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Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-7 Notes

Galatians 3:23-29  Biblical Commentary:

The last part of chapter 3 and the first part of chapter 4 emphasize that Christians are children of God (3:26-29; 4:6-7), Abraham's seed (3:29), and "heirs according to promise" (3:29; see also 4:7). Paul noted that minor children, even though they might be heirs, are subject to the governance of guardians and trustees "until the day appointed by the father" (4:1-2). "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (3:25).


23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

 "But before faith came, we were kept in custody (Greek: phroureo) under the law, confined (synkleio) for the faith which should afterwards be revealed" (v. 23).   The word phroureo means to keep or to guard.  It could have a negative connotation such as being kept in custody by a prison guard, but that isn't the sense of it here.  In this context, it pictures a loving God acting as a shepherd, protecting his people from the lions and wolves that would otherwise have them for lunch.

The word synkleio means "shut up together" or "enclosed together"-as sheep would be shut up in a sheep pen for the night with the shepherd guarding the entryway to keep them safe.

Paul is saying that, before faith (in Jesus) came, God gave the law to keep people from straying into dangerous territory so that they would be prepared "for the faith which should afterwards be revealed"-faith in Jesus.

We have become so committed to doing what we want to do when we want to do it that we might find it unattractive to be protected in this way-but let me tell you a story.  According to this story, a group of children lived near a cliff, and were afraid to go near the cliff lest they fall and be killed.  But then the adults of the community got together and built a strong fence to keep the children from falling over the cliff.  Then the children, who had been so afraid, were able to use all the ground for their games-without fear of falling or losing their ball over the cliff.  Instead of restricting them, the fence liberated them.

So it was with the law.  God gave it for the people's protection.

"So that the law has become our tutor (Greek: paidagogos) to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (v. 24).   The word paidagogos combines two words:  pais (child) and agogos (a leader).  A paidagogos is therefore a leader of children-a teacher, a scoutmaster, a coach, a mentor.  Paul now softens the image of the law from a phroureo (guard) to a paidagogos (teacher, leader of children).

Paul is saying that God gave the law as a mentor to guide the people of Israel as a way of preparing them for Christ.  The law gave them a framework for moral behavior, and the prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah.

When Christ came, he changed the emphasis from salvation by merit (an impossibility) to salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ.


25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

 "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (paidagogos) (v. 25).  Once a child has grown to maturity, a paidagogos (teacher, leader of children) is no longer needed.  The mature person can go places and do things without a paidagogos to lead/guide/and protect him/her.  Mature people will probably retain an affection for the paidagogos of their childhood, but wouldn't want to revert to having the paidagogos hold their hand and constrain their movements.

So it is with the Christian faith.  We respect the Jewish law, and perhaps even revere it, because we find great wisdom there.  But we no longer look to the law for our salvation, but instead turn in faith to Christ.

"For you are all children of God, (Greek: huios theos) through faith in Christ Jesus" (v. 26).  Elsewhere Paul uses the word adopted or adoption (huiothesia, which combines huios (son) with tithemi (to place), so huiothesia literally means "to place as a son" or "to adopt").

Note the similarity between hios theos (sons or children of God) and huiothesia (to place as a son-to adopt).  Both point to a privileged and intimate relationship with God, which relationship comes "through faith in Christ Jesus."

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on (enduo) Christ" (v. 27).  The Greek word enduo ("put on") means "put on a garment" or "clothe yourself" or "get dressed."  When Paul talks about putting on Christ, he uses this clothing metaphor to describe a transformation that God has wrought in their lives.  While clothing might seem merely external, as contrasted with a change of heart, Paul uses this clothing metaphor to describe a truly changed person.  People who have put on Christ are new people-redeemed people-forgiven people-people whose demeanor and actions (external) reflect the fact that God has given them a new heart (internal).

Paul traces this putting on of Christ to their baptism.  He deals with this in more detail in his letter to the Romans:

"Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  May it never be!  We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?  Or don't you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection" (Romans 6:1-5).

Keep in mind that a number of scholars consider Paul's letter to Galatians became the rough draft for his letter to the Roman church.  In Romans Paul often expands on ideas that he had written initially to the Galatian church.


