Galatians 4



vs. 1-3 – The Church of God when a Minor - The apostle now passes to a new

phase of argument. He has used the similitudes of a testament, a prison, a school-

master, to mark the condition of believers under the Law; he now uses the similitude

of an heir in his nonage. The Galatians are here taught that the state of men under

the Law, so far from being an advanced religious position, was rather low and



1 “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a

servant, though he be lord of all;”  Now I say (λέγω δέ - lego de – yet I am

saying). A form of expression usual with the apostle when introducing a new

statement designed either to explain or make clear  something before said (compare

ch. 3:17;  5:16; Romans 15:8, according to the Received Text; I Corinthians 1:12.

So τοῦτο δέ φημι – touto de phaemi – but this I say; this yet I am averring ,

I Corinthians 7:29; 15:50). It is intended apparently to quicken attention:

"Now I wish to say this." In the present case the apostle designs to throw further

light upon the position taken in ch. 3:24, that God's people, while under the Law,                                                                                                                             

were under a bondage from which they have now been emancipated. Compare the

somewhat similar process of illustration adopted in Romans 7:2-4. In both passages

it is not a logical demonstration that is put forward, but an illustratively analogous

case in human experience. A metaphor, though not strictly an argument, yet frequently

helps the reader to an intuitive perception of the justness of the position laid down.

That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he

be lord of all (ἐφ ὅσον χρόνονὁ κληρονόμος νήπιός ἐστιν οὐδὲν διαφέερει δόλου

κύριος πάντων ὤν – eph hoson chronono klaeronomos naepios estin ouden diapheerei

dolou kurios panton on - so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a

bondservant, though he is lord of all. The article before κληρονόμος (heir), is the

class article, as before μεσίτηςmesitaes -  mediator (ch.3:20) - "an heir." In the

word νήπιοςnaepios – minor; child - the apostle evidently has in view one who as

yet is in his nonage - as in English law phrase, "an infant." In Roman law language,

infans is a child under seven, the period of minority reaching to twenty-five.

In Attic Greek, the correlate to one registered amongst "men" was a παῖς – pais –

child; boy. It does not appear that the apostle means to use a technical legal expression.

He contrasts νήπιος (child) with ἀνὴρ – anaer – man in I Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians

4:13-14. "Differeth nothing from a bond-servant;" i.e. is nothing better than a

bond-servant, as Matthew 6:26; 10:31; 12:12. The verb διαφέρειν – diapherein –

seems used only in the sense of your differing from another to your advantage,

so that τὰ διαφέροντα – ta diapheronta - are things that are more excellent. "Lord,"

"proprietor;" the title to the property inheres in him, though he is not yet fit to handle it.


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

But is under tutors and governors (ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστὶ καὶ οἰκονόμους – alla

hupo epitropous esti kai oikonomous - but is under guardians and stewards. Ἐπίτροπος

- epitropos – guardian; tutor; steward - is, in Greek, the proper designation of a minor's

guardian; as, for example, is shown by Demosthenes's speeches against Aphobus, who

had been his ἐπίτροπος. These speeches also show that the ἐπίτροπος was entrusted with

the handling of the property of his ward. Yet, as οἰκονόμος – oikonomos – chamberlain;

governor; steward -  more especially denotes one entrusted with the management of

property, it should seem that Paul uses the former term with more especial reference

to the guardian's control over the person of his ward. The ward has to do what the

ἐπίτροπος, guardian, thinks proper, with no power of ordering his actions according

to his own will; while, on the other hand, the youth is not able to appropriate or

apply any of his property further than as the "steward" thinks right; between the

two he is bound hand and foot to other people's control. The plural number of

the two nouns indicates the rough and general way in which the apostle means to

sketch the case; speaking in a general way, one may describe a minor as subject

to "guardians and stewards." Until the time appointed of the father (ἄχρι τῆς

προθεσμίας τοῦ πατρός – achri taes prothesmias tou patros – until the time

purposed of the father). The noun προθεσμία prothesmia – time; term, properly an

adjective, ὥρα – hora – hour; time or ἡμέραhaemera – day; time -  being understood,

is used very commonly to denote, either a determined period during which a thing is to

be done or forborne, which is its most ordinary sense (see Reiske's 'Lexicon to

Demosthenes'); or the further limit of such a period, whence Symmachus uses it

to render the Hebrew word for "end" in Job 28:3; or, lastly, a specified time at

which a certain thing was to take place, as, for example, Josephus, 'Ant.,' 7:04, 7,

"When the (προθεσμία) day appointed for the payment came." This last seems to

be the meaning of the word here, though it admits of being taken in the second

sense, as describing the limit of the child's period of nonage. The somewhat loosely

constructed genitive, τοῦ πατρόςtou pateros -  "of the father," may be compared

either with the διδακτοὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ - didaktoi tou Theou - "taught of God" (John 6:45),

or, in a somewhat different application, "the chastening and admonition of the Lord"

(Ephesians 6:4). In reference to the whole case as stated by the apostle, it has been

asked - Is the father to be conceived of as dead, or as only gone out of the country,

or how? It is sufficient to reply that "the point of the comparison" - to use Bishop

Lightfoot's words - "lies, not in the circumstances of the father, but of the son;"

and, further, that to supplement the description which the apostle gives by

additional particulars not relevant for the purpose of the comparison would only

tend to cloud our view of its actual import. In fact, any image taken from earthly

things to illustrate things spiritual will inevitably, if completely filled out, be found

to be in some respects halting. Another inquiry has engaged the attention of

commentators, as to how far the particular circumstance, that the period of nonage

is made dependent upon the father's appointment, can be shown to agree with actual

usage as it then obtained. It would seem that no positive proof has hitherto been

alleged that such an hypothesis was in strict conformity with either Greek or Roman

or Hebrew law. And hence some have had recourse to the precarious and far-fetched

supposition that St. Paul founds his thesis on Galatian usage, arguing that such would

have been in accordance with that purely arbitrary control which, according to

Caesar ('Bell. Gall.,' 6:19), a paterfamilias exercised over wife and children among

the kindred tribes in Gaul. The scruple, however, now referred to arises from

supposing that we know more about the facts than we really do know. So far as

has been shown, we cannot tell what was really the precise rule of procedure

which, in the case described by the apostle, prevailed either in Judaea, or in

Tarsus, or in Galatia; nor again from what region of actual experience St. Paul

drew his illustration. We, therefore, have no possible right to say that the case which

he supposes was not fairly supposable. On the contrary, when we reflect how open

the apostle's mind was for taking note of facts about him, and how wide and varied

his survey, we may safely rest assured that his supposed case was in reality framed

in perfect accordance to the civil usage, to which the Galatians would understand

him to refer. At the same time, it must be conceded that, amongst different modes

of arranging a minor's case which actual usage permitted or may be imagined to

have permitted, the apostle selected just that particular mode which would best

suit his present immediate purpose.


