Galatians 4 (English Standard Version)
Sons and Heirs
1I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman,
“When the fullness of time had come,” when everything was perfectly ready, in God’s eyes — Jesus came so we could be reconciled to our loving heavenly Father! Selah sings “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
“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.”
7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
12Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am,
“All Christians should be able to say something like this, especially to unbelievers, namely, that we are so satisfied with Jesus Christ, with His freedom, joy, and salvation, that we want other people to become like us.”
for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Tell Me – by Shel Silverstein
Tell me I’m clever,
Tell me I’m kind,
Tell me I’m talented,
Tell me I’m cute,
Tell me I’m sensitive,
Graceful and wise,
Tell me I’m perfect –
But tell me the truth.
What a powerful line: Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? How many times have I counted someone as an “enemy” because he or she told me a truth I did not want to hear — about myself, about my speech or behavior, about someone else? Lord, give me ears to hear Your truth whenever it comes to me!
17They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Paul is talking about “they,” the Jewish legalists, who insisted that to become a believer in Christ, one had to follow all the rules for becoming a Jew. He says it is fine to have zeal, but it must be for what is true. The legalists are often more concerned that you join their group and follow their beliefs, than they are about serving the Lord in grace and peace. (Remember, Paul himself had been quite a legalist, imprisoning and even killing people to keep them, if you will, good Jews! He knows just how dangerous a misplaced zeal can be!)
Example of Hagar and Sarah
21Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.
So Paul presents the truth through a story all the Jews know very well. The legalists present themselves as those who are true sons of Abraham. Well, yes, Paul says, but Abraham had two sons. Then he asks them: Which son do you represent? One son was born to a slavewoman, the result of human manipulation (law). The other son was born to the wife, the result of God’s miraculous power (grace). Paul says that those who allow believers only to follow the law end up denying the grace.
24Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
28Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Have you ever stopped to notice that Abraham received the fulfillment of all God’s promises through his son Ishmael? The promises of descendants, nations, and land all came through Ishmael’s children. Ishmael had twelve sons, each son was a prince, and each son became a nation. There was only one thing Isaac gave to the world that Ishmael could not: the Christ. Jesus, the One who would bring redemption to the world, is the descendant of Isaac.
What made the difference between the two sons of Abraham? Ishmael represents humans working in their own strength. The results look productive, but there is no salvation in them, and ultimately they create violence and destruction. Isaac displays the action of God in human life, and the hope of the world is being fulfilled when we allow God to work through our lives. Ishmael is a result of an individual forming his own character, and Isaac is a result of a person allowing God to put his own character in the human heart. We are eternally barren if we attempt to work in our own way.
Have we slipped from the high ground where we let Christ form his character in us, down to the marshy lowlands where we attempt to define our own character? If Christ works in my life, then my focus will rest on him, and I will be open to him. If I am the only one at work in my life, my attention will be completely absorbed in myself, and that is always destructive.
Is your life an occasion for you or an occasion for him? In your answer to that question dwells the difference between light and darkness, between life and death, between God and you.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.