Back to the Gospel | Overview of Galatians Chapter 4

The greatest blessing we enjoy as Christians is the ability to call God our Father. This may be a very difficult concept for some to comprehend. How can the creator of the universe be referred to as Father? This is part of the grand narrative of God. Through the Old and New covenants of the Bible, God has revealed Himself. Above all, He reveals Himself as the personal God, who is intimately pursuing His fallen creation. God demonstrates His pursuit of a fallen humanity through giving His son at just the right time (v. 4). Jesus redeemed us so that we could receive adoption as sons (v. 5). And now that Christ has redeemed us, God has sent the Spirit of His son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ (v.6). In other words, we have the Holy Spirit within us, which gives us a deep sense of God’s presence and a desire to practice His presence through prayer. Crying is a reference to prayer. Prayer is a divine act and it is God’s prescribed channel of communication with Him. Therefore, we are no longer slaves, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (v.7). What does this mean? It means that Christians are God’s adopted children, which have unhindered access to his entire inheritance.

Everyone has a former life. The Galatians had a former life. This former life was characterized by ignorance of God and slavery to those that are not God (.8). However, through the preaching and evangelistic efforts of the apostle Paul, the Galatians had come to know God. But what was more important is that they were known by God (v.9). It is easy to be thrilled by knowledge of God, but what is more exhilarating is that God knows us. God’s knowledge of us is the beginning of our coming into an ever-growing knowledge of Him. These believers tried to earn their salvation through observing days and months and seasons and years (v. 10). Verse 10 is obviously a reference to OT ritualistic observances. In and of themselves, these observances were not bad or wrong. At first reading, it would seem like Paul is saying not to observe these days. However, I would contend that Paul is saying the contrary. He is saying you can do them, but realize that your standing with God is not bolstered by your doing them. You will not gain brownie points with God because you do all the right things.

In verses 12-15, Paul recounts some physical condition that was a trial to the Galatian believers when he first preached the gospel to them. The exact nature of this illness is unknown, but many scholars assume the illness had to do with his eyes since he said that the believers would have gouged out their eyes and given them to him (v.15). One of my favorite verses is found in this passage – verse 19. In fact, verse 19 is the center of my philosophy of ministry and what I believe God is calling me to do as a pastor. Paul says that he was in anguish of childbirth until Christ was formed in the defecting Christians (v. 19). Until Christ is formed in you. This is God’s plan. It has been his plan all along. His plan is to form Jesus in me, in you, in us. Our lives totally shaped by Jesus Christ. Our practices, our thoughts, our habits, our lifestyles, our attitudes all shaped by Jesus. I want to see every member of my congregation shaped and formed in Jesus and Jesus in them. This blog exists for that purpose.

In verses 21-31, Paul uses the OT to make the case between the slavery of the flesh and the liberty of the Spirit. Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, and Sarah, the mother of Isaac represent these two ways of life. This is a allegory. On the one side, you have Hagar who is the slave woman. Ishamel is born to Abraham and Hagar out of the flesh. But Sarah’s son, Isaac is born by the promise of the Spirit. We are children of the promise. Slavery is not our destiny. Liberty through Jesus was our destiny before the world was created or even a thought in the mind of God. That is just how free we are and can be in Jesus.

Practical Takeaways

  1. Believers are heirs of God’s inheritance and have the gift of prayer as a sign of their sonship (vv.1-7)
  2. Jesus is being formed in us right now by the indwelling power of the Spirit of God (vv. 8-20)
  3. Refrain from following the dictates of the flesh, obey the Spirit who gives liberty (vv. 21-31)

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