3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of

the world:”  Even so we (οὕτω καὶ ἡμεῖς – houto kai haemeis – thus also we; so we

also). This "we" represents the same persons as before in ch. 3:13, 24-25 (see notes),

namely, the people of God; a society preserving a continuous identity through

successive stages of development, till now appearing as the Church of Christ. The

plural pronoun recites, not individuals, but the community viewed as a whole, having

the now subsisting "us" as its present representatives. Individually, Christians in general

now, and many of those who then when the apostle wrote belonged to the Church, never

were in the state of nonage or bondage here referred to. It is, however, notwithstanding

this, quite supposable that St. Paul's account of the history of the whole society is in

some degree tinted by the recollection of his own personal experiences. When we

were children (ὅτε ῆμεν νήπιοι – hote aemen naepioi – when we were minors); that is,

when we were in our nonage. The phrase is not meant to point to a state of immaturity

in personal development, but simply to the period of our being withheld from the full

possession of our inheritance. This is all that the course of thought now pursued

requires; and we only create for ourselves superfluous embarrassment by carrying

further the parallel between the figuring persons and the figured. The spiritual

illumination enjoyed by the Christian Church, compared with that of the pre-Christian

society, presents as great a contrast as that of a man's knowledge compared with a

child's; but that is not the point here. Were in bondage under the elements (or,

rudiments) of the world (ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου η΅μεν δεδουλωμένοι – hupo ta

stoicheia tou kosmou aemen dedoulomenoi – under the elements of the system were

having been enslaved; were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world; or,

were under the rudiments of the world brought into bond-service). This latter way of

construing, separating η΅μεν (were) from the participle δεδουλωμένοι (having been

enslaved) to connect it with the words which precede, is recommended by the parallel,

which the words, "were under the rudiments of the world," then present to the words,

"is under guardians and stewards," in v. 2; while the participle "brought into bond-

service" reproduces the notion expressed by the words, "is no better than a bond-

servant," of v. 1. The participle "brought into bond-service," then, stands apart,

in the same way as the participle "shut up "does in ch. 3:23. This, however, is only

a question of style; the substantial elements of thought remain the same in either

way of construing. The Greek word στοιχεῖα (elements) calls for a few remarks,

founded upon the illustration of its use given by Schneider in his 'Greek Lexicon.'

From the primary sense of "stakes placed in a row," for example, to fasten nets upon,

the term was applied to the letters of the alphabet as placed in rows, and thence to

the primary constituents of speech; then to the primary constituents of all objects

in nature, as, for example, the four "elements" (see II Peter 3:10, 12 ); and to the

"rudiments" or first "elements" of any branch of knowledge. It is in this last sense

that it occurs in Hebrews 5:12, "What are the (στοιχεῖα) rudiments (of the beginning,

or) of the first principles of the oracles of God" (on which compare the passage from

Galen quoted by Alford at the place). This must be the meaning of the word here;

it recites the rudimental instruction of children, as if the apostle had said "under

the ABC’s, of the world." This is evidently intended to describe the ceremonial Law;

for in v. 5 the phrase, "those under the Law," recites the same persons as are here

described as "under the rudiments of the world;" as again the "weak and beggarly

rudiments," in v. 9, are surely the same sort of “rudiments" as are illustrated in

v. 10 by the words, "Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years." Since

the Law under which the people of God were placed was God's own ordinance, we

must infer that, when it is here designated as "the ABC’s, of the world," the genitive

can neither denote the origin of these rudiments nor yet any qualification of moral

pravity (wrong, bad, literally crooked), but only the qualification of imperfection

and inferiority; that is, it denotes the ceremonial institutions of the Law as

appertaining to this earthly material sphere of existence, as contrasted with a

higher spiritual sphere. Thus "the ABC’s of the world" is an expression as nearly

as possible identical with that of "carnal ordinances" (literally, ordinances of the

flesh), used to describe the external ceremonialism of the Law in Hebrews 9:10;

which phrase, like the one before us, is used with a full recognition, in the word

"ordinances" (δικαιώματα - dikaiomata), of the Law as of Divine appointment,

while the genitive "of the flesh" marks its comparative imperfection. They were,

as Conybeare paraphrases, "their childhood's elementary lessons of outward things."

This designation of Levitical ceremonies as being an ABC’s or "rudiments, of the

world," appears to have become a set phrase with the apostle, who uses it again

twice in the Colossians (Colossians 2:8, 20), where he appears, if we may judge

from the context, to have in view a (perhaps mongrel) form of Jewish ceremonialism

which, with circumcision (mentioned in v. 11), conjoined other "ordinances"

 (δόγματα – dogmata - decrees) mentioned in vs. 14, 20, relating to meats and

drinks and observance of times, illustrated in vs. 16, 21. This, he tells the Colossians,

might have been all very well if they were still "living in the world" (v. 20); but now

they were risen with Christ! - with Christ, who had taken that "bond" (χειρόγραφον –

cheirographon - handwriting, ver. 14) out of the way; and therefore were called to

care for higher things than such merely earthly ones as these. Some suppose that

the apostle has reference to the religious ceremonialisms of the idolatrous Gentiles,

as well as those of the Mosaic Law. These former ceremonialisms belonged, indeed,

to "the world," both in the sense above pointed out and as tinged with the moral

pravity characterizing the "present evil world" (see ch. 1:4) in general. But these

cannot be here intended, forasmuch as it was not to such that God's people were

by His ordinance subjected. The other rendering of στοιχεῖα - "elements" - which

the Authorized Version puts into the text, but the Revised Version into the margin,

was probably selected in deference to the view of most of the Fathers, who, as

Meyer observes, took the Greek word in its physical sense: Augustine referring it

to the heathen worship of the heavenly bodies and the other cults of nature;

Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Ambrose to the new moons and sabbaths of the Jews,

viewed as determined by the motions of the sun and moon; Jerome, however,

interpreting it rudimenta discipliner. On the other hand, in Colossians 2:8, 20,

both of our Versions have "rudiments" in the text and "elements" in the margin;

in II Peter 3:10, 12, "elements" only. "Brought into bend-service" (δεδουλωμένοι –

dedoulomenoi), namely, by the act of the Supreme Father imposing upon us the

yoke of His Law.



