The Two Covenants.
SUMMARY.--Children, While Minors, Not Free.
So the Israelites Under the Bondage of the Law Until Christ Came.
Christ Frees From This Bondage.
The Folly of Gentiles Seeking This Bondage.
How the Galatians Had Once Welcomed the Gospel.
The Two Covenants, Hagar, and Sarah, and Their Significance.
1-3. That the heir, as long as he is a child. In the
last verse of chapter 3,
Paul speaks of heirs He now shows why the bondage of the Jewish law
preceded the gospel. Even an heir is not free when a child. It is
needful that he be controlled, even as though he were a servant. He is
under tutors and governors. The tutors had charge of his
person; the governors were stewards who
managed his estate. These had control until the time appointed by his
father in his will, that he should be free and have full charge.
3. Even so we. Both Jews and Gentiles. We were minors, children,
not yet delivered from bondage, since the time had not come appointed
by the Father.
Under the elements of the world. The law of Moses and whatever
law might be diffused among the heathen. The law of Moses was a
temporal law, having temporal promises.
4-6. When the fulness of time. The time appointed by the Father.
Made of woman, made under the law. Not only by taking upon
himself the nature of humanity, but also subjecting himself to our
5. To redeem them that were under the law. Those under bondage
need redemption in order to secure freedom. Paul has shown that those
under the law were in bondage. From this bondage Christ came to redeem
us. How the redemption was wrought is shown in
That we might receive. This "adoption of sons" is bestowed as a
gift. We cannot have it, and still be in bondage.
6. Because ye are sons. The spirit is bestowed not to make us
sons, but because we have become sons by the faith. See
Crying, Abba, Father. See notes on
Abba is simply the Syriac for father. It is found also
This spirit of adoption helps the son to realize that he is a son, and
to look up to God and to address him, if a Semitic, as Abba; if
a Greek as Pater; is an Anglo-Saxon, as Father.
7-9. Wherefore, thou art no more a servant. Because redeemed,
adopted as a son, having received the spirit of adoption.
If a son, then an heir. Compare
Heirs of a heavenly inheritance.
8. Howbeit, then. These Galatian brethren had been idolaters, and
had worshiped idols which were not gods at all. At that time they
knew not God, the true God, at all.
9. But now, after that ye have known God. Having learned the
knowledge of the true God.
Or rather, are known of God. God, himself, had sought them through
the gospel, and had offered them eternal life. They knew God because
God had taken note of them and sent them the gospel.
How turn ye again. How can they, known of God, called from the
bondage of those that are not gods
turn back again to bondage? The bondage referred to is that of the law.
They had been delivered from the bondage of idolatry, but were
relapsing into another bondage.
Weak and beggarly elements. Weak, because they have no spiritual
power to strengthen us; beggarly, because they have no rich promises
like the gospel; elements, because they belong to a rudimentary
condition, to an undeveloped state to the childhood of the race.
10-11. Ye observe days. These are specifications of how they
were "turning back" to the Jewish law. Compare
The days are the Jewish Sabbaths. The months are the new moons; the
are the Jewish festivals; the years are the Sabbatical years. In
observing these there was legal bondage to an obsolete system.
11. In vain. See notes on
12-16. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am. Literally, "Become
as I am." Come to my ground.
For I am as ye are. Rather, I become as ye are. I gave up my
bondage to Judaism, the religion of my fathers, and made myself as a
Gentile to Gentiles.
Ye did me no wrong. My complaint against you is not on personal
grounds. You have not wronged me.
13. Ye know how, through infirmity, etc. The Revision is
clearer. Some fact, not explained to us, but well known to the
Galatians, is referred to. It is implied that some physical weakness
caused him to preach in Galatia the first time. Perhaps he was passing
through and was stopped by an infirmity that prevented him from
The first time. This implies he had preached there more than
speak of two visits to Galatia.
14. And my temptation which was in my flesh. The Revision
follows the best manuscripts: "Your temptation, which was in my flesh."
His "infirmity" is meant. It was probably some malady which hindered
his work--might have disfigured him, and been a temptation to the
Galatians to ridicule and despise him. Probably
2 Cor. 12:7
refers to the same affliction. Both these allusions show that the
infirmity was one that he severely felt. But the Galatians
despised not, nor rejected him on that account, but received him
heartily, even as
an angel of God, God's messenger.
