4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 4:1–2
(Paul implies that children are beloved “slaves” in the household until they grow up and show adult maturity…This is the proper order for the family…as well as the proper paradigm of relationship between slave and master (the social reality of his world). Hence his equation of captivity with guardianship above. When a person holds absolute power over someone, under God he or she is obligated to act with wisdom, good will, mercy, compassion, and restraint at all times.)
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4:3
(Here Paul means the Law, for the Jews, and probably also implies pagan religious rituals for the non-Jewish converts in the Galatian church, but not sin: He is saying that until we have the Holy Spirit within, we necessarily require the heavy hand of the Law or the rituals and formalities of pagan worship (for what they may have been worth) from without to keep our passions and unholy ten-dencies in check.)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law 4:4 (A clear statement that Christ, until the resurrection and ascension, was a practicing Jew and that the record in the Gospels records this), to redeem (this is a direct allusion to the role of the kinsman/redeemer, which anyone familiar with the Old Covenant would have understood. (cf. Leviticus 25:25) It also would have resonated with the non-Jews because they were familiar with the practice of redeeming and freeing beloved slaves.) those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 4:5
(A beloved slave sometimes would be adopted as a son into the family of his former master and would be given the full rights and privileges of a biological son. Sometimes this meant the former slave would become the firstborn both du jure (by law) and de facto (in fact) and would be designated to receive the inheritance, as in the case where the master might be childless.)
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. 4:6–7
(Paul switches from plural to singular cases here and makes this an-alogy personal and individual to each of his readers. Each one of them as an individual has moved from being a minor child/slave with no rights and under an “overseer” to being a son in the household with the promise of inheritance. (Cf. Romans 8:17))
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 4:8–9
Human beings are created to be servants, to be in others-centered relationships. We are created to be servant sons of God, and to find our purpose and fulfillment in that service as we reflect and express the image of our Creator in which we have been framed. We are created to live in a symbiotic relationship with a spiritual source of life larger than and outside of ourselves. In right relationship to our Creator this servanthood is not in any way burdensome or restrict-ive, but rather it is liberating. No sentient being is happier or more fulfilled than when it is being and doing exactly what it is meant to be being and doing. But outside of that relationship we are not de-signed to function as independent self-directed beings.
It bears repeating: When our first parents rebelled and severed the spiritual bond between man and God that had sustained them in relationship with their Creator they began to wander without map or compass in a world already darkened by the presence of the first rebel, Lucifer, and those disgraced angels who had rebelled with him against God and suffered the banishment from the higher dimen-sions of Heaven with their intimacy of relationship with the Father into the realms that include man‘s dominion of Earth. No longer un-der the protection afforded them through Divine communion, Adam, Eve, and their children after them were without defense against such powerful spiritual forces.
The children of Adam are still designed to be servants, vessels meant to contain and to work in relationship with another, greater, Spirit. This has always been, as it is now with Christians, the Spirit of God. But for those who are in the world and do not know Christ, it defaults to the spirits of fallen angels… what the Bible refers to as demonization. This is what Paul is alluding to, for example, in 2 Timothy 2: 22-26 when he speaks about the devil being able to take persons “captive at his will” or “to do his will“. Demonization extends along a continuum from merely a nudge toward doing something self-destructive that we might have in our mind to full blown “demonic possession” where the will is overwhelmed by a male-volent entity; nevertheless every human being is subject to it. The Bible is clear in its statements that “the whole world lies in the wicked one” (1 John 5:19) and that he is “the prince of the power of the air” (A biblical term for the spiritual realm that intersects with the world of man.) (Ephesians 2:2)
Before a person becomes a spirit-filled follower of Christ, “born from above” John 3:3, he or she is unable to resist these dark forces, except perhaps for short periods and with mixed results. The lusts of the flesh will always drive them, through fixations upon material things or upon sensual fulfillments, into sins which become idolatries. Idolatries, whatever may be the form they take and whether or not they define themselves as “religious”, attract demonic “gods” that demand worship and work through the lust in the soul to addict the person to their obsession. They are “enslaved”. James 1:13-15 cf. Romans 1:18-32
After a person “meets the Lord”, this inexorable cycle is broken. But the believer does not become “independent”. In a very real sense he or she remains a slave. The New Covenant uses the word “doulos“, which means “bond-slave”, the most menial of slaves, chattel property, when it speaks of believers in Christ. However, the new believer is no longer a slave to sin, and through sin to Satan. He or she is now a slave to Christ and through Christ to God the Father. The Bible uses such phrases as “slaves to righteousness” and similar expressions.