The heir is “under guardians and stewards.” This subjection is necessary to

ensure that he should not misapply his powers or waste his property.


  • The heir is no better than a bond-servant, who is secured in food and

            clothing such as his master may allow him, but he has no more power of

            independent action than the bond-servant. He can do no act except through

            his legal representative. The guardian watches over his person; the steward

            over his property. The Law is here represented as filling this double place

            in relation to Old Testament believers.


  • The heir is under training, for he is “in bondage under the elements of

            the world.” (v. 3)


ü      It was a burdensome condition; for the Levitical ordinances

      gendered to bondage;” “a yoke,” says Peter, “which neither

      we nor our fathers were able to bear” -  very exacting in its

      demands and ineffectual in the result.  Every duty was minutely    

      prescribed, and nothing left to the discretion of worshippers, as

      to worship, labor, dress, food, birth, marriage, war, trade,

                        tax, or tithe.


ü      The education was limited to “the elements of this world;” to

                        elementary teaching through worldly symbols — the fire, the

                        altar, the incense, the blood-shedding - having reference to things

                        material, sensuous, and formal, rather than to things spiritual. Thus

                        the Church in its minority had outlines of spiritual truth suited in a

                        sort to its capacity. The elements in question were “weak and

                        beggarly,” (v. 9) - though those of the Jews were much superior to

                        those of the Gentiles, because they were appointed by God


  • The Period of Discipline was to be Temporary – “until the time appointed

            of the father”  The father’s will was to be supreme in the whole transaction.

            The Church was not always to be under Law. The fulness of time was to end

            the nonage of the Church. Believers were not, therefore, to be always



4 “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

(ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου – hote de aelthen to plaeroma tou chronou –

but when the completion of the term (Greek, time) came. "The completion of the term"

is the notion answering to "the time appointed of the father" in v. 2. The "time"

(χρόνος – chronos) here most probably corresponds to the period terminated by

the προθεσμία (day appointed – v, 2): that is, it is the interval which God ordained

should first elapse. So Acts 7:23, Ὡς δὲ ἐπληροῦτο αὐτῷ τεσσαρακονταετὴνς χρόνος –

Hos de eplaerouto auto tessarakontaetaens chronos - "When he was well-nigh forty

years old;" literally,"When there was being completed to him a time of forty years"

(compare also ibid. v.30; ch.24:27; Luke 1:57; 21:24;). The substantive

(πλήρωμα – plaeroma - completion occurs in the same sense in Ephesians 1:10,

"Dispensation of the completion of the times." The apostle might apparently

have written ὡς δὲ ἐπληρώθη ὁ χρόνος – hos de eplaerothae ho chronos

but when the term was completed; but he prefers to express it in this particular

form, as coloring the idea with a certain pathos of solemn joy at the arrival of a

time so long expected, so fraught with blessing (compare the use of the verb

"came" in ch. 3:25). Why the supreme Disposer, the Father of His people, chose

that particular era in the history of the human race for His children's passing into


been said, as for example by Neander and Guerieke in their Histories of the Church,

and by Schaff in his History of the Apostolic Church, on the preparedness of the

world at large at just that juncture for the reception of the gospel. It may, however,

be questioned whether the apostle had this in his mind in the reference here made

to the Divine prothesmia προθεσμία (timing) . So far as appears, his view was

fastened upon the history of the development of God's own people, which up to

this time had been under the pedagogic custody of the Mosaic Law. Indeed,

in just this context he does not even advert, as he may be supposed to have done

in ch.3:24, to the effect produced by the Law in preparing God's own people for

the gospel, but speaks only of the negative aspect of the legal economy; that is,

of those features of "bondage," "powerlessness," and "poverty" which marked

it as a state of oppression and helplessness. The training, probably implied in the

reference to its "rudiments," stands back for the present out of view; the only notion

which is actually brought prominently forward being the comparatively degraded

condition in which the child-proprietor was for that while detained. God sent forth

His Son (ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὑτοῦ - exapesteilen ho Theos ton huion

autou - God delegates His Son). The terms here used require to be very closely

considered: they arc fraught with the very essence of the gospel. The compound

verb ἐξαποστέλλω  (send) occurs in nine other places of the New Testament, all of

them in Luke's Gospel and the Acts. In six of these (Luke 1:53; 20:10-11; Acts 9:30;

17:14;  22:21) the ἐξ - ex is well represented in our English Bible by "away." In the

remaining three (Acts 7:12; 11:22; 12:11) - "(Jacob) sent forth our fathers first;"

"They sent forth Barnabas as far as to Antioch;" "God hath sent forth his angel")

the preposition represented by "forth" expresses with more or less distinctness the

idea that the person sent belonged intimately to the place or the society of the person

who sent him. In no one passage is it without its appreciable value. The verb

ἀποστέλλω (dispatch; send) , without this second prepositional adjunct of ἐξ, is

used, for example, in John 17:18, both of the Father sending the Son and of Christ

sending His apostles" into the world," but without putting forward this indication

of previous intimate connection. So the verb πέμπω - pempo - is used in like manner

of God sending His Son in Romans 8:3, and of the mission of the Holy Spirit in

John 14:26. It was, no doubt, optional with the writer or speaker whether he would

employ a verb denoting this particular shade of meaning present in the ἐξ or not;

but we are not, therefore, at liberty to infer that, when he chooses to employ a verb

which does denote it, he uses it without a distinct consciousness of its specific force.

