November 6, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

III. Doctrinal: Defense of Justification by Faith (3:1–4:31)

            B: Purpose of the Law (3.19-4.7)

                        2. Its Inferior Status (3.26-4.7)


Chapter III.B.2.b Slaves Vs. Sons (4.1-7)


Galatians 3.26-29 (KJV)


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.

3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

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

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





In this passage the apostle explains their adoption, which is one of the blessings which Christian’s experience. He told the Ephesian believers that God has “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1.5). We don’t enter God’s family in the same way a homeless child enters a loving family in our society. The only way to get into God’s family is by regeneration; being born again. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3.3).

The New Testament word for adoption means “to place as an adult son.” It is all about our standing within the family of God: we are no longer little children, but full-grown, mature, adult sons with all the entitlements and privileges of Sonship. Unfortunately, all the Bible translations do NOT make a distinction between sons of God and children of God. We have been made children of God through faith in Christ; we are born into His family. But every one of His children are automatically placed into His family as a son, and as a son he has all the rights and privileges of a literal son. When a sinner trusts Christ for his salvation, and he is saved, as far as his condition is concerned, he is a “spiritual babe” and he needs to grow—as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, THAT YOU MAY GROW thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pe. 2.2, 3). But as far as his position is concerned, he is an adult son who can draw upon his Father’s wealth and power, and he can exercise all the wonderful privileges of Sonship. We enter God’s family by regeneration, but we enjoy God’s family by adoption. The Christian does not have to wait, nor does he have to grow and mature before he can enjoy the spiritual riches he has in Christ (v. 7). In this passage Paul will teach on the subject of adoption by reminding his readers of three facts:

1.    What we were; children in bondage (vv. 1-3).

2.    What God did; redeem us (vv. 4, 5).

3.    What we are; sons and heirs (vv. 6, 7).





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.

3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:


“Until the time appointed of the father.” What time was that? It was the time when a father recognized that his son was capable of making decisions on his own, and he brought him into the position of a full-grown son. Notice it was the father who determined when his son reached the age of maturity. It wasn’t an arbitrary law as we have in our society. It used to be that a young person became of age at twenty-one; now it is eighteen. I believe some people are as mature at eighteen as they are at twenty-one. Also there are some who have not reached maturity at sixty-five. But in Paul’s day it was the father who determined when the age of maturity was reached. Then they held a ceremony known as the toga virilis, which gave him the position of a full-grown son in the family.

No matter how wealthy a father may be, his infant son or toddler child cannot readily enjoy that wealth. In the Roman world the children of wealthy people were cared for by slaves. No matter who his father was, the child was still a child under the supervision of a servant. In fact, the child was not much different than the servant who cared for him. The servant was commanded by the master of the house, and the child was commanded by the servant.

This also describes the spiritual condition of the Jews under the jurisdiction of the Law. The Law, you may recall, was the “guardian” (schoolmaster, tutor, steward) that disciplined the nation of Israel and prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ—But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal. 3.23-25). Consequently, when the Judaizers led the Galatians back into legalism, they were leading them not only into religious “bondage,” but also into religious and moral infancy and immaturity.

Paul states that the Jews were, like little children, immature, not realizing the glory and fullness of his future inheritance, and in bondage to “the elements of the world.” This word “elements” means the basic principles, the ABC’s (the period when Israel was in bondage, under the Law). It was the childhood of Israel when they were under rules and regulations. For fifteen centuries Israel had been in kindergarten and grade school, learning their “spiritual ABC’s,” so that they would be ready when Christ came into the world. So the Old Testament saint lived in the shadows, saw things indistinctly and dimly. But today under grace the shadows are gone and we have the full revelation of our sonship, because Jesus Christ is the “Alpha and Omega”— “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Rev. 22.13). He encompasses all the alphabet of God’s revelation to man. He is God’s final Word (Heb. 1.1-3).



4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.


