Galatians 4 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of Galatians 4)
4:1 Now 1 I say, [That] the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

(1) He declares by another twofold similitude, that which he said before concerning the keeper and schoolmaster. For, he says, the Law (that is, the whole government of God's house according to the Law) was as it were a tutor or overseer appointed for a time. And when that protection and overseeing which was but for a time is ended, we would at length come to be at our own liberty, and would live as children, and not as servants. Moreover, he shows along the way, that the governance of the Law was as it were the basics, and as certain principles, in comparison with the doctrine of the Gospel.

4:2 But is under tutors and governors a until the time appointed of the father.

(a) This is added because he that is always under a tutor or governor may hardly be considered a freeman.

4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the b elements of the world:

(b) The Law is called elements, because by the Law God instructed his Church as it were by elements, and afterward poured out his Holy Spirit most plentifully in the time of the Gospel.

4:4 2 But when the c fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a d woman, made under the law,

(2) He utters and declares many things at once, that is, that this tutorship was ended at his time, in order that curious men may stop asking why the schoolmastership lasted so long. And moreover, that we are not sons by nature, but by adoption, and that in the Son of God, who therefore took upon him our flesh, that we might be made his brethren.
(c) The time is said to be full when all parts of it are past and ended, and therefore Christ could not have come either sooner or later.
(d) He calls Mary a woman in respect of the sex, and not as the word is used in a contrary sense to a virgin, for she remained a virgin still.

4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the e adoption of sons.

(e) The adoption of the sons of God is from everlasting, but is revealed and shown in the time appointed for it.

4:6 3 And because ye are sons, God hath f sent forth the g Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

(3) He shows that we are free and set at liberty in such a way that in the meantime we must be governed by the Spirit of Christ, who while reigning in our hearts, may teach us the true service of the Father. But this is not to serve, but rather to enjoy true liberty, as it is fitting for sons and heirs.
(f) By that which follows he gathers that which went before: for if we have his Spirit, we are his sons, and if we are his sons, then we are free.
(g) The Holy Spirit, who is both of the Father, and of the Son. But there is a special reason why he is called the Spirit of the Son, that is, because the Holy Spirit seals up our adoption in Christ, and gives us a full assurance of it.

4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a h servant, but a son; and if a son, then an i heir of God through Christ.

(h) The word "servant" is not taken here for one that lives in sin, which is appropriate for the unfaithful, but for one that is yet under the ceremonies of the Law, which is proper to the Jews.
(i) Partaker of his blessings.

4:8 4 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

(4) He applies the former doctrine to the Galatians, with a special rebuke: for in comparison with them, the Jews might have pretended some excuse as men that were born and brought up in that service of the Law. But seeing that the Galatians were taken and called out of idolatry to Christian liberty, what pretence might they have to go back to those impotent and beggarly elements?

4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and k beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire l again to be in bondage?

(k) They are called impotent and beggarly ceremonies, being considered apart by themselves without Christ: and again, by that means they gave good testimony that they were beggars in Christ, for when men fall back from Christ to ceremonies, it is nothing else but to cast away riches and to follow beggary.
(l) By going backward.

4:12 5 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I [am]; for I [am] as ye [are]: ye have not injured me at all.

(5) He moderates and qualifies those things in which he might have seemed to have spoken somewhat sharply, very skilfully and divinely declaring his good will toward them in such a way, that the Galatians could not but either be utterly hopeless when they read these things, or acknowledge their own lack of steadfastness with tears, and desire pardon.

4:13 Ye know how through m infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

(m) Many afflictions.

4:14 And my n temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, [even] as o Christ Jesus.

(n) Those daily troubles with which the Lord tried me among you.
(o) For the sake of my ministry.

4:15 p Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if [it had been] possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

(p) What a talk was there abroad in the world among men, how happy you were when you received the gospel?

4:17 They zealously affect you, q [but] not well; yea, they would exclude you, r that ye might affect them.

(q) For they are jealous over you for their own benefit.
(r) That they may transfer all your love from me to themselves.

4:18 But [it is] good to be s zealously affected always in [a] good [thing], and not only when I am present with you.

(s) He sets his own true and good love, which he earnestly held for them, against the wicked vicious love of the false apostles.

4:20 I desire to be present with you now, and to t change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

(t) Use other words among you.

4:21 6 Tell me, ye that u desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

(6) The false apostles urged this, that unless the Gentiles were circumcised Christ could profit them nothing at all, and also this dissension of those who believed in the circumcision, against those who believed in the uncircumcision, both these things being full of offence. Therefore the apostle, after various arguments with which he has refuted their error, brings forth an allegory, in which he says that the Holy Spirit did through symbolism let us know all these mysteries: that is, that it should come to pass that two sorts of sons should have Abraham as a father common to them both, but not with equal success. For as Abraham begat Ishmael by the common course of nature, of Hagar his bondmaid and a stranger, and begat Isaac of Sara a free woman, by the virtue of the promise, and by grace only, the first was not heir, and also persecuted the heir. So there are two covenants, and as it were two sons born to Abraham by those two covenants, as it were by two mothers. The one was made in Sinai, outside of the land of promise, according to which covenant Abraham's children according to the flesh were begotten: that is, the Jews, who seek righteousness by that covenant, that is, by the Law. But they are not heirs, and they will at length be cast out of the house, as those that persecute the true heirs. The other was made in that high Jerusalem, or in Zion (that is, by the sacrifice of Christ) which begets children of promise, that is, believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And these children (like Abraham) do rest themselves in the free promise, and they alone by the right of children will be partakers of the father's inheritance, whereas those servants will be shut out.
(u) That desire so greatly.

4:23 But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the x flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by y promise.

(x) As all men are, and by the common course of nature.
(y) By virtue of the promise, which Abraham laid hold on for himself and his true seed, for otherwise Abraham and Sara were past the begetting and bearing of children.

4:24 Which things are an allegory: for z these are the a two covenants; the one from the mount b Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

(z) These represent and symbolize.
(a) They are called two covenants, one of the Old Testament, and another of the New: which were not two indeed, but in respect of the times, and the diversity of the manner of ruling.
(b) He makes mention of Sinai, because that covenant was made in that mountain, of which mountain Hagar was a symbol.

4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and c answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and d is in bondage with her children.

(c) Look how the case stands between Hagar and her children; even so stands it between Jerusalem and hers.
(d) That is, Sinai.

4:26 But Jerusalem which is e above is free, which is the mother of us all.

(e) Which is excellent, and of great worth.

4:27 7 For it is written, Rejoice, [thou] barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the f desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.

(7) He shows that in this allegory he has followed the steps of Isaiah, who foretold that the Church should be made and consist of the children of barren Sara, that is to say, of those who should be made Ahraham's children by faith, and this only spiritually, rather than of fruitful Hagar, even then foretelling the casting off of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles.
(f) She that is destroyed and laid waste.

4:28 Now we, brethren, g as Isaac was, are the children of h promise.

(g) After the manner of Isaac, who is the first begotten of the heavenly Jerusalem, as Israel is of the slavish synagogue.
(h) That seed to which the promise belongs.

4:29 But as then he that was born after the i flesh persecuted him [that was born] after the k Spirit, even so [it is] now.

(i) By the common course of nature.
(k) By the virtue of God's promise and after a spiritual manner.

4:31 8 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

(8) The conclusion of the former allegory, that we by no means procure and call back again the slavery of the Law, seeing that the children of the bondmaid will not be heirs.