In the clause before us, therefore, as also in v. 6, the writer must be assumed to have

had in his mind at least the thought of heaven as the sphere of existence from which

the Son and the Spirit were sent, as in Acts 12:11 above cited, if not of some yet

closer association with the Sender. The reference to a previously subsisting intimacy

of being between the Sender and the Sent, which we trace here in the preposition ἐξ

of the compound verb, is in Romans 8:3, where the verb employed is πέμψας -

pempsias - , indicated in the emphatic reference implied in the pronoun ἑαυτοῦ -

heatou - of self; His - "sending His own Son." In endeavoring next to determine

the import of the expression, "His Son," as here introduced, we are met by the

surmise that the apostle may have written it proleptically, or by anticipation; that is,

as describing, not what Christ was before He was sent forth, but the glory and

acceptableness with the Almighty which marked Him as the Messiah after His

appearing in the world; for when, for example, in another place the apostle writes,

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," he must be understood as

expressing himself proleptically, designating the person who came into the world

by the name and office which He bore as among men, and not as He was before

He came. A proleptic designation is therefore conceivable. But this interpretation

of the apostle's meaning is resisted by the tendency of the context in the kindred

passage in Romans 8:3, "God sending His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin;"

for those added words betoken very strongly that Christ was viewed by the apostle as

having been God's Son before He appeared in the flesh. And such is the impression

which a reader not preoccupied with other ideas would naturally receive also here.

The conviction that this is what the apostle really intended is corroborated by

references which he elsewhere makes to Christ's pre-incarnate existence and work;

as, for example, in Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 1:15-16; the latter of which passages,

by describing "the Son of God's love" as "the Firstborn of every creature, because

by Him all things were created" (see Alford, and the 'Speaker's Commentary' on the

passage), betokens that St. Paul regarded Him as having been even then the

"Son of God;" and this, too, in the sense of derivation from "the substance of the

Father, ... begotten" (as the Nicene Creed recites) "of His Father before all worlds."

We may, therefore, reason, ably believe that the Apostle Paul, whose views alone

are now under consideration, recognized these two senses of the term, namely, the

theological and the Christologieal, as inseparably blending into one when thus applied

to the Lord Jesus; for we must allow that it appears alien to his manner of sentiment

and of representation to suppose that he ever uses it in the purely theological sense only.

In the view of the apostle Christ was the "Son of God," not only when appointed to be

the Messiah, but also before he was "made to be of a woman." Indeed, it should seem

that this conception of His person is just that which forms the basis for the subsequent

statement that the object of his coming into the world was to procure the adoption of

sons for us. Made of a woman (γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός - genomenon ek gunaikos -

made to be of a woman; becoming out of woman. This, indeed, was probably the sense

intended by King James's translators, when they followed Wicklife and the Geneva

Bible in rendering "made of a woman;" whilst Tyndale and Cranmer, followed by

the Revisers of 1881, give "born of a woman." Just the same divergency of renderings

appears in the same English translations in Romans 1:3, "made of the seed of David

(γενομένον ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβίδ - genomenon ek spermatos David)," except that

Tyndale has "begotten" instead of "born." The difference in sense is appreciable

and important: "made" implies a previous state of existence, which "born" does not.

So far as the present writer can find, wherever in the New Testament the Authorized

Version has "born," we have in the Greek either τεχθῆναι - techthaenai  or γεννηθῆναι –

gennaethaenai -: γενέσθαι -  genesthai - never having this sense at all. As in ch. 3:13

(γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα - genomenos huper haemon katara - being made a curse

 for us, and in John 1:14 (ὁ Λόγος σάρξ ἐγένετο - ho Logos sarx egeneto -The Word

was made flesh; so here God's Son is described as "made to be of a woman," the phrase,

"of a woman," being nearly identical in import with the word "flesh" in John, distinctly

implying the fact of the Incarnation. The preposition "of" (ἐκ) denotes derivation of

being, as when it is found after the verb "to be" in John 8:47, "He that is of God;"

"Ye are not of God," pointing back to the claim which (v. 41) the Jews had made

that they had God for their Father. The construction of γίγνομαι - gignomai - to

come to be, with a preposition occurs frequently, as in Luke 22:44; Acts 22:17;

Romans 16:7; II Thessalonians 2:7. There can be no doubt that γενόμενον must be

taken in the next clause with the same meaning as here. Made under the Law

(γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον - genomenon hupo nomon - made to be under the Law.

The "Law" here, as in the clause immediately after "those under the Law,"

indicates, not Law in general, but that particular law of tutorship and of

domination over one as yet in the depressed condition of a minor, which the

apostle has just before spoken of; that is, a law of ceremonies and of external cult.

The article is wanting in the Greek, as in Romans 2:12, 23; here 2:21; 3:11, etc.

We cannot be unconscious of a tone of pathos in the apostle's language, thus

declaring that He who had before been no less august a being than God's Son,

should in conformity with His Father's will have stooped to derive being "from

a woman," as well as to become subject to such a Law of servitude as that of Moses

was. In the second chapter of the Philipplans we have a similar account of the

Incarnation, in which, with similar pathos, the apostle remarks that He took upon

Him the form of a "bond-servant" (δοῦλος - doulos), being made to be in the like

condition to that of men (ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γένομενος - en omoiomati

anthropon genomenos - in likeness of humans becoming); but in that passage the

line of thought does not lead to a definite reference of His being made subject to

the ceremonial Law. The apostle probably thinks of Christ as being made subject

to the Law by His being circumcised; a child of Israelite parents, so long as He

was uncircumcised, was repudiated by the Law as one not in the covenant. With

reference to the preceding clause, "made of a woman," we are naturally led to

inquire why this particular was specified. It does not appear to be essential to his

argument, as the next clause certainly is. Probably it was added as marking one of

the successive steps down which the Son of God descended to that subjection

("servitude," v. 3) to the ceremonial Law which the apostle is most particularly

concerned with. As in Philippians 2. He is exhibited, first as emptying Himself;

next, as taking upon Him the form of a bond-servant by being made man; and

then at length as brought to "the death of the cross;" so here, more briefly,

He appears as:


·         "sent forth" FROM THE BOSOM OF THE FATHER

·         next, as made "the son of a woman;"

