Galatians 4.21-31 – Strong Advice

Paul now wraps up his point of justification before God coming by faith alone in vv.21-31 and gives a Biblical example for the believers in Galatia. 

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not understand the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. But one, the son by the slave woman, was born by natural descent, while the other, the son by the free woman, was born through the promise. These things may be treated as an allegory, for these women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar. Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: 

“Rejoice, O barren woman who does not bear children; 

break forth and shout, you who have no birth pains, 

because the children of the desolate woman are more numerous 

than those of the woman who has a husband.”

But you, brothers and sisters, are children of the promise like Isaac. But just as at that time the one born by natural descent persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so it is now. But what does the scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the son” of the free woman. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.

(NET)

Paul gives an example of justification by faith using Sarah and Hagar. In the ancient world, the status of the mother had a large influence on the status of the son (vv.21-27). Paul is saying, simply, that one son is born under law, to the flesh, of the slave, whereas one was born of the free woman, through promise. 

He says that this can be viewed as representing a bigger truth: the two covenants between God and man. On the one hand is law, justification by works, living in the power of the flesh. On the other is living by the promises of God, being justified by faith alone, and living in the power of the Spirit. He then turns this to the Galatians,

But you, brothers and sisters, are children of the promise like Isaac.

(v.28)

Having made the big-picture point with a Biblical example, Paul now gets personal again. Urging the Galatians to remember that they are children of the promise like Isaac, he shows them that, look, as at that time the one born by natural descent persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so too are these law-bringing Judaizers making your life difficult. As these false teachers with their false doctrine are here represented by the slave woman and her son, Paul is saying pretty clearly that they ought to be thrown out. The churches in Galatia had no shared inheritance with false teachers and Paul’s position is pretty clear: law and grace are fundamentally incompatible and you, churches in Galatia, are under grace (v.31, cf. Romans 8.17).

For you and for me, this is not about cutting ties with anyone of a different worldview. Yes, talk to people who see the world differently from you. Your Christian, Jesus-focused lens on life is robust enough to withstand conversations and friendships with others who do not share it. In context, Paul is counselling the Galatians to remove false teachers from their midst, not to disavow anyone who thinks differently to them. When we reach a point in our lives when we have truly accepted the truth of God, of His Son, and we are living by the power of His Spirit, we are able to spot false teaching as false teaching, as Paul is doing here. Then the advice and counsel is much stronger: spend no time with nor pay any attention to them (cf. principle of 2 John 1.9-10). Yes, talk to people and spend time with people who see the world differently to you. But, never forget that you, brothers and sisters, are children of the promise.

Galatians 4.12-20 – Best Interests

Today Paul’s concern for the Galatians comes through even stronger than in 4.8-11.

He desperately wants them to become as I am (v.12). By this he means free from the shackles of law and the burden of working to justify yourself. Things started so well for the Galatians: they received Paul despite his poor physical condition (v.13), even as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus (v.14). In fact, things were going so well that Paul is sure that had the need arisen, the Galatians would have gouged out their eyes and given them to him (v.15). Some take this to mean that Paul had eye problems (2 Corinthians 12.7), others as a figure of speech to show intense dedication and emotional attachment. 

In contrast to the parental love that Paul felt for the Galatians (v.19), the Judaizing law-bringers sought to manipulate the believers back into bondage (v.17). How Paul wished he could be there to lovingly correct this new band of believers and protect them from the potential pitfalls (v.20).

The contrast between Paul’s pastoral heart for the Galatians and the manipulative flattery of the legalists is stark and one we would do well to note. Just pause and think of where and how you regularly hear the Word of God taught. 

  • Is it edifying or adding a burden?
  • Is there a connection between you and the teacher, or are they simply ‘doing a job’?
  • Is the teaching given to draw you closer to Christ or in order to explain rules and regulations you need to keep?
  • Is the teaching building you up emptily or showing you who you are in Christ?
  • Is there a consistency to the teaching or does it change week to week?

Paul knows the motivations and the methods of these Judaizing law-givers, and neither were in the best interests of the Galatians. If you find yourself part of a body of believers where you know someone cares for you with a pastoral heart like this, take a moment today and thank the Lord, because sadly many are not.

Galatians 4.8-11 – A Pastoral Plea

Today Paul’s concern for the Galatians comes through (along with some personal frustration) and we see just how strongly he felt for them in vv.8-11.

Formerly when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods at all. But now that you have come to know God (or rather to be known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You are observing religious days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you that my work for you may have been in vain. I beg you, brothers and sisters, become like me, because I have become like you. You have done me no wrong!

