Doctrinal: Defense of the Gospel
Galatians 3 – 4
Galatians 3 – 4
Galatians 3-4. The general subject of Ch.3-4 is that righteousness is not by the law. Chapter 3 lays out the doctrinal side of things (our standing), and it presents the Christian’s connection with Abraham and his seed. This is paternal side of things, and you will notice that fathers are mentioned. In ch.4 we have a number of mothers mentioned, and it presents the maternal side of things; the moral results of their error, and appeals to their hearts.
- Galatians’ Experience Proves the Folly of Law-keeping (3:1-5)
- How and When Abraham was Justified (3:6-9)
- The Folly of Believing that Justification is by the Law (3:10-14)
- Four Reasons why the Law cannot set aside Promise (3:15-18)
- The Clear Advantage of Promise over Law (3:19-20)
- The Limited Purpose of the Dispensation of Law (3:21-22)
- Bondage Under Law (Children) vs. Liberty in Christ (Sonship) (3:23-29)
- Two Conditions: A Jew in the O.T. vs. A Christian in the N.T. (4:1-7)
- Appeal #1: Why Desire Bondage after Just Getting Free? (4:8-11)
- Appeal #2: Legalism had Degraded their Affections (4:12-16)
- Appeal #3: Exposing the Judaizers’ & Paul’s Intentions (4:17-21)
- Appeal #4: The Law Contains a Warning against Legalism (4:21-31)
Galatians’ Experience Proves the Folly of Law-keeping (3:1-5)
Five Questions Providing Evidence from the Galatians’ Past
Justification is not by Law
¶ O senseless Galatians, who has bewitched you; to whom, as before your very eyes, Jesus Christ has been portrayed, crucified among you? v.1 Question #1. This is some of the strongest language ever spoken to Christians. Paul calls them “senseless”. Someone had cast a spell on them… and that “who” is singular, possibly referring to Satan. They had been bewitched all the while having portrayed before their very eyes the crucified Christ. Not that Christ had been crucified in Galatia, but that Paul had so consistently preached Christ crucified that they were as good as eyewitnesses. The thought is that it was an incredible thing (a slap in the face, really) that, while viewing the cross, they had been convinced that salvation is by works.
2 This only I wish to learn of you, Have ye received the Spirit on the principle of works of law, or of the report of faith? v.2 Question #2. Paul had brought them the gospel and he hadn’t insisted on keeping the law. This proves that this error had been added afterwards. He is diagnosing when the problem started. The sealing of the Spirit occurs after a person believes the gospel (Eph. 1:13), “the report of faith”… it has nothing at all to do with works!
A Holy Life is not by Law
3 Are ye so senseless? having begun in Spirit, are ye going to be made perfect in flesh? v.3 Question #3. It was senseless to think God would start on one energy (the Spirit) and switch mid-stream to another (the flesh).
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain, if indeed also in vain? v.4 Question #4. When the Galatians were converted they began to suffer persecution from Jews opposed to faith in Christ. If the false doctrine they had slipped into were true, then the Jews were right and all the Galatians had suffered was a waste (see Galatians 5:11).
5 He therefore who ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, is it on the principle of works of law, or of the report of faith? v.5 Question #5. Even Christian ministry is not by law keeping, but by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, nothing in true Christianity is done on the principle of law. The Galatians had missed the mark.
How and When Abraham was Justified (3:6-9)
Positively, Justification is by Faith (vv.6-7)
6 Even as “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” [Gen. 15:6] v.6 When it comes to justification, faith is the vehicle, and the work of Christ is the basis. God takes a man who is not righteous (none are) but has faith, and declares him righteous in His sight. Read more…
7 Know then that they that are on the principle of faith, these are Abraham’s sons; v.7 What makes a person a son of Abraham? The Jews believed that bloodline made them the seed of Abraham. But Paul shows here that “faith”, not bloodline or circumcision or law-keeping is the believer’s connection to Abraham. All those of faith are the spiritual heirs of Abraham. Jewish believers as well as Gentile believers are “sons” of Abraham.