·         then as brought under the Law,

·         to the end that (of course by the Crucifixion) He might buy off from under

     the Law those who were subject thereto.                                                                  


If the apostle intended anything more definite by introducing this first clause, it may

have been to glance at that fellowship with the whole human race, with all "born of

women" (γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν - gennaetois gunaikon - ones born of women, Matthew

11:11), into which God's own Son came by becoming Himself "of a woman"

(compare I Timothy 2:5). To refer to yet another point, we can fearlessly affirm that

this sentence of the apostle is perfectly consistent with the belief in the writer's mind

that our Lord was born of a virgin-mother, for a specified reference to this fact

did not lie in his way just at present, and therefore is not to be desiderated. The

only point for consideration in this respect is whether the expression employed

does at all allude to it. Many have thought that it does. But when we consider that

"one born of woman." γεννητὸς γυναικός, in Hebrew yelud isshah, was a set

phrase to denote a human creature (compare Matthew 11:11; Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4;

Job 11:12 [Septuagint]), with no particular reference to the woman except as the

medium of our being introduced into the world, it has been with much probability

judged by most recent critics that the clause shows no coloring of such allusion.

Nevertheless, we distinctly recognize in it the sentiment expressed in the familiar

verse of the ancient hymn: "Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti

virginis uterum;" else, why did not the apostle write γενόμενον ἐν σαρκί ορ

γενόμενον ἄνθρωπον - genomenon en sarki or genomenon anthropon?


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 (ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον ἐξαγοράσῃ -

hina tous hupo nomon exagorasae - ); that he might redeem (Greek, buy off) them

which were under the Law; that the ones under the Law He should be reclaiming.

In what way Christ bought God's people off, not only from the curse, but also from

the dominion of the Law, has been stated by the apostle above, at ch. 3:13, "Christ

bought us off (Ξριστὸς ἡμᾶς ἐξηγόρασεν - Christos haemas exaegorasen - Christ

us reclaims ) from the curse of the Law by being made on our behalf a curse"

(see note). But why, in order to effect this object, was it prerequisite, as it is here

implied that it was, that He should be Himself "brought under the Law"? The

directions which the Law in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 gave with respect to those

"hanged on a tree" were apparently held by Joshua (Joshua 8:29; 10:26-27)

to apply also to the case of persons so hanged who were not Israelites. If so,

does it not follow (an objector may say) that Jesus, even if not an Israelite under

the Law, would, however, by being crucified, have fallen under the curse of the Law,

and thereby annihilated the Law for all who by faith should become partakers with

Him, whether Jews or Gentiles? why, then, should He have been brought under the

Law? The objection is met by the consideration that, in order that Christ might

abrogate the Law by becoming subject to its curse, it was necessary that He

should Himself be perfectly acceptable to God, not only as being the eternal

"Son of His love," but also in the entire completeness of His life as a man, and,

therefore, by perfect obedience to the will of God as declared in the Law, under

which it had pleased God to place His people. The Law, whatever the degradation

which its ceremonial institute inferred for "the sons of God" subjected to it, was,

nevertheless, for the time, God's manifest ordinance, to which all who sought to

serve Him were bound to submit themselves. They could not be righteous before

Him unless they walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord

blameless (Luke 1:6). That we might receive the adoption of sons (ἵνα τὴν υἱοθεσίαν

ἀπολάβωμεν - hina taen hiothesian apolabomen - that the place of a son we may be

getting); that is, that our adoptive sonship might be actually and in full measure made

over to us. The "we" recites God's people; the same persons as those indicated by the

preceding phrase, "those which were under the Law," which phrase was not meant

to define one particular class among God's people, but to describe the condition in

which God's people had been placed. Their Father had put them under the Law

with the view of their being at His appointed time bought off from the Law

and admitted to the full enjoyment of their filial privileges. This purpose of their

Father, signified beforehand in the promises to Abraham, explains the article before

υἱοθεσίαν (adoption - the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does

not naturally belong): it was the adoptive sonship which had been guaranteed to them.

Hence the use here of the verb ἀπολάβωμεν (we may be getting, receiving) instead

of λάβωμεν (receiving): for the prepositional prefix of this compound verb has always

its force; generally denoting our receiving a thing in some way due to us, answering

to its force in the verb ἀποδίδωμι - apodidomi - repay: sometimes our receiving a

thing in full measure (compare Luke 6:34-35; 16:25; 18:30; 23:41; Romans 1:27;

Colossians 3:24;  II John 1:8). In Luke 15:27 it is receiving back one lost. The second

ἵνα (that) is subordinate to the first; the deliverance of God's people from the Law

was in order to their introduction into their complete state of sonship. The noun

υἱοθεσία (adoption) does not appear to occur in any Greek writer except St. Paul;

though θέσθαι υἱόν υἱὸς θετός, υἱόθετος ὁ κατὰ θέσιν πατήρ - thesthai huion hios

thetos, huiothetos ho kata thesin pataer - , are found in various authors. After the

analogy of other compound verbal nouns with a similar termination, it means first

the act of adoption, as, perhaps, Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:5; and then, quite

naturally, the consequent condition of the adopted child, as in Romans 8:15; 9:4;

and this seems its more prominent sense here. Romans 9:4 suggests the surmise

that the term had been in use before among Palestinian Jews, with reference to

Israel's state under the theocracy, and that St. Paul borrowed it thence with

reference to the Christian Church, in which it found a more complete realization.


The Fulness of Time with its Blessings (vs. 4-5)


This corresponds with “the time appointed of the father.” The nonage of the

Church was past. The world had arrived at mature age. A new dispensation was

at hand.


  • The Fitness of the Time -  The new dispensation was no abrupt

            phenomenon, for it came at the fittest time in the world’s history.

            Why God chose that particular era in the history of the human race for

            His children’s passing into their majority is a deeply interesting subject

            of inquiry.


ü      When all the prophecies of the Old Testament centered in

      Jesus Christ.  When the whole economy of type had done its work

      in preparing a certain circle of ideas in which Christ’s person and

      work would be thoroughly understood; when the Law had worked

      out its educational purpose.