Our first act as we repent is to surrender unconditionally to a victor-ious conquering King to become His prisoners of war, which meant in the days of the Bible download to us, His slaves. Beyond this the scriptures develop the word picture of the beloved slave who is adopted as a son into the household and becomes an heir to the riches of the inheritance. In the biblical worldview, a son carried on in the legacy of a father, walking in loyal obedience while the father lived and, with honor and respect for the work that his fathers before him had accomplished, then building upon the foundations that those who had gone before him had laid down. He was always a servant son.
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, 4:9 (1 Corinthians 8:3; 2 Timothy 2:19)
I noted earlier that in this deliberate remark Paul is revealing his deeper theology of the “soul seeking” loving God. There is poem by Francis Thompson, a tortured genius and opium addict found and redeemed by the Lord, published in 1893 that speaks of this inex-orable pursuit:
The Hound of Heaven
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat – and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet –
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me’.
I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of His approach would clash it to:
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateway of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clanged bars;
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden – to Eve: Be soon;
With thy young skiey blossom heap me over
From this tremendous Lover –
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue;
Or, whether, Thunder-driven,
They clanged his chariot ‘thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:-
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat –
‘Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.’
I sought not more after that which I strayed
In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature’s –
Share with me (said I) ‘your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured dais,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring’.
So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one –
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spumed of the wild sea-snortings;
All that’s born or dies
Rose and dropped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful divine;
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine:
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
These things and I; in sound I speak –
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts of her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
And past those noised Feet
A voice comes yet more fleet –
‘Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.’
Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou has hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee;
I am defenceless utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o’ the mounded years –
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have cracked and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amarinthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must –
Designer infinite! –
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippins stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields
Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
Be dunged with rotten death?
Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
‘And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited –
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’
how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 4:9
To Paul it makes no sense that someone who has experienced the liberty and the joy of the Kingdom would chose to return to a life of bondage. But for some it is easier to be enslaved than it is to be free. Slavery means freedom from responsibility for one‘s decisions and actions, from one‘s choices and the consequences of one‘s choices. Slavery means that you can pass the burden of blame onto someone else. In the movie, The Matrix, there is one character, Cypher, who desires to return to the dream, and in so doing imperils the lives of those who would live in liberty and in the truth outside the dream. He even kills to be able to return to the dream. In the end he, himself, is destroyed by the false promise of the dream. According to the parables of the Lord, and in many other places throughout the New Covenant writings, there is a significant number out of those who hear the Gospel message who for many varied reasons turn back to the world from which it calls them to escape. According to the Parable of the Soils, this number may be as high as seventy-five percent, which is appalling, considering the reward awaiting those who follow after the Lord. Such is both the compelling strength and the insanity of deception.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily , and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:8-10
This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—”Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:14-23
the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:19-21
You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. 4:10–11
Paul now broadens his appeal to both the Galatian Jews who had begun to experience the liberty of Christ and to the Galatian Gentile believers who were beginning to question their liberty and to drift back into the practices of ritual Judaism under the persuasions of the Judaizers…
Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. 4:12
(Become free in Christ‘s liberty as I have shown you by my own life in Christ: Remember, I am …I was… as Jewish as anyone could possibly be Philippians 3:4-6 , but when I came to you I became one of you… I did not ask you to become a Jew: I taught you to be free. Now I ask you to return to the freedom I demonstrated to you by my own life among you. “Follow after me as I follow after the Lord!”) 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1 (my paraphrase)
You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 4:12–15
(Paul seems to be saying that when he first came to the Galatians, apparently as a very sick man, they warmly embraced him: Had he not been ill, he seems to be saying that it had not been his intention to stop in the region. They took him in, ministered to him and in return he shared the Lord with them, and there was sweet fellowship between them in full Holy Spirit liberty, but now, and without good cause, Paul was being spoken of as an enemy by a faction of them, and those false brethren who had come from Jerusalem were hardening the Galatian church into a legalistic pseudo-Christian sect.)
Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 4:16–17
(They want to gather you into a closed group around themselves so that they can claim you as their own, make a trophy out of you.)
It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 4:18–19
Paul was an intercessor who carried in his heart those who he mid-wifed into the Kingdom. He was in constant prayer throughout his life doing spiritual battle as a watchman over his many fellowships, for specific individuals, and seeking the heart of God as he wrote his letters.