28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave  nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (v. 28).  In this verse, Paul mentions some of the many divisions that separate people-Jews vs. Greeks (Gentiles)-slave vs. free-male vs. female.  These are hardly the only major divisions that keep people apart.  Others include rich vs. poor-literate vs. illiterate-First World vs. Third World-black vs. brown vs. white-Asian vs. European-socialist vs. capitalist-the list goes on and on.  See if you can think of other examples.

Paul doesn't intend these three divisions (Jew vs. Greek, etc.) as comprehensive, but rather as illustrative.  He is saying that, in Christ, all the barriers that divide one person from the other person are rendered null and void.

Jesus prayed that this might be true.  He prayed, not only for his disciples of that day, "but for those also who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me...that they may be perfected into one" (John 17:20-21, 23).

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said that "Christ our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition.... For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:13-14, 18-19).

At our best, we see this unity in our churches.  In the congregation where I worship, we have a few (very few) wealthy people-people whose intelligence and education and work ethic have led them into management positions and have allowed them to enjoy significant financial success.  Most members are people of modest means, and an occasional person is one step above being homeless.  But when the Lord's Supper is served (which it is at every worship service), all are invited and all drink from the same cup.

But at our worst, Christians are still seriously divided-into denominational camps and ethnic and racial camps.  Someone has observed that eleven o'clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.  And at the local level, we have divided ourselves into those who want red carpet versus those who want green carpet.  The devil must be licking his chops!

"If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed (Greek: sperma) and heirs (kleronomos) according to promise" (Greek: epaggelia) (v. 29).  The people of Israel were Abraham's seed (his descendants) and heirs according to promise."  God promised Abraham:

"I will make of you a great nation.  I will bless you and make your name great.  You will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.  All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you" (Genesis 12:2-3).

But now that the Messiah has come, Christians have become "Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise."

An heir (kleronomos) is a person who has the legal right to an inheritance.  Jewish law regulated inheritances, giving two shares to the firstborn son and one share each to the other sons (Deuteronomy 21:17).

God's first family was the nation of Israel (Romans 9:4-5).  God said, "Israel is my son, my firstborn" (Exodus 4:22)-and "I will be (Israel's) father, and he shall be my son" (2 Samuel 7:14).

The book of Hebrews says that God has appointed his Son "heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2).  Paul says that we have become "joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:14-17)-the result of God adopting us into his family (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 3:16; 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 21:7).

The word epaggelia (promise) suggests a gift rather than something that a person can win by hard work.  In that sense, it is akin to the word grace, which is the free gift of salvation-something that God bestows on us rather than something we have earned.


4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

 "But when the fullness (pleroma) of the time came" (v. 4a). The word pleroma can be used for a basket that is full, but here it has the sense of completeness or the right time.

Christians have often noted that Jesus came during the Pax Romana-a period of relative peace brought about by the fact that the Romans had conquered most of the known world. Greek was a common language. Roman roads made travel much easier than it had been in the past.

However, we shouldn't make too much of the special circumstances of the first century-circumstances that facilitated the spread of the Gospel. If God had been concerned about such things, wouldn't he have waited until we had jet planes and email? More to the point, it was the right time in the lives of the Jewish people. They had moved past the idolatry that had plagued them in earlier years. They had access to the Torah and the writing of the prophets. They had had plenty of time to test their ability to keep the Jewish law, and were thus in a position to understand their need of God's grace.

"God sent out his Son" (v. 4b). The Son was God's Son from the beginning. He "was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made.... (And) the Word became flesh and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.... From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace" (John 1:2-3, 14, 16).

Paul's most explicit picture of God's sending his Son is found in his letter to the Philippians. "Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn't consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).

"born to a woman" (v. 4b). Christ's full humanity was manifested in his birth. He was "born of a woman"-not a princess or a queen, but an ordinary young woman. He was born, not in a palace, but in stable. His crib was a manger-a feeding trough for animals. He was raised, not in Jerusalem, the home of the temple, but in a small town in Galilee. The man who was to be known as his father was not a ruler, but a carpenter. Jesus could not have done more to identify with us in our humanity.