Negatively, it has nothing to do with the Law (vv.8-9)
8 and the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations on the principle of faith, announced beforehand the glad tidings to Abraham: “In thee all the nations shall be blessed.” [Gen. 12:3] v.8 When was Abraham justified? It was before the law was given. The scripture foresaw (it surely is living) that God would bless the nations through faith, ahead of time gave that good news to Abraham. God allowed 430 years of separation between Abraham’s justification and the giving of the law. The gospel of justification by faith was announced to Abraham, therefore it (and not the law) was God’s purpose. The grace of God is too great to be limited to just one nation. It goes out to “all nations”.
9 So that they who are on the principle of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. v.9 Justification is extended to the Christian on the same principle that it was to Abraham, by faith not by law.
The Folly of Believing that Justification is by the Law (3:10-14)
vv.10-14 The folly of believing justification is by the law in next illustrated by three arguments:
- It results in a curse (v.10)
- It isn’t on the right principle (vv.11-12)
- Look at how much it cost to dig them out (v.13)
10 For as many as are on the principle of works of law are under curse. For it is written, “Cursed is every one who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;” [Deut. 27:26] v.10 Law-keeping Results in a Curse. The law requires complete obedience on even the smallest point of the law, under threat of curse. No man can keep the law, so everyone on the law principle is under its curse (James 2:10). The curse of the law is especially applicable to Israel.
11 but that by law no one is justified with God is evident, because “The just shall live on the principle of faith;” [Hab. 2:4] 12 but the law is not on the principle of faith; but, “He that shall have done these things shall live by them.” [Lev. 18:5] vv.11-12 Law-keeping is on the wrong principle. The Old Testament proves that God has always justified on the principle of faith (v.11) and since the law is on the principle of works, not faith (v.12), it can never be used to justify anyone. The quotation is from Hab. 2:4 (quoted also in Rom. 1:17 and Heb. 10:38). This is the scripture that came home powerfully to Martin Luther on the steps of the Scala Sancta.
Faith or Law: the Right Principle for Justification. You cannot pickup a slip of paper with the largest magnet in the world because, for that material, magnetism is the wrong principle. You cannot pick up a steel paper clip with static electricity because, for that material, it is the wrong principle. But on the other hand, a magnet can pick up a paper clip and static electricity can pick up a slip of paper. Why? because those are the correct principles applied! The same is true of justification. Works of law will never succeed in justifying a person because God has told us that the law is the wrong principle. Instead faith – simple faith – is what justifies a person, because that is the principle on which God works. In Romans 4 Paul backs up this claim with the support of the Old Testament scriptures, showing that even in the Old Testament God has always justified by faith.
|Slip of paper||wrong principle||right principle|
|Steel paper clip||right principle||wrong principle|
13 Christ has redeemed us [Jews] out of the curse of the law, having become a curse for us [Jews], (for it is written, “Cursed is every one hanged upon a tree,”) [Deut. 21:23] v.13 Law-keeping spurns the cross. Finally, Paul shows that the curse of the broken law required the crucifixion and cursing of the Christ to dig the believing Jews out from under the curse of a broken law. To go back to law-keeping is to spurn that tremendous work. At the same time this shows the triumph of grace in spite of sin. Grace bore the curse that the law brought.
14 that the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we [Jews + Gentiles] might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. v.14 Conclusion. Christ having taken the barrier of the curse and exhausted it at the cross, now the promise of blessing can flow through Christ as a channel, and the Jew and Gentile can receive the Holy Ghost, the subject of God’s promises. The Spirit was promised to “all flesh” in the Millennium (Joel 2:28), but believers of the present dispensation have “pre-trusted” (Eph. 1:12-13), and so have received the Spirit in a greater way even than the saint of the Millennial earth. Also, the Spirit was promised by Jesus (John 7:39, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2:33, Matt. 3:11). The “blessing of Abraham” is sovereign grace through faith. This verse cannot rightly be used by Christians to claim Israel’s earthly blessings for the Church, as Covenant Theologians do.