ü      When a fair trial had been given to all other schemes of life. Not only

                        art and education, culture and civilization, but Divine Law itself, had

                        done their utmost for man, yet notwithstanding the knowledge of the

                        true God was almost lost among the heathen, and true religion had

                        almost died out among the Jews. The necessity of a new provision

                        was thus demonstrated.


ü      It was an age of peace, in which the world had a breathing-space for

                        thinking of higher things, in which the communications of the

                        Roman empire facilitated the progress of the gospel, and in which the                                

                        Greek language, (the most expressive of all time) being all but

                        universal, was ready to become the vehicle of the new revelation. Thus

                        the fulness of time was the turning-point of the world’s history, in

                        which Jesus Christ became its true Center. Thus, as Schaff says, the

                        way for Christianity was prepared by the Jewish religion, by Grecian                                 

                        culture, by Roman conquest; by the vainly attempted amalgamation of                               

                        Jewish and heathen thought; by the exposed impotence of natural                                   

                        civilization, philosophy, art, political power; by the decay of old

                        religions; by the universal distraction and hopeless misery of the

                        age; and by the yearning of souls after the unknown God.


  • The Mission of the Son – “God sent forth His Son.” These words

            imply the pre-existence as well as the Divine nature of Christ. The Son

            existed as a Divine Person with God before He came to be made of a

            woman. He was the eternal Son of God, as God the Father is the eternal

            Father. They are two distinct Persons, else the one could not send the

            other. He came, not without a commission, for the Father sent Him; and

            He came to do the Father’s will, and became “obedient unto death, even

            the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)


  • The True Humanity of the Son -  “Made of a woman.” This

            language implies the possession of a higher nature; for if the Son

            possessed no other than mere humanity, where would have been

            the necessity of saying that He was “made of a woman”? The

            phrase points significantly to His supernatural conception, for there

            is an exclusion of human fatherhood.  It is a significant fact that

            Mary is here called simply, not “virgin,” or mother of God,” but

            “woman;” just as John in the phrase, “the Word became flesh,” (John

            1:14) ignores the virgin-mother. There is nothing in Scripture to

            sanction the Mariolatry of the Church of Rome. The incarnation of the

            Lord is here represented as the deed of God the Father, as it is elsewhere

            spoken of as the Redeemer’s own act (2 Corinthians 8:9). Without His

            sharing in our humanity He could possess neither the natural nor the legal

            union with His people which is presupposed in his representative character.

            Thus he becomes the second Man of the human race, or the last Adam.

            We cannot be unconscious of a tone of pathos in the apostle’s language, thus        

            declaring that He who had before been no less august a being than God’s

            Son, should in conformity with his Father’s will have stooped to derive being     

            “from a woman,” as well as to become subject to such a Law of servitude as

            that of Moses was. In the second chapter of the Philippians we have a similar        

            account of the Incarnation, in which, with similar pathos, the apostle remarks

            that He took upon Him the form of a “bond-servant” (dou~lov), being made

            to be in the like condition to that of men (ejn oJmoiw>mati ajnqrw>pwn    ge>nomenov); 

            With reference to the preceding clause, “made of a woman,”

            we are naturally led to inquire why this particular was specified. It does not          

            appear to be essential to his argument, as the next clause certainly is. Probably

            it was added as marking one of the successive steps down which the Son of      

            God descended to that subjection (“servitude,” v. 3) to the ceremonial Law       

            which the apostle is most particularly concerned with. As in Philippians 2. He

            is exhibited, first as emptying Himself; next, as taking upon Him the form of a      

            bond-servant by being made man; and then at length as brought to “the death

            of the cross;” so here, more briefly, He appears as “sent forth” from the

            bosom of the Father; next, as made “the son of a woman;” then as brought        

            under the Law, to the end that (of course by the Crucifixion) He might buy

            off from under the Law those who were subject thereto.



  • His Place Under Law for Man - . “Made under the Law.” This

            clause affirms that He was made under the Law for the sake of those

            under Law, and therefore not from any personal obligation of His own.

            We were born under Law as creatures; He took His place under Law for

            the ends of suretyship. His subjection to the Law, as well as His mission,

            was in order for our redemption; the one was the way to the other, as appears        

            from the particle which connects the last clause of the fourth verse with the

            first clause of the fifth. Both Jews and Gentiles were under Law as the

            condition of life by the fact of birth (Romans 2:14; 3:9). The meaning of the         

            phrase is that He placed himself under Law with a view to that

            meritorious obedience by which we are accounted righteous (Romans

            5:19). Thus He fulfilled all the claims of the Law for us, both as to

            precept and penalty.


  • The Design of the Mission of the Son -  “To redeem them that were

      under the Law.” His object was to redeem both Jews and Gentiles from

      the curse of the Law, and from subjection to it. He was visited with the

      penal consequences of sin, with its curse and wagesChrist 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” (Galatians

      3:13).  The deliverance wrought for us was the result of purchase. Thus we

      are entitled to regard the cross of Christ as the fulfilment of the Law,

      the expiation of sin, the ransom of the Church, the sacrificial blood

      which brings us near to God in worship.


  • The Ultimate Result of the Redemption - “That we should receive the

      adoption of sons.” This does not mean sonship, but son position.

            Believers were even in Old Testament times true sons of God, but

            they were treated as servants. [Now they emerge into the true condition of

            sons. The adoption has three foundations:


ü      It is by free sovereign grace; for “we are predestinated to the

      adoption of children” (Ephesians 1:6).


ü      It is by incarnation, according to the text; it is by resurrection.

      Jesus, the Son, is the Form, the Fountain-head, the Fulness from

      which they all proceed.


ü      We are chosen to be sons in Him who is the eternal Son; we are

      regenerated by His Spirit; the basis and example of the work of

      sanctification is the Son of God, born into our nature by the same

      Spirit; and “the resurrection of the just,” which the apostle

      himself strives to attain (Philippians 3:11), and which is limited to

      the “sons of God” (Luke 20:36), has its type in Jesus, the

      First-begotten from the dead.