The Cross stands between Law and Grace. Before the Cross, there was no “putting away” of sin. God pardoned the sinner, suspended judgment, covered up his sin, in anticipation of the coming of the Redeemer. God pardoned the saints before Calvary upon the promise of the coming of Christ. Before Christ there was no full forgiveness for the sinner, but after Calvary sin is put away. Before Calvary, sin was pardoned; after Calvary the sinner was justified by grace upon the full payment of the penalty of the Law by the death and resurrection of Christ. Before Calvary, no one could go to Heaven, but was placed in Sheol, until sin could be put away—Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. FOR THOU WILT NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HELL; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16. 9.10). After Calvary, the believer no longer goes to Sheol, but directly into the presence of God in Heaven, absent from the body, but present with the Lord. We are now “placed” as mature sons of God. This is probably a good time to point out a very important key to the understanding of Galatians. It is in the use of the two pronouns “us” and “we.” Paul was a Jew writing to Gentiles. Wherever, therefore, the pronoun “us” or “we” is used, it always refers to Israel, but the “ye” and “you” always refer to the Gentiles. Remember this and it will make the study of Galatians much easier. And it will prevent you from mixing Law and grace as these Galatians were doing.

Although Israel was compared to an irresponsible child, under the strict discipline of the law, we today are adult sons and take our place fully in the family of God.

The expression “the fullness of time” refers to the time the world was providentially ready for the advent of Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah and man’s Savior. Many things had to come together and dovetail perfectly before He would come. Historians tell us that the world was in great expectation, waiting for the Deliverer, at the time when Jesus was born. The old religions were dying, and the old philosophies were empty and powerless to change men’s lives. Strange new mystery religions were invading the empire. The Greek dialectal had become the language of scholars and the New Testament would tell Jesus story in that language. The Pharisee had risen in influence in the Jewish and would represent all that Jesus was opposed to. Religious bankruptcy and spiritual hunger were everywhere. From a historical point of view, the Roman Empire itself helped to prepare the world for the coming of the Savior. Roman laws protected the rights of citizens, and Roman soldiers guarded the peace. Thanks to both the Greek and Roman conquests Latin and Greek were known throughout the empire. God was preparing the world for the arrival of His Son. Christ’s birth at Bethlehem was not an accident; it was an appointment made in Heaven; Jesus came in “the fullness of time.” (And it is worth noting that He will come again at the exactly right time.)

Paul is careful to point out the dual nature of Jesus Christ, that He is both God and man. As God, Jesus was “sent forth,” but as man, He was “made of a woman.” The ancient promise said that the Redeemer would be of “the woman’s seed” (Ge. 3.15) and Jesus fulfilled that promise (Matt. 1.18-25). Paul also says here that He was “made under the Law.” This means that He was reared in accordance with the requirements of the Law, and thereby fulfilling all righteousness. It was necessary that He keep the Law perfectly in order to redeem His people from the bondage and curse of the Law and to secure for them “the adoption of sons.” This privilege came to them as a gift of grace and not as a result of a long period of tutelage under the Law.

Paul has told us who came—God’s Son; he told us when He came and how He came. Now he explains why He came: “To redeem them that were under the law.” “Redeem” is the same word he used earlier (Gal. 3.13); it means “to set free by paying a price.” A man could purchase a slave in any Roman city (There were about 60 million slaves in the empire.), either to keep the slave for himself or to set him free. Jesus came to set us free. So, to go back into the Law would work to undo the very work of Christ on the cross. He did not purchase us to make us slaves, but to make us sons. Under the Law, the Jews were mere children, but under grace, the believer is a son of God with an adult standing in God’s family. Perhaps at this point a chart will help us better understand the contrast between being a “child of God” and a “son of God.”


The Child

The Son

By regeneration

Entering the family

Under guardians

Cannot inherit

By adoption

Enjoying the family

The liberty of an adult

An heir of the Father


So what was God’s purpose for sending His Son? God had a twofold purpose:

1.         To redeem those under the Law. They were children under the Law. You see, the Law never made anyone a son of God.

2.         That they might receive the adoption of sons.


“Adoption” had a different meaning than it does under our contemporary society. We think of it occurring when a couple may not have children of their own. They go to a home where there are precious little children for adoption and they see a baby there. Their hearts go out to him and they adopt him through legal action. When the baby becomes theirs we call that adoption. However, the Roman custom in Paul’s day was to adopt one’s own son. That, you recall was what was done under the toga verlils ceremony. The Greek word translated here as “adoption” means “to place as a son.” A believer is placed in the family of God as a full-grown son, capable of understanding divine truth.