Four Reasons why the Law cannot set aside Promise (3:15-18)
Paul’s use of the Promises. W. Kelly remarked on the difficulty of catching the point of the Apostle’s argument. Numerous promises were addressed to Abraham and his family in Gen. 12:2,3,7; 13:13-17; 15:18-21; 17:1-14; 22:17,18. Some of these promises apply to the natural seed of Abraham (Israel). But the promise to Israel is not what forms the subject matter of Gal. 3. In v.17 Paul uses only two verses:
- Promises to Abraham – Gen. 12:3 “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”
- Promises to Isaac/Christ – Gen. 22:18 “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”
Gentile blessing. Both Gen. 12:3 and Gen. 22:18 speak of the millennial blessing of the Gentiles, not the Jews. The Jewish blessing, as to the land, power over enemies, etc. is to a numerous seed, as the stars and the sand. But in the blessing of the nations, not a word of a multiplied seed appears. The Spirit, in recording the promises of Gentile blessing, carefully restricted them to Abraham and to his seed alone, because His eye was really on Christ, the true and sole seed of promise. The promises concerning Gentile blessing are millennial, when the Gentiles in that day shall be the tail and not the head. But by our association with Christ at the present time, we are blessed with Abraham on the principle of faith, through which blessing accrues in all ages.
Post-Resurrection. When Isaac had been offered up (in figure) and raised from the dead (in figure), the promises made to Abraham and his seed were confirmed of God in (or, they settled on) Christ, the true “seed” of Gen. 22:18. It does not say “to thy seed” before Moriah, but after! Here is the significance… while Christ was upon the earth, He was under Law Himself (gal. 4:4). But when He was risen from the dead, He had nothing to do with law. It is to a risen Christ that the promise is confirmed! As Christians, our beginning is with Christ’s death and resurrection. All our blessings are “in Christ” raised from the dead.
Note: Covenant theologians try to equate “Christ” with “the Christ” here in gal. 3 because then they can say that the church existed in Gen. 22. William Kelly said regarding this: “I must decidedly adhere to the conviction that “Christ” is here to be understood personally, and not mystically.”
¶ 15 Brethren, (I speak according to man,) even man’s confirmed covenant no one sets aside, or adds other dispositions to. v.15 Paul apologizes for even comparing God’s ways with man’s, see Rom. 6:19. Even a human Covenant, if confirmed, cannot be modified or cancelled. How much surer then is a Divine promise. No Jew would disagree. Jehovah is the God who cannot lie.
16 But to Abraham were the promises addressed, and to his seed: he does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, “And to thy seed”; [Gen. 22:18] which is Christ. v.16 In Gen. 12:3 (quoted in v.8) we find the promise made to Abraham. But after Moriah, which represents typically Christ’s death as a burnt offering and His resurrection, the promise was confirmed with an oath (the second of two immutable things, Heb. 6:14, Gen. 22:17-18). But Paul is looking at Gen. 22:18, not v.17. He sees that the promise of blessing to Gentiles was made in view of a resurrected Isaac – the seed (singular) – but typically the seed is Christ! How could God negate a confirmed promise to Christ, especially after the sweet savor of the burnt offering was accepted, and the resurrection of Christ by the glory of the Father had taken place? In the English the word ‘seed’ could be singular or plural depending on how it is used. This makes it hard to catch Paul’s point. But in Greek the word for ‘seed’ is singular only. Thus his point becomes clear.
17 Now I say this, A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which took place four hundred and thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect. v.17 The promise was confirmed 430 years before the law was given: therefore it takes precedence and cannot be an annulled. The words “in Christ” should not be in the text. Covenant theologians would like to say Abraham was part of the Church because he was “in Christ”. This is a false assertion; Abraham was a Jew.
18 For if the inheritance be on the principle of law, it is no longer on the principle of promise; but God gave it in grace to Abraham by promise. v.18 Even if you could change the date stamp and remove the seal, yet if the law were allowed to modify the original promise, it would change the principal on which God was acting; an impossible thing! It would lower God’s actions from the principle of sovereign, unconditional promise down to the principle of law.
vv.15-18 Four reasons why the law with its conditional promises cannot amend or annul the unconditional promise – by faith.
- The covenant was confirmed (by God).
- The covenant was confirmed to Christ.
- The confirming of the promise predates the law by 430 yrs.
- The law works on a totally different principle.
The Clear Advantage of Promise over Law (3:19-20)
vv.19-22 God never wavered in his intention to fulfill the promises, but because they transgressed (v.19), to be righteous he had to ensure Israel and all men would understand it was not by their faithfulness but only God’s. So he proposed the law, at which time Israel ought to have seen their inability and the truth of v.21 and fallen back on the unconditional promises in God’s Sovereign Grace. Instead they said, “we can do it all”, misused God’s diagnostic tool, and fell under its curse (v.10). Despite this, the law has done its job (v.22A) and now those who inherit the blessing by faith (v.22b) do so on the ground of God’s grace alone. Remember Darby’s Bicycle example.