Luke had been Paul's traveling companion, so Paul surely knew of the virgin birth. However, he doesn't mention the virgin birth explicitly in any of his letters. We should not imagine that he rejected the idea of the virgin birth. More likely, that concept was so widely accepted that he felt no need to emphasize it.

"born under the law" (v. 4b). As a child born in a Jewish home, Jesus grew up subject to the same religious law that governed his parents and their community.

"that he might (hina) redeem those who were under the law" (v. 5a). The little word, hina, establishes purpose. The reason that God sent his Son into the world was to accomplish two things. The first was "that he might redeem those who were under the law"-i.e., the Jewish people. The second was that "we might receive the adoption as children."

"that (hina) we might receive the adoption (huiothesia) as children" (v. 5b). The word huiothesia is found four times in the New Testament (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). It is a compound word-a combination of huios (son) and tithemi (to place).

" alluding to a Greek and Roman custom rather than a Hebrew one. Since huiothesia was a technical term in Roman law for an act that had specific legal and social effects, there is much probability that Paul had some reference to that in his use of the word. Adoption, when thus legally performed, put a man in every respect in the position of a son by birth to him to had adopted him, so that he possessed the same rights and owed the same obligations. Being a huios, a son, involves the conformity of the child that has the life of God in him to the image, purposes, and interests of God and that spiritual family into which he is born" (Zodhiates, 1404).


6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

"And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts" (v. 6a). There are two things going on here. The first is our adoption into God's family. The second is the gift of the Spirit. This verse sounds as if the sequence is that we first are adopted and then receive the Spirit. However, it seems likely that these two things would happen almost simultaneously in many instances.

In the last chapter, Paul reminded the Galatians that they have received the Spirit (3:1).

"crying, 'Abba! Father!"' (v. 6b). Jesus prayed "Abba, Father" at Gethsemane (Mark 14:36). Now his Spirit teaches us to pray "Abba, Father." Abba is an Aramaic word for father.

Some people would translate "Abba! Father!" as "daddy," but most scholars dismiss that as trivialization or presumptuousness. However, "Abba! Father!" is the kind of phrase that a small child would use for his/her father. It is a sign of God's love that he permits this kind of intimacy, not just from the great saints, but from all saints.

While the Old Testament includes references to God as Father (Psalm 68:5; 89:26; 103:13), the New Testament expands dramatically on that idea. Jesus teaches us to pray, saying, "Our Father in heaven" (Mt. 6:9). References to God as Father abound in the Epistles (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 2:16; Phil. 1:3). Most occur in the greetings portion of the Epistles.


7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

"So (hoste-so or therefore) you (ei-"you" singular) are no longer a bondservant but a son" (huios-a son) (v. 7a). The word hoste (so or therefore) links this verse to what has gone before. That includes such statements as:

  • "For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus" (3:26).
  • "If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise" (3:29).
  • "God sent out his Son...that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children" (4:4b-5).

The use of ei ("you" singular) makes this a very personal statement. It applies to each of the Christians to whom this letter is addressed-and to each of us who reads it today in faith. We are brought into proper relationship with God as individuals-not en masse. Adoption is a very personal process. There might be more than one adopted child, but each child will have a name and an identity-and the adoptive parents will love each child personally. So it is with adoption into God's household. The heavenly Father knows every hair on our heads (Matthew 10:30).

Through faith in Christ we have been transformed from slaves to sons and daughters-adopted into God's family-engrafted into God's family tree.

Because of its inclusive language agenda, the NRSV uses the word "child" rather than "son" in this verse. That is a particularly unfortunate translation, because it suggests that we are children-under-aged-still in the care of guardians. Paul has just said that minor children "are no better than slaves" because "they remain under guardians and trustees" until they reach the age at which they can assume responsibility for their own affairs (4:1-2). The point of verse 7 is not that we are children ("no better than slaves"), but that we are sons and daughters ("heirs").

"and if a son (huios-a son) then an heir of God through Christ" (v. 7b). Being sons and daughters confers on us the privileges associated with being an heir. Being an heir makes one eligible to receive an inheritance.

