We can open our survey of Galatians chapter four with a look at each of the three sections that comprise this chapter. The first section covers verses one through seven and continues the “faith versus law” discussion that Paul the Apostle began earlier in chapter three. The next portion encompasses verses eight through twenty. This highly personal section highlights Paul’s deep concern for the Galatian churches and the damage that had been inflicted upon them by the false teachers of their day.
Finally, Galatians chapter four will end with a comparison of the Old and New Covenants. While the great Old Testament patriarch Abraham will serve as the focal point of this section, these verses will also call attention to the historic example of his wife, two of his sons, as well as another prominent member of his family. In addition, Paul will touch upon such varied subjects as Greco-Roman family law, Old Testament history, and Biblical geography throughout these verses.
We’ll take some time to examine those subjects and events over the course of this chapter. But first, the opening verses of Galatians chapter four will build upon the concept of Christians as “…children of God through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:26 TLB) that Paul began earlier in chapter three. Unfortunately, this means that the chapter break serves to interrupt this train of thought.
With this in mind, its easy to forget that the chapters and verses found in modern-day versions of the Bible did not appear within the original Biblical manuscripts. Instead, these references were later added to help identify each individual portion of Scripture. Because of this, its important to remember that the Biblical book we know today as the New Testament Epistle to the Galatians was originally written as a personal letter to the local churches of that area.
This meant that Paul’s correspondence flowed in a manner similar to a modern-day letter without chapter or verse divisions. As a result, the line of reasoning that began near the end of chapter three may not be apparent as we enter chapter four. Therefore, we can establish the continuity between these chapters in the following manner…
“And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Now I mean that the heir, as long as he is a minor, 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” (Galatians 3:29-4:2 NET).
We’ll begin our look at the meaning and application of these verses next.
“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father” (Galatians 4:1-2).
Galatians 4:1-2 was written to a group of Christians who were being pressed to observe a set of spiritual rules and regulations. Unfortunately, rules and regulations often do little to establish relationships, and Paul the Apostle will illustrate that point with a look at the family dynamics that exist between a parent and young child.
While the small child of a well-to-do family might be heir to a large inheritance, a financial planner will generally serve as the steward of his or her assets until the child reaches a predetermined age. Until that time, the child is subject to the financial decisions of others even though he or she will eventually come into possession of a large estate.
In a similar manner, the Jewish and Gentile Christians of Galatia were each under different types of subjection before they came to Christ. For instance, the Gentile believers were subjects in a world that is described for us in the New Testament epistle of 1 John…
“Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:16-17 CEV).
On the other hand, the Jewish Christians of Galatia were subject to the bondage of the Mosaic Law before they accepted Christ. This reality prompted one commentator to ask the following questions and offer a subsequent answer…
“Since God intended all along to put men right with himself through faith in Christ, two questions arise: (1) Why didn’t Christ come immediately when our first parents sinned? (2) Why did God leave mankind for so many ages under the control of the law of nature and the Law of Moses…? Paul answers these questions with the example of a ‘young son.’” (1)
If Israel’s long history under the Mosaic Law teaches anything, it teaches that humanity is incapable of meeting God’s standards. So just as a young man or woman carries the experience gained as a child into adulthood, the experience gained under the Law in this regard would serve to prepare the Jewish people for the appearance of the Messiah.
(1) Ice, Rhoderick D. “Commentary on Galatians 4:4”. “The Bible Study New Testament”. [verse 1] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/galatians-4.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
“Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set” (Galatians 4:1-2 NET).
In first-century world of the Galatian churches, a father often appointed guardians to assume responsibility for the welfare of his children. Galatians 4:2 borrows from that imagery to illustrate the experience of those who lived under the Mosaic Law. In a sense, the Law mirrored the relationship between a parent and a young child in several respects. For example…
- Much like a small child is not permitted to eat whatever he or she may desire, the Law prohibited the people of Israel from eating certain foods (Leviticus 11).
- Just as a parent or guardian may restrict the style of clothing a youth might wear to ensure that he or she maintains a God-honoring appearance, the Law instituted dress restrictions as well (Deuteronomy 22:5, 11).
- If left to themselves, children will generally demonstrate little respect for authority. Therefore, the Law taught them to do so (Leviticus 22:9).
- An immature child must often be motivated to do what is right through various forms of punishment. The Law did much the same thing (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).
- A child must often be given a schedule of activities to perform. In a similar manner, the Law scheduled a number of mandatory observances for the people of Israel (Leviticus 23).
So the Mosaic Law functioned much like a mirror that reflected the immature relationship that existed between God and His people under the Old Covenant. But this was not only true for the people of Israel; it was also true of those who did not have access to the Mosaic Law, but in a much less formal way. You see, Galatians 4:3 goes on to say this…
“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world” (Galatians 4:3).