6 "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 (ὅτι δέ ἐστε υἱοί - hoti de este

hioi - that yet ye are sons). The apostle is adducing proof that God's people had actually

received the adoption of sons; it was because it was so, that God had sent into their

hearts the Holy Spirit, imparting that vivid consciousness of sonship which they

enjoyed. The fact of the adoption must have been there, to qualify them to be

recipients of this divinely inspired consciousness. The affirmation in Romans 8:16,

"The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God,"

closely resembles our present passage; but it is not identical. We are not made sons

(the apostle intimates) by the Spirit giving us the consciousness of sonship; but,

having been previously made sons, the Spirit raises in our spirits sentiments

answering to the filial relation already established. The position of the clause

introduced by "because" is like that in I Corinthians 12:15-16. The persons

recited by the "ye" are still God's people; not the Galatian believers in particular,

except as a portion of the whole Church of God. The apostle puts the thought in

this form to bring the truth more strikingly home to their minds. This he does more

closely still in the next verse by "thou." But that he has in view God's people as a

whole is clear, not only from the whole strain of the context, but also from the

phrase, "into our hearts," in the next clause. God hath sent forth (ἐξαπέστειλεν

ὁ Θεός - exapesteilen ho Theos - God sent forth; God delegates. The tense indicates

that the apostle does not refer to a sending forth of God's Spirit to each individual

believer, parallel to that "sealing" which believers are stated to be subjects of in

Ephesians 1:13. This historic aorist, as it does in v. 4, points to ONE PARTICULAR

EMISSION - that by which the Comforter was sent forth to take up His dwelling in

the Church as His temple THROUGH ALL TIME (John 14:16-17; Acts 1:4-5).

The Spirit of His Son. The Spirit which "anointed" Jesus to be the Christ; which

throughout animated the God-Man Jesus; which prompted Him in full filial

consciousness, Himself in a certain critical hour with loud outcry (μετὰ κραυγῆς

ἰσχυρᾶς - meta kraugaes ischuras - with strong crying; with stron clamor, Hebrews 5:7)

to call out, "Abba, Father!" The phrase, "His Son," is aetiological; by it the apostle

intimates that it was only congruous (in harmony with) that the Spirit which had

animated the whole life of the incarnate Son should be shed forth upon those who

by faith become one with Him, and should manifest His presence with them, as

well as their union with Christ, by outcome of sentiment similar to that which Christ

had expressed. Since the sonship of Christ is here spoken of as if it were not merely

antecedent, but also in some way preparatory to the sending forth of the Spirit, it best

suits the connection to construe it, not, as in v. 4, as that belonging to Him in His

pre-incarnate state of being, but as that which appertained to Him after being

"made to be of a woman," and in which His disciples might be considered as

standing on a certain footing of parity with Him. This harmonizes with the relation

which in the Gospels and Acts the sending of the Spirit is represented as holding

to His resurrection and ascension. The interpretation above given in one point

presupposes the apostle's knowledge of the story of the agony in the garden,

when, according to St. Mark (Mark 14:36), Jesus Himself used the words,

"Abba. Father." This presupposition is warranted, not only by the probabilities

of the case, but also by what we read in ch 5:7 of the Epistle to the Hebrews,

Pauline, certainly, if not actually St. Paul's. We have to add that the Gospels not

only make repeated mention of our Lord as addressing the Supreme Being by

the compellative of "Father," but also represent Him as constantly speaking

of God as bearing that relation both to Himself and to His disciples. This mode

of designating the Almighty was characteristic in the highest degree of Jesus, and

up to that time, so far as appears in the Scriptures, unknown. The manner in which

the apostle here speaks of the "sending forth" of the Spirit in close proximity to the

mention of the "sending forth" of the Son, strongly favors the belief that he

regarded the Spirit, as being also a personal agent. In Psalm 104:30 we have in

the Septuagint "Thou wilt send forth (ἐξαποστελεῖς – exaposteleis) thy Spirit,

and they will be created." In Psalm 43:3 and 57:3 God is implored to "send forth

(ἐξαπόστειλον - exaposteilon, Septuagint] His light and His truth," "His mercy

and His truth;" these being poetically personified as angelic messengers. Into your

hearts (εἰς τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν – eis tas kardias humon). But this reading of the

Textus Receptus is, by recent editors, replaced by the reading, εἰς τὰς καρδίας

ἡμῶν – eis tas kardias haemon - into our hearts, the other reading being regarded

as a correction designed to conform this clause with the words, "ye are sons," in the

preceding one. In both cases the apostle has in his view the Church of God viewed

generally. His putting "our" here instead of "your" was probably an outcome of

his feeling of proud gladness in the thought of his own happy experience. A precisely

similar change in the pronoun, attributable probably to the same cause, is observable

in the remarkably analogous passage in Romans 8:15, "Ye received not the spirit of

bondage again unto fear; but ye received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry,

Abba, Father." Crying (κράζονkrazon - crying out aloud). The word expressing

loud utterance betokens in this case undoubting assurance. No faint whisper this of

an inner consciousness, shy, reticent, because afraid to assure itself of so. glorious,

so blissful a relation; no hesitating half-hope; it is a strong, unwavering conviction,

bold, though humbly bold, to thus address the all-holy Supreme Himself. The "cry"

is here attributed to the Spirit Himself; in Romans 8:15 to believers, these being the

Spirit's organs of utterance; presently after in the Romans, vs. 26-27, the Spirit Himself

is said to "intercede with groanings which cannot be uttered ... . according to the will

of God." Analogously, in the Gospels, evil spirits in demoniacs at times are said to

"cry out" (Mark 1:26;  9:26), while in other passages the cry is attributed to the

possessed person. Abba, Father (Ἀββᾶ ὁ Πατήρ – Abba ho Pataer). In addition to

Romans 8:15, just cited, the same remarkable words are found once only besides,

in Mark 14:36, as uttered by our Lord in the garden. Luke (Luke 22:42) gives only

"Father" (Πάτερ); St. Matthew (Matthew 26:39, 42), "my Father" (Πάτερ μου –

Pater mou: in v. 39, however, μου is omitted by Tischendorf, though he retains it

in v. 42). St. Matthew, by adding μου to Πάτερ here, which he does not add in

Matthew 11:25-26, seems to indicate that the form of address which our Lord

then employed bespoke more than usual of fervency or of intimacy of communion.

