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Galatians 4: Our Chains Are Broken!

Kristi Gibson12/26/2014
Seek The Truth Blog

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Continuing with his illustrations about the law being like a 'schoolmaster' or 'tutor' Paul teaches in Galatians chapter 4 verses 1-7:

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his 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 God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

To truly understand this illustration that Paul is making, we must understand the custom that he is using to make his point. Contrary to what William Branham taught, this was not a Jewish custom, but a Roman custom—something that was common in the ancient world, and something the Galatians as Gentiles would have readily understood.

Adoption was a common practice in ancient Rome and other ancient societies, particularly in the wealthiest segments of society, since having a male heir was so very important. Adoption was a means of uniting families much like marriages, and the adoption of sons to equal-status families was a common way of cementing a political or financial alliance. Even Augustus Caesar was adopted! He was born to Gaius Octavius, but later adopted by his great-uncle Julius Caesar in order to succeed him politically as Emperor.

When Paul states in verse 2 that prior to the adoption as sons to God we were, "under the elemental spiritual forces of the world," what he is essentially saying is that prior to God adopting us through Christ Jesus we were subject to the position and condition in which we were born—just as a son, prior to his adoption is subject to the natural conditions of his upbringing, whatever those may have looked like—schoolteachers, tutors, biological parents, etc. , until the time that the son is adopted and assumes his position as heir to his father. Some were Jews, and were under the law, and some were Gentiles and under the futility of idolatry—but all, according to Paul, were 'adopted' into the family of God, and were given the Spirit of God in our hearts so that we can call out, "Abba, Father."

Prior to the formal adoption, though we are subject to the commands of our Heavenly Father we cannot truly partake of the wealth He has for us nor understand the purpose of obedience. It was not until Jesus Christ came and freed us from the bondage of our previous conditions (whether it be law or lawlessness) that we were able to appreciate the benefits of being a son or daughter of God.

Continuing in this argument, Paul expands on the idea of separateness from God by taking the metaphor one step further—not only are we 'like slaves' prior to coming to Christ, Paul states that we were slaves to those things we formerly knew:

Verses 8-11:

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 forces? 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.

Paul addresses the true issue—separation from the previous way of life and futile thought patterns, and freedom in Christ. First, by likening our acceptance before Christ to adoption, where the intimate link between the family of origin is severed and replaced with the adoptive family, and now with an example of slavery. Paul tells the Galatians that they are now free from the slavery and bondage of weak and miserable forces—from idol worship, from 'holy days', and other trivial things that have no bearing on salvation and right standing before God whatsoever.

Paul is distraught, afraid that these people whom he loves are being carried away with these pointless (and down-right wrong) teachings –begging the Galatians to come back to the Truth:

Verses 12-20:

12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and 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 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? 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 have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, 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!

It is obvious is verses 12-15 that the Galatians had a ton of respect and love for Paul—something he felt comfortable appealing to when correcting them. It is never fun to point out someone we love's flaws—but sometimes we really don't have a choice, particularly when we are called by the Lord to do so. Nevertheless, like Paul states in verse 16, we can sometimes find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of being seen as an enemy for simply stating the facts. Those of us that have left the message and attempted to communicate the problems with it to our friends and families will understand Paul's frustration first-hand. It is not fun to tell the truth and be rejected for it—especially when there was so much love and mutual respect beforehand.

But Paul had to do what he was led to do—and so do we.

Paul warns the Galatians about Judaizers and other false teachers in their midst—zealous people that were leading the people away from truth and away from the teachings of Paul. It was undoubtedly painful for Paul to sit and witness—he states in verse 19 that it was like waiting in the agony of labor, waiting for them to be delivered into a true walk with Christ.

Do we not understand that frustration and pain!? Watching our loved ones grapple with the same issues in the message that we ourselves fought with, only to be dragged deeper into the mire of false teaching and fear. We see glimmers of hope as our loved ones see glimpses of the Truth—but we anguish to see the shackles completely removed. It is a trial of patience, and is often difficult to bear the pain, watching our loved ones carried away in error. But we do what we can—just as Paul did, and when the occasion arises, we present the Truth in love, and lean upon the Lord for comfort and strength. That is really all we can do—it is all that Paul could do, and it is all we can do too.

Paul continues by making yet another argument against the law by likening the two covenants from God—the Law of Moses and the Grace Covenant in Christ—to Abraham's children to Hagar and Sarah:

Verses 21-32

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 according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. 24 These things are being taken figuratively: 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, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband."

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does 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 and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

According to this metaphorical argument that Paul makes, the Covenant of Law produced children in the same way that Hagar produced children—it produced slaves. Though by nature a child of God, in reality, those under the law are bound to the maintenance of the law, and cannot partake of the freedom that exists in Jesus Christ—that exists in the Son of God. Contrastingly, all those born of the promise of God to the free woman—the covenant of grace through Christ are, as Paul's arguments from today's scripture goes—adopted sons with full legal rights to inheritance and wealth of the estate of God.

We are free from the confines of slavery to law, but also free from the frivolous lives devoted to dead idols. But most gloriously, free, as children of the free covenant, to inherit and enjoy the richness of God's promises as true sons and daughters—natural sons and daughters, born of freedom for freedom and service to others on the Lord's behalf—just as a son goes about the business of His father, we likewise by the example of Jesus Christ, take up the Father's business—the spreading of the Good News—the Gospel of Jesus Christ into all the World and to every creature!


If we gain nothing else from this text, may we remember that Paul, who's heart was committed to spreading the Gospel—the true, original Gospel delivered to the Apostles, was determined above all else to keep the Christians under his influence free from man-made rules, free from pointless tradition, and free from teachings that took them back under the bondage of law. He wanted them to attain the Truth of the Gospel—the simplicity of the Gospel, and that's what God desires for us too. We are children of the King, and we were never meant to be bound. Not in sin, not under law, and not under the message. Let's heed Paul's warnings and never again allow ourselves to once again return to our previous lives—our slavery.

We are no longer where we were, and we are no longer subject to those things we once were chained to. We are free in Christ! Let's never forget that glorious truth.