4:1 Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles[a] of this world.
Paul is trying to illustrate the idea of the believer under the OT covenant ( a standard for maintaining a relationship with God based on laws and sacrifices) This principle in this passage also indicates that godly parents normally oversee the instruction of their children. Scripture teaches that parents should do all they can to be sure their children receive a God Centered, Christ honoring education. We are to guide our children as they encounter ungodly influences and teach them to recognize and resist such influences.
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.[b] 6 And because we[c] are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”[d] 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.[e] And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Because Christians are now God's children, we have a new guardian. Our guardian is no longer the law or human initiative but eh Spirit of God himself. The term "Abba" is used because it means father. It was the word Jesus used when referring to his Heavenly Father. It expresses a depth of intimacy and warmth and confidence by which the Holy Spirit helps us to reach out to God. One of the Holy Spirit's tasks is to create in us a feeling of love that causes us to KNOW God. Even though all true believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of them, Paul may have had in mind the continued filling to the Holy Spirit in this passage. After all, we are receiving the full rights of the SON. We are joint heirs with Christ himself.
Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
8 Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. 9 So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? 10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters,[f] I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.
Many of the Galatians worshiped idols or other beings who projected themselves as gods, before they received Christ. Even if they didn't, many of them were enslaved to Satan or sin. After receiving Christ they learned how foolish and empty it was to trust false gods or to rely on rituals and regulations to give them a relationship with the one true God. Paul is pouring out his heart here and pleading them to remember the freedom they have now because of Christ. We as people are so stubborn. Today we still fall into this trap. So many people rely on rituals and believe they have done what they need to do for Christ. Or they fall to the false idols of today, such as the things we have or the money we earn.
You did not mistreat me when I first preached to you. 13 Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News. 14 But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then? I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible. 16 Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?
Here, Paul is telling them. I know you have it deep inside of you. You did it before. When he was ill, they accepted him and were kind to him. They offered Christian service to him when he was in pain and weak. Now that he is telling them the truth about how they are currently acting in such a short time after the crucifixion of Christ, they are being convicted in their own hearts. He just wants to remind them that they have Hearts.
17 Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them. 18 If someone is eager to do good things for you, that’s all right; but let them do it all the time, not just when I’m with you.
19 Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. 20 I wish I were with you right now so I could change my tone. But at this distance I don’t know how else to help you.
Paul is comparing his heartache to the pain of childbirth. It is an emotional pain for the spiritual affection he feels for the people of Galatia. He feels they have abandoned their true faith in Christ because they have so easily followed false teachings. His analogy to childbirth could also be an attempt to represent the fact that the wayward people need a second spiritual birth. They need a renewed faith and relationship with God.
Abraham’s Two Children
21 Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife.[g]23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. 24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them.
Paul uses real historical evens to illustrate the difference between the old and new covenants. Hagar's son, Ismael, who was not the child of God's promise represents the old covenant established at Mount Sinai. Hagar's children are born in an ordinary way and not born of the spirit. Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the child of God's promise. Isaac represents the new covenant. Sarah's children are born by the power of the Spirit and are fulfillment of God's promise.
So we can follow the law and be ordinary or we can follow the Spirit and be blessed with the promises of God.
25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia,[h] because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27 As Isaiah said,
“Rejoice, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into a joyful shout,
you who have never been in labor!
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband!”[i]
Mount Sinai is where the old covenant was established with its laws governing Israel's life. It is equated with Jerusalem in the sense that it represents the center of Judaism, which is still under spiritual bondage of the law given at Mount Sinai.
28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. 29 But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit.
30 But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[j] 31 So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.
Paul ends this chapter by telling the Galatians to do with the old covenant laws exactly what Abraham had to do with Hagar and Ismael. Get rid of them. Those laws are persecuting you and preventing you from being free. In order to have the true inheritance as an heir of Christ, you can not choose to share it with false teaching and false Gods. Paul reminds them of their own heritage. They are children of the free woman, not children of the slave. This is something we need to remember constantly. We are free. We need to make our choices based on that freedom and being children and heirs of Abraham, Isaac and Jesus himself.