Welcome to Galatians Chapter 4. Here Paul continues to talk about the law. To help his readers he uses an analogy, in this case using a known story relating to Abraham. He talks of Sarah and Hagar to show the difference of slavery and promise. Take a breath and dive in as we seek to know God’s word.
1 Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. 2 Instead, he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. 4 When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Paul continues his visual of a guardian talking about how children are under a guardian until they come of age. Therefore, until that it is like being a slave because you do not get to make your own choices. Likewise, the law was our guardian until the appointed time, in this case the day Jesus came and died. Now we are no longer slaves to sin and the world, heirs and sons of God giving us the ability to cry out to God as our father. Paul spells out the gospel again that he came and fulfilled the law that we could become sons and daughters of God.
8 But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods. 9 But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? 10 You observe special days, months, seasons, and years. 11 I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted.
Before knowing God, we were slaves to sin and the thing if the world which are far short of God. Then Paul uses a turn of phrase. Because we now know God, actually because we have become known by God. What does that mean? God has graciously let Himself be known by man, something He was not obligated to do. He again condescends that we may come to know Him and He knows us. It is yet another picture of God’s grace. In light of that relationship with God and how we know the truth, how is it we can turn back to the foolish things that are so much less than God? In fact, things apart from God are bankrupt mean I they have nothing of value. Do you really want to be enslaved to those things again? Things you know cannot make you happy and will lead to death. The Galatians had become so focused on rituals and rules and had lost the heart of what mattered. They were devoted to the things that Jesus had done away with, going back to a system that could not save them, when they knew Jesus and His grace. As such Paul was worried about them.
12 I beg you, brothers: Become like me, for I also became like you. You have not wronged me; 13 you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a physical illness. 14 You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15 What happened to this sense of being blessed you had? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They are enthusiastic about you, but not for any good. Instead, they want to isolate you so you will be enthusiastic about them. 18 Now it is always good to be enthusiastic about good—and not just when I am with you. 19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 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.
Paul is urging the Galatians to become like him. He says to do this as he had become like them. What does that mean? In his visit, he did not distance himself because they were gentiles, instead he embraced Jesus grace for them over the rules of the law. That is Paul wants them to imitate. He goes on to describe how they once had been. They received him well, not caring that he was sick. They had been concerned over Paul to the point he felt they would have given him their eyes if they could have. They cared and were enthusiastic and so Paul asks the obvious question, what happened? Was Paul an enemy because he was not afraid to tell them the truth? He points out their new teachers were not truly concerned about the Galatians but only wanted to see the law enforced. Paul is pained by this, to the point that emotionally, he feels like a woman in labor. They are his spiritual children and as their father he cannot help but be distressed.
21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and the other by a free woman. 23 But the one by the slave was born according to the impulse of the flesh, while the one by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. 24 These things are illustrations, for the women represent the two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery—this is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: Rejoice, childless woman, who does not give birth. Burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate are many, more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband. 28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as then the child born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so also now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave will never be a coheir with the son of the free woman. 31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Again, Paul hits them where they are putting trust, the law. He points out those who “know” the law and hits them with a story they would have known. Abraham had two children while Sarah still lived. One was through Hagar Sarah’s slave, while the other was the one promised who came through Sarah. He then likens the law to Hagar’s son, born not from God’s promise but as a slave. Sarah’s son though was born as God promised and inherited that promise, not slavery. Hagar’s son was born out of a lack of faith by Abraham and Sarah, while Isaac was born only through the faith in God. Paul uses this analogy to show the fight between the flesh and the spirit. We are to send out the ways of the flesh and follow God. Works without faith cannot save. God gives us His free gift of salvation and through it impacts our lives and changes us. We seek to do the good works He has prepared for us. For more conversation look at Galatians 2 bonus section at the end of the chapter about Faith and Works.
So What Do I Do With This Now?
All the information is great, but what do I do with it now?
1 Remember that if you have accepted God and been saved that you can cry out to Him. He is your Father, a perfect Father who loves you. Turn to Him for strength, talk with Him and love Him
2 We were once enslaved to other things before we received God. Do not go back to those things. Leave the sin behind and when you fall seek God and repent. We will struggle, no doubt, but we must not become comfortable with it, but turn away from it and cry out to our father to forgive us and He is faithful to forgive
3 Do not lose sight of love for God in the pursuit of righteousness. As you do good works remember why you do them, not for a sense of self-importance but out of love for God and the free gift He gave us.
Well, here we are at the end of the chapter. I really hope these words are impacting you. The word of God is powerful and it ought to change your life. If you are truly a Christian, if you truly love God, then these words will convict and change you. What is the most important thing we can do? Love God because out of that love will come the desire for good works, love toward your neighbor, and change in everything. Think about what He has done for us! His love, suffering and justice in making a way for us to come to Him. To call Him Father! Us who are such sinners, who fail daily. Praise His name! And listen to his words. As Jesus says in Luke 11:28 “those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed!” Please keep His word and have a blessed day.