4:1-7–Paul Explains the Two Stages of “Sonship”

Paul Explains the
Two Stages of “Sonship”



“Now I say, {that} the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;”

This verse is really a continuation of the last verse of chapter 3 (3:29), and there is no break in the thought from that previous verse.  Whoever divided these chapters did not know what he was doing.  These chapters should never have been divided here.  Paul is now showing that there is a difference between a child and a son.  He is showing that it takes time for an infant (newly born into a family) to develop into an independent son.  He is going to use this as an illustration of the person who has been under the Law.

         “Now I say, {that} the heir, as long as he is a child,”
         Literally:  “But I say, ‘Over so long a time the heir is an infant”

         Although, by his father's will, he is to be heir of all his possessions, yet till he arrive at the legal age he is master of nothing, and has not more rights than a babe in arms would have.  This Greek word rendered as “child” literally means, “an infant;” that is, “one that does not talk, a minor, an infant” (Roberts N.T. Word Pictures). 
         Paul uses this word to describe someone under the Law. He is treated as an immature person.  An adult is old enough to control his own actions, however, a child must have restraints put on him–and so it is in the spiritual world.  Israel under the Law was treated like a minor; under restraint

         “differeth nothing from a servant,”
         Literally:  “not different from a slave”

         That is, he has no more freedom than a slave (so the Greek word rendered as “servant” literally means slave). He is not at his own disposal.  He is not being at liberty either to either use or enjoy his estate.  Actually, the potential heir really has two problems:
1.     He cannot receive his inheritance as long as he is a child.  He must wait for the time when he will be formally viewed as mature; as a responsible son.
2.     In his childish condition, he really has no more authority than the lowliest slave.

        a.     The slave has no inheritance, and neither does the childish heir.
        b.     The slave is in a state of subservience and obedience, and so is the childish heir.
3.     The childish heir must obey both the regulations of the house and the directions of his “tutors and governors”i.e., demagogues (v. 2). 

Paul uses this analogy to show that as long as a person put himself under obligation to the Mosaic Law he could never receive the spiritual inheritance.  By so doing, he discredited the main thrust of the Judaizers.

         “though he be lord of all;”
         Literally:  “he being lord of all”

         Proprietor of it all, at least potentially.  The word rendered as “lord” here is used in the sense of “owner” or “proprietor.”  The child is potentially the owner, but only after he has been officially acknowledged to have reached the age to be recognized as a man.
         In the Jewish world, on the first Sabbath after a boy had passed his 12th birthday, his father took him to the synagogue, or temple (before 70 AD), where he became a son of the Law (bar mitzva).  At that time, the father would say a blessing: “Blessed are you O God, Who has taken from me the responsibility for this boy.” The boy prayed a prayer in which he said:  “O my God and God of my fathers!  On this solemn and sacred day, which marks my passage from boyhood to manhood, I humbly raise my eyes to you, and declare, with sincerity and truth, that henceforth I will keep your commandments, and undertake and bear the responsibility of my actions towards you.”  This is the reason whyJesus was in the temple at age 12. 

“But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.”

         “But is under tutors and governors”
         Literally:  “But is under guardians and house-masters”

         The word rendered as “tutor”  is really referring to a slave, or freedman, to whose care the boy was committed, who trained him up, who accompanied him to school, or sometimes even instructed him at home; i.e., the “schoolmaster,” literally, the paedagogue referred to in 3:24.       
         The word “governor” is referring to the house-manager, or overseer, or steward over the household.  It properly refers to one who had authority over the slaves, or servants, of a family to assign them their tasks and positions.  The “governor” also had the management of the affairs of the household, and even of the accounts.  Such persons also had charge of the young sons of a family, especially in respect to monetary matters, and were different from “tutors.”

         “until the time appointed of the father.”
         Literally:  “until the {time} set before by the father”

         This refers to the time when the father decides that the boy is responsible enough to be recognized as an adult.  It is then that that the boy becomes legally the heir to the father’s estate.

“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:”

         “Even so we,”
         Literally:  “So we also”

         The “we” to whom Paul refers to here are Jews–the Jewish people were in a state of nonage while under the Law; the covenant people of God before the advent of Christ.  There are reasons for concluding that this is restricted to only Jews:
1.     The Gentiles had no such a relation to the law and promises of God referred to here.
2.     Such an interpretation would not fall into Paul’s design.
        He is stating reasons why they should not be subjection to the laws of Moses; and his argument is, that that condition was like that of non-age or minority.

