestic tenderness, much like the word, papa. Dr. Thomas Guthrie (1803–1873), was a great Scottish preacher. When he was dying he whispered, “Sing me a hymn.” Then he said, “Sing me one of the bairn’s (children’s) hymns. Sing one of those song like,
“Jesus loves me this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.”
And the song was sung.
One reason for so many dry eyed conversions in modern Christendom is because the gospel is not clearly presented, and therefore, not fully understood or appreciated. Church, listen to this.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
What the Law could not do, Jesus did. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. Based on that redemptive work, every believer can call God, Abba, Father. Because of Christ, every believer is adopted into the family of God, which means every Christian is given a position of privilege and authority.
The signet ring is the equivalent of prayer, by which believer’s transact spiritual business.
The new robe of the Christian is the garment of righteousness, which Christ wraps us in.
The special fellowship meal speaks of the Lord’s Supper. The door of the heart is open, and Jesus comes in to dine in close communion.
Spiritual adoption is a wonderful gospel truth. May the Spirit reveal the believer’s great privilege to your heart today. And, welcome, to the family of God.