One version of this passage refers to the “elements of the world” in this manner: “…when we were children (spiritually immature), were kept like slaves under the elementary [man-made religious or philosophical] teachings of the world” (AMP). While the Jewish people were bound to the dictates of the Law, others were bound by a different set of rules: the elementary principles reflected in the attitudes, values, and belief systems of a world that rejected the God of the Scriptures.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes contains an enduring truth that has persevered throughout the generations: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Galatians 4:4 expands upon that idea by telling us that God sent forth his Son “when the fullness of the time had come” so we might be adopted as the sons and daughters of God.
We can associate “the fullness of time” with Jesus’ birth, an event that took place during (or just prior to) the early first century. But what facilitated that decision? Why did the early first century represent the right time for the appearance of the Messiah? Well, there are three elements that provide us with some insight into that question.
First, we can say that the nation of Israel possessed the Old Testament Scriptures in their entirety long before the dawn of the first century. Those books had already been translated and distributed for the benefit of those who did not read or speak Hebrew during that time. That effort resulted in the Septuagint, a translation of the Scriptures into the Greek language. This made the Scriptures available to those who previously did not have access to them.
This was important because the Greek language had risen to prominence and had become an official language of the Roman Empire during that time. Since the New Testament was written in koine (or common) Greek, both the Old and New Testaments were available to anyone who knew the language and wanted access to God’s Word.
We should also consider the military impact of the Roman Empire during that era. The Roman army enforced peace throughout the known world of that period and protected those who might otherwise have fought or been killed in various military actions. In addition, the extensive road system maintained by the Roman Empire made traveling through the distant reaches of the Empire easier than it had ever been before and facilitated the spread of the gospel.
So the peaceful environment enforced by the Roman Empire, the ability to travel long distances with relative ease, and the use of a commonly understood language all help to explain why the first century represented the right time for the Savior’s appearance.
“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” (Galatians 4:4-5).
Unlike like some other ancient practices that have fallen out of use, the concept of adoption is one that should be familiar to modern-day audiences. Each year, tens of thousands of children are adopted into new families, thus making the practice of adoption as familiar today as it was in the New Testament era. In fact, the ancient and modern concepts of adoption have not changed much for they both refer to the formal acceptance of another’s child as one’s own.
As used here in Galatians 4:5, this word refers to the act of “placing as a son” (1) and “signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong.” (2) One commentator provides some helpful background information regarding the process of adoption under ancient Roman law…
“When the adoption was complete it was complete indeed. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and completely lost all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed.” (3)
So the adopted child became an entirely new person from a legal perspective as well as an official and permanent heir within the family. (4) And even though the adopted child might be young and immature, he or she was formally recognized as the equal of any other biological family member. This is the imagery that Galatians 4:5 uses to illustrate our status as the adoptive sons and daughters of God through Christ.
Romans chapter eight elaborates on this concept in a highly encouraging portion of Scripture…
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:14-17).
(1) G5206 huiothesia https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g5206
(2) Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for ‘Adoption’. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ved/a/adoption.html. 1940.
(3) Barclay, William. “Commentary on Ephesians 1:4”. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/ephesians-1.html. 1956-1959.
(4) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, Galatians 4 [4:5] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07A_04.html
“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” (Galatians 4:6-7).
Those who lived under the Mosaic Law were subject to a number of rules and regulations that regulated daily life and prescribed the manner in which sinful human beings were permitted to approach a holy God. Although the exact count varies, many sources report that there were as many as 613 individual commandments contained within the Old Testament Law.
While the Law permitted imperfect human beings to approach God and receive genuine forgiveness for their sins, it did not easily facilitate the kind of relationship that one might enjoy with a loving father or other close family member. However, that changed with Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf. Through Christ, we can now enjoy the kind of warm, loving, family-oriented relationship with God that is described for us in the passage quoted above.
This new kind of relationship is exemplified by the use of the Aramaic word “Abba,” a word that roughly translates to “Daddy” or “Papa” in modern-day use. Jesus utilized this term in relation to God during His final hours in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Matthew 14:36).
So Galatians 4:6-7 tells us that those who approach God through Christ can enter into the same kind of secure, loving, and intimate relationship with God the Father that Jesus enjoyed. Through Christ, our interaction with God can become much like the close, trusted relationship that one might experience with a beloved family member. This does not mean that we treat God casually, nonchalantly, or indifferently, for an attitude of respect and reverence should always characterize our relationship with Him. However, it does mean that we can relate to our heavenly Father in a warm, loving manner and not as a cold, remote, impersonal being.
One Biblical scholar places the use of the word “Abba” in perspective for us with the following observation: “It was natural for Jesus, God’s Son in a unique sense, to use this term. Now the Spirit puts the same word on the lips of men and women who are adopted in Christ (Rom. 8:15).” (1)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2080). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
“Formerly when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods at all. 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 basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?” (Galatians 4:8-9 NET).
The members of the first-century Galatian churches faced a spiritual crossroad. One direction led to a warm and loving relationship with God through faith in Christ. The other led to a works-based relationship that was predicated upon “…the same kind of weak and useless rules you followed before” (ERV). Unfortunately, it appears that the Galatians had already started down the wrong path.