The Moral Law
- It is holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:12)
- God never put Gentiles under it (Rom. 2:14: Gal. 4:3-5)
- given to manifest man’s condition (Gal. 3:19, Rom. 5:20).
- Doesn’t apply to righteous, but lawless (1 Tim. 1:9, 10).
- It could not give life, so righteousness could not come by it (Gal. 3:21)
- Being under the law brings a curse to man (Gal. 3:10)
- righteousness of the law is on a totally different principle from the righteousness by faith (Rom. 10:5-10).
- those once under it as Jews, were, if Christians, dead to it by the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4).
Two senses of “law”. It is important to distinguish between:
- Law (a principle) – God’s intention was to manifest transgression and convict of sin. as a principle, it is a ministry of death and condemnation (II Cor. 3), useful only to manifest man’s true moral condition.
- The Law (a dispensation) – it was a civil/religious system to repress grosser evils, in which God was king of the country and people, to separate the people from heathenism… a schoolmaster up to the time of Christ, also known as Judaism.
The only way a Gentile can be under law is as a principle of personal responsibility, not as in a dispensation.
The Clear Advantage: It Depends on God Alone (vv.19-20)
19a Why then the law? It was added for the sake of transgressions, until the seed came to whom the promise was made, v.19a This is the natural question of the Jewish mind. Why would God give the law, if it is useless for justification? Remember that Israel put themselves under the law (Ex. 19). But even still, why did God propose the law to them? The specific reason is: “because of the transgressions”, to manifest man’s true moral condition. The law was not given to restrain transgressions. Sin against a known commandment is transgression. That is why the law was given; to show man how bad he really was. The specific duration of the dispensation of law was “until the Seed came”.
19b ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator. 20 But a mediator is not of one, but God is one. vv.19b-20 Angels were Jehovah’s representation in the Old Testament (Acts 7:53). The mediator here is Moses, for “the law came by Moses” (John 1:17). The discussion on a mediator is to show that the promise is independent of man’s responsibility. In a covenant such as the law, a mediator is required because you have two parties and the outcome depends on both. The strength of the promise is its sole dependence on God. God gives it, Christ receives it, and because God is one, man’s responsibility doesn’t come into it at all. Note that the Spirit implies the idea of a mediator differently here than in 1 Tim. 2:5.
The Limited Purpose of the Dispensation of Law (3:21-22)
¶ 21 Is then the law against the promises of God? Far be the thought. For if a law had been given able to quicken, then indeed righteousness were on the principle of law; v.21 Now we get a second question from the Jewish gallery. The law didn’t contradict promise in grace. The law has a different purpose altogether. It was never intended to give life or righteousness. It needs to be applied the way God intended (see v.22). But the law doesn’t militate against promise. God has stayed consistent throughout all dispensations.
22 but the scripture has shut up all things under sin, that the promise, on the principle of faith of Jesus Christ, should be given to those that believe. v.22 The proper use of the law is to listen to what it says. We need to take the moral outcome of the law, that all are “shut up in sin”, but then abandon the law as the rule of life, and turn to God in faith for deliverance (Romans 7).
Bondage Under Law (Children) vs. Liberty in Christ (Sonship) (3:23-29)
Two Figures for the Law: A Prison Guard & A Schoolmaster (vv.23-26)
23 But before faith came, we [Jews] were guarded under law, shut up [with a view] to faith which was about to be revealed. v.23 The figure of a prison guard is first used. The law showed Israel that God required righteousness from man, but didn’t give them the means to produce righteousness. So it froze them in that position until faith came; meanwhile the ordinances in the law kept them apart from the nations. Faith here refers to the Christian faith…. not personal faith, because Old Testament saints had personal faith (Heb. 11:5-6), but they were still guarded under law. The Christian faith came after the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ and the descent of the Spirit.
24 So that the law has been our tutor up to Christ, that we [Jews] might be justified on the principle of faith. v.24 The figure of a schoolmaster is next used. The law can never lead us to Christ; only grace can do that. Apparently these Judaizing teachers had not been good students of law, for they had not learned its two great lessons. The law teaches us about (1) God’s holiness and (2) man’s depravity, but even in those things it gave but a partial understanding. Both of those truths are seen fully at Calvary.