I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? (Torah/Pentateuch) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. 4:21–24
This is one of the sections of scripture that we know we can assign deeper spiritual meaning to because it assigns that deeper meaning to itself. The scriptures are inspired revelation from God and as such do embody meaning far more profound than that which lies on their surface. In many places we are given clear indications that such deeper meaning exists in the body of the text; In other passages we must wait humbly upon the Lord and employ time tested and proven methods of study to “mine” the treasures of the Word to avoid spin-ning off into error and vanity. A specific portion of these methods of study belong to the Church exclusively and reach beyond merely human scholarly disciplines, but all time-proven critical tools of intelligent scholarship also apply, for the text of scripture as well consists of documents written by the hand of man (2 Peter 1:20). In no case will we discover the Truths of God by our own striving: If we use our own minds and our own methods unaided by the Holy Spirit as the primary guide and interpreter of His words to contrive to shape the revelation of God and His plans we will inevitably “wrest the scriptures to our own destruction” 2 Peter 3:16 and fall into error.
Paul now, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, interprets the allegory. In an allegory every object or event is assigned a consistent specific significant meaning:
One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia (the place where the Law was given); she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, (Religious Judaism = Old Covenant) for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above (Spiritual Judaism = Christianity= New Covenant) is free, and she is our (The Israel of God mentioned below) mother. For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” 4:24–27 (Isaiah 54 and the surrounding chapters) (2 Peter 1:19)
That which is written before, the prophetic stream of the Old Cov-enant, is given to us to both as a lamp that can be a guide into the future, when the Lord chooses to use it as such, and more often as a seal of authenticity and a guarantee that He is keeping His word and moving steadily forward according to His plans and purposes. It is not a Ouija board or a crystal ball given to us for our amusement or to satisfy our curiosity. The prophetic spirit is the testimony of Jesus Christ, of His victory over sin and death, of His ascendancy to the Throne of Creation and of the coming of His Kingdom and His right-eous rule. (Revelation 19:10) Paul here pegs the legitimacy of the Church to a particular declaration by Isaiah, again proving that the Judaizers had a clear foreknowledge available to them of the Truth they were now opposing, and that therefore they were without ex-cuse before God.
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, (Isaac is a type of the Church and his biography should be studied with this in mind) are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh (Esau is a type of the Judaizer, the religious law, the anti-Christ spirit) persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 4:28–29
(By referencing Isaac and Esau in this way, Paul extends the allegory into the story of Israel and the children of Esau, which today has become the Israel/Arab conflict and is also the larger conflict between Judaeo/Christianity and Islam. This age-long conflict is a visible sign of spiritual realities, and what is occurring in the natural is both a shadow of more substantial spiritual things; the tip of a metaphysical iceberg, and a timepiece indicating where in God‘s timetable events are as His purposes are outworking.
Because Paul extended the allegorical interpretation forward in this way, we who hunger after all that God would offer should feel free to approach our study of the scriptures with these “spiritual” interpretations also in our view. But not arbitrarily; There are disciplines and guidelines for contemplative bible study which have protected those who would pursue the deep things of the Spirit of the Lord, and which, when abandoned or ignored, expose spiritual persons to great errors and dangers. Our long history is littered with the cremains of far too many who have pursued wrongly the deep things of God and have fatally failed in their quest because of one or another personal flaw left undealt with before the Lord… “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life” 1 John 2:16 .
Humility and contrition of soul are first among these disciplines, as are diligence in rightly dividing the Word of God… and in making a full and complete understanding of our most holy faith the most important pursuit of life.)
But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” (Genesis 21:10, John 8:35) So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. 4:30–31
There can be no compromise with the religious spirit. The liberty of Christ cannot co-exist with legalism. And a compromise will always end with the triumph of Law, because it is Liberty that is flexible and that tends toward tolerance, while legalism will never yield ground. But here Paul is saying that Liberty should be the pro-active and aggressive force in a fellowship where Law is trying to invade and take territory: It is Liberty that should cast out Law, not Liberty that should leave or submit.
When a fellowship begins to move into the Life of the Spirit, and when there is a group in that fellowship who begin to resist that move, then they first should be encouraged in love to enter in to the Life, but if they continue to resist the Spirit, then they must be turned away from the fellowship so that their influence does not quench the move or cause conflict and division in the body. And if they are so entrenched that they cannot be moved, only then should those who are free in the Spirit, in a spirit of love and good-will (as much as lies within them), pack up and go elsewhere to prevent the legalistic leaven from infecting and poisoning their freedom in the Lord.