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Heirs According To Promise

Through the first three chapters of Galatians, Paul has defended the Gospel against false teachers called Judaizers.  He has given verifiable, personal, historical facts to show that he and the other Apostles were on the same page.  He writes what the true purpose of the Law is.  Paul begins the fourth chapter asking a familiar question, one that he continues to ask throughout the epistle.

Paul begins chapter 4 picking up where he left off chapter 3.  Paul had stated, at the end of 3, that  if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.  Being an heir is a new concept that Paul introduces.  It is not something that one would expect, especially if you have to live according to the law.  Paul continues, Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.  Children at this time were placed under the responsibility of slaves to basically raise until the time of adulthood.  This time differed from culture to culture.  Roman and Jewish custom was for this time to be after the first 12 years.  Greek culture said 18 years of age.  Regardless, the time was set by the father, at which point they would be considered adults.

So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage the elemental things of the world.  In the context that Paul is using, it seems that he means that man is held in bondage to the man-made religion that the world tends to create.  But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  It took the Son, doing the work under the Law that no one else could do, to redeem us and make us sons of the Father through adoption.

Because you sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  Being a child of the Father, adopted, means that we get more than just salvation.  We gain the Spirit of HIs Son, the Holy Spirit.  This is something that the Law cannot give us.  Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son an heir through God.  Just as a human child is fully an heir when he comes to age, so we become heirs when we come to Christ.

However, at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are not gods.  Paul seems to be indicating that when we were slaves before Christ, you were slaves to those which were not gods.  He seems to be indicating that demonic forces were in control of us prior to Christ.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?  Those elemental things, that man-made religion, seems to be demonic in nature and Paul asks an important question:  After becoming and heir of God through Christ and given the Spirit, why would you want to return to a religious system controlled by demons?

This makes no sense to Paul.  After being freed from legalism where You observe days and months and seasons and years.  Paul is concerned.  I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.  Paul worked hard to share the Gospel of Christ with the Galatians and now they are returning to their former lives.  It astounds him that anyone would do this.


1.  Before Christ, we are spiritual children who are held in bondage.  Christ frees us from this bondage.

2.  Christ makes us adopted children of God, heirs of the promise.  It is through this promise that we gain the Spirit.

3.  There is danger in returning to the life we had before Christ.  This would cause us to be living a life in vain.

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