(NET)

Again Paul is reminding them that before they believed, they were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods at all. This could have included a vast and varied plethora of pagan gods (Acts 14.11-13, for example). At that point in their lives, the Galatians did not know God nor were they living like they were known by God (v.9). Formerly they were not saved and justified and they were certainly not living as if they were saved and justified. Paul is dismayed that now their salvation is before them, they are turning back again to the weak and worthless basic forces. He asks them if they wish to be enslaved to them all over again?

Nothing they can add to their faith will increase their standing before God (v.10), and Paul is seriously concerned that his work among them may have been in vain. He is worried that he has worked hard to explain and expound the Good News only for them to view it as something that needs to be added to with a pinch of paganism or a dash of special-day observance.

For you and for me, Galatians 4.8-11 can be seen as a heartfelt plea from a pastorally-hearted teacher of truth to his people: once you have started down this road of living by faith alone please, please, don’t turn back, don’t become enslaved all over again, don’t try and add your own works to the finished work of Jesus in order to bolster your standing before God, and please spare a thought for how this weighs on those who have taught you about the truth of Jesus. 

Galatians 4.1-7 – Sons and Heirs

Picking up imagery from 3.24-26, Paul now illustrates his point with situations that would really have resonated with the Galatians. 

He begins by saying that the heir of the promise – the churches in Galatia, you, and me – have no justification or rights in the family whilst we are in unbelief (v.1). The guardians and managers are there to keep a close watch over their charges and to safeguard the inheritance until the child is ready to inherit. Yesterday we said that this guardian or manager is the law (vv.24-26). Under Roman law at the time, a child was given a date set by their father when they would come to maturity, so to speak (v.2). Living under Roman law, the churches in Galatia would have instantly understood the picture Paul is painting here. As a Roman father sets a date for coming-of-age, so too your heavenly Father has set a date for your coming to faith and to inheritance. 

He then draws from the abstract example to the personal and says in v.3, so also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basic forces of the world. This is often taken to mean living under Mosaic law: “Oh ok, they were Jews, now Christians…”. But this cannot be the case. Most of them were Gentile believers (remember the Judaizing argument of “You need to be circumcised”?). Rather, basic forces seems to mean living in a childlike way. It seems to mean living simply ‘under the sun’ as Solomon might say, having no concern for the big picture truths of the world. 

But, Paul says, at the most perfect time imaginable, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights (vv.4-5). This really was the perfect time for Jesus to come. Donald K. Campbell writes,

“This “time” was when the Roman civilization had brought peace and a road system which facilitated travel; 

when the Grecian civilization provided a language which was adopted as the lingua franca of the empire; 

when the Jews had proclaimed monotheism and the messianic hope in the synagogues of the Mediterranean world”. 

Circumstances and situations had all been aligned to provide the perfect conditions for the Messiah to come, and news of Him to spread widely and quickly. 

Because of this then, because of His coming and your faith in Him, as Paul writes we now have the opportunity to be adopted as sons with full rights. Again, to the Roman-law-abiding churches in Galatia, this would have meant a great deal more than it does to us. It meant being accepted, included, a totally new way of living with totally new possibilities. 

So then, because of this Divine and human Messiah (v.4), by grace through faith you also have the Spirit of his Son, you are no longer a slave, and you are also an heir through God (vv.6-7). 

Have you truly understood and accepted just what is on offer to you by putting faith in Jesus? No longer do we have to live like children with an ignorance and innocence about the world which is fitting for a season, but wrong when we grow up. No longer are we slaves to our basic thoughts, feelings, and urges, but we can live as part of the family of God. We have the opportunity by grace through faith to live as part of the renewed creation, as those under the renewed covenant between God and man, and in a renewed way. We have the opportunity to live as a child of God and an heir of the promise. 

Daniel 7

Yesterday at Saar Fellowship we looked at Daniel 7. Often this kind of Old Testament text is used to give stern moral warnings, strong messages of “You should do this…You should avoid that…“. But, really, is that what they’re all about?


To listen to the full teaching, check our the Saar Fellowship Podcast wherever you get your podcasts!


