Sunday Evening Bible Study

February 18, 1996

Galatians 4:1-11


Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.

After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.

The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.

Last week we saw:

God made a promise of righteousness to Abraham and his Seed, and the promise still holds.

The Seed was Christ.

The entrance of the law did not change God's original promise to Abraham.

The very purpose of the law was to show us how sinful we are, and how much we need a Savior.

The law only pointed to the very need for God's promise.

Since we have believed in Jesus, we have been immersed in Him, and now we Gentiles are allowed to share in the promises to Abraham.

We ended with

Galatians 3:29   And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Paul now takes the idea he's presented of the Law being our schoolmaster, and the ideas that we are now heirs of God, and develops these ideas more.

:1-7  Full adoption and sonship

:1  the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant

Paul now builds with an illustration using heirs and tutors.

He's just made the point that we are heirs of God by believing (3:29).

But if an heir is a child, there is not much of a difference between the heir and a servant.

Gill:  he is not his own man, nor at his own dispose; he cannot do as he pleases; he is under restraint; he is kept to school or to business, and is liable to correction and chastisement according as he behaves; nor can he have the free use of his father's estate,

:1  though he be lord of all

This child might one day inherit everything of his father's, but until he grows up, he is still a child, and is still under certain restrictions.

The child may one day be lord over all the servants, but while he is a child, he still has to do what his nanny says.  He has to obey the servants that have been entrusted with his upbringing.

:2  under tutors and governors

This is not the same Greek word that was used in chapter 3:

Galatians 3:24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

There the word was paidagogos

But the idea is still the same, and it refers still to the law.

tutors - epitropos  - one to whose care or honour anything has been instructed.

governors - oikonomos - the manager of household or of household affairs.

:3  even so we

Paul now brings the point home.

We are these children who are no better than slaves.

:3  when we were children

Referring to before we came to know Jesus.

When we were relatively children in spiritual things.

He might even be talking about Jews in particular.

:3  were in bondage under the elements of the world

Before we came to know Jesus, we were in bondage to the Law, just as a child is entrusted to a tutor.

Back in 3:24, Paul already called the Law our schoolmaster, which was to bring us to faith in Jesus.

:4  But when the fulness of the time was come

The time agreed and fixed upon between God and his Son from all eternity.

The time of Jesus' coming was no coincidence.

It was all part of a carefully planned, fully developed plan of God.

God's whole purpose was to have mankind under the tutelage of the Law for a while, but when the time for maturity came, He sent Jesus to get things moving.

:4  God sent forth his Son, made of a woman

God the Father sent Jesus the Son.

Jesus was born of a woman, but not a man.

:4  made under the law,

When Jesus was born, He was a Jew.

And being a Jew, He was subject to the Jewish Law.

This whole issue of the Law isn't something that's incidental to knowing Jesus.

Jesus' whole coming and purpose is tightly wrapped up in the Law.

When you study the Mosaic Law, and it's sacrifices and ceremonies, one thing is very clear, God was preparing mankind for Jesus.

The Law itself lays out the very reasons Jesus had to come.

It makes clear that we as men are sinful beings.

It makes clear that God provides for man's sins to be paid for in substitutionary atonement.

God allows for someone else to pay your ticket.

The pictures of lambs and all point to Jesus Himself.

:5  To redeem them that were under the law

We've seen this idea of redeeming before.

Galatians 3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

exagorazo - to redeem; by payment of a price to recover from the power of another, to ransom, buy off.

It is the idea that we were slaves to the law, but Jesus came along and paid our going price to our master, and freed us from the law.

The whole coming of Jesus is building up to this, to buy mankind out of the slavery to the Law.

:5  that we might receive the adoption of sons.

We aren't naturally born as "sons of God".

Instead, we are actually more properly called "sons of the devil".

John 8:44  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

But when God buys us from the marketplace of our slavery to the Law, He then turns around and arranges for an adoption, that we might be called His sons (and daughters!).

:6  because ye are sons

Now that God has adopted you, and you are truly an official son or daughter of God ...

:6  God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

God now gives us the ability to relate to Him as our Father.

Before coming to know Jesus, this isn't really possible, because God is pretty different and removed from us.

But when we come to know Jesus, God puts His Holy Spirit in our hearts, and now gives us the ability to be able to relate to God as we ought to.

