Galatians 4

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Read Galatians 4

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. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 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.

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!

Hagar and Sarah

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.

Go Deeper

Galatians is all about the freedom we find in Christ. Paul wrote this book to the churches he had founded in the Galatian region of modern-day Turkey. False prophets had infiltrated the churches claiming salvation by works. These false teachers claimed that all Christians needed to be circumcised according to Jewish tradition. Paul spends the first two chapters of the book  reminding the church of who Jesus is and His sacrifice on the cross that freed them from the works of the law. 

Paul then addresses their error in seeking justification from the Mosaic law. His message is simple: we are justified by faith, not by works. No one can perfectly keep the law. That is why Christ took on the curse of the law and the consequences for falling short.  Paul says, “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (v. 4-5). They were free from the law yet living as though still enslaved to it. They needed to understand that salvation is not found in following the law, but in trusting in the person of Jesus. 

Paul uses the sons of Abraham to illustrate his point. God’s promise to give Abraham many descendants did not depend on Abraham’s strength or Sarah’s fertility, but on the Lord’s sovereignty. Paul sums this up by saying, “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” (v. 23). Born “according to the flesh” meant by their own works. Abraham and Sarah relied on human schemes instead of trusting in the Lord’s provision for a son. Isaac, on the other hand, was born according to God’s promise through Sarah, who was beyond childbearing age. God supernaturally intervened to fulfill His vow. (For more context on this, check out Genesis 16.) God’s promise to Abraham did not depend on Abraham’s strength but on the Lord’s sovereignty. Paul uses this allegory, comparing the law and the promise, to point out that the Galatians were not walking in the freedom that was available to them. 

The Galatians were reminded that they were no longer slaves to the law, but sons and daughters adopted into God’s family. When the Galatians heard the word “adoption,” they might have thought of something different than we do today. The word adoption in this text translates to the Greek word “huiothesia,” which means “placed as a son.” In the first century Roman empire, adoption was a common practice. Those who did not have male heirs would “adopt” a son to pass on their wealth and inheritance to. Many well-known Roman emperors were adopted, including Augustus and Nero. When someone was adopted, their debts were canceled, and they received a new name and the benefits of being a part of that family. 

This is true of us today. We are no longer orphans. We are adopted sons and daughters of the King! Our debts have been canceled through Christ, and we are given a new identity. The message of the New Testament is that we receive adoption through atonement. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross allows us the opportunity to become a part of God’s family. John 1:12 says, “​​Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” What a privilege that is! Theologian J. I. Packer puts it this way: “Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.” As believers we are freed from the law to walk in the identity and privilege of being children of God. 


  1. What did you learn from reading this chapter? Is there a verse that stands out to you?    
  2. Do you find your identity more often in what you do, or who you are as a child of God?  
  3. The life of a child of God looks a lot different than that of a non-believer. Write down some words that come to mind when you think about being a child of God. Does your life reflect this truth, or do you live with an orphan mentality?   

Keep Digging

Check out this article from about what it means for Christians to be adopted by God.

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4 thoughts on “Galatians 4”

  1. After reading today’s chapter and commentary, the hymn by Louisa Stead came to mind:
    “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, and to take Him at His word; just to rest upon His promise, and to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord’. Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! Oh for grace to trust Him more!”
    Just as with the Galatians, truth hurts and old habits die hard! I’ve been reading WHY DO I DO WHAT I DON’T WANT TO DO? (Thanks JP & Jon) which masterfully addresses 10 common, deadly vices we face and their accompanying scriptural virtues needed to replace them with. It’s been a life-giving, fork in the road experience that has revealed things in my heart I wasn’t even aware of. I’m so thankful God loves us too much to leave us in patterns of sin that will destroy us.

  2. Robert Denniston

    Take a moment today to reflect on the fact that you have been adopted, your debts have been forgiven and you are loved for who you are. There is nothing you can do to earn your father’s love. It is a wonderful gift that he has bestowed upon you because of the incomprehensible love that he has for you. This love breaks every chain that binds you to sin in your life. Take a moment today and grab that bolt cutter and cut some of those chains that bind you and lay them on that blood stained ground at the foot of the cross. Then look up at the face of Christ and try to comprehend what he has done for you. Yes, he did this for you because he knows you.

