Galatians Four

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

Galatians 4:2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

fulness of the time. The many Messianic prophecies and promises in the Old Testament had indeed focused on a time in history when the Savior would come into the world. Note especially the prophecy of the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24-26. There were actually a few Jewish men and women who were somehow aware that the time was at hand and who, therefore, “looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25-26, 38).

made of a woman. This phrase, “made of a woman,” may mean merely that, when God sent Him forth, the Son became part of the human family. There is, however, a strong probability that it refers to His miraculous conception and virgin birth. The word rendered “made” (Greek ginomai) is not the usual word for “born” (gennao), and was never so rendered by the King James scholars. The latter word normally refers to male procreation, although it can also refer to the actual birth process of the mother. Paul deliberately rejected this word meaning “born,” and instead used the standard word for “made,” evidently to emphasize that the human birth of Jesus was unique, different from all other human births. He was to be, in a one-time-only sense, the Seed of the woman, as promised by God in the very beginning (Genesis 3:15), not made from a male seed. In fact, His human body was specially “prepared” by God (Hebrews 10:5), so as to be born without inherent sin or genetic defects form either parent. See notes on Luke 1:31-37.

Galatians 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

redeem. In order to “redeem” those who were under the law (and, therefore, lost sinners) the Son must Himself be “without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-20). He had been “foreordained before the foundation of the world,” then, finally, was “manifest in these last times.”

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Abba. “Abba” is the Aramaic word for “father” (perhaps more like “papa”). The cry of the Spirit in our hearts is thus, “Abba, Father,” using both an intimate name and a respectful name for one's father. It was actually the expression used by Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36). See also Romans 8:15.

Galatians 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Galatians 4:8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

Galatians 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

known of God. Note that Paul places special emphasis on being “known of God.” God knew us before we knew Him!

beggarly elements. Before their conversion, the Galatians had been pagans (perhaps some had been Jews, as was true in most of the early churches). If pagans, they had been in bondage to evolutionary pantheistic polytheism, committed to many pagan rituals and sacrifices. If Jews, they had been in bondage to Jewish law and tradition, hoping to earn salvation by the impossible burden of obeying all the laws. No wonder Paul was impatient with their desire to give up liberty in Christ for renewed bondage.

Galatians 4:10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

Galatians 4:11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Galatians 4:12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

Galatians 4:13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

infirmity of the flesh. This phrase may be the same as the “thorn in the flesh” mentioned to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Galatians 4:14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

your own eyes. This may suggest that Paul's physical handicap was some eye disease, possibly opthalmia. Note also Galatians 6:11.

Galatians 4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

Galatians 4:17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

Galatians 4:18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.

Galatians 4:19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

Galatians 4:20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

Galatians 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Galatians 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

Galatians 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

Galatians 4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

allegory. When God's Word is meant to be interpreted allegorically, the text indicates such. Symbolic, figurative, or parabolic language is occasionally used in the Bible, but this is normally clearly evident in the context. When the author does not indicate such language, the safe and proper way to interpret a text is not to interpret it at all, but simply to assume it means exactly what it says and to proceed on that basis. On the other hand, even this allegory is predicated on the actual historicity of the story of Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael. In no way does Paul suggest that the events discussed did not really happen. The “spiritualizing” method of interpreting historical narratives (e.g., the Genesis record of creation) to avoid having to accept them as real history, is always unscriptural and dishonoring to God and His Word. In the special case here, both the historical record and the allegorical lesson derived from it must be taken as divinely inspired.

Agar. Hagar, Sarah's maid, was the mother of a son sired by Abraham when he and Sarah became impatient in waiting for the promised son, Isaac. In the allegory, Hagar represents the law given at Sinai and the city of Jerusalem, whose “children," like their mother, are in bondage, under the law (Galatians 4:25).

Galatians 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

Galatians 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Jerusalem which is above. The heavenly Jerusalem is where the Lord Jesus is even now preparing a place for us (John 14:3). It is the “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” for which Abraham was looking as He went out into the “strange country” to which God had led him (Hebrews 11:8-10). In the allegory, Sarah represents that city of freedom in the heavens; thus all her children, with Isaac as the heir of promise representing them, are likewise heirs of the promise and therefore free.

Galatians 4:27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.

hath many more children. This quotation is from Isaiah 54:1. In the prophetic context it is a prophecy of the future restoration of Israel and Jerusalem when “the Jerusalem which is above” will actually come to earth as “the holy city, New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2). In the allegorical context, the barren woman represents Sarah, who in turn represents and begets all the children of promise who are the spiritual heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:29).

Galatians 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

Galatians 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

persecuted. Ishmael, who was fourteen years older than Isaac, no doubt had been hoping (along with his mother Hagar) that he would inherit Abraham's wealth. Therefore, he viciously mocked little Isaac the day Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:8-9), and it became obvious that Isaac would be in danger as long as Ishmael and Hagar were a part of the household. Similarly, Paul says, those who trust in salvation by grace through faith alone will be subject to mocking and persecution by those who wish to impose legalistic bondage or pagan philosophy on the church, as long as they are permitted to have an influence there.

Galatians 4:30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

what saith the scripture. The reference, of course, is to Genesis 21:10, the point of the allegory being that the church should not allow false teachers to influence its belief and behavior. This admonition applied directly to the tolerance of Judaizers in the Galatian churches. It could also be applied to the folly of allowing false (i.e., unscriptural) doctrine of any kind to be taught in the church.

Galatians 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.