Romans 8:14-17  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

:6  Abba, Father

In the Greek text, Paul uses two words that mean the same thing, one word a Hebrew (or Aramaic) word, "abba", and the Greek word "pater".

Wesley:  The Hebrew and Greek word are joined together, to express the joint cry of the Jews and Gentiles.

It's also interesting that as the "Spirit of His Son" cries out, it's the same that Jesus Himself cried in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Mark 14:36  And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.


Intimacy made possible

It's this very Spirit of God's Son, the Holy Spirit, that allows us the ability to be able to call God "abba".

"Abba" is kind of the "cutesy" (diminuitive) form of the Hebrew word for father, "ab".

It's the form that little children would use towards their fathers, and that's why some would almost translate this word with the idea of "daddy".  It may be better to say "dada".

Picture a small Hebrew child, calling out "abba", "abba".

Before Jesus came to pay for our sins, direct intimacy with God would have been impossible.

Our sins were too great.

But after Jesus paid for our sins, then to top it off, He gave us the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to even be able to relate to God in an intimate way.

God is Spirit, and those who worship and relate to Him must do so in spirit and truth.

With the Holy Spirit inside of us now, we have the equipment to be able to relate to God.


Suppose you got a letter in the mail that a wealthy French gentleman heard about you, and decided he wanted to adopt you, and to make you the sole heir to his great estate.

That's great!

But you, not knowing French, are unable to ever really get to know the man or communicate with him.

But suppose he also sends a magic pill, and you take it and can instantly understand French!

That's like the Holy Spirit enabling you to be able to relate to God.

:7  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son ...

He now sums up what he's just said, that we no longer relate to God as slaves, but as sons.

There are places in Scripture where we talk about our relationship to God as one of slave.

Romans 6:22  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

But that's more to illustrate one aspect of our relationship, that of obedience to God instead of sin.

We are "slaves" of whom we obey.

Yet the best overall idea that describes your relationship with God is that of a child, a son or daughter.

And if we're sons of God, we're also heirs too.



:8-11  So why are you doing this legalism stuff?

:8  Howbeit then ...

Paul now is going to put this whole adoption thing into perspective concerning the Galatians and these Judaizers.

:8  when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods

ye did service - douleuo - to be a slave, serve, do service

Speaking to these Gentile believers.

Paul says that before they came to Jesus, they were slaves to idols, things which aren't really worthy of being called "gods".

:9  But now, after that ye have known God

Now he's going to contrast their previous spiritual state to their current one.

:9  or rather are known of God

Paul corrects himself.

In reality, it's not that you claim to know God that's really important, but whether or not God knows you!

Matthew 7:21-23  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

We know that it's not really us who first loved God, but God who loved us!

1John 4:10  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

:9  how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

What are the "weak and beggarly elements"?

It's the Law.

The Law is the tutor, the governor, that we were to be under as children.

And now that we've become grown sons of God, why do we put ourselves back into the slavery of these things?


Legalism isn't a better way, it's a weaker way.

Those who want to try and make you feel like you have to do certain things to achieve God's pleasure are only bringing you to a place that's lower than trusting in Jesus.



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

Just in case someone says to Paul, "But we aren't putting ourselves under the law ...", Paul gives an example of what they've been doing.


By "days" are meant their seventh day sabbaths

By "months" are designed their new moons, or the beginning of their months upon the appearance of a new moon, which were kept by blowing trumpets, offering sacrifices, hearing the word of God, abstaining from work, and holding religious feasts;

By "times" are intended the three times in the year, when the Jewish males appeared before the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the three feasts of tabernacles, passover, and pentecost, for the observance of which there was now no reason; not of the feast of tabernacles, since the word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us; nor of the passover, since Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us; nor of pentecost, or the feast of weeks, or of the first fruits of the harvest, since the Spirit of God was poured down in a plenteous manner on that day upon the apostles

And by "years" are to be understood their sabbatical years; every seventh year the land had a rest, and remained untilled; there were no ploughing and sowing, and there was a general release of debtors; and every fiftieth year was a jubilee to the Lord, when liberty to servants, debtors, &c. was proclaimed throughout the land:


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

Paul is really bummed with what's happening with these Galatians.

He's poured out himself for them, teaching them and leading them in the Lord.

And he's afraid it's all coming to nothing as these people begin to slip into legalism.