In the Old Testament, only sons were heirs-invested with the right of inheritance. The Torah specified that the firstborn son was to receive a double portion of the inheritance, and each of the other sons was to receive a single portion (Deuteronomy 21:17). In other words, if a father had three sons, the inheritance would be divided four ways. The firstborn son would receive two portions (one-half of the inheritance in this example), and the other two sons would receive one portion each (one fourth of the inheritance each in this example). Fathers were not permitted to alter this formula to favor a well-liked son or to punish a son (Deuteronomy 21:16).

However, the Torah creates exceptions for special cases. "'If a man dies, and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father's brothers. If his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his kinsman who is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it" (Numbers 27:8-10). These verses make it clear how seriously God (and the Jewish people) regarded inheritance.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul expanded the idea that we are heirs by saying that we are "joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17; see also Ephesians 3:6). That is especially significant, given that God has appointed his Son "heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2). Ours is an "eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:15)-a "city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10)-"a better country, that is, a heavenly one," a city prepared for us by God" (Hebrews 11:16)-"the heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22).





3. (Gal 3:23-25) The Law of Moses is our tutor, a guardian to bring us to Jesus.

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

a. Before faith came: Before we were saved by faith; before we lived our lives by faith, we were kept under guard by the law. Here, Paul uses a different word and a different idea than when he wrote the Scripture has confined all under sin in the previous verse.  The idea behind confined is imprisonment; the idea behind under guard is protective custody.  There is a sense in which we were imprisoned by our own sin under the law; but there is also another sense in which it guarded us in protective custody.  i. How does the law protect us? It protects us by showing us God's heart.  It protects us by showing us the best way to live.  It protects us by showing what should be approved and disapproved among men.  It protects us by providing a foundation for civil law.  In these ways and more, we were kept under guard by the law.

b. We were kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. The Law of Moses prepares us to come to Jesus by the way it reveals God's character and the way it exposes our sin.  Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  The purpose of the Law of Moses is fulfilled when we stop trying to justify ourselves and come to faith in Jesus!   i. The whole purpose of the law is to bring us to Jesus.  Therefore, if someone doesn't present the law in a manner that brings people to faith in Jesus, they aren't presenting the law properly.  The way Jesus presented the Law was to show people that they could not fulfill it, and needed to look outside of their law-keeping to find a righteousness greater than the Scribe and the Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-48).   ii. The law doesn't justify us, but what does it do?  "It gives a reward and a punishment to works; that is, it promises life to those who keep it and curses all its transgressors.  It requires from man the highest perfection and precise obedience.  It remits nothing, pardons nothing, but calls to reckoning.  It does not openly exhibit Christ and His grace but points to Him afar off and enclosed in ceremonies as in wrappings." (Calvin)   iii. "Satan would have us prove ourselves holy by the law, which God gave to prove us sinners." (Andrew Jukes, cited in Stott)

c. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor: Once we have come to a relationship of faith, we no longer have to live under our tutor, though we remember the behavior he has taught us.  So we respect our tutor, the law; but we don't live under him.  We live under Jesus by faith!   i. Tutor is not a completely accurate translation of the idea of the ancient Greek word paidagogos. The paidagogos did not simply teach a child.  More than that, the tutor was the child's guardian, watching over the child and his behavior.  The idea is more of a nanny than of a teacher, but since the tutor could discipline the child, the tutor was also the "dean of discipline."  ii. Morris translates tutor as custodian.  "The custodian was not a teacher, but a slave whose special task was to look after a child. He exercised a general supervision over the boy's activities, and it was his responsibility to bring him to the teacher who would give him the instruction that befitted his station."   iv. "The law ceases its office as schoolmaster when it comes to be written on our hearts.  Boys have their lessons on slates, but men have their laws in their minds.  We trust a man where we should carefully watch a boy.  When the child becomes a man his father and mother do not write down little rules for him, as they did when he was a child in petticoats, neither do they set servants over him to keep him in order.  He is trusted.  His manliness is trusted; his honor is trusted, his best feelings are trusted.  So now, brethren, we who have believed in Jesus have the law written here in our hearts, and it corresponds with what is written there in the Scriptures." (Spurgeon)

