Commentary on Galations, 4:1-8

Galatians 4:1-8

“1 So I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ from a slave, though he is master of all;
2 but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed by the father.
3 Likewise, when we were children, we were held in bondage under the basic principles of the world.
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman and born under the law.
5. that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Paul is elaborating on what he said in Gal 3:23-26. The Jews were like “children” under the law. Believing Jews, though “heirs” of salvation, were under the guardianship of the law, until the time appointed by God, the Father. A child, though an heir, is no different than the slave children in a home, in the sense that they are all under the care of guardians. But when he becomes an adult, the heir receives his full inheritance as a “son” at the time appointed by the father.

Likewise, at the “appointed time” by the Father, while believing Jews were still under the law, and heirs of salvation, God sent His Son into the world, to be the Messiah and Redeemer of those Jews through faith in Him. The law, as a guardian, always had Christ in view, and at the “appointed time” they would receive their full inheritance and “adoption as sons.”

“held in bondage under the basic principles of the world” (vs. 3)

I believe what Paul is referring to here, is that the Jews, who were under the law, were in bondage to the law that cannot save, as with any other religion or “principles of the world.” Any way or religion that is outside of God’s plan of salvation, is of the world. The law revealed the sinfulness of those under the law, and so it was never meant to be a means of salvation. However, that’s the ways many Jews understood it. The law always had Christ in view, and salvation in the plan of God has always been through faith (Gen 15:6). Those who truly believed, lived their lives according to the law because of their faith, and not for their redemption (Hab 2:4).

“redeem” (vs. 5)  (Gr. exagorazo – 1805)

To buy up, to buy back, to ransom, to rescue from loss. Payment of a price to recover from the power of another. Has the idea of purchasing a slave for the purpose of freeing them. 

“adoption as sons” (vs. 5)

Adoption back then has a different meaning than it does today. When someone adopts a child today, it’s a child that was birthed by someone else. However, the adoption that was practiced in Paul’s day and culture, was the adoption of one’s own son. Once a child had reached adulthood, and at the appointed time by the father, they would receive their full inheritance as a son. Until that time, they were under the care of guardians, assuming the master of the home was financially able to employ one.

“6 And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father.”

“Spirit of His Son”

A unique expression of Paul’s, and appears only here. This verse clearly presents the Trinity of God (see Ro 8:9-11 below).

Whether Jew or Gentile, whether under the law or not under the law, we all become sons of God through faith. The moment we place our faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, as validation of our salvation and belonging to God, as Paul says in Romans:

“9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  (Ro 8:9-11)

“Abba, Father”

“Abba” is not translated, but is an Aramaic word for father. It’s an endearing term, used by a children when addressing their father in the home, much like “daddy.” Jesus used this word in His prayer in Mark 14:36 when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“7 Now you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
8 However, at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to those which by nature are not gods.”

In the Roman culture, a wealthy man could adopt a slave as his own child, who would then become the full and legal heir of everything that belonged to his adopted father. He was no longer a slave, but a son. His past life was no longer in view, but only his present life. 

In the same way, we were once slaves to sin and slaves to, or “in bondage to,” systems and things that could not save. Christ freed us from slavery to become sons of God, heirs of all the wonderful things that we have in Him. We can now enjoy all the privileges that are involved in being a child of God.