Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
SUBJECTION TO THE
CAME, FROM THE
SUBJECTION OF AN
WILL TO THE
THEM TO THE
BE UNDER THE
SHOWN BY THE
1-7. The fact of God's sending His Son to redeem us who were under
and sending the Spirit of His Son into our hearts
confirms the conclusion
that we are "heirs according to the promise."
It is not, as in earthly inheritances, the death of the father, but our
Father's sovereign will simply that makes us heirs.
child--Greek, "one under age."
differeth nothing, &c.--that is, has no more freedom than a slave
(so the Greek for "servant" means). He is not at his own disposal.
lord of all--by title and virtual ownership
1Co 3:21, 22).
2. tutors and governors--rather, "guardians (of the person) and
stewards (of the property)." Answering to "the law was our schoolmaster"
until the time appointed of the father--in His eternal purposes
The Greek is a legal term, expressing a time defined by
law, or testamentary disposition.
3. we--the Jews primarily, and inclusively the Gentiles also. For
the "we" in
plainly refers to both Jew and Gentile believers. The Jews in
their bondage to the law of Moses, as the representative people of the
world, include all mankind virtually amenable to God's law
(Ro 2:14, 15;
compare Note, see on
Even the Gentiles were under "bondage," and in a state of discipline
suitable to nonage, till Christ came as the Emancipator.
were in bondage--as "servants"
under the elements--or "rudiments"; rudimentary religion
teaching of a non-Christian character: the elementary lessons of
outward things (literally, "of the [outward] world"); such as the
legal ordinances mentioned,
(Col 2:8, 20).
Our childhood's lessons [CONYBEARE and HOWSON]. Literally, The letters of the alphabet
4. the fulness of the time--namely, "the time appointed by the Father"
Compare Note, see on
"The Church has its own ages" [BENGEL]. God does
nothing prematurely, but, foreseeing the end from the beginning, waits
till all is ripe for the execution of His purpose. Had Christ come
directly after the fall, the enormity and deadly fruits of sin would
not have been realized fully by man, so as to feel his desperate state
and need of a Saviour. Sin was fully developed. Man's inability to save
himself by obedience to the law, whether that of Moses, or that of
conscience, was completely manifested; all the prophecies of various
ages found their common center in this particular time: and
Providence, by various arrangements in the social and political, as
well as the moral world, had fully prepared the way for the coming
Redeemer. God often permits physical evil long before he teaches the
remedy. The smallpox had for long committed its ravages before
inoculation, and then vaccination, was discovered. It was essential to
the honor of God's law to permit evil long before He revealed the full
remedy. Compare "the set time"
was come--Greek, "came."
sent forth--Greek, "sent forth out of heaven
from Himself" [ALFORD and
BENGEL]. The same verb is used of the Father's
sending forth the Spirit
Compare with this verse,
his--emphatical. "His own Son." Not by adoption, as we are
nor merely His Son by the anointing of the Spirit which God sends into
made of a woman--"made" is used as in
"The first man, Adam, was made a living soul," Greek,
"made to be (born) of a woman." The expression implies a special
interposition of God in His birth as man, namely, causing Him to be
conceived by the Holy Ghost. So ESTIUS.
made under the law--"made to be under the law." Not merely as
and ALFORD explain, "Born subject to the law as a Jew." But "made"
by His Father's appointment, and His own free will, "subject to the
law," to keep it all, ceremonial and moral, perfectly for us, as the
Representative Man, and to suffer and exhaust the full penalty of our
whole race's violation of it. This constitutes the significance of His
circumcision, His being presented in the temple
(Lu 2:21, 22, 27;
