By the fourth chapter of Galatians, the main thesis of the Epistle has been established. Paul has shown that the Gentile Christians are in the true Abrahamic succession of faith. Jesus Christ was the heir of Abraham’s testament; He was the fulfillment of all of the ceremonial types and shadows of the law. He perfectly obeyed the demands of the law. And now, those who are in Christ have escaped, by the grace of God, the curse and condemnation of the Law. The remainder of the Apostle’s argument, down to Galatians 5:12, is devoted to the illustration and application of this position.

This next section of Galatians teaches the doctrine of adoption. Adoption does not have the same meaning here as it does in our thinking. In our culture, a couple sees a lovely little child in an orphanage and takes legal steps to make the child their own. The adoption process here follows the customs and practices of Roman society in the first century A.D.

You have to go back to chapter three to catch up to speed with the thought that Paul is developing here. He has already established the fact that we are children of God by our faith in Christ Jesus.

  • Galatians 3.27,29 For as many of you have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. And if you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed. And you are heirs according to the promise.

Gal. 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

The word for child here in Greek is a reference to an infant or a very young child. In the Roman culture, and in our culture as well, if a father dies and leaves great wealth for his little son or daughter, that child is not much better off than a slave until he grows up. Because even though he actually owns everything his father had, they would still be under the control of these tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

Time appointed of the father is an important phrase. This points to the day when the boy becomes a full-grown adult with all the legal rights and privileges, no longer under the control of others. What Paul is saying to those who are insisting that we are obligated to keep the law to be saved is this. Now that Christ as come, we are no longer under the temporary schoolmaster of religion or Judaism. We now relate to God on a whole new basis. And that basis is by His grace, through our faith in the risen, exalted Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian’s righteousness is not because of our works, nor because of our keeping the law. The Christian’s righteousness is the gift from God and is a righteousness that is imputed to me by my faith in Jesus Christ.

Gal 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 4.5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

An element in Greek is a word that refers to the elementary or basic principles of something. For example, we would liken it to the first elements of grammar, like the A B C of children. Here it refers to the worldly or “outward” forms of religious observances. Very simply, the elements of the world refer to all the things that fallen man observes to get right with God and to secure the favor and approval of God.

Both the Jewish and Gentile world were bound by religious rituals and outward observances like going to priests as mediators, sacred temples or buildings and holy altars for sacrifices to appease God. Before Christ came into their lives, the Jews were slaves to Jewish laws and rituals, for they thought that by observing them, they could be saved. They were being mastered by outward observance of rituals, but they did not have a personal, heart relationship with God, because they were in bondage under the elements of the world.

  • Matthew 15.7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

But when the fullness of time came – The phrase fulness of time refers to the time determined by God. God in the Old Testament laid out the whole redemptive program. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God said that The Seed of the woman (Speaking of the Incarnation of The Lord Jesus Christ) would bruise the serpent’s head. ( 7:14; Matt. 1:20-25). Thus, the importance of the doctrine of the virgin birth.

The phrase sent forth His Son presumes the preexistent state of Jesus. At the exact time predetermined by God the Father, He sent forth God the Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.

Born Of a Woman – This points out that not only is Jesus God eternally, but that He also fully took upon Himself the form of man. Phil 2.5-8 tells of this incredible emptying of the deity of Jesus into not only the form of humanity, but also the form of a servant.

Born Under the Law – This refers to Jesus being born as a Jew and therefore under the law of Moses. However, what is unique about Jesus’ relationship with the law is that because He was sinless, He perfectly fulfilled the law. Because He perfectly obeyed and had no sin debt of His own to atone for, Jesus was able to pay the debt of our sins as a substitute.

The word redeem means, “to buy up.” The concept of redemption comes from the institution of slavery. The price of our redemption was paid by the Father in the blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12) and by the Son in giving His life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28; Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:30)

Now that we are born again, we are adopted sons of God. As adopted sons of God, we are no longer lorded over by a religious system, but by our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ. Religion and legalism are the spirit of bondage. Whom The Son sets free is free indeed.

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

As we saw in chapter 3, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law in order that those who place our trust and faith in Him might receive the adoption of sons.

  • John 1.11 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.

Abba is an intimate word that denotes the close and dear relationship between a child of God and the Father. This relationship with God is all because of the grace of God, not human accomplishment. This crying Abba Father is the inner witness of The Holy Spirit that confirms that we have truly been born of God by the Spirit of God.

  • Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Gal 4.7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Paul concludes this illustration by declaring that through Jesus Christ, we are no longer under the control of the law or any religious system, but into the inheritance of all that is given to a mature son.

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

No gods- Paul is referring here to religious idols as vanities — “nothings” that people who do not know Jesus Christ look to for help.

The Roman Empire had a broad range of “gods” to choose from. Some believed that the sun, moon and stars were to be worshiped. Some called upon departed loved ones who had crossed over to the other side to put in a good word to God for them. Others worshiped aspects of nature like rivers, while others worshiped a pantheon of gods that had grown out of ancient myths.

Though the gods they gave homage to were not in fact gods, they nonetheless were in bondage to them. They prayed to them, they sought to please them; they performed rituals in order to worship these “gods.” There are demonic powers behind false gods and false religious systems that blind people from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gal 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Paul is amazed that they were so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.

How turn ye again- Like in the book of Hebrews, they were turning their backs on Christ and getting involved in religious elements of ceremonies and legalism again.