4. (Gal 3:26-27) By faith, we find our identity with Jesus Christ.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

a. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus: Compared to what was being taught among the Galatians, this was a revolutionary statement. In traditional Jewish thinking (carried into Christianity by Jewish Christians), your standing before God was measured by your obedience to the law.  To truly be close to God - considered sons of God - you had to be extremely observant of the law, just as the Scribes and Pharisees were (Matthew 23).  Here, Paul says we can be considered sons of God a completely different way: through faith in Christ Jesus.   i. The standing is impressive.  To be among the sons of God means that we have a special relationship with God as a loving, caring Father. It is a place of closeness, a place of affection, a place of special care and attention.  ii. The method is impressive.  To become a son of God through faith in Christ Jesus means much more than believing that He exists or did certain things.  It is to put our trust in Him, both for now and eternity.

b. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ: Here, using the picture of baptism, Paul illustrates what it means to have faith in Christ Jesus.  He doesn't say we were baptized into water, but baptized into Christ. Just as in water baptism a person is immersed in water, so when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, we are immersed in Jesus.  i. How many Christians seem content with just "dipping a bit" into Jesus!  God wants us to be fully immersed in Jesus; not sprinkled, not just a part of us dipped.  When a person is immersed in water, you don't even see the person much anymore - you mostly see the water.  When we live as baptized into Christ, you don't see so much of "me" anymore; you mostly see Jesus.   ii. It should be stressed that this is the baptism that really saves us: our immersion into Jesus.  If a person isn't baptized into Christ, they could be dunked a thousand times into water, and it would make no eternal difference.  If a person has been baptized into Christ, then they should follow through and do what Jesus told them to do: receive baptism as a demonstration of their commitment to Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).

c. Have put on Christ: Another way of expressing our immersion in Jesus is to say that we have put on Christ. In the original language, the phrase has the idea of putting on a suit of clothes.  So we "clothe ourselves" with Jesus as our identity.   i. How we dress has a real impact on how we think and act.  How we dress has a real impact on how we appear to others.  We also need to know how to dress appropriately for each occasion. Paul says to us, "Your appropriate clothing for each day is to put on Christ.  People should see that you belong to Him by looking at your life.  You should live with the awareness that you are adorned with Jesus."   ii. Some people might wonder if this is only play-acting, if it is really an illusion, like a child playing "dress-up."  The answer is simple.  It is only an illusion if there is no spiritual reality behind it.  In this verse, Paul really speaks of the spiritual reality - those who were baptized into Christ really have put on Christ.  Now they are called to live each day consistent with the spiritual reality.

d. The stress here is on our identity in Jesus through faith.  We aren't simply associated with Jesus; we are identified in Him.  If He is a Son of God, so are we.  If He stands righteous before God the Father, so do we.  If He has free access to the throne of God, so do we.  If He has victory over spiritual powers of darkness, so do we.  We aren't associated with Jesus; we are in Jesus.

5. (Gal 3:28-29) Our equal standing with others who come to God through faith.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

a. There is neither Jew nor Greek: What a revolution Paul proposes!  The whole problem among the Galatian Christians is that some wanted to still observe the dividing line between Jew and Greek.  Paul writes, "In Jesus Christ that line is done away with.  When we are in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek."

b. There is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus: The dividing line between Jew and Greek is not the only dividing line erased.  Regarding our standing before God in Jesus, every dividing line is erased!  Now that Jesus is our identity, that is more important than any prior identity we possessed.  We are all one in Christ Jesus.  i. At that time, the Rabbis quoted a morning prayer that was popular among many Jews of that day.  In that prayer, the Jewish man would thank God that he was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.  Paul takes each of these categories and shows them to be equal in Jesus. (Barclay)   ii. "The list might be extended indefinitely: There is neither preacher nor hearer, neither teacher nor scholar, neither master nor servant, etc.  In the matter of salvation, rank, learning, righteousness, influence, count for nothing." (Luther)  iii. Sadly, some Christians still draw lines today.  Some draw lines between denominations, some draw lines between races, some draw lines between nations, some draw lines between political parties, and some draw lines between economic classes.  For example, if you feel you have more common ground with an unbeliever who shares your race or your political party than with a genuine Christian from another race or political party, you have drawn a line that Jesus died on the cross to erase.   iv. This doesn't mean that there are no differences.  Paul knew that there was still a difference between Jew and Greek, and his evangelistic approach might differ to each group (1 Corinthians 9:19-21).  The slave still had a daily obligation to obey his master, though they might be equal in Jesus (Ephesians 6:5-8).  There are still different roles for male and female in the home and in the church (1 Timothy 2:1-5, Ephesians 5:22-33), though they are equal in standing before God.  There are differences in role and in function, but none in standing before God through faith in Jesus.  "When we say that Christ has abolished these distinctions, we mean not that they do not exist, but that they no longer create any barriers to fellowship." (Stott)