and His baptism by John, when He said
"Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
5. To--Greek, "That He might redeem."
them . . . under the law--primarily the Jews: but as these were the
representative people of the world, the Gentiles, too, are included
in the redemption
receive--The Greek implies the suitableness
of the thing as
long ago predestined by God. "Receive as something destined or due"
Herein God makes of sons of men sons of God, inasmuch as God made of
the Son of God the Son of man [AUGUSTINE on Psalm
6. because ye are sons--The gift of the Spirit of prayer is the
consequence of our adoption. The Gentile Galatians might think, as the
Jews were under the law before their adoption, that so they, too, must
first be under the law. Paul, by anticipation, meets this objection by
saying, YE ARE sons, therefore ye need not be as children
under the tutorship of the law, as being already in the free state of
"sons" of God by faith in Christ
no longer in your nonage (as "children,"
The Spirit of God's only Begotten Son in your hearts, sent from, and
leading you to cry to, the Father, attests your sonship by adoption:
for the Spirit is the "earnest of your inheritance"
(Ro 8:15, 16;
"It is because ye are sons that God sent forth" (the Greek
requires this translation, not "hath sent forth") into
OUR (so the oldest manuscripts read for "your," in
English Version) hearts the Spirit of His son, crying, "Abba,
he changed from "them," the third person, to "we," the first person, so
here he changes from "ye," the second person, to "our," the first
person: this he does to identify their case as Gentiles, with his own
and that of his believing fellow countrymen, as Jews. In another point
of view, though not the immediate one intended by the context, this
verse expresses, "Because ye are sons (already in God's electing
purpose of love), God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your
hearts," &c.: God thus, by sending His Spirit in due time, actually
conferring that sonship which He already regarded as a present reality
("are") because of His purpose, even before it was actually fulfilled.
where "the children" are spoken of as existing in His purpose, before
their actual existence.
the Spirit of his Son--By faith ye are one with the Son, so that
what is His is yours; His Sonship ensures your sonship; His Spirit
ensures for you a share in the same. "If any man have not the Spirit of
Christ, he is none of His"
Moreover, as the Spirit of God proceeds from God the Father, so the
Spirit of the Son proceeds from the Son: so that the Holy Ghost, as the
Creed says, "proceedeth from the Father and the Son." The Father was
not begotten: the Son is begotten of the Father; the Holy
Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son.
crying--Here the SPIRIT is regarded as the
agent in praying, and the believer as His organ. In
"The Spirit of adoption" is said to be that whereby WE cry, "Abba, Father"; but in
"The SPIRIT ITSELF maketh intercession for us with groanings which
cannot be uttered." The believers' prayer is His prayer: hence arises
its acceptability with God.
Abba, Father--The Hebrew says, "Abba" (a Hebrew term), the
Greek, "Father" ("Pater," a Greek term in the original), both
united together in one Sonship and one cry of faith, "Abba, Father." So
"Even so ('Nai,' Greek) Amen (Hebrew)," both meaning the
Christ's own former cry is the believers' cry, "Abba, Father"
7. Wherefore--Conclusion inferred from
thou--individualizing and applying the truth to each. Such an
individual appropriation of this comforting truth God grants in answer
to them who cry, "Abba, Father."
heir of God through Christ--The oldest manuscripts read, "an
heir through God." This combines on behalf of man, the whole
before-mentioned agency, of THE
TRINITY: the Father sent His Son and the Spirit;
the Son has freed us from the law; the Spirit has completed our
sonship. Thus the redeemed are heirs THROUGH the
Triune GOD, not through the law, nor through
fleshly descent [WINDISCHMANN in
8-11. Appeal to them not to turn back from their privileges as free
sons, to legal bondage again.
then--when ye were "servants"
ye knew not God--not opposed to
The heathen originally knew God, as
states, but did not choose to retain God in their knowledge, and so
corrupted the original truth. They might still have
known Him, in a measure, from His works, but as a matter of fact they
knew Him not, so far as His eternity, His power as the Creator, and His
holiness, are concerned.
are no gods--that is, have no existence, such as their
worshippers attribute to them, in the nature of things, but only in the
corrupt imaginations of their worshippers (see on
1Co 10:19, 20;
Your "service" was a different bondage from that of the Jews, which was
a true service. Yet theirs, like yours, was a burdensome yoke; how then
is it ye wish to resume the yoke after that God has transferred both
Jews and Gentiles to a free service?