25 But, faith having come, we [Jews] are no longer under a tutor; 26 for ye [Jews + Gentiles] are all God’s sons by faith in Christ Jesus. vv.25-26 School is out of session! We have been taken from being children under a schoolmaster and placed directly into the presence of God as sons of the Father! The Judaizers were self-righteously staying after class, missing out on the greatest individual Christian privilege: sonship. Sonship means “Son-place”.
So near so very near to God,
I cannot nearer be;
for in the person of his son,
I am as near as he.1
27 For ye [Jews + Gentiles], as many as have been baptised unto Christ, have put on Christ. v.27 Paul references Christian baptism, which saves us outwardly, and puts us into the Christian profession. We have “died” out of the old sphere where national distinctions mattered. We are baptized “unto” Christ. “In Christ” is our standing before God. Here baptism puts Christ on us as a uniform, marking us as a Christian, and thus erasing other markings (v.28). After you are a son of God it doesn’t matter if you were a Jew or Gentile, etc. before you were saved.
28 There is no Jew nor Greek; there is no bondman nor freeman; there is no male and female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus: v.28 New Creation. Our new standing “in Christ” is what has erased those distinction before God. God only sees “one kind” now. This doesn’t make void scriptures that call for a distinction between the sexes, such as 1 Tim. 2, or reverence of the wife for her husband, such as Eph. 5. Read more…
29 but if “ye” are of Christ, then ye are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise. v.29 Further, we have been brought into a new race “of Christ” (see Rom. 5). Because the promise to Abraham was confirmed to Christ, as part of His race, we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise. What do we inherit? Justification by grace. We cannot lay claim to the earthly promises made to Israel and deny them a future in the Millenium, which is what Covenant Theology does.
Two Conditions: A Jew in the O.T. vs. A Christian in the N.T. (4:1-7)
Galatians 4. While ch.3 was paternal (having to do with our standing), ch.4 is more the maternal side of things, where the practical carrying out of the doctrine is emphasized. Here it is the Christian’s connection with Sarah – not Abraham. The moral results of the doctrinal error are brought out, such as the infighting among the Galatians, and their coldness toward Paul. All together, seven mothers are mentioned: Mary, Paul, Sarah, Hagar, Jerusalem below, Jerusalem above, and the Spirit of God.
An Illustration of a Child in a Family of Nobility (vv.1-2)
¶ Now I say, As long as the heir is a child, he differs nothing from a bondman, though he be lord of all; 2 but he is under guardians and stewards until the period fixed by the father. vv.1-2 At a very young age, children of nobility are no different then servants’ children, because they both need to be told what to do. Israel in the Old Testament was in the position of an heir that is a child. They had a bright and blessed future according to the prophecies, but they were in a state of immaturity. The time appointed is the coming of age. In Judaism, this would be when the child had their bar-mitzvah or bat-mitzvah. It was the time when children were given a part in the family business, given responsibility, and allowed to share in adult conversation.
Children. This illustration defines Paul’s use of the word “children” in this chapter. It is in the diminutive sense (no different from a bondman). A child needs to be told exactly what to do. “Children” in Rom. 8 and 1 John 3 are children in the sense of relationship – a different use of the word. “Sonship” mean “son-place” and has the sense of position. When a person is immature they need constant supervision. “Children” in Galatians 4 have new birth but not the Spirit, but in Romans and 1 John they have the Spirit.
Application of the Illustration to Believers (vv.3-7)
3 So we [Jews] also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the principles of the world; v.3-7 This show the difference in position of Old and New Testament saints. Jews under law were children, and elevated to sons in Christianity. Gentiles went straight to being sons (see v.6)! They were in bondage in that they knew God’s holy requirements but had no power for perform. They were really in bondage under the elements (principles) of the world. These would be the principles on which a fleshly man could build his religion; i.e. superstition, self-glorification, self-esteem (see v.9), such as Judaism.
Three Major Distinctions between Old and New Testaments (vv.4-6)
4 but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, come of woman, come under law, v.4 Distinction #1. The Old Testament saints didn’t have the full revelation of God (the Father and the Son, etc.). It was consequent upon the incarnation. Christ came into the place in which man was found. He became man under law, and perfectly kept it. Hence the law had no claim against Him. He could then accomplish redemption by standing in the place of others who are under the law’s curse. The “fullness of time” refers to the 4000 years… the end of man’s probationary period, of forty centuries of testing.
5 that he might redeem those under law [Jews], that we [Jews] might receive sonship. v.5 Distinction #2. Redemption had not been accomplished yet. The work of redemption was consequent upon the death of Christ, which is the foundation for sonship. Gentiles don’t need to be redeemed from under law, but they do need to be redeemed. In Greek, the word “sonship” is the same as “adoption”. Adoption isn’t how we enter the family (that is by new birth) but how we gain a new status within the family. For an example of Jewish adoption, see Gen. 48:5 where Jacob took the sons of Joseph and elevated them to the status of their uncles.
6 But because ye [Gentiles] are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our [Jews + Gentiles] hearts, crying, Abba, Father. v.6 Distinction #3. The Spirit of God had not been sent (connected with all spiritual blessings, and the privilege of sonship). We know from John 7 that the sending of the Spirit was consequent upon the ascension. The word “Abba” (daddy) denotes intimacy. The name of “Father” denotes intelligence. The Spirit has been “sent out into our hearts” In the sense of indwelling. This is distinct from the Old Testament saints, on whom that Spirit came at times, moving them from without (like a sailboat). Christians are empowered from within (like a ship with inboard power). The Jews receive the adoption in verse five, and the Gentiles receive the adoption in verse six.
7 So thou [Jewish?] art no longer bondman, but son; but if son, heir also through God. v.7 If we are Sons, we enter into the full privileges of heirship. What God possesses now, and what Christ will take in power at His appearing, He will share with all His heirs. This is what “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18) means. “In the saints” tells us the mode in which Christ will possess His inheritance.
Appeal #1: Why Desire Bondage after Just Getting Free? (4:8-11)
The Folly of Desiring Bondage Again (vv.8-11)
¶ 8 But then indeed, not knowing God, ye [Gentiles] were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods; 9 but now, knowing God, but rather being known by God, how do ye turn again to the weak and beggarly principles to which ye desire to be again anew in bondage? vv.8-9 Even the Gentiles were in bondage, not to the law, but to all kinds of superstitious lore and idolatry. They had been set free by the gospel. Paul is marveling at the stupidity of walking back into the same trap on purpose. To go back under law of any kind of is to make reverse progress. The bondage of the world is the same principle as the bondage of the law, only in a different form. The world operates on the principle of works, not grace; e.g. in the world you need to have a contract to get paid for your work. Those principles are “weak and beggarly”… we have far higher motivations in Christianity.
10 Ye observe days and months and times and years. 11 I am afraid of you, lest indeed I have laboured in vain as to you. v.10 This description of the Galatians sounds a lot like Judaized Christianity. That is because Christendom is a vast mixture of Judaism and Christianity. Paul’s labor was to bring them into the liberty of sonship… now it was in danger of all being wasted.
Appeal #2: Legalism had Degraded their Affections (4:12-16)
Legalism had Degraded their Affection for Paul (vv.12-16)
¶ 12 Be as “I” am , for “I” also am as “ye”, brethren, I beseech you: ye have not at all wronged me. v.12 “Be as I am“, that is, as Paul was in his practice: fully delivered from legal bondage. “I am as ye are“, that is, Paul had the same standing before God as the Galatians. It is good to be established in the truth of our own standing before we try to help others with their state. But Paul quickly assures them that he wasn’t personally offended. But he was deeply concerned. That is amazing considering vv.13-16.
13 But ye know that in weakness of the flesh I announced the glad tidings to you at the first; 14 and my temptation, which was in my flesh, ye did not slight nor reject with contempt; but ye received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was your blessedness? for I bear you witness that, if possible, plucking out your own eyes ye would have given them to me. vv.13-15 Next Paul goes back to their beginning to remind them of their love for him, and to show them how legalism had changed them. He makes reference to some physical sickness – perhaps his eyesight (see Gal. 4:15 and 6:11). Any kind of physical deformity would have been repulsive to the Jew (Lev. 21:16-20), but not to the newly saved Galatians who received him as a sent one, as they would have received Christ. Is it a coincidence that many of the popular men in Christendom are good looking? We need to be careful that we do not look on the outward appearance of God’s servants. Where was the “blessedness” or happy state they had enjoyed after their conversion? Now that the Judaizers had come in, everything had changed. Paul had a medical need; most-likely it was poor eyesight. Their hearts pre-legalism were so warm towards Paul that if an eye transplant were possible they wouldn’t have hesitated.