c. You are all one in Christ Jesus: This is amazing.  Some would have Paul exclude some of the Christians from a Gentile background because they hadn't come under the Law of Moses.  Paul includes them saying "You are all one in Christ Jesus."  Others might have Paul exclude some of the Christians from a Jewish background, because their theology was wrong on this point and Paul needed to correct them.  Paul includes them saying "You are all one in Christ Jesus."   i. "Many of God's children lack a deep understanding of the Christian way, but that does not mean that they are not genuine Christians.  Being a Christian is being a believer, not having an intellectual answer to all the problems we meet as we live out our Christian lives." (Morris)

d. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed: Since all Christians belong to Jesus the Messiah, all Christians are spiritual descendants of Abraham and heirs of God.  This place of high privilege comes according to the promise, not according to law or works.  We are connected with the long line of God's people assembled throughout all the ages!   i. Some Jewish Christians said to the Galatians that if they submitted to the law and became circumcised, they could enjoy the status of being Abraham's seed. Paul points out that this status is already theirs through faith in Jesus!  ii. Paul has reinforced this principle throughout this section by his repeating of the title Christ for Jesus (used 10 times in the last 17 verses).  When Paul refers to Jesus as Christ, he emphasizes Jesus' role as the promised Messiah of the Jewish people - and of all the world, as Paul emphasizes.

e. If you are Christ's: This is the issue.  The issue is not "Are you under the law?"  The issue is not "Are you a Jew or a Gentile?"  The issue is not "Are you slave or free?"  The issue is not "Are you a man or a woman?"  The only issue is if you are Christ's.   i. It is belonging to Jesus that sets us free from each place Paul said the law put us.  "We are neither prisoners, awaiting the final execution of our sentence, nor children, minors, under the restraint of a tutor, but sons of God and heirs of His glorious kingdom, enjoying the status and privileges of grown-up sons." (Stott)

ii. If we are Christ's, then ...

-   We find our place in eternity, because we are sons and daughters of God.

-   We find our place in society, because we are brothers and sisters in the family of God.

-   We find our place in history, because we are part of God's plan of the ages, related spiritually to Abraham by our faith in Jesus.

"This is a three-dimensional attachment which we gain when we are in Christ - in height, breadth and length."  (Stott)

-   In its height, it connects us to God.

-   In its breadth, it connects us with each other in Jesus.

-   In its length in connects us with the long line of God's people throughout all ages.

"It enables me to answer the most basic of all human questions, 'Who am I?' and to say, 'In Christ I am a son of God.  In Christ I am united to all the redeemed people of God, past, present, and future.  In Christ I discover my identity.  In Christ I find my feet.  In Christ I come home." (Stott)

A. No longer under bondage to the basic elements, we are God's children.

1. (Gal 4:1-3) An illustration and application comparing a child and slave.

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. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.

a. The heir, as long as he is a child: The word child has the idea of a minor. It doesn't suggest a specific age, but someone who is not yet legally recognized as an adult.   i. In both Jewish and Greek cultures, there were definite "coming of age" ceremonies, where a boy stopped being a child and started being a man, with legal rights as an heir.  ii. In the Roman custom, there was no specific age when the son became a man. It happened when the father thought the boy was ready, when he thought the time was right. When Paul uses the phrase until the time appointed by the father, he shows that he has the Roman "coming of age" custom more in mind than the Jewish custom.  iii. "A Roman child became an adult at the sacred family festival known as the Liberalia, held annually on the seventeenth of March. At this time the child was formally adopted by the father as his acknowledged son and heir and received the toga virilis in place of the toga praetexta which he had previously worn." (Boice)  iv. "There was a Roman custom that on the day a boy or a girl grew up, the boy offered his ball, and the girl her doll, to Apollo to show that they had put away childish things." (Barclay)