According to Furst ('Concordance'), "Abba," אַבָּא, occurs frequently in the Targums

"sensu proprio et honorifico;" in the Jerusalem Targum taking the form "Ibba," אִבָּא.

In consequence, we may assume, of the "honorific" complexion of this form of the

word, it was in Chaldee the form usually employed in compellation, or for the

vocative. The hypothesis that either the Divine Speaker, or the Evangelist Mark,

or the Apostle Paul, added ὁ Πατὴρ as an explanatory adjunct to the Aramaic

"Abba," for the benefit of such as might need the explanation, is resisted


(1) by the threefold recurrence of the conjoined phrases in just the same form;

(2) by the absence of any such intimation of a translation as we find given in

      other passages where an Aramaic word is explained, as in Mark 5:41; 7:11, 34;

      John 1:38, 41-42; John 20:16; Acts 9:36;

(3) by the addition of ὁ Πατὴρ being made by St. Paul in the Romans, when writing

      with a glowing ardor of strong feeling wholly repugnant to the didactic calmness

      of a translational gloss: he does not pause to add such a gloss to "Maranatha" in

      I Corinthians 16:22, where it would seem to be much more called for.


The apparently nominatival form of ὁ Πατὴρ lends no countenance to this view, as is

shown by the comparison of:


  •  Matthew 11:26, ναί ὁ Πατήρnai ho Pataer – even so Father; yea the


  • Luke 8:54, ἡ παῖς, ἔγειρε – hae pais, egeire – Maid arise: and
  • in the Septuagint, Psalm 8:1, 9, Κύριε ὁ Κύριος ἡμῶν – Kurie ho Kurios –

O Lord, our Lord; Psalm 7:1, Κύριε ὁ Θεός μουKurie Ho Theos mou -

            O Lord my God.


Another hypothesis that the twofold compellative was meant to intimate that God was

now Father alike to Jewish believers and to Gentile, is wrecked upon its occurrence

in St. Mark. The present writer ventures to surmise that the conjoined phrase originated

thus: The Lord Jesus, being wont very commonly to substitute for the name "God" the

designation of "Father," may be supposed to have used for this designation the word

"Abba" as the honorific form of the Chaldaic noun for "father," in much the same way

as the Jews regularly substituted the noun Adonai, an honorific form of Adonim,

"lord," or "master," for the unutterable tetragrammaton, יהוה. Instead of Adonai,

Christ (it may be supposed) customarily employed the word "Abba," as an almost

proper name of the Supreme Being. When our Lord had occasion to apply the

word "Father" as a common noun to God, whether in addressing Him or in speaking

of Him, we may infer from the Peshito-Syriac Version of Mark 14:36 that he added

another form of the same original noun "Abj," or "Obj," instead of or in addition to

"Abba." The Πάτερ of Luke 22:42 may have been used to represent "Abba;"

Matthew's Πάτερ μου to represent "Abj" or "Obj." The use of "Abba, ὁ Πατὴρ

by believers, probably quite an exceptional use, was adopted, both as a conscious

reminiscence of Christ's utterance in the garden - they, by conjoining themselves

thus with their Lord, pleading, as it were, His Name as their warrant for claiming

this filial relation with the Most High - and also as an intensely emphatic description

of God's fatherhood, by conjoining together the almost proper name denoting His

general fatherhood by which (supposably) Christ was used to designate God, and

the common noun by which Christ's disciples had by Him been taught to address

Him in prayer, and which embodied their sense of His especial fatherhood to those

who serve Him. The apostle is not to be understood as intimating that the Holy Spirit

does actually produce in every heart in which He dwells the definite consciousness

of sonship. It is enough for His purpose that the nisus (a mental or physical effort to

attain an end), the endeavor and tendency of His spiritual operation, is in all cases

in that direction, though through slackness on their own part so many Christians

fail of conquering for themselves the full possession of their inheritance. But,

however, we need not (he implies)go back to Mosaic ceremonialism to seek

there for our assured sonship. We have it already hereHERE, IN CHRIST,



“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son

into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 


Here are the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity – God manifests Himself

in the Son, but communicates His life by the Holy Ghost.  Just as in the

fullness of time the Son was sent forth, so in the fullness of time the Spirit

was sent forth to apply and witness the redemption purchased by Christ!


The sphere of operation – “in your hearts.”


“Abba, Father” - The two words — one Aramaic, and the other Greek - are a

fitting type of the union of Jew and Gentile in Christ. The dearest conception in

Christianity is the fatherhood of God. The believer is enabled by the Spirit of the

Son to realize the tenderness as well as the dignity of the new relation in which

he stands by adoption.


7 “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir

of God through Christ.”  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son (ὥστε οὐκ

ἔτι εῖ δοῦλος ἀλλ υἱός – hoste ouk eti ei doulos all huios - so then, no longer art thou

a bondservant, but a son. "Ωστε, properly "so that," is frequently used by St. Paul for

"so then" or "wherefore," to state a final conclusion (compare v. 16, below;  ch.3:24;

Romans 7:4, etc.). It here marks the conclusion resulting from the statements of the

preceding six verses, viz. of God having sent forth His Son to do away with the Law,

subjection to which had marked the nonage of His people, and to raise them to

their complete filial position, and of His then sending forth His Spirit into their

hearts loudly protesting their sonship. "No longer art thou;" by this individualizing

address the apostle strives to awaken each individual believer to the consciousness

of the filial position belonging to him in particular. BELIEVE IT IN CHRIST

JESUS thou, thine own very self, art a son! The phrase, "no longer," marks the

position of God's servant NOW as compared with what it would have been before

Christ had wrought His emancipating work and the Holy Spirit had been sent forth

as the Spirit of adoption; then he would have still been a bond-servant; HE IS NOT

THAT NOW!  This abrupt singling out one individual as a sample of all the members

of a class is an instance of the δεινότης – deinotaes – sternness and/or power of

St. Paul's style (compare Romans 11:17; 12:20; 13:4;  14:4; I Corinthians 4:7).

The individual cited by the "thou" is neither a Gentile convert only nor a Jewish

believer only; it is any member of God's kingdom. "A son," a member of God's family,

an οἰκεῖος τοῦ Θεοῦ - oikeios tou Theou - home; