09 Galatians 4:1-11 Sons and Slaves - Bible Study | WednesdayintheWord.com

Galatians 4:1-11: The Judaizers teach you need to place yourself under the guardianship of the Law. Why would adults want to return the restrictions of childhood? Like a child who has come of age, you have graduated from the guardianship of the Law.


Chapter 1: Paul introduced the two of his major themes: 1) his apostolic authority and, 2) the gospel of justification by faith alone. Paul claimed you can recognize the true gospel by its substance (grace based on the cross of Jesus Christ); its source (divine revelation).

Chapter 2: Paul argued that no person invented the gospel, but he received it through revelation from Jesus Christ. He reviewed his biography to prove that he had no chance to learn the gospel from the other human beings. Yet the other apostles confirmed he preached the same gospel.

Three Arguments

Paul gives five persuasive arguments for justification by faith alone.

Galatians 3:2-5—First, Paul argues from experience. Did you receive the Spirit because you got your act together and finally started keeping the law? Or because you heard the gospel — that Jesus died in your place — and believed it? You received the Spirit because you have faith.

Galatians 3:6-14— Second, Paul argues Scripture confirms our experience. Scripture teaches Abraham believed and God counted it to him as righteousness. From the beginning, righteousness came through faith. God promised to bless all who have faith, like Abraham.

Galatians 3:15-22—Third, Paul appeals to common sense. Paul argued God made a promise to Abraham, but the Law which came later was a deal. And the deal does not nullify the promise.

Galatians 3:22-29—Paul explains why God gave the Law. The Law teaches us we are sinful and need a savior. But having learned that lesson, we should graduate from law-keeping to the maturity of faith.

Galatians 4:1-11 continues the theme of the importance of graduation, the importance of being spiritually mature.

Passage: Galatians 4:1-11

1I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.  – Galatians 4:1-11

  • Noble Roman children were raised by highly educated slaves who taught and directed them, rather than by their fathers.
  • Ironically, the son will someday own the slave he must now obey. While he is under age, the son is no different from a slave, even though he is the heir.
  • When we Jews were under the law, we were like that roman child taking orders from a slave before reaching the age of majority. 
  • But at the right time, God sent his Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from under the law so that we might be reconciled to God and adopted into God’s family.
  • The “elementary principles” are the basics, like the stuff of kindergarten and the things you learn in childhood.
  • Like a child in the house under the rule of his governess, so the Jews were under the rule of the Law. With the coming of the Messiah, like a child who has come of age, believing Jews are no longer under the rule of the Law. 
  • Note the pronoun shift in 4:6. Not only did “we” believing Jews experience this change, becoming adult children of God, but “you” Gentiles are sons as well. Two things change: God is now our Father and we are no longer slaves.
  • We no longer need the Law to fence us in. God now teaches and guides us through the work of the Spirit. 
  • You Gentiles did not know God the way the Jews knew God. You were enslaved to idols. Neither keeping the Jewish law nor following the dictates of idols solves the problem of sin. 
  • Having come to know the one true God through the Messiah, why would go back to the rules and rituals of the Law? Why would adults want to return to the restrictions of childhood?

Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.

Next: 10 Galatians 4:12-20 Leadership in action

Previous: 08 Galatians 3:23-29 Graduation from the Law

Series: Galatians: Living by Faith

Study: Galatians Resources

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