15. Where, then, is the blessedness? They then congratulated
themselves that Paul had come to them with the gospel.
I bear you record. So great was then their joy and sense of
obligation, that they could not do enough to show their gratitude.
Why, they would even have given him their own eyes!--a proverbial
expression denoting very strong devotion.
16. Am I, therefore, become your enemy, etc. Then, you were so
devoted to me; has the fact that I tell you the truth alienated you? It
is probable that he refers to truth told on his second visit.
17-20. They zealously seek you. The false, Judaizing teachers are
meant. They showed great zeal for them, but they were not seeking their
They would exclude you. Exclude you from the great body of
Gentile believers and bind you to their clique.
18. It is good to be zealously affected. To exhibit zeal and
feeling is a good thing. It was good to show this feeling when he was
present with them. But now it was changed in respect of himself. It was
only when he was present.
19. My little children. He addresses them very tenderly as their
Of whom I
travail in birth again. He is more than a father; he travails
for them as a mother. He had done so when they were converted; he did
not now again until they were so matured in Christ that they would
cling to the gospel.
20. I desire to be present. When present
they had shown warm feeling for him. He would now that they were face
To change my voice. To speak, not severely, as a letter would
sound, but tenderly.
I stand in doubt. Is perplexed by what he hears, and filled with
21-31. Tell me, ye that desire, etc. What troubled him was their
tendency to accept the obsolete law of Moses. He now addressed all such
a question. Will they hear the law itself?
22. A bondmaid. Hagar, whose child was Ishmael.
A freewoman. Sarah, whose child was Isaac.
23. Was born after the flesh. The son of the bondwoman was born
in the ordinary course of nature.
Was by promise. The son of Sarah was a child of promise, born
when she was long past the age of bearing children. See
Gen. 18:10, 14; 21:1, 2;
24. Which things are an allegory. Though literally true, the
facts had an allegorical interpretation. The two women and their
children were types.
Are two covenants. One, the bondwoman, represents the covenant
given at Sinai, the covenant of bondage. The other, the freewoman,
represents the covenant of Christ, the gospel.
25. For this Agar is Mount Sinai. Represents Sinai. This Mount
Sinai is in Arabia, the very home of Ishmael and his race. Some also
add that one name of the mountain is Hagar, but this is not certain.
Answereth to. Represents the earthly Jerusalem, under bondage,
bondage to the law herself, and also her children, as Hagar and her
child were under bondage.
26. But Jerusalem which is above is free. The freewoman and her
free child represent the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Christ.
Our mother. The mother of those in Christ.
27. For it is written.
In that connection the prophet speaks of the Babylonian bondage, of
Abraham and Sarah, and then of the deliverance, looking onward to the
glorious deliverance in Christ.
is all concerning Christ, and
speaks of the great deliverance.
Thou barren. Sarah, the type of the church, long childless.
The desolate. Sarah, or rather the church, that has more children
by far than the children of the old covenant.
28. Now we, brethren. As Isaac was the child of promise, so are
we, Gentile and Jewish Christians, of the promise to Abraham of a Seed
in which all nations should be blessed.
29. As he then that was born after the flesh persecuted. See
Ishmael persecuted Isaac. So the Jews still persecuted God's spiritual
children, the heirs of the promise. Paul "of the Jews had five times
received forty stripes
30. Cast out the bondwoman and her son. The allegory will hold
good still further. Abraham, when it was impossible that the two
families should get along in peace, cast out the bondwoman and her son.
So, too, the Jews, the children of the old covenant, had lost the
divine favor, and the children of the promise, whether Jews or
Gentiles, made heirs.
31. So then, brethren. This, then, is the conclusion. We
Christians are not children of the bondwoman, and are not under the
bondage of the law. Dr. Schaff contrasts the two covenants as follows:
Galatians 4Galatians 4Galatians 4Galatians 4
||The Old Covenant
||The New Covenant
||Mount Sinai in Arabia.
||Mount Sion Above.|
||The Earthly Jerusalem.
||The Heavenly Jerusalem.|
||To be Cast Out and Off.
||Heirs of the Inheritance.|