16 So I have become your enemy in speaking the truth to you? v.16 The Galatians were now treating Paul as an enemy. It had been less than five years. How could this change have occurred? It was a bi-product of legality. The trend will follow even today. Legal persons often lack grace and sensitivity in their dealings with others.
Appeal #3: Exposing the Judaizers’ & Paul’s Intentions (4:17-21)
Exposing the Judaizers’ Evil Intent and Paul’s Steadfast Love for Them (vv.17-21)
17 They are not rightly zealous after you, but desire to shut you out from us, that ye may be zealous after them. v.17 The Judaizers had impressed the Galatians with a show of great devotion, but underneath they had bad motives. First of all, they were skillfully turning them against the apostle. Secondly, they were getting a following and monetary support for themselves. They were exhibiting a lot of zeal (energy) towards the Galatians, but their purpose was to get a following after themselves. Paul addresses this again in ch.6, saying that the Judaizers wanted to “glory in your flesh”.
18 But it is right to be zealous at all times in what is right, and not only when I am present with you– v.18 The ploy had worked… the Galatians were zealously following the legalists. This should teach us that zeal is not enough. Zeal must be “according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2)… “have in your virtue, knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5). We need to be zealous in “what is right”. Furthermore, there ought to be consistency in our zeal. We cannot just be zealous when we are around those who want to please the Lord. Paul knew that is was possible for the Galatians to put on a front “when I am present with you”.
19 my children, of whom I again travail in birth until Christ shall have been formed in you: v.19 Next we have a tender entreaty from the apostle’s heart to theirs. He calls them his “children” because legalism had stunted their spiritual growth. He could say of them “I again travail”. This shows how much Paul loved them, but also how much work and pain they had caused him. He had agonized over them. Now he was drawing on their heart-strings (Num. 11:12). It was like going through labor twice for the same baby, once at their conversion, now again over this issue of legalism. What did Paul long for? To see “Christ formed” in them… that the moral features of Christ would be seen in their lives.
20 and I should wish to be present with you now, and change my voice, for I am perplexed as to you. v.20 Paul almost questioned their salvation, but didn’t. He was “perplexed” about them… how could this have happened to them if they were true believers? If he could see them, change his voice a little, and see Christ displayed, it would assure him.
Appeal #4: The Law Contains a Warning against Legalism (4:21-31)
Allegory. In this allegory, the flesh, law and bondage are joined together, while in contrast Spirit, promise and freedom are joined.
Four Jerusalems. Each time Jerusalem is used in scripture to reference something, it contains that thought of tranquility, as Jerusalem means ‘the possession of peace’. The name Jerusalem is employed four different ways in scripture:
- Earthly Jerusalem (Rev. 11:2) the city of earthly righteousness, the center of the Millennial kingdom.
- Systematic Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26) – a reference to the system of grace (vs. the system of law).
- Heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22) – the Father’s house, the third heaven, the eternal dwelling place of God and all the heavenly saints (not just the Church).
- Mystical Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 10) – the glorified Church, the bride of Christ. The prefix “new” is added to describe the Church in the eternal state.
It is possible that the systematic and the heavenly Jerusalem’s are both the same company, just two aspects.
The Law itself Speaks against Legalism (v.21)
21 Tell me, ye who are desirous of being under law, do ye not listen to the law? v.21 If they would just listen to the law, it contains a built-in warning against legalism. (Paul’s voice has already changed, v.20.) What does the law say? According to Ex. 21:4, a boy born to a slave girl could would be a slave son. The law can never liberate – only give birth to bondage (v.24). That is what the “law says”… but next Paul uses an allegory to further illustrate the truth.
Details from Abraham’s Past (vv.22-23)
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons; one of the maid servant, and one of the free woman. 23 But he that was of the maid servant was born according to flesh, and he that was of the free woman through the promise. v.23 Ishmael’s conception was a result of trying to fulfill the promise by the efforts of the flesh. Isaac’s conception was a result of God fulfilling His promise regardless of human effort. Isaac therefore pictures one who is standing in faith on the promises of God, while Ishmael pictures someone who is resting on their own works.