9. known God or rather are known of God--They did not
first know and love God, but God first, in His electing love,
knew and loved them as His, and therefore attracted them to the saving
knowledge of Him
Ex 33:12, 17;
God's great grace in this made their fall from it the more heinous.
how--expressing indignant wonder at such a thing being possible,
and even actually occurring
"How is it that ye turn back again?"
weak--powerless to justify: in contrast to the justifying
power of faith
beggarly--contrasted with the riches of the inheritance of
believers in Christ
The state of the "child"
is weak, as not having attained manhood; "beggarly," as not having
attained the inheritance.
elements--"rudiments." It is as if a schoolmaster should go back to
learning the A, B, C'S [BENGEL].
again--There are two Greek words in the original. "Ye desire again,
beginning afresh, to be in bondage." Though the Galatians, as Gentiles,
had never been under the Mosaic yoke, yet they had been under "the
elements of the world"
the common designation for the Jewish and Gentile systems alike, in
contrast to the Gospel (however superior the Jewish was to the
Gentile). Both systems consisted in outward worship and cleaved to
sensible forms. Both were in bondage to the elements of sense,
as though these could give the justification and sanctification which
the inner and spiritual power of God alone could bestow.
ye desire--or "will." Will-worship is not acceptable to God
(Col 2:18, 23).
10. To regard the observance of certain days as in itself
meritorious as a work, is alien to the free spirit of Christianity.
This is not incompatible with observing the Sabbath or the Christian
Lord's day as obligatory, though not as a work (which was the
Jewish and Gentile error in the observance of days), but as a holy mean
appointed by the Lord for attaining the great end, holiness. The whole
life alike belongs to the Lord in the Gospel view, just as the whole
world, and not the Jews only, belong to Him. But as in Paradise, so now
one portion of time is needed wherein to draw off the soul more
entirely from secular business to God
"Sabbaths, new moons, and set feasts"
answer to "days, months, times." "Months," however, may refer to the
first and seventh months, which were sacred on account of
the number of feasts in them.
times--Greek, "seasons," namely, those of the three great feasts,
the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
years--The sabbatical year was about the time of writing this Epistle,
A.D. 48 [BENGEL].
11. lest--Greek, "lest haply." My fear is not for my own sake,
but for yours.
12. be as I am--"As I have in my life among you cast off Jewish
habits, so do ye; for I am become as ye are," namely, in the
non-observance of legal ordinances. "The fact of my laying them aside
among Gentiles, shows that I regard them as
not at all contributing to justification or sanctification. Do
you regard them in the same light, and act accordingly." His observing
the law among the Jews was not inconsistent with this, for he did so
only in order to win them, without compromising principle. On the other
hand, the Galatian Gentiles, by adopting legal ordinances, showed that
they regarded them as needful for salvation. This Paul combats.
ye have not injured me at all--namely, at the period when I
first preached the Gospel among you, and when I made myself as you are,
namely, living as a Gentile, not as a Jew. You at that time did me
no wrong; "ye did not despise my temptation in the flesh"
nay, you "received me as an angel of God." Then in
he asks, "Have I then, since that time, become your enemy by
telling you the truth?"
13. how through infirmity--rather, as Greek, "Ye know that
because of an infirmity of my flesh I preached," &c. He implies
that bodily sickness, having detained him among them, contrary to his
original intentions, was the occasion of his preaching the Gospel to
at the first--literally, "at the former time"; implying that at
the time of writing he had been twice in Galatia.
also see on
His sickness was probably the same as recurred more violently
afterward, "the thorn in the flesh"
which also was overruled to good
(2Co 12:9, 10),
as the "infirmity of the flesh" here.
14. my temptation--The oldest manuscripts read, "your temptation."