b. As long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all: Think of a wealthy ancient household, with a young boy who is destined to inherit all that his father has. When the boy is just a child, he actually has less day-to-day freedom and authority than a high ranking slave in the household. Yet, he is destined to inherit everything, and the slave isn't.  i. In fact, the heir is under the strict care of guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

c. Even so: Now comes the comparison to our own spiritual condition. We are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and we are heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29). The law was our guardian (Galatians 3:24-25), to watch over us when we were still "children." The law's effect on our corrupt nature was to bring us into bondage under the elements of the world.

d. Elements of the world: Paul uses an interesting phrase here. "To describe it Paul uses the word stoicheia. A stocheion was originally a line of things; for instance, it can mean a file of soldiers. But it came to mean the ABC, and then any elementary knowledge." (Barclay)   i. Cole translates the idea: "So too, we, when we were 'young children,' were kept in slavery to the ABC of the universe."  ii. The idea of the "ABC of the universe" is important. If there is any "ABC of the universe" (elementary principle) that we must break free from, and that is stressed in pagan religion just as much as Jewish law, it is the principle of cause and effect. Call it karma, call it "you get what you deserve," or whatever, it rules nature and the minds of men. We live under the idea that we get what we deserve; when we are good, we deserve to receive good; when we are bad, we deserve to receive bad.   iii. Paul tells the Galatians to go beyond this "ABC of the universe" into an understanding of God's grace. Grace contradicts this "ABC of the universe," because under grace God does not deal with us on the basis of what we deserve. Our good cannot justify us under grace; our bad need not condemn us. God's blessing and favor is given on a principle completely apart from the "ABC of the universe." His blessing and favor is given for reasons that are completely in Him, and have nothing to do with us.

2. (Gal 4:4-5) The liberation of heirs from their bondage.

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.

a. But when the fullness of time had come: The idea behind the phrase the fullness of time is "when the time was right." Jesus came at just the right time in God's redemptive plan, when the world was perfectly prepared for God's work.   i. "But introduces a contrast. The control of the elemental principles was only for a limited time." (Morris) For those who were under bondage to the law, it may seem that Jesus' coming was late. Paul assures us that it was at just the right time.  ii. "It was a time when the pax Romana extended over most of the civilized earth and when travel and commerce were therefore possible in a way that had formerly been impossible. Great roads linked the empire of the Caesars, and its diverse regions were linked far more significantly by the all-pervasive language of the Greeks. Add the fact that the world was sunk in a moral abyss so low that even the pagan cried out against it and that spiritual hunger was everywhere evident, and one has a perfect time for the coming of Christ and for the early expansion of the Christian gospel." (Boice)

b. God sent forth His Son, born of a woman: Jesus came not only as God's Son, but also as one born of a woman, born under law. The eternal Son of God in heaven added humanity to His deity and became a man, born of a woman, born under law.   i. Born of a woman may be a veiled reference to the Virgin Birth, because Paul never says that Jesus was born of a man. "The more general term 'woman' indicates that Christ was born a true man. Paul does not say that Christ was born of man and woman, but only of woman. That he has the virgin in mind is obvious." (Luther)

c. To redeem those who were under the law: Because Jesus is God, He has the power and the resources to redeem us. Because Jesus is man, He has the right and the ability to redeem us. He came to purchase us out of the slave market, from our bondage to sin and the elements of the world.

d. That we might receive the adoption as sons: It would be enough that we are purchased out of the slave market. But God's work for us doesn't end there; we are then elevated to the place of sons and daughters of God by adoption!  i. Are we all children of God? Yes and no. Every human being is a child of God in the sense of being His offspring (Acts 17:28-29). Yet not every human being is a child of God in the sense of this close, adoptive relationship Paul writes of here. In this sense, there are children of God and children of the devil (John 8:44).   ii. Paul probably has in mind the Roman custom of adoption, where adopted sons were given absolutely equal privileges in the family and equal status as heirs.   iii. There is a sense in which this is a totally unnecessary blessing that God has given in the course of salvation, and a demonstration of His true and deep love for us. We can picture someone helping or saving someone, but not going so far as to make them a part of the family - but this is what God has done for us.