He reminds them that these ceremonies or rituals are “weak” because they are powerless in saving a person from the power of sin and the judgment that sin deserves. They are “beggarly” because they are incapable of providing the spiritual riches that are available in the provisions of the gospel of the grace of God in Christ. We, through His poverty have become rich.

They were observing days, and months, and times, and years. – A person who is being taught to put faith in special “holy days” as the way to eternal life is being seduced by a lying spirit and doctrine of demons.

  • Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.
  • Col 2.16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

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

Paul appeals to these wavering saints as brethren. When he says to them be as I am, he is saying to them, don’t forsake the grace of God for the law. When Paul came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, he laid aside the legalism and bondage of Judaism and was clothed with the righteousness, grace and riches of Jesus Christ. (Phil 3.4-8). 

Gal 4.13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

God allowed Paul to be afflicted physically, not because he didn’t have enough faith to claim his healing as the faith heretics teach, but to make the gospel known in the area of Galatia. Due to this illness, some say it may have been an acute case of malaria, or ophthalmia, which is an Oriental eye disease, Paul was detained in this area for a while, during which time he preached the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul talks more about his personal weaknesses and how God used them in his life in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.

Paul’s physical trial was a temptation to them that may have caused them to act with indifference towards him. But in spite of Paul’s repulsive appearance, they received him with great kindness. They treated Paul as a messenger of heaven.

Gal 4.15 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.

Paul uses very graphic language to describe their love for him. But he is now lamenting because of how these legalists had poisoned their minds towards him.

16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

The words your enemy implies that Paul had gone from being loved by them to being their enemy. Why? Because he was telling them the truth about salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone apart from works, lest any man should boast.

He told them the truth about the futility of trying to be saved by following man made traditions, keeping the law and jumping through all kinds of man-made religious hoops. The message of grace demolished years of tradition, and it hit the legalists hard in their heart.

Gal 4.17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

These legalists were going out of their way to court these Galatians. But their zeal was a twisted zeal, not a godly one. Much like the twisted zeal of the Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon’s, who preach another Jesus and proclaim a gospel of salvation by works. It was this type of zeal that was condemned by Jesus Himself.

  • Matt 23. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Gal 4. 18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, 20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

Paul’s righteous anger in this epistle (Gal 1:6, Gal 1:9; Gal 3:1; Gal 5:12) reflects not only the seriousness with which God regards the task of contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints and preserving the truth of the gospel; but also the love which he had for his “children” in Christ.

His desire (as should be the desire of every legitimate pastor) was that the flock of God would love Jesus and that Christ would be formed in them.

The Greek word for formed means an outward expression to one’s inward nature. Paul wanted Christ to be seen in the lives of the Galatians.

  • Romans 8.29 For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Note this beloved, when The Lordship of Christ is on the inside, the fruit of The Living Christ will be manifest on the outside.

  • 1 Thessalonians 1.7-10 ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia (they were witnesses of the truth of God). For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing (they were evangelical; they spread the gospel). For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (fruit of repentance and using their God given talents to serve The Lord); And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come (they were occupying, looking for the return of Christ).

Closing comments

  • Hebrews 2.9 Jesus Christ was crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Jesus Christ, in His wonderful love, kept the Law and fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law in order that sinners might be set free from forms of godliness and, solely by His grace, enter into a meaningful relationship with God through faith in His one sacrifice for sin forever.

  • Ephesians 2.18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Paul mentioned that Jesus came at the appointed time. There are divine appointments spoken of in Scripture. There is that appointed time of judgment for this earth called the great tribulation; there is for each and every one of us here today an appointed time to die. Are you prepared to step into eternity today? Have you trusted in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as full payment for your sin debt? Are you repenting of a life of sin and embracing Him as Lord of your life?

My reason and purpose for living under grace and under the gospel, is a far more glorious and rewarding purpose than to live under the law or for a religious system. Under the law or some religious system, you are disposed to do just what is required and that’s it.

But under the gospel of grace there is no stopping. The God given awareness of the truth of the gospel and the depth of God’s grace and love for you causes you to delight to do the work and the will of the Lord.

My works and labors as a Christian are the expression of my extreme appreciation for what God has done for me through His Son. By grace, He has brought me into His family, He has adopted me as His son, He has made me the beneficiary of His riches.

As a result of the freeness of God’s grace in my life, it is now the love of Christ constrains me (2 Cor. 5:14)! I’m driven by the love of Christ! I’m pushed to live the way that I live by this glorious love of Jesus Christ!

It is so sad to see the people of God talking about how much they have done for God and all that they have sacrificed for Him. Really? I am crucified with Christ.

This church family does not exist to make much about us. We exist to make much about Jesus Christ.

Church family, we do not preach the gospel because we have to, but because we love Jesus Christ.

We do not serve here at the church because we have to, but because we love Jesus Christ.

We do not love one another, serve one another and reach out to one another because we have to, but because we love Jesus Christ.

  • Colossians 3.17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.
  • Colossians 3.23,24 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

We do what we do church family because we love Jesus and are living for Him! My life is His! And when you count the sacrifice that Jesus made for you, you no longer “fill out a serving Jesus time card”.

You no longer give to God 10% as a tip for being a good God this week.

You no longer count anything that you do or give as a hardship, but as an honor.

You count it all joy because you are no longer the servant of men, but of God.