My infirmity, which was, or might have been, a "temptation," or
trial, to you, ye despised not, that is, ye were not tempted by it
to despise me and my message. Perhaps, however, it is better to
punctuate and explain as LACHMANN, connecting it with
"And (ye know) your temptation (that is, the temptation to which ye
were exposed through the infirmity) which was in my flesh. Ye despised
not (through natural pride), nor rejected (through
spiritual pride), but received me," &c. "Temptation does not
mean here, as we now use the word, tendency to an evil habit,
but BODILY TRIAL."
as an angel of God--as a heaven-inspired and sent
messenger from God: angel means "messenger"
Compare the phrase,
a Hebrew and Oriental one for a person to be received with the highest
An angel is free from the flesh, infirmity, and
as Christ--being Christ's representative
Christ is Lord of angels.
15. Where, &c.--Of what value was your
congratulation (so the Greek for "blessedness" expresses)
of yourselves, on account of your having among you me, the messenger of
the Gospel, considering how entirely you have veered about since? Once
you counted yourselves blessed in being favored with my
ye would have plucked out your own eyes--one of the dearest members
of the body--so highly did you value me: a proverbial phrase for the
CONYBEARE and HOWSON think
that this particular form of proverb was used with reference to a
weakness in Paul's eyes, connected with a nervous frame, perhaps
affected by the brightness of the vision described,
"You would have torn out your own eyes to supply the lack of mine." The
divine power of Paul's words and works, contrasting with the feebleness
of his person
powerfully at first impressed the Galatians, who had all the
impulsiveness of the Celtic race from which they sprang. Subsequently
they soon changed with the fickleness which is equally characteristic
16. Translate, "Am I then become your enemy (an enemy in
your eyes) by telling you the truth"
(Ga 2:5, 14)?
He plainly did not incur their enmity at his first visit, and
the words here imply that he had since then, and before
his now writing, incurred it: so that the occasion of his
telling them the unwelcome truth, must have been at his second
The fool and sinner hate a reprover. The righteous love faithful
17. They--your flatterers: in contrast to Paul himself, who tells them the truth.
zealously--zeal in proselytism was characteristic especially of the
Jews, and so of Judaizers
affect you--that is, court you
not well--not in a good way, or for a good end. Neither the cause of their zealous courting of you, nor the manner, is what it ought
they would exclude you--"They wish to shut you out" from the kingdom of
God (that is, they wish to persuade you that as uncircumcised Gentiles,
you are shut out from it), "that ye may zealously court them," that
is, become circumcised, as zealous followers of themselves. ALFORD
explains it, that their wish was to shut out the Galatians from the
general community, and attract them as a separate clique to their own
party. So the English word "exclusive," is used.
18. good to be zealously affected--rather, to correspond to
"zealously court" in
"to be zealously courted." I do not find fault with them for zealously
courting you, nor with you for being zealously courted: provided
it be "in a good cause" (translate so), "it is a good thing"
My reason for saying the "not well"
the Greek is the same as that for "good," and "in a good cause,"
is that their zealous courting of you is not in a good cause.
The older interpreters, however, support English Version
always--Translate and arrange the words thus, "At all times, and
not only when I am present with you." I do not desire that I exclusively should have the privilege of zealously courting you. Others
may do so in my absence with my full approval, if only it be in a good
cause, and if Christ be faithfully preached
19. My little children--
My relation to you is not merely that of one zealously courting
(Ga 4:17, 18),
but that of a father to his children
I travail in birth--that is, like a mother in pain till the birth of
again--a second time. The former time was when I was "present with you"
compare Note, see on
Christ be formed in you--that you may live nothing but Christ, and
think nothing but Christ
and glory in nothing but Him, and His death, resurrection, and
20. Translate as Greek, "I could wish." If circumstances permitted
(which they do not), I would gladly be with you [M. STUART].
now--as I was twice already. Speaking face to face is so much more
effective towards loving persuasion than writing
3Jo 13, 14).
change my voice--as a mother
adapting my tone of voice to what I saw in person your case might need.
This is possible to one present, but not to one in writing [GROTIUS and ESTIUS].
I stand in doubt of you--rather, "I am perplexed about you," namely,
how to deal with you, what kind of words to use, gentle or severe, to
bring you back to the right path.
21. desire--of your own accord madly courting that which must condemn
and ruin you.
do ye not hear--do ye not consider the mystic sense of Moses'
words? [GROTIUS]. The law itself sends you away
from itself to Christ [ESTIUS]. After having
sufficiently maintained his point by argument, the apostle confirms and
illustrates it by an inspired allegorical exposition of historical
facts, containing in them general laws and types. Perhaps his reason
for using allegory was to confute the Judaizers with their own weapons:
subtle, mystical, allegorical interpretations, unauthorized by the
Spirit, were their favorite arguments, as of the Rabbins in the
synagogues. Compare the Jerusalem Talmud [Tractatu Succa,
cap. Hechalil]. Paul meets them with an allegorical exposition, not
the work of fancy, but sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. History, if
properly understood contains in its complicated phenomena, simple and
continually recurring divine laws. The history of the elect
people, like their legal ordinances, had, besides the literal, a
typical meaning (compare
1Co 10:1-4; 15:45, 47;
Just as the extra-ordinarily-born Isaac, the gift of grace according to
promise, supplanted, beyond all human calculations, the naturally-born
Ishmael, so the new theocratic race, the spiritual seed of Abraham by
promise, the Gentile, as well as Jewish believers, were about to take
the place of the natural seed, who had imagined that to them
exclusively belonged the kingdom of God.
(Ge 16:3-16; 21:2).
Abraham--whose sons ye wish to be (compare
a bond maid . . . a free woman--rather, as Greek, "the bond
maid . . . the free woman."
23. after the flesh--born according to the usual course of nature:
in contrast to Isaac, who was born "by virtue of the promise" (so
the Greek), as the efficient cause of Sarah's becoming pregnant out
of the course of nature
Abraham was to lay aside all confidence in the flesh (after
which Ishmael was born), and to live by faith alone in the
promise (according to which Isaac was miraculously born, contrary
to all calculations of flesh and blood).
24. are an allegory--rather, "are allegorical," that is, have
another besides the literal meaning.
these are the two covenants--"these [women] are (that is, mean; omit 'the' with all the oldest manuscripts) two covenants." As among the
Jews the bondage of the mother determined that of the child, the
children of the free covenant of promise, answering to Sarah, are free;
the children of the legal covenant of bondage are not so.
one from--that is, taking his origin from Mount
Sinai. Hence, it appears, he is treating of the moral law
Paul was familiar with the district of Sinai in Arabia
having gone thither after his conversion. At the gloomy scene of the
giving of the Law, he learned to appreciate, by contrast, the grace of
the Gospel, and so to cast off all his past legal dependencies.
which gendereth--that is, bringing forth children unto bondage.
Compare the phrase
"children of the covenant which God made . . . saying
Agar--that is, Hagar.
25. Translate, "For this word, Hagar, is (imports) Mount
Sinai in Arabia (that is, among the Arabians--in the Arabian
tongue)." So CHRYSOSTOM explains. Haraut, the
traveller, says that to this day the Arabians call Sinai, "Hadschar,"
that is, Hagar, meaning a rock or stone. Hagar
twice fled into the desert of Arabia
(Ge 16:1-16; 21:9-21):
from her the mountain and city took its name, and the people were
called Hagarenes. Sinai, with its rugged rocks, far removed from the
promised land, was well suited to represent the law which inspires with
terror, and the spirit of bondage.
answereth--literally, "stands in the same rank with"; "she corresponds
Jerusalem which now is--that is, the Jerusalem of the Jews, having only
a present temporary existence, in contrast with the spiritual Jerusalem
of the Gospel, which in germ, under the form of the promise, existed
ages before, and shall be for ever in ages to come.
and--The oldest manuscripts read, "For she is in bondage." As Hagar
was in bondage to her mistress, so Jerusalem that now is, is in bondage
to the law, and also to the Romans: her civil state thus being in
accordance with her spiritual state [BENGEL].