e. We receive the adoption of sons; we do not recover it. In this sense, we gain something in Jesus that is greater than what Adam ever possessed. Adam was never adopted as a son of God in the way believers are. So we are mistaken when we think of redemption as merely a restoration of what was lost with Adam. We are granted more in Jesus than Adam ever had.

3. (Gal 4:6-7) Celebrating our sonship.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

a. Because you are sons ... "Abba, Father!" It is fitting that those who are in fact sons have the Spirit of the Son in their hearts. This gives us both the right and the ability to cry out "Daddy!" to God our Father, even as Jesus did to His Father.   i. Some think that translating the idea of Abba as "Daddy" is too intimate, and even improper. Cole writes on Abba: "While it was the usual informal word applied by a child to its father within the home, it is over-sentimentalizing to translate it as 'Daddy'."  ii. But as Boice points out, "The early church fathers - Chrysostom, Theodor of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyprus, who came from Antioch (where Aramaic was spoken and who probably had Aramaic-speaking nurses in their childhood) - unanimously testify that Abba was the address of a small child to his father."  iii. "Abba is an Aramaic affectionate diminutive for 'father' used in the intimacy of the family circle; it passed without change into the vocabulary of Greek-speaking Christians" (Fung)

b. Crying out, "Abba, Father!" We don't whisper "Daddy" as if we were hesitant to speak so affectionately. Instead, we cry it out!   i. Calvin on crying out: "I consider that this participle is used to express great boldness. Uncertainty does not let us speak calmly, but keeps our mouth half-shut, so that the half-broken words can hardly escape from a stammering tongue. 'Crying', on the contrary, is a sign of certainty and unwavering confidence."  ii. "Let the Law, sin, and the devil cry out against us until their outcry fills heaven and earth. The Spirit of God outcries them all. Our feeble groans, 'Abba, Father,' will be heard of God sooner than the combined racket of hell, sin, and the Law." (Luther)

c. God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts: We know that we are the sons and daughters of God by the witness of the Holy Spirit within us. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:16: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.   i. "Thus, God's purpose was not only to secure our sonship by His Son, but to assure us of it by His Spirit. He sent His Son that we might have the status of sonship, and He sent His Spirit that we might have an experience of it." (Stott)  ii. We also can't miss the way the truth of the Trinity is woven into the text: God the Father sends God the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of God the Son, into our hearts to give us an assurance that we are the sons and daughters of God.

d. The Spirit of His Son: The Holy Spirit can be called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or linked to God the Father. This is because the nature of God is consistent among the persons of the Trinity. Here, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of His Son because the idea of our sonship is based on Jesus' sonship.   i. Our sonship is based on who we are in Jesus, yet there are important distinctions between our sonship and Jesus' sonship. He is the only begotten Son (John 3:16) making Him a Son by essential nature. We are adopted sons and daughters of God, made children by a legal decree of God.

e. Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son: Sons are never slaves, and slaves are never sons in their father's house. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the prodigal son, where the son was determined to return to his father as a slave - but the father refused, and would only receive him as a son.

f. And if a son, then an heir: There is a beautiful progression. First we are set free from slavery. Then we are declared sons and adopted into God's family. Then, as sons, we are made heirs.   i. Heirs inherit something, and what do we inherit? Paul makes it clear: an heir of God through Christ. We inherit God Himself.  ii. For some, this might seem like a paltry inheritance. But for those who are really in Christ, who really love God, to be an heir of God is the richest inheritance of all.

g. Through Christ: Our release from slavery, our sonship, the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts, and our status as heirs of God are all birthrights given to us in Jesus. We receive them through Christ. These are things we should be living in and enjoying every day of our Christian life.  i. "A son is an heir, not by virtue of high accomplishments, but by virtue of his birth. He is a mere recipient. His birth makes him an heir, not his labors." (Luther)