Galatians Chapter 4

March 29, 2012

This Preaching in Shorts Bible study is on Galatians. Each chapter is read verse by verse with the major points highlighted and discussed.

You can listen to the study by clicking here

Paul is dealing with the fallout of the impact of the Judaizers on the church in Galatia. He has been reminding the Galatians that it had not been the law that brought them life, it was their faith in Jesus. The spirit had been moving in their churches and worked miracles not because of their observance of the law, but because they had believed in the gospel they had heard. Life in Christ is a matter of faith from beginning to end. If real life is found, received and lived by faith, why turn to the law? It has always been about faith. The law cannot and does not bring life. The law condemns and actually puts all who do not “do everything” written it under a curse. It is Jesus death on the cross that releases us from the “curse of the Law” so that we can relate to God through faith.

Galatians 4:1-31 (NIV)
1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. 12 I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14 Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you [from us], so that you may be zealous for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! 21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. 24 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” 28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Let’s review a couple of points from last week about life and the law.

The law was added hundreds of years after faith was introduced as the way that we would relate to God, and it was always meant to be temporary, something that was only in effect until Christ, the seed came.

The law didn’t have the function of bringing life, that was always the role given to faith. The law was introduced to lead us to Christ. Paul gives the example of a pedagogue, (which was a family slave who would watch over young children). The law was like a family slave to watch over the children until “faith should be revealed”. The goal of the law was to make us aware of our need for a savior, of our need for Jesus.

As we start chapter four, Paul also tells us that now that Christ has come, those who have faith in Him are no longer under the supervision of the law. In Christ we all—male and female, slave and free—have received the “full rights of sons.” The full rights of sons is more of a Roman concept that a Jewish one. In the Roman culture, what the father possessed was considered to belong to the child as well. Paul is saying that all the resources of God become ours as heirs of God, and we are able to draw directly on them to live our new lives. This relationship, however, is a personal and intimate one, and is not maintained by living in relationship, not by following the law. When our relationship with God becomes about following rules and regulations one of the first things that goes is our joy.

Galatians 4:15a (NIV)
15 What has happened to all your joy?

We lose our joy because instead of living in the freedom of our relationship with God, characterized by grace and the working of the Spirit in our lives, we begin to be in bondage to the law and start living like slaves.

Paul looks to the historical event of Sarah and Abraham to give us some deeper insight.

Abraham and Sarah had been given the promise of a son from God. But it was taking time, so Sarah goes to Abraham and suggests that he make a baby with her slave, Hagar. According to their custom, the child would legally be Abraham and Sarah’s. Sarah probably just needed to be reassured to hang on to the promise but Abraham follows her suggestion and fathers a child with Hagar, a son, Ishmael.

When Sarah does eventually have the promised child, Abraham, Sarah does not want Ishmael to share in Abraham’s estate. She wants it all for Isaac. She demands that Abraham send Ishmael away. Abraham refuses at first, because he cares for Ishmael and because rejecting him would in effect be a crime against him. But God intervenes. He tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away, and that He will take care of them.

Sarah’s reason for sending away Hagar and Ishmael was selfish, but Paul is looking into the story to see why God had intervened and had Abraham actually send them way.

Galatians 4:30 (NIV)
30 But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”

Paul is saying that the principle of promise and of Law simply do not and cannot mix. You cannot inherit the blessing of God through the law, only the one who is a son on the basis of God’s promise can inherit God’s blessing.

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