  3. Poor Paul, when he was persecuting them and killing the “christians” but got delivered these “christians” took him in and loved on him. Now that he is coming to them to tell them they are straying, becoming legalistic, they fight him about it all. Paul explains being adopted into God’s family. They were in bondage of the law but God redeemed us through His son Jesus Christ. We are now sons and heirs, which according to Jewish law is a very big deal because we have all rights of a son and that inheritance that goes with it. Paul was sad and aggravated because they were Christ followers who were going back to being in bondage of the world and not enjoying the fruit of their salvation. We have Holy Spirit to guide us along with our hand book of life the BIBLE. We can live in bondage or in freedom.

    Thank You God for the scales of bondage falling from my eyes. Thank You for Your Holy spirit directing my path. I am so sorry when I hear but don’t listen and obey. Thank You for forgiveness. God thank You for humility, that I can continue to see others through Your love goggles. That what I do and say is for Your glory to further Your kingdom here now in Jesus name amen.

  4. Heirs and Inheritance. Boy, does that topic hit home!

    I lost my stepmother to cancer six months ago … and have spent what feels like every moment since getting her affairs in order. Her intentions were generous. Her preparations … not so much. I’m afraid she left a lot to clear up for those left behind.

    It helps me remember that the only reason there are issues with her estate is because she had one to leave behind. No property – no problem.

    Inheritances are funny things. A privilege intended as blessing and provision becomes instead a burdensome bone of contention. (Show of hands: who here can trace family division back to heirs arguing over “who gets all the stuff?“)

    From all I’ve observed, a successful inheritance depends on thoughtful management by those on both sides of the equation – those who hand down – and those who inherit. Carelessness on either end can cost a family its legacy.

    A sweet friend of mine lost her father when she was only 18 years old. Upon his death, she was handed a cashier’s check for $70,000 … and promptly went out and bought herself a fast car, a fur coat and some fancy jewelry. A few years later, she had nothing left to show for any of it. (In fact, she was even in debt and worse off than before.)

    Did no one stop to consider the wisdom of handing that much cash to a child?

    My grandmother, on the other hand, did this better than anyone I’ve ever seen. My inheritance was held in trust until I was fully 40 years old. By that time, I had understanding and appreciation for all I’d received—and sufficient wisdom and maturity to handle it.

    It’s an awesome responsibility to live in light of one’s inheritance. How thankful I am for all I’ve been given, thoughtfully handed down by one who recognized the magnitude of all she entrusted. This legacy has had a life-changing impact on my entire family, influencing how we spend in the present, how we save for the future – and how we invest in the kingdom.

    Perhaps that is the true inheritance – this invaluable lesson in stewardship. What I have is a gift from those who came before, intended as gift for those who come after. It is not mine alone to do with as I wish – but a temporary gift passed to me—then through me.

    I am continually reminded to hold my treasures loosely. After all, everything I have is a gift from God. He is my true inheritance.

    Points to ponder:
    • How can I equip my children to be good stewards? Am I modeling that well?
    • One aspect of good stewardship is “knowing the state of my flocks.“ I am a better custodian of my inheritance when I have a fair working knowledge of what is in it. Am I just as well-acquainted with my kingdom inheritance?
    • Am I just as intentional to secure and pass on a spiritual legacy? What would that entail?

    “The one who faithfully manages the little he has been given will be promoted and trusted with greater responsibilities. But those who cheat with the little they have been given will not be considered trustworthy to receive more. If you have not handled the riches of this world with integrity, why should you be trusted with the eternal treasures of the spiritual world? And if you’ve not proven yourself faithful with what belongs to another, why should you be given wealth of your own?”
    -‭‭Luke‬ ‭16‬:‭10‬-‭12‬ ‭TPT‬‬

    “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.”
    -Proverbs 13:22

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