That choice meant exchanging one set of spiritual regulations (the pagan observances they followed before coming to Christ) for a different set of regulations (the Mosaic Law they had started to observe under the influence of the Judaizers). So what made those rules and regulations “powerless and bankrupt” (GW)? Well, one source offers an explanation…
“Before conversion, Paul’s readers (mainly Gentiles but some Jews) ‘were slaves’ to religious traditions that, in the case of Gentiles, included counterfeit gods. Now at liberty, they were in danger of turning back to the same slavery. They might return to a system that was ‘weak’ (with no power to justify or sanctify), ‘worthless’ (providing no inheritance), and elementary (‘elemental’) …Both Jewish and Gentile converts had lived bound to worldly elemental forces until Christ released them. These forces, even today, include everything in which people place their trust apart from God: their gods to which they become slaves.” (1)
However, there is another aspect to consider. You see, much like the false teachers of first-century Galatia, there are some who seek to create a similar sense of dependency today. The difference is that one type of dependency is based upon a set of rules. The other is built upon a person or organization.
You see, some individuals and organizations teach that others cannot understand the Scriptures without the aid of their study materials. Others profess to offer Scriptural enlightenment by way of a special revelation. Or perhaps a charismatic leader may seek to establish a following by claiming to serve as the personal conduit of Biblical truth.
This makes it important to distinguish between those who teach the Scriptures and those who say that we cannot understand the Bible without their assistance. There is a considerable difference between those who seek to communicate God’s Word and those who seek to create a sense of dependency by teaching (or implying) that others cannot understand the Bible without their help.
(1) Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Galatians. New International Greek Testament Commentary series (pp. 202-3) Exeter, England: Paternoster Press, 1982; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983 and Fung, Ronald Y. K. The Epistle to the Galatians (p. 191) quoted in Constable, Thomas. DD. “Commentary on Galatians 4:4”. “Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/galatians-4.html. 2012.
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 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?” (Galatians 4:8-9 ESV).
The Apostle Paul used an interesting turn of phrase within this passage: “…now you know God, or better still, God knows you” (CEV). This seemingly offhand remark should prompt us to ask a critical question: which of the following is more important- that we know God or God knows us?
Before we answer that question, let’s first consider a portion of Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount…
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV).
While statistics show that a majority of people believe in “God,” how many lead the kind of lives that demonstrate evidence for that belief? The answer is likely to be “not many,” for if the majority of those who profess to believe in God actually led the kind of lives that honored Him, the world would certainly be a different place. It was this kind of mindset that surely led to the following admonition from the New Testament epistle of James…
“Do what God’s word says. Don’t merely listen to it, or you will fool yourselves. If someone listens to God’s word but doesn’t do what it says, he is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror, studies his features, goes away, and immediately forgets what he looks like. However, the person who continues to study God’s perfect laws that make people free and who remains committed to them will be blessed. People like that don’t merely listen and forget; they actually do what God’s laws say” (James 1:22-25 GW).
There may come a time when many will be surprised to find that Jesus is far different from their conception of Him. This is why our understanding of Jesus must be based upon the person we find within the pages of the Scriptures. A “Jesus” who is based upon some other source may prompt the following response from Him someday: “I never knew you.”
“You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (Galatians 4:10-11).
Many cultures and societies hold ceremonial observances that are marked by days, months, seasons, and years. For instance, some traditional observances commemorate the changing seasons while others honor an individual or event from the past. Most societies differentiate between weekdays (when we customarily work for an employer) and weekends (when we are typically off from such work). And of course, January 1st is widely celebrated to mark the beginning of each new year.
Many traditional observances provide a sense of structure in an ever-changing world. They establish cherished memories, honor the sacrifices of those who preceded us, and provide a respite from the daily challenges of life. The problem was that the false teachers of Galatia were pressing the Galatian Christians to engage in certain observances as a way to find favor with God. Unfortunately, the Galatians didn’t understand that such observances do not make us right with God nor do they add anything to Christ’s finished work on the cross.
A look at the Jewish religious calendar provides some insight into the “days and months and seasons and years” that Paul the Apostle referenced in this passage. For example, the Law mandated a weekly day of rest known as the Sabbath. Months were marked by the appearance of the new moon. The changing seasons brought several periods of special observance including Passover, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year) and The Day Of Atonement. Later additions to this calendar included Purim and Chanukah.
Each seven year period also brought a year of rest for the farmlands of Israel. This seven-year cycle prohibited a landowner from plowing or planting a field for twelve months and then allowed agricultural activity to resume. Finally, the year of Jubilee took place every fiftieth year and marked an occasion where Hebrew slaves were freed and ancestral lands were returned to their original owners.
While Paul occasionally took part in some of these observances following his conversion to Christianity, he voluntarily did so for an important reason: it enabled him to establish a common ground with others for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). But unlike those who were leading the Galatians into such observances, Paul did not do so to gain favor or acceptance with God. That could only be secured through Christ.
“Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all” (Galatians 4:12).
Acts chapter ten relates the experience of the Apostle Peter as he shared the gospel with a Roman centurion. During that conversation, Peter remarked, “…’You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean’” (Acts 10:28 HCSB).
Much like the Apostle Peter, Paul the Apostle left the restrictions of the Old Testament Law in order to freely interact with the Gentile populations of Galatia. In this sense, Paul became like the Galatians to preach the gospel to them. Therefore, it is highly ironic that Paul now had to encourage the Galatians to become like him just as he became like them.
Although Paul once trusted in his own efforts to find acceptance with God, he abandoned those external observances to obtain salvation by grace through faith. Yet it was those same external observances that the Galatians now sought to pursue. So much like two people traveling in opposite directions. the Galatians were returning to the same dead-end destination Paul had left behind.
That was a mistake that Paul knew from experience…
“…If any of you think you can trust in external ceremonies, I have even more reason to feel that way. I was circumcised when I was a week old. I am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew. As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, I was a Pharisee, and I was so zealous that I persecuted the church. As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault” (Philippians 3:4-6 GNT).
Despite these things, he went on to say, “But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile—now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone” Philippians 3:7 TLB). As one commentator observes…
“Paul exhorts the Galatians to free themselves from bondage to law as he had done. He appeals to them to do this because he who had possessed the advantages of the law, had foregone these advantages and had placed himself on the same level in relation to the law as Gentiles. He tells them that he gave up all those time-honored Jewish customs and those dear associations of race to become like them. He has lived like a Gentile so that he might preach to Gentiles. He pleads with them not to abandon him when he has abandoned all for them.” (1)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 4:12) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me” (Galatians 4:13-15).
The Apostle Paul referenced his struggle with an unspecified physical infirmity in this portion of his letter to the Galatians. Many Biblical commentators see a connection between the ailment Paul mentioned here and something he wrote in his second Biblical letter to the church at Corinth…
“Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Corinthians 12:7 AMP).
What was the “thorn in the flesh” that Paul mentioned in this passage? Although its difficult to say with certainty, its possible that this phrase referred to some sort of physical affliction. For instance, Paul may have contracted a disease like malaria or perhaps he may have suffered from epilepsy, chronic pain, or some other type of debilitating condition.
However, it is widely believed that Paul suffered from some kind of eye disease. In fact, some feel Paul’s condition was so severe that he may have been legally blind. This would help explain the comment we see in the passage quoted above: “If you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (Galatians 4:15 NIV). It would also help to explain the personal message we find at the end of this letter: “Notice what large letters I use as I write these closing words in my own handwriting” (Galatians 6:11 NLT).
Despite this condition (whatever it was), it did not stop the Galatians from welcoming Paul or accepting his message of salvation in Christ. In fact, the Galatians welcomed Paul as if he was an angel of God, at least from his perspective. Thus, we see the damage that had been inflicted upon the Galatian churches by the false teachers of that era. Under their influence, the Galatians had moved from a position of respect and appreciation for Paul (as evidenced by their willingness to become organ donors on his behalf) to an attitude of separation from him and the true gospel message.
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“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them” (Galatians 4:16-17).
Many of us are probably familiar with the old adage that says, “the truth hurts.” This expression carries far more meaning than it may seem, for it serves to remind us of an uncomfortable reality. You see, a person who speaks the truth concerning a given situation may be viewed as someone who inflicts pain no matter how gentle, loving, or humble he or she may be.
For instance, it is often painful to learn from others that we have been mistaken in some way. It may be difficult to find that our efforts have been misguided or that something we’ve worked to achieve will not turn out the way we hoped. It can be hurtful to discover that others view us differently than we view ourselves, especially if their assessment reveals that we haven’t been honest with ourselves.
In such instances, its easy to become defensive and respond by attacking the messenger instead of taking time to prayerfully examine the message that he or she brings. It seems that Paul the Apostle anticipated that kind of response from the Galatians and proactively addressed it in the passage quoted above: “Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16 NLT).
One commentator summarizes this thought by observing, “In context, the thought is, ‘Surely one whom you have loved so much cannot become your enemy merely by telling you the truth about people who are now trying to exploit you.” (1) You see, the false teachers of Galatia were attempting to exploit the members of these churches by taking the following steps…
- They sought to diminish the Galatians’ dependence upon Christ for salvation and replace it with adherence to the Old Testament Law.
- That would enable these false teachers to assume positions of authority over the Galatians in judging how well they kept the Law.
Of course, that is one of the issues with a works-based approach to salvation; no matter how much you do, there’s always someone who can identify something you haven’t done (or haven’t done well enough).
Paul elaborated on this danger when he said, “by separating you from me, they want to win you over to themselves” (NJB). By alienating the Galatians from their relationship with Paul, these false teachers opened an opportunity to establish a greater following. So while Paul was interested in the Galatians’ spiritual welfare, these false teachers were apparently more interested in building a church that followed their leadership.