         “when we were children,”
         Literally:  “when we were infants (minors); when we were immature ones”

         In our minority, under the legal dispensation; under the Old Testament dispensation. When the people of God were treated as if they were in their minority, and subjected to the many restraints from which the gospel freed them.  The idea is, that they were in a state of non-age; and though heirs, yet were under severe discipline and regimen. They were under a kind of government that was fitted to that state, and not to the condition of those who had entered on their inheritance.
        Before the epoch of faith came and we (Jews) were under the Law as paedagogue, (guardian, steward), to use all of Paul's metaphors.

         “were in bondage”

         Literally:  “being enslaved”

In a state of servitude; treated as servants or slaves.

            “under the elements of the world:”
            Literally:  “under the elements of the world”

“The elements of the world”–This is a Jewish phrase, "the principles of this world;" that is, the rudiments or principles of the Jewish religion.  The Greek word rendered as “elements” would have been better translated as “rudiments,” referring to the Mosaic rites and ceremonies, so-called as containing, in comparison with the gospel of Christ, only the first elements of religion, even when rightly used. 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.  They were so perverted by the false teachers, that they fed the spirit of worldly confidence, and made those who trusted in them carnal, instead of spiritual.  


“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law.”

            “But when the fullness of the time was come,”
            Literally  “But when the fullness of time came”

This is referring to the full time appointed by the God the Father; the completion (filling up), of the designated period for the coming of the Messiah.  The sense is, that the time which had been prophesied, and when it was proper that He should come, was complete. The exact period had arrived when all things were ready for His coming. 

This phrase could also be read as, “until the appointed time,” or, “at the completion of the term.”  The latter more accurately presents the idea that Paul is putting forth.  The “time” here probably corresponds to the period mentioned in the prophecies, such as that referred to by Daniel in his prophecy of “Seventy Weeks.”

“God sent forth His Son,”
Literally:  “God sent for His Son”

This implies pre-Bethlehem existence of the Son of God before His incarnation– The Savior is often represented as sent into the world, and as coming forth from God–“I came forth from the Father and am come into the world:  again I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John 16:28).

         He did not become the Son of God at His human birth, baptism, crucifixion and resurrection; rather, He was, is and always will be the eternal Son of God.  He was the One who did the actual creating; the One who created Adam in His own image (John 1:1-3; Co. 1:16-17).  Within the Tri-Une oneness of the God-Head there is an equality of Persons; however, there is a voluntary subordination of function to carry out the divine counsel.  God the Father sent the Son.  Afterward, when Christ ascended back into Heaven, He in turn, sent the Holy Spirit (the Comforter), John 16:7.

         “made of a woman,”
         Literally:  “having become out of a woman”

In human nature; born of a woman. This statement would be meaningless if Jesus were merely a human man; therefore, this also implies that he had another nature than that which was derived from the woman. This statement also declares that He was miraculously made of the substance of a woman–made of a virgin, without the concurrence of a man.  Produced by the power of God in the womb of the virgin Mary without any intervention of man; hence He was called the Son of God.

            “made under the Law.”
            Literally:  “having come under Law”

            Being born of a Jewish mother, He was born under the Law, He grew up under the Law, He ministered under the Law, and He was crucified under the Law to fulfill the Law.  He said that He came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it (Matt. 5:17).  He was circumcised at the age of eight days according to the Law (Luke 2:21); presented at the age of forty days according to the Law (Luke 2:22) and took a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at Passover when He was twelve (Luke 2:41-52).  In His adult ministry He never once violated the Law.
           Jesus died under the penalty of the Law which we broke, and in paying our penalty, He delivered us from any claims which the Law had against us.  He died under the Law, and in His resurrection was raised into a realm where the Law as a legalistic system does not exist.  This He did, in order that He might not only deliver us from the Law, but also raise all believers with Himself into a realm where the Law does not operate.  As a result, instead of being immature children (infants) under Law, we become adult sons under grace.  We receive the adoption of adult sons (v. 5).

“To redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons”

            “To redeem them that were under the Law,”
           Literally:  “That He might redeem the ones under Law”

           The word used here for “redeem,” (exagoradzo), occurs in the New Testament only in this place, and in 3:13; Eph. 5:16.

        “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us:  for it is written, ‘Cursed {is} every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).             “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).

           It literally means, “to buy out of the market place; and properly means, to purchase, to buy up; and then to set free. Here it means, that Christ had purchased and set us free from the curse of the Law, by His being made a curse for us.
         Christ has bought us with a price; i.e., His own blood, or life.  The Greek word used here for “redeemed,” literally means “ransomed,” and is not that which is usually employed in the New Testament to denote redemption. This Greek word (exagoradzo) is employed in the proper sense of redeem; to purchase.  It properly means, “to purchase, to buy up; and then to purchase any one, to redeem, to set free.”

         In ancient Roman times there was a certain group of benevolent women who would go down into the slave markets of Rome and purchase slaves and then turn around and set them free.  Here it means, that Christ has purchased us and set us free from the curse of the Law, (i.e.,  from the slave markets of sin)  by His being made a curse for us. This Greek word exagoradzo [ex (out of) agoradzo (to purchase in the market place)] was the term used by these benevolent women when they purchased a slave from the market place and set him free.
            Christ redeemed them (the Jews) from the curse of the Law, and from that low, servile state  that the Law imposed upon them. He bought them off from the necessity of observing such requirements as circumcision, offering bloody animal sacrifices, performing different ablutions, etc., etc..

How can one know that he is a son of God.  Are there any real evidences of that  fact that he is no longer a spiritual non-child under supervision?  The opening phrase in verse 6, “Because ye are sons,” introduces us to two main spiritual realities that exist in every genuine Christian.  They are results of the sonship which already exists and actually confirm that position.

“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

         “And because ye are sons,”
         Literally:  “And because you are sons”

         As a result of your being adopted into the family of God, and being regarded as His sons, it follows as a part of His purpose of adoption that you, as one of His children, should have His Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.
        It is possible that 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. But Paul seems to have anticipated this argument and meets it by saying, “YE ARE sons,” therefore you do not need to be as children (v. 1) under the tutorship of the Law, because you are already in the free state of “son” of God by virtue of your faith in Christ (3:26); therefore, you are no longer in a state of non-age (as “children,” (v. 1).

         “God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts,”
         Literally:  “God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts”

         The Spirit of God's only Begotten Son is already in your hearts, sent from the Father Himself, and leading you to cry to, the Father; He attests your sonship by adoption: for the Spirit is the “earnest of your inheritance” (Rom 8:15,16; Eph.1:13). “It is because ye are sons that God sent forth” (the Greek requires this translation, not “hath sent forth”) into OUR  hearts the Spirit of His son, crying, “Abba, Father.”
         Unfortunately, even among Christians are afraid of being too sure of their sonship, lest they should be presumptuous; this is very dishonoring to their heavenly Father.

       A.    The Spirit is both the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son.
       B.    The Spirit was sent by both the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26).
       C.    The Spirit always glorifies the Son (John 16:14).
       A.    The Spirit Indwells the Inner Man (Eph. 3:16)
              “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His might by His Spirit in the inner man.”
       B.    The Spirit Indwels the Entire Body of the Believer (I Cor. 6:19-20).
              (sanctuary; holy place) of the Holy Ghost {which is} in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?     
              “For you are bought with a price: (the precious blood of Jesus Christ) therefore glorify God in your body, and in you spirit, which are God’s.”
       C.    It Is Impossible to be a son of God without Having the Sign of Sonship.
              “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9).

         The word “crying” in this verse refers to the Holy Spirit doing the crying, not the believer.However, in Rom. 8:15 we read, “…ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”The indwelling Holy Spirit causes the new son of God to exclaim the spiritual Fatherhood of God.

         “crying, Abba, Father.”
          The word “Abba” is Aramaic, but the word “Father” is the English rendering of the Greek word Pater.

“Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son:  and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

         Literally:  “Therefore; so that; as a result”

         As a result of this privilege of addressing God as your Father.

        “thou art no more a servant,”
        Literally:  “you no more are a slave”

You who have believed in Christ are no longer a slave, either under the dominion of sin or under obligation to the Mosaic ritual; but a son of God, adopted into the heavenly family.  Such an individual appropriation of this comforting truth God grants in answer to them who cry, “Abba, Father.”  Therefore live as such.  By faith possess and enjoy the treasure of divine grace.  Cast doubts and tremblings to the wind, for why should heirs of God live like bondsmen?

         Some interesting comparisons:

  1. The son has the same nature as the Father, but the servant does not.
  2. The son has a Father, but the servant has a Master.
  3. The son obeys out of love, but the servant obeys out of fear.
  4. The son has a future, but the servant does not.
  5. The son is rich, but the servant is poor.

The son enjoys the riches of grace (Eph. 1:7), goodness (Rom. 2:4) and wisdom (Rom. 11:33).  In fact, he possess all riches in Christ (Phil. 4:19). 

         “and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
       Literally:  “and if a son, also an heir of God through Christ.”

An heir of all the promises, and of the all-sufficient God himselfSonship caries within that relationship heirship.  Every believer is an “heir of God through Christ.”  All that belongs to the Father belongs to the Son, and all that belongs to the Son belongs to the believer in Him.  We have the right to the inheritance, being one of the family, for none can inherit but the children.  However, this heirship is the most extraordinary of all: it is not an heirship of any tangible possession, either in heaven or earth; it is not to possess a part or even the whole of either, it is to possess Him who made all things; not God's works, but God himself: heirs of GOD through Christ.

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