So what does Daniel 7 mean in context, what did it all mean to God’s people at the time it was witnessed, written, and recorded? Well, it confirmed for them that they ought to be looking ahead and waiting for the Son of Man as the ultimate source of hope, not looking to the earthly empire currently ruling. Their whole national history and identity was plagued with leader after leader who let them down. To look within for a future hope would be, ultimately, fruitless. This wasn’t a new idea for them, the Son of Man, rather, it would be the culmination of all of their Jewish Messianic hopes that were rooted in Scripture and that went as far back as the book of Genesis. This royal ruler who would come and rule on earth as in heaven, with all the Divine authority of the One true God.

For you and for me then, how does Jesus fulfil or improve or change what happened here? We’re not God’s people in exile, are we, so how does this look in our lives today? Well, in reading Daniel 7 we’ve already seen Jesus fulfil, haven’t we?

I was watching in the night visions, 

And with the clouds of the sky

one like a son of man was approaching

He went up to the Ancient of Days 

and was escorted before him.

Jesus repeatedly referred to himself as the “Son of Man”.

Given how He spoke of Himself, Jesus saw that the text we call Daniel 7 is about the point in the future to which we all should look to draw hope for the coming of a new humanity that will finally realise the ideals that God has for His creation.  

That hope started right back at the beginning and here in Daniel 7 we see it’s future fulfilment. In between the history of Genesis and the prophetic future seen by Daniel, Jesus came and said, simply, “Look, this is me, I am how it is all going to come together: heaven and earth, past and present and future, Messiah, Christ, and human, God and man“.

As far back as Genesis 3, God made a promise (3.15) that a human, a man, would come one day. He would be the son of the woman, a son of mankind. He would crush the evil forces at work in the world, whilst at the same time being injured temporarily by them. This theme and motif then develops throughout the grand narrative of the Bible: we see glimpses of it in people like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, the Judges, David, Hosea, Esther, Boaz, in so many places! They were all the redeemer, the saviour, the leader for that season, but none of them were spoken about like this,

To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. 

All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. 

His authority is eternal and will not pass away.

His kingdom will not be destroyed.

And so God’s people were still waiting.

Daniel 7 is one of the most important Old Testament passages for our understanding of what Jesus is all about. Empires and earthly authority melt away before Him and He will join heaven and earth for all eternity.

What does this all mean for you today?

Daniel 7 shows you just how far into the future you need to be looking for hope. If you look at the next six months, the next year, the next ten years, it might look good or maybe even great.

It might look terrible. If you look a hundred years into the future, it will look very different.

If you look two hundred years down the line of time, none of us will be here. None.

Things then look very different, don’t they? How far into the future you look will determine, to a degree, what you do today.

If you take your eyes off the inevitable march of time and off the myriad of wonderings as to what will happen in six weeks, six months, a couple of years, a decade, or forty years, and you look beyond time itself, this is what you see: you see the events of Daniel 7. You see the events of the book of Revelation, you see all the things that you are told again and again and again when hearing the Word of God taught come to fruition. This then gives you a very different perspective on your ‘now’.

One big problem with modern day believers, with you and with me, is our short term mindset. We want things now, we are accustomed to instant gratification. If something cannot give us pleasure or serve our purpose immediately, we often discount it as not-quite-good-enough. Maybe you think you don’t have a short-term mindset: you know, “I’ve got a five year plan“. Great, good for you, but we are talking about eternity here, not five years. We are talking about when our abstract concept of time passes away and things just…are…We are talking about, as we read here today, forever and ever. Your five year plan will mean nothing to you then. So sure, have one now and be a planner: put plans and provisions in place should the worst happen. Be a good steward of all that God has blessed you with, but hold it all lightly, take your eyes off it all now and again and think bigger picture. As a believer your life is now eternal, so, believer, think eternally. Step back and see the bigger picture once in a while. In fact, do it more than once in a while. Do it often. Step back and see the panoramic view that is God’s plan for humanity and the immense hope that is at the pinnacle of that plan.

As Daniel (ch.7) and Nebuchadnezzar (ch.2) saw the same thing from different perspectives, how you look at the future will impact tremendously how you feel about it now, what you do about it, and how you live in the here and now.

How far into the future do I really need to look? To eternity.

How far away is your horizon? It should be infinite.

Why? Because the son of man has come on the clouds and has been seated at the right hand of God himself. There is a new way of thinking, of living, of doing life now.

Everything is going to be different as a result of this.

N.T. Wright

We have recorded here in Daniel 7 (but bigger picture in the whole of Scripture) what will happen in the future. Study it, learn it, take immense hope from it. If you have put your faith in Jesus then you are a part of it. Your future is not a source of anxiety, of unknown, of fear and trepidation. In His great love for you God has already told you what will happen. Take immense and unshakeable hope from that.