Galatians 4:1-20 (ESV)
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!
“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.”
–James Montgomery Boice
HERE — 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.
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.
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?
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!)
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.