Grace Life Study

Galatians 4


1  Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.

  • The New Living Translation of Galatians 4:1-3 says, “Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.”
  • Paul is showing the state of spiritual immaturity that people experience by being under the Law. Paul stated that being under the Law is no better than being a slave, whereas faith in Christ brings people into a position of full-grown sons (Galatians 3:26).
  • Unfortunately, most Christians have never graduated into the son-ship that Paul was describing here. They are still serving God with an Old-Testament-Law mentality. The truth is that son-ship is theirs. It’s been provided for them freely through Christ, but it doesn’t happen automatically. They have to renew their minds (Romans 12:2) to take advantage of this relationship.


4  But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

  • It’s extremely important to understand this truth! Jesus was born under the law to redeem people who were under the law. Many of Jesus’ teaching were not to gentiles, but to the jews under the law.
  • It’s hard for people to understand that not everything written in red (or Jesus’ words) were directly written to you and me. Things He stated in the sermon on the mount were not things for us to live by, but things that showed the jews that they could not fulfill the law on their own. 
  • When Jesus taught, He would say things like “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you” and “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.” If every word in red were meant to be taken as a standard to live by, the Body of Christ would look like an amputation ward! The purpose by Him teaching these things was to show a select group of people (the jews) that it is impossible to become righteous through the law. He was showing them that He was the only One who could save them.


6  And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

  • To access our inheritance, we must see ourselves as sons and daughters. When we can see ourselves as His children, we can expect our inheritance the same way a child can expect their inheritance from their father.


8  But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not God's.

  • The New Living Translation of Galatians 4:8 says “Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist.”
  • This true with so many people today; they serve gods who don't exist. It is only the One True God who can bring the freedom that the world is looking for.


9  But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?

  • Galatians 4:9 in the Passion Translation says, “But now that we truly know him and understand how deeply we’re loved by him, why would we, even for a moment, consider turning back to those weak and feeble principles of religion, as though we were still subject to them?”
  • Once you discover how much God loves you, why would you turn your back on Him and start trusting in yourself again? The Galatians had allowed Judaizers from theoutside influence them and talk them out of trusting in God’s love and grace.


10  You observe days and months and seasons and years.

  • From the Andrew Wommack Living Commentary - The observance of days refers to keeping the Sabbath (John 5:16). Observing months and times is a reference to the new moons (Numbers 10:10, 1 Chronicles 23:31, and Psalms 81:3) and feasts (i.e., Passover, Firstfruits, etc.). Observing years refers to the Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee of Leviticus 25. 
  • Paul made it very clear that the keeping of these rituals is not necessary for salvation.


11  I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

  • Paul is saying that everything he did for them was for nothing. He poured everything into these people and now he’s questioning if it was worth it.


12  Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.

  • Paul was pleading with the Galatians to join him in rejecting the Law as a means of being justified with God. Paul was a Jew by natural birth, but he had forsaken the Law as a means of being reconciled to God. Therefore, he was living like a Gentile in that sense. He was saying, “Be like me (free from the Law), because that’s the way you really are.” 
  • The Galatians’ tendencies toward legalism hadn’t affected Paul. He was going to continue in grace.


13  You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

  • From the Andrew Wommack Living Commentary - There are many speculations of what Paul is referring to here, the more obvious interpretation is that Paul was referring to some of the physical effects of a stoning he received while in Galatia. In Acts 14:19, Paul was stoned and left for dead. This happened in Lystra (Acts 14:8), one of the main cities of the region of Galatia. Paul was either dead or so close to death that his persecutors thought he was dead. He certainly had cuts and bruises all over his body as he preached to the very people to whom he was writing this letter. It would not be unthinkable that he had received injuries to his eyes, which he was referring to here. 
  • Paul was probably referring to injuries he had sustained from the stoning to make the point that in the beginning, the Galatians hadn’t despised him but had received him as they would an angel of God. Why had they changed? Paul hadn’t changed. The Gospel hadn’t changed, it was the Galatians who were inconsistent. He was putting them in remembrance of their original reception of him to rekindle their love for him and to cause them to submit themselves once again to the Gospel that he preached.


17  They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.

  • The New Living Translation of these verses says, “Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them. 18 If someone is eager to do good things for you, that’s all right; but let them do it all the time, not just when I’m with you.”
  • Paul is showing the Galatians the obvious motive behind what the jaudaizers were trying to do. Their hearts were not for the people, but for themselves.


19  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.

  • Paul did not regret the things what he had said to the Galatians; rather, he regretted the tone in which he had to say them. If he had been present with them, he could have approached them in a gentler way and possibly explained himself more completely. Paul longed to be with them so that they could answer the questions he had about them.


21  Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.

  • God promised Abraham a child, even when his wife, Sarah, was barren. When Abraham looked at things in the natural, he didn’t think God would be able to fulfill His promise, so he took matters into his own hands and had a child with Hagar, his servant.
  • Then Sarah became pregnant, fulfilling the promise that God gave Abraham.


23  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

  • From Andrew Wommack Living Commentary - The earthly city of Jerusalem was corrupt. Its inhabitants rejected Jesus by crucifying Him, and as a whole, they had also rejected the Gospel. But the heavenly city of God (of which the earthly Jerusalem was supposed to be symbolic) was pure and free. Those who receive salvation by faith in what Christ did for them, instead of what they do for Him through the Law, are all citizens of this heavenly Jerusalem.


27  For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband.”

  • This verse is a quote of Isaiah 54:1 from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). The “barren” in this verse refers to Sarah. 
  • The Lord told her to break forth into singing and rejoicing before she became pregnant. Sarah rejoiced at the promise of God through faith (Hebrews 11:11), and through the promised seed (Jesus), she had infinitely more children than her slave Hagar. God’s promises are always better than anything we could ever accomplish on our own!


28  Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

  • We, through Christ, are children of the promise. Everything God promised is our’s by faith!


29  But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

  • Again, Paul is reminding the Galatians that it is not possible to obtain an inheritance if you are trusting in self-righteousness rather than righteousness by faith.