(1) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:21”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament“. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/galatians-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
“But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you” (Galatians 4:18).
Paul the Apostle made an important observation concerning his Jewish countrymen in the New Testament book of Romans: “…I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Romans 10:2 NIV). While zeal may be a good thing, its important to be zealous for the right things as implied in the verse quoted above.
In this context, “zeal” (1) refers to a warmth of feeling (either for or against), (a) to desire earnestly or pursue, (b) and/or to seek or desire eagerly. (c) One source comments on the Galatians’ zealousness by observing, “(Paul) applauds them for their concern to be zealous, yet immediately asks them to be very careful to judge if the object of their zeal is worthy…” (2)
In a similar manner, some may exhibit great zeal for God but their enthusiasm may be misdirected if it’s done without the knowledge of what is acceptable to Him. If we seek to approach God simply on the basis of what we think or feel is right, then our response might be unacceptable (or even offensive) to Him. Therefore, its important to remember the words of 1 Timothy 2:5: “…There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus” (NLT).
We can draw another important insight from the second portion of Galatians 4:18: “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you” (NIV). This reference to “not just when I am with you” recalls the experience of an Old Testament king named Joash…
“Joash did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight throughout the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest. …But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 24:2, 17-18 NLT).
Although Joash honored God while Jehoiada was present to influence his behavior, he no longer did so once he was on his own. Much like the churches of Galatia, Joash’s experience should encourage us to seek God’s help in building the kind of character that will allow us to be enthusiastic about doing good even when others are unavailable to help us do so.
(1) G2206 zeloo (a) Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, (b) Thayer’s Greek Definitions, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g2206 (c) Abbott-Smith Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/greek/2206.html
(2) McClelland, S. E. (1995). Galatians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1015). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you” (Galatians 4:19-20).
Two characteristics distinguished Paul the Apostle’s relationship with the members of the Galatian churches. The first was his deep affection for them and the second was his concern for their personal well-being. From Paul’s perspective, their relationship was much like the relationship that exists between a parent and a child. This is reflected in his reference to the Galatians as “my little children.”
However, Paul took that analogy one step further by comparing his experience with the Galatian churches to that of a mother who was about to give birth: “I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again” (NLT). Although Paul used similar parental imagery in his letters to the churches at Corinth and Thessalonica, this is the only place in Paul’s Biblical writings where he spoke to his audience in such intimate terms.
In fact, Paul’s terminology indicates that he had gone through a similar labor process with the Galatians once before. That experience undoubtedly took place when he first brought the gospel to that area. Now Paul was in labor once again as he worked to bring forth Christ-like character in the Galatians and protect them from the false teachers who had risen among them.
Once source offers the following insight into Paul’s commitment to work “…until Christ is formed in you” (HCSB)…
“The word formed is from morphoo which refers to the act of giving outward expression of one’s inner nature. We use the English word form in that way sometimes. For instance, ‘I went to the tennis match yesterday. The winning player’s form was excellent.’ We mean by that, that the outward expression which he gave of his inward ability to play tennis, was excellent.” (1)
In addition, this passage tells us that Paul faced a familiar issue in this letter to the Galatians- the challenge of communicating effectively through the written word. You see, there are many non-verbal cues that occur in face to face communication. Those non-verbal cues may include our tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and other indicators that add to the context of our message.
The problem is that it is difficult to replicate those cues in a text, post, email, or letter. This is why we must often resort to emoticons to help avoid misunderstandings in our correspondence with others. It also serves to explain Paul’s lament in Galatians 4:20: “I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you” (HCSB).
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 4:18-19) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman” (Galatians 4:21-22).
Earlier in Galatians chapter three, Paul the Apostle turned to the example of the great Old Testament patriarch Abraham to contrast the difference between salvation by grace through faith and the works of the Law. Now as we enter the final portion of Galatians chapter four, Abraham will make one final appearance within this Biblical letter.
The remaining verses of Galatians chapter four will recount the experience of Abraham, his wife, two of his sons, and one of his servants to illustrate the demands of the Law and the freedom Christ brings. To grasp this analogy, we can look to the record of Abraham’s life in the Biblical book of Genesis and watch that experience as it unfolded within his life.
We can begin with God’s promise to make Abraham into a “great nation” as described in Genesis 12:1-2. Genesis 15:1-4 then goes on to tell us that God promised to provide Abraham with a son to be his heir. By the time we reach Genesis chapter sixteen, Abraham was still waiting upon God to fulfill those promises- and that’s when Abraham and his wife made a history-altering decision…
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said” (Genesis 16:1-2).
It seems that Sarah (1) had run out of patience in waiting for God to fulfill His promise to provide Abraham with a son of his own. So she invited Abraham to sleep with her maidservant in the hope of building a family through her. While it may be difficult to understand how Sarah could ask her husband to engage in a sexual relationship with the maid, it helps to consider the cultural background of that time.