In 1 Corinthians 2.9, 10 we read, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” This simply means that the truth in the Word of God can only be interpreted by the Spirit of God, and until He interprets it, man cannot understand it. The Holy Spirit alone can interpret the Word of God for us. That is what makes the difference today in some men. A man can bring a brilliant mind to the Word of God. He can learn something about history, archeology, and language. He can become an expert in Hebrew and Greek, but still he may miss the meaning. Why? Because the Spirit of God is the teacher. Even Isaiah the prophet said that: “For since the beginning of the world MEN HAVE NOT HEARD, NOR PERCEIVED by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” (Isa. 64.4). If you want to know about Christ, only the Spirit of God can reveal Him to you. Even a mature Christian who has been studying the Word for years is as helpless in studying the Bible as a newborn babe in Christ, because the Spirit of God will have to teach each of them.

My friend, if you are a new believer, the same Spirit of God who is teaching me can teach you. If you are God’s child, He has brought you into the position of a full-grown son; into the adoption. And, my friend, there is nothing quite as wonderful as that! That gave me confidence when I was a young believer and it has continued to this good day. My friend, the Spirit of God will lead you and guide you into all truth, if you want to know it, if you are willing for Him to be your teacher.



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

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


“And because ye are sons” is a very strong statement. Romans 8.16 says it this way, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, THAT WE ARE THE CHILDREN [the sons] of God.” Paul also said, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. FOR AS MANY AS ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, THEY ARE THE SONS OF GOD” (Rom. 8.11-14). If you are a child of God, you will want to be led by the Spirit of God. The flesh may get a victory in your life, but it will never make you happy. You will never be satisfied with it, because “. . . ye have not received the Spirit of God again to fear.” You don’t need to say, “I know I am not living as I should, and I wonder if I am really a child of God?” My friend, “ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD.” (Rom. 8.15, 16). This passage in Romans is a parallel passage to the one we are studying in Galatians, and I wanted you to know that and see all of it.

You have “the Spirit of His Son”—by faith you are one with the Son, so that what is His is yours. His Sonship ensures your sonship, and His Spirit ensures for you a share in what is His. “. . . if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8.9). Moreover, as the Spirit of God proceeds from God the Father, so the Spirit of the Son proceeds from God the Son; so that the Holy Ghost, as the creed says, “proceedeth from the Father and Son.” The Spirit is here regarded as the agent in praying, and the believer as His mouthpiece. In Romans 8.15, “the Spirit of adoption” is said to be the inspiration that causes us to cry Abba, Father;” but in Romans 8.26, “The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The believer’s prayer is His prayer, which accounts for its acceptability with God. The gift of the Spirit of prayer is the result of our adoption.

Only under grace can we fully understand the meaning of “Our Father . . .” No saint in the Old Testament fully realized the relationship of God as a Father, because they were servants. Only after Pentecost was the meaning of true sonship realized. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and He said, when ye pray say, “Our Father which art in heaven.”  But the disciples never used it, not even once until AFTER PENTECOST. Paul used it for the first time in Romans 1.7 where he calls God “our Father.” The difference, therefore, between being under Law and under grace is the difference between a slave and a son. A slave cannot call his master, “father;” it is reserved for only children. But Paul uses another expression which was never used before Calvary. It is Abba, father. No one seems to know what the true meaning of “abba” really is. It is not Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek. It is not translated, I am told, because the translators of the King James Version had a great reverence for the Word of God. When they came to the word “abba” they didn’t dare to translate it into English because it was such an intimate word. It could be translated “my daddy.” God is my wonderful heavenly Father, but I cannot bring myself to call him “daddy.” There was a fine Christian man I knew years ago who would address God as “my daddy,” when he prayed, and the first time I heard say that, I was shocked. I am afraid that term does not express the reverence and awe I have for my heavenly Father.  It seems to be a term of intimacy, of affection, and of endearment, indicating the closest possible relationship. It is used only three times in Scripture, once in Mark 14.36, where Jesus in His agony in Gethsemane cries out: “ABBA, FATHER, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”

The second time it is used in Romans 8.15, 16 where Paul says: “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. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

The third time this word “Abba” is in this verse in Galatians. It is then a term used only by the children of God who are under grace, being contrasted to the position of a servant under the Law, and called the “spirit of bondage again to fear.”

“Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son.” The Spirit gives us an experience of being a son of God, whereby we can cry out—not just saying the word or putting on a false piety—and call God our Father, because the Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit. This gives us the experience of being a son of God.