26. This verse stands instead of the sentence which we should expect,
to correspond to
"One from Mount Sinai," namely, the other covenant from the
heavenly mount above, which is (answers in the allegory to) Sarah.
Jerusalem . . . above--
"the heavenly Jerusalem." "New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of
heaven from my God"
(Re 3:12; 21:2).
Here "the Messianic theocracy, which before Christ's second
appearing is the Church, and after it, Christ's kingdom of
free--as Sarah was; opposed to "she is in bondage"
all--omitted in many of the oldest manuscripts, though supported by
some. "Mother of us," namely, believers who are already members of
the invisible Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, hereafter to be
thou barren--Jerusalem above: the spiritual Church of the Gospel,
the fruit of "the promise," answering to Sarah, who bore not "after
the flesh": as contrasted with the law, answering to Hagar, who was
fruitful in the ordinary course of nature. Isaiah speaks primarily of
Israel's restoration after her long-continued calamities; but his
language is framed by the Holy Spirit so as to reach beyond this to the
spiritual Zion: including not only the Jews, the natural descendants of
Abraham and children of the law, but also the Gentiles. The
spiritual Jerusalem is regarded as "barren" while the law trammeled
Israel, for she then had no spiritual children of the Gentiles.
break forth--into crying.
cry--shout for joy.
many more--Translate as Greek, "Many are the children of
the desolate (the New Testament Church made up in the greater part from
the Gentiles, who once had not the promise, and so was destitute
of God as her husband), more than of her which hath an (Greek,
'THE') husband (the Jewish Church having GOD for her husband,
Numerous as were the children of the legal covenant, those of the
Gospel covenant are more so. The force of the Greek article is,
"Her who has THE husband of which the other is
28. we--The oldest manuscripts and versions are divided between
"we" and "ye." "We" better accords with
"mother of us."
children of promise--not children after the flesh, but through the
(Ga 4:23, 29, 31).
"We are" so, and ought to wish to continue so.
29. persecuted--Ishmael "mocked" Isaac, which contained in it the
germ and spirit of persecution
His mocking was probably directed against Isaac's piety and faith in
God's promises. Being the older by natural birth, he haughtily prided
himself above him that was born by promise: as Cain hated Abel's piety.
him . . . born after the Spirit--The language, though referring
primarily to Isaac, born in a spiritual way (namely, by the promise or
word of God, rendered by His Spirit efficient out of the course of
nature, in making Sarah fruitful in old age), is so framed as especially
to refer to believers justified by Gospel grace through faith, as
opposed to carnal men, Judaizers, and legalists.
even so it is now--
Ac 9:29; 13:45, 49, 50; 14:1, 2, 19; 17:5, 13; 18:5, 6).
The Jews persecuted Paul, not for preaching Christianity in opposition
to heathenism, but for preaching it as distinct from Judaism. Except in
the two cases of Philippi and Ephesus (where the persons beginning the
assault were pecuniarily interested in his expulsion), he was nowhere
set upon by the Gentiles, unless they were first stirred up by the
Jews. The coincidence between Paul's Epistles and Luke's history (the
Acts) in this respect, is plainly undesigned, and so a proof of
genuineness (see PALEY, Horæ
Ge 21:10, 12,
where Sarah's words are, "shall not be heir with my son, even with
Isaac." But what was there said literally, is here by inspiration
expressed in its allegorical spiritual import, applying to the New
Testament believer, who is antitypically "the son of the free woman."
Joh 8:35, 36,
Jesus refers to this.
Cast out--from the house and inheritance: literally, Ishmael;
spiritually, the carnal and legalists.
shall not be heir--The Greek is stronger,
"must not be heir," or "inherit."
31. So then--The oldest manuscripts read, "Wherefore." This is the
conclusion inferred from what precedes. In
and Ga 4:7,
it was established that we, New Testament believers, are "heirs." If,
then, we are heirs, "we are not children of the bond woman (whose son,
according to Scripture, was 'not to be heir,'
but of the free woman (whose son was, according to Scripture, to be
heir). For we are not "cast out" as Ishmael, but accepted as sons and