You see, the inability to produce children was often viewed as a social disgrace in the cultural climate of that era. So Sarah decided to employ Hagar as a kind of surrogate mother. A child who was subsequently born under that arrangement would be recognized as Sarah’s own son or daughter according to the custom of that time,
Unfortunately for Sarah, that plan was about to take an unanticipated turn.
(1) God will eventually change Sarai’s name to Sarah in Genesis 17:15. “Sarah” is used within these studies for continuity purposes.
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman” (Galatians 4:21-22 ESV).
While Galatians 4:21-22 provides us with a basic account of Abraham’s family tree, a closer look at his experience can help us make the connection between these members of Abraham’s family and the Galatians’ misguided attempt to find favor with God through the works of the Law.
First, we should recall that God made the following promise to Abraham: “…a son coming from your own body will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). However, its important to note that God did not identify the mother of this promised son in this promise to Abraham, So when Abraham’s wife Sarah told him “Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her” (Genesis 16:2), a son born from that relationship might serve to fulfill God’s promise from their perspective. Or at least they could talk themselves into that belief.
Unfortunately, there is no indication that Sarah or Abraham sought God’s direction regarding this idea. In fact, it doesn’t appear as if they ever gave any real consideration to God in this matter at all. Instead, it seems that Sarah saw an opportunity to get something she really wanted and engineered a way to obtain it without seeking God for His counsel or direction.
Although Sarah’s request was perfectly acceptable in that culture, that doesn’t mean she made the right choice. In fact, her example serves as a important reminder for God’s people today. The act of making such decisions without the prayerful commitment to seek God’s direction is a bad idea, and bad ideas often lead to bad choices, and bad choices usually lead to bad consequences.
And sure enough, it wasn’t long before the trouble began…
“So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress” (Genesis 16:3-4).
So Hagar began to feel differently about Sarah once she discovered she was pregnant. Hagar was now more than just an employee- she was someone who now had something that Sarah desperately wanted. This led Hagar to look upon Sarah with an attitude of contempt and disrespect- and that eventually led to a confrontation as we’ll see next.
“Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not understand the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman” (Galatians 4:21-22).
Following Abraham’s decision to accept his wife Sarah’s advice to marry a maidservant named Hagar, Genesis 16:3-4 tells us that Hagar became pregnant with Abraham’s child. Upon learning of her pregnancy, Hagar began to treat Sarah (who was childless) with an attitude of contempt. In light of these circumstances, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that a confrontation soon followed…
“Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me’” (Genesis 16:5).
Another translation of this passage renders this confrontation in the following manner: “So Sarai complained to Abram, ‘I’m being treated unfairly! And it’s your fault! I know that I gave my slave to you, but now that she’s pregnant, she’s being disrespectful to me. May the LORD decide who is right- you or me’” (Genesis 16:5 GW).
So even though Abraham followed Sarah’s counsel, Sarah held him accountable for Hagar’s new attitude of disrespect. Of course, Abraham might have avoided this confrontation if he had chosen to seek God’s direction before acting on Sarah’s advice to marry the maid and have a child with her. Once again, this serves to illustrate the problem that may occur whenever we fail to seek God’s direction in the process of making decisions. If things go wrong as a result, we may end up taking the blame for another person’s bad idea. (1)
So the concluding verses of Galatians chapter four make use of these historical events to personalize the distinction between the Law and the freedom we have in Christ. While Abraham’s son through Hagar was born as a result of a human-oriented plan, the son who will eventually come through Sarah was a product of God’s provision.
Although this account may not seem to have much bearing on the discussion of faith vs. the Law that occurs here in Galatians chapters three and four, it serves to communicate something important. The point is that we may be in danger of joining the wrong branch of Abraham’s family tree if seek to find acceptance with God through the works of the Law and a human-oriented plan of salvation. (2)
(1) See 2 Chronicles 18:1-19:3 for the account of a similar blunder that cost the life of an Old Testament king of Israel and earned the Lord’s rebuke for a king of Judah
(2) See Constable, Thomas. DD. “Commentary on Galatians 4:4”. [Verses 21-31] “Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/galatians-4.html. 2012.
“But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise” (Galatians 4:23).
In the context of Galatians 4:23, the “bondwoman” of this passage referred to a woman named Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian woman who served as the maidservant of Sarah, the wife of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. At Sarah’s suggestion, Abraham married Hagar and their relationship produced a son named Ishmael (Genesis 16:15).
The “freewoman” of this passage is a reference to Sarah and Genesis 17:15-16 provides us with the following information regarding her…
“Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.’”
The book of Genesis goes on to tell us that Sarah later became pregnant and had a son just as God said she would. Abraham named his newborn son Isaac as God commanded and he represented the son who was born in fulfillment of God’s promise as mentioned here in Galatians 4:23. This background information is helpful in understanding the point behind this verse.
If we could paraphrase the idea behind this passage, we might do so in the following manner: “The legalists who are attempting to convince you to follow the Old Testament law claim that Abraham is their spiritual father. But the critical question is this: ‘who is their spiritual mother?’ Is it Hagar, the bondwoman who married and bore a son as a result of a human-oriented plan? Or is it Sarah, the freewoman whose son was born according to God’s promise?”