An Explanation of the Allegorical Sense (vv.24-26)
24 Which things have an allegorical sense; for these are two covenants: one from mount Sinai, gendering to bondage, which is Hagar. 25 For Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which is now, for she is in bondage with her children; vv.24-25 Hagar: The Covenant of Law. The bondwoman (Hagar) pictures the law, which was a covenant given from mount Sinai. What does the law do? It genders to bondage. That is all the law will ever do, when presented as the means for justification, or as the Christian’s rule of life. Paul remarks that Sinai is in Arabia (probably the Sinai Peninsula), which is actually the place Hagar went to with Ishmael. “Jerusalem which is now” is the center of an earthly legal system. All her “children” (those under law) are in bondage.
26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is our mother. v.26 The free-woman (Sarah) pictures grace, and that system is called “Jerusalem above”. Rather than lead all its subjects into bondage, it leads them into liberty! Some translations erroneously read “which is the mother of us all “. This mistranslation leads people to covenant theology. The true thought is, “Jerusalem above is the mother of us Christians.” Note that the blessing under grace comes without travail (no works).
|Two Covenants||Covenant of law||Covenant of Grace|
|Hagar – Bondmaid – could only gender to bondage||Sarah – free woman – children are free|
|Jerusalem which is now – connected with Mt. Sinai.||Jerusalem above – sovereign grace.|
|Two Classes of Persons||Ishmael – Lives by the flesh, desires to be under law||Isaac – stands simply on the promise in grace|
Added Support of Prophetic Scriptures. (v.27)
¶ 27 For it is written, “Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break out and cry, thou that travailest not; because the children of the desolate are more numerous than those of her that has a husband.” [Isa. 54:1] v.27 Paul brings in a quotation from the prophetic scriptures to support his point. This verse (Isa. 54:1) shows a future Israel looking back comparing her new state with her old. “Her that hath an husband” is Jerusalem at the center of an earthly legal system at a time when Jehovah was her husband, with few children. “Thou barren that bearest not” is Israel forsaken by the Lord for her sin (Lo-ammi) and bereft of outward privileges, and seen in the condition of being without any outward deliverance, but having forsaken the law and taken the ground of grace. In hindsight, that “barren” Jerusalem will see, by faith, millions of Christians gathered then in heaven, who are counted by grace as her children!
Present Application of the Allegory (vv.28-31)
¶ 28 But “ye”, brethren, after the pattern of Isaac, are children of promise. v.28 What Isaac Pictures. Isaac pictures someone living on the principle of faith. It is the Christian’s privilege to live and rest his soul on God’s promises… “children of promise”.
29 But as then he that was born according to flesh persecuted him that was born according to Spirit, so also it is now. v.29 What Ishmael Pictures. Ishmael pictures someone living on the principle of works. What we find is that Ishmael persecuted Isaac. Specifically, it was the day he was weaned (Gen. 21:8-9); perhaps a reference to ‘adoption’. Those who base their walk and standing on the efforts of the flesh will always persecute those who rest on God’s grace and the Spirit’s power. This mocking is here called “persecution,” see 2 Tim. 3:12. This is an abiding principle; legalism always persecutes grace. A good example of this persecution is Heb. 11:32-40. Persecution had come to the Galatians from the Jewish Corridor. In one sense, this is seen most clearly at the cross, when those born after the flesh (Pharisees, etc.) persecuted the great Seed of Abraham unto death. The casting out of Hagar and Ishmael took place at the cross, where God passed judgment on that whole system.
30 But what says the scripture? “Cast out the maid servant and her son; for the son of the maid servant shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” [Gen. 21:10] v.30 The solution. What is the solution to the problem of legality? Cast out the bondwoman (the legal principle) and her son (the flesh that desires to be under law). They must be cast out completely; nothing can be saved. It seems hard, and remember that Abraham struggled with it (Gen. 21:11), but it had to be done, because law and grace cannot cohabitate. Many Christians have cast out the bondwoman, but are unwilling to cast out her son. Note: this verse may actually be instruction to cast out the Judaizing teachers.
31 So then, brethren, we [Christians] are not maid servant’s children, but children of the free woman. v.31 Conclusion. We should never forget who our mother is (grace) and the freedom we Christians are brought into as her children. It is beautiful to see that in Gal. 3:29, we are Abraham’s seed, and in Gal. 4:31, we are Sarah’s children.