There are many people who believe the only way you can have an experience is either by reaching a high degree of sanctification—you’ve got to become holy—or you have to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as they call it. They insist that if you don’t get up to that level, you will never have an experience. My friend, let me assure you, if you are a new believer or a weak believer, that you can have an experience as a son of God without reaching those levels, because sonship comes to you through faith in Jesus Christ. When people have reached that high level of spirituality, they tend to think they are superior to the rest of us. However, we are always God’s foolish little children. We are always filled with ignorance, and stubbornness, and sin, and fears, and weaknesses. We are never wonderful; He is wonderful. The Lord Jesus is wonderful, and faith in Him will give us an experience. I believe in experience, and I believe that a lot of people today need an experience with God.

Many times you and I plod along in our Christian lives, and we don’t have an experience with God. Sometimes life becomes drab and a little monotonous. But there are other times, especially when God puts us on trial and really tests us, that we have a wonderful experience with our Heavenly father.

God makes Himself real during times of distress. When Paul was in prison, he could say, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding THE LORD STOOD WITH ME, AND STRENGTHENED ME . . .” (2 Tim 4.16, 17). The Lord stood by Paul, the Lord has stood by me, and the Lord will stand by you. How reassuring it is to have a Father like that! At such a time He says, “. . . I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13.5). I hope you are His son.

Verse seven tells us what we are; we are not only “sons,” we are also “heirs.” The entire Trinity is involved in our Christian experience:

·         God the Father sent the Son to die for us.

·         God the Son sent His Spirit to live in us.

·         God the Spirit living in us gives us many wonderful experiences.

The contrast here is not between immature children and adult sons, but between servants and sons. Like the Prodigal son the Galatians wanted God to accept them as servants, when they really were sons—“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired SERVANTS” (Luke 15. 18, 19). The contrasts between sons and servants are easy to see. For example:

·         The son has the same nature as the father, but the servant does not. When we trust Christ the Holy Spirit comes to live within us; and this means we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pe. 1.4). The Law could never give a person God’s divine nature within. All it could do was to reveal to the person his desperate need for God’s nature. So, when the believer goes back into the Law, he is denying the divine nature he has within, and he is giving the old nature (the flesh) the opportunity to do its work.

·         The son has a father, while the servant has a master. No servant could ever say “Father” to his master. When a sinner trusts Christ, he receives the Holy Spirit within, and the Spirit tells him he is a child of the Father (Rom. 8.15, 16). It is natural for a baby to cry, but not for a baby to talk to his father. When the Spirit enters the Heart, He says, “Abba, Father;” and in response the believer cries “Abba, Father!” (Rom 8.15) One opinion is that “Abba” is an Aramaic word which is the equivalent of the English word “papa.” This shows the closeness of the child to the Father. No servant has this closeness to his master.

·         The son obeys out of love, while the servant obeys out of fear. The Spirit works in the heart of the believer to increase his love for God. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the LOVE OF GOD is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5.5). “But THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5.5). The Judaizers told the Galatians that they would become better Christians by submitting to the law, but the Law can never produce obedience. Only love can do that. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14.15).

·         The son is rich, while the servant is poor. We are both “sons and heirs.” And since we are adopted—placed as adult sons in the family—we may begin to draw on our inheritance right now. God has made available to us the riches of His grace (Eph. 1.7; 2.7), the riches of His glory (Phil. 4.19), the riches of His goodness (Rom. 2.4), and the riches of His wisdom (Rom. 11.33)—and all the riches of God are found in Christ: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell . . . IN WHOM ARE HID ALL THE TREASURES of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 1.19; 2.3).

·         The son has a future, while the servant does not. While many kind masters did provide for their slaves in old age, it was not required of them. The father always provides for his son: “. . . for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children (2 Cor. 12.14).


In one sense, our adoption is not yet final, because we are awaiting the return of Christ and the redemption of our bodies—“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODY” (Rom. 8.23). Some scholars think this second stage in our adoption corresponds to the Roman practice when a man adopted someone outside his family to be his son. At first there was a private ceremony at which the son was purchased; then there was a public ceremony at which the adoption was declared openly before the officials.

Christians have experienced the first stage; we have been purchased by Christ and indwelt by the Spirit. We are awaiting the second stage; the public declaration at the return of Christ when “we shall be like Him” (1 John3.1-3). We are “sons and heirs,” and the best part of our inheritance is still ahead of us (1 Pe. 1-5).

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