You see. Abraham’s relationship with Hagar personified the attempt to find acceptance with God through human effort. Abraham’s relationship with Sarah illustrated the path to acceptance with God through Christ who was born according to God’s promise and plan. One Biblical scholar expands on this concept with the following observations…
“Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar, was born after Abraham and Sarah despaired of having the son God had promised. His birth was ‘according to the flesh’ because Hagar was fertile and of childbearing age when Sarah gave her to Abraham. Thus, Ishmael’s conception, though unusual in view of Abraham’s age, resulted from natural reproductive capacities.
Isaac, on the other hand, was born to Sarah by a miracle long after her childbearing years had ended (Gen. 11:30; 17:17; Rom. 4:18–21). God showed that none of His promises are empty (Gen. 18:14; Luke 1:37).” (1)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2081). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (pp. 2079–2080). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
“These things are illustrations, for the women represent the two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery–this is Hagar” (Galatians 4:24 HCSB).
Although Abraham was the father of many children, there are two sons of Abraham who are particularly important. The first was Ishmael, the son who was born to Abraham through his marital relationship with a servant named Hagar. The other was Isaac, the son of God’s promise who was born to Abraham and his wife Sarah. One commentary offers some background information on the birth of these sons that can help us understand and apply the final verses of Galatians chapter four…
“God had promised that Abraham would have a son, even though he and Sarah were too old, naturally speaking, to have children. Abraham believed God and thus was justified (Gen_15:1-6). Sometime afterward, Sarah became discouraged, waiting for the promised son, and suggested that Abraham should have a child by her slave-girl, Hagar. Abraham followed her advice, and Ishmael was born. This was not the heir promised by God, but the son of Abraham’s impatience, carnality, and lack of trust (Gen. 16).” (1)
Galatians 4:24 tells us that these sons illustrate the difference between the Old Covenant (represented by Ishmael) and the New Covenant (represented by Isaac). The Old Covenant placed its followers in a type of bondage, much as Hagar was identified as a “bondwoman” earlier in Galatians 4:22. In other words, those who sought to approach God via the works of the Law had to continue those efforts or face rejection. In contrast, the New Covenant is associated with the son born through Sarah. She represents the “freewoman” of Galatians 4:22.
The experience of these women provide us with an allegory that clarifies the idea behind this passage. Nevertheless, its important to recognize that the Old Testament account of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac is not an allegory itself. Instead, these verses present us with an illustration based on the historic account of these individuals. (2)
So Hagar served as a model that represented what the false teachers of Galatia sought to accomplish. Just as her son was born as a result of human effort, these legalists sought to compel the Galatians to seek justification with God on the basis of their efforts as well. On the other hand, Sarah’s offspring exemplified the message of Galatians 4:7: “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.1889
(2) We might use other literary terms such as typology, analogy, or “figurative language” help to communicate a similar idea.
“Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:25-26 NET).
We can view the analogy given to us here in Galatians 4:25-26 much like two vehicles on a journey towards acceptance with God. One vehicle represents a person who seeks to earn God’s favor through his or her own efforts. The other vehicle represents salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In this illustration, the first vehicle is associated with Hagar, Mount Sinai, and the present city of Jerusalem. The second is identified with Sarah, Isaac, and the heavenly Jerusalem.
While both vehicles seek to arrive at the same destination, each has chosen to take a different exit. Much like the first vehicle in this illustration, Hagar represents the Old Covenant that Moses received from God on Mount Sinai. The Old Testament book of described that experience in the following manner…
“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’ The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21 NIV).
This vivid word picture illustrates what it was like to approach God under the terms of the Old Covenant. Although the Mosaic Law offered genuine forgiveness of sins, that “exit” ultimately led to a spiritual dead-end for human beings who are incapable of fulfilling its terms. Hagar the maidservant was symbolic of that approach, for it resulted in a lifetime of servitude in working to secure (and retain) acceptance with God. The legalists of Galatia sought God’s favor through the works of the Law in much the same way.
On the other hand, Sarah personified salvation by grace through faith in Christ. That salivation is freely available through God’s provision and not through human intervention. Unlike those who sought to return to the bondage of a works-oriented relationship with God, Sarah represented the freedom we receive in Christ to worship and follow God. Like the second vehicle in our illustration, this is the “exit” that leads to acceptance with God.
“But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband’” (Galatians 4:26-27 ESV).
Paul the Apostle has spent the last few verses of Galatians chapter four in a comparison of the Old Covenant approach to salvation (represented by Hagar the bondwoman) and the New Covenant approach to salvation (represented by Sarah the freewoman). While this comparison is easier to grasp when we know the backstory behind these Biblical personalities, this reference to “the Jerusalem above…” in Galatians 4:26 may be more difficult to interpret.
We can turn to the following commentators for help in understanding this somewhat enigmatic reference…
“Jerusalem above represents the Jewish hope of heaven finally coming to earth (Rev. 21: 22). Since us all obviously refers to those who are free through faith in Christ (v. 7), Paul was strongly implying that the question at hand was not allegiance to Jerusalem, but allegiance to which Jerusalem—the new or the old? Would the Galatians follow the shortsighted present Jerusalem and its legalism or the liberty of the heavenly Jerusalem?” (1)
“Those who are citizens of heaven (Php 3:20) are free from the Mosaic law, works, bondage, and trying endlessly and futilely to please God by the flesh.” (2)
Paul then followed with a quote from the book of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: “Sing with joy, you childless women who never gave birth to children. Break into shouts of joy, you women who never had birth pains. ‘There will be more children of women who have been deserted than there are children of married women,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:1 GW).
This passage establishes a connection to Abraham’s wife Sarah who was childless until God miraculously enabled her to conceive a son in her old age. The idea is that Sarah -the woman who was initially barren- would go on to produce many more spiritual descendants than the woman who conceived as a result of a human-oriented plan.
Therefore, she represents those who receive salvation in Christ and thus become citizens of heaven. As another commentator observes…
“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.” (3)
(1) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1525). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
(2) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ga 4:26). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(3) Dr. Henry M. Morris, The New Defender’s Study Bible [Galatians 4:26] https://www.icr.org/bible/Gal/4/26
“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now” (Galatians 4:28-29).
The closing verses of Galatians chapter four draw some important insights from the Old Testament examples of Abraham, his wife Sarah, and Sarah’s maidservant Hagar. Sarah was the driving force behind Abraham’s marital relationship with Hagar, a union that produced a son named Ishmael. Sarah later bore a son named Isaac when she was well past her childbearing years according to God’s plan.
Paul the Apostle used these examples to draw attention to those who advocated a return to the works of the Law as the basis of a relationship with God. Consider the difference in these examples…
Hagar / Old Covenant
Sarah / New Covenant
Son was born via natural birth
Son was born via supernatural birth
Mount Sinai – Old Covenant
New Jerusalem – New Covenant
While some of the things Paul has written throughout this epistle may have been challenging for the Galatians, they could at least take comfort in his reference to them as “children of promise.” In light of that assessment, Paul encouraged the Galatians to push back against those who might seek to enslave them to the dictates of the Old Testament Law. One Biblical scholar offers a helpful observation at this point…
“Paul is assuring the Galatian Christians that they are not like Ishmael the son of the slave woman, but like Isaac who was born according to the promise, not in the usual course of nature but miraculously. So they are born of the Holy Spirit, and have their standing before God, not on the basis of physical descent from Abraham, but upon the promise made to Abraham which applies to all who have like faith to him.” (1)
Finally, Galatians 4:29 tells us “…you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit” (NLT). Another commentary provides us with the following insight on this passage…
“People are saved because of their faith in Christ, not because of what they do. Paul contrasted those who are enslaved to the law (represented by Hagar, the slave wife) with those who are free from the law (represented by Sarah, the freeborn wife). Hagar’s abuse of Sarah (Gen_16:4) was like the persecution that the Gentile Christians were getting from the Judaizers, who insisted on keeping the law in order to be saved.” (2)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 4:28) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Life Application Study Bible NASB (Galatians 4:21-31) Copyright © 2013 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
“Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:30-31).
Galatians 4:30 references a historical event from the book of Genesis to serve as an example for those who were seeking to find acceptance with God through the works of the Law. That account describes an incident that took place as the great Old Testament patriarch Abraham celebrated the fact that his young son Isaac had graduated from drinking milk to eating solid food. Abraham decided to hold a feast to commemorate the occasion but one guest wasn’t in the mood to celebrate…
“The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking” (Genesis 21:9-10 NIV).
The son of “Hagar the Egyptian” was Ishmael who was probably around 16 years old at that time. While we don’t know what Ishmael was mocking, we do know that Isaac’s mother Sarah was very displeased…
“and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac’” (Genesis 21:10 NIV).
The fact that Sarah used an emotionally charged term like “that slave woman” tells us that she took Ishmael’s conduct as a personal affront. You see, Hagar had acted with an attitude of contempt and disrespect for Sarah when she was pregnant with Ishmael. Now Ishmael was repeating that same type of behavior with Isaac. So from Sarah’s perspective, the mother and the son each deserved to be dismissed.
Paul the Apostle used this incident to illustrate the challenge posed by those who advocated a relationship with God based on human effort. The legalists who sought to approach God on the basis of their good works could not co-exist peaceably with idea of salvation by grace through faith. One commentator brings closure to this portion of Scripture and prepares us for our look at the final chapters of this great epistle…,
“This verse brings to a climax the argument that believers are not a community or nation in bondage to legal statutes, but members of the community of believers whose relation to God is that of sons, and who do not have the spirit of bondage but the Spirit of sonship. It also serves as the basis upon which Paul builds the practical instruction which follows in chapters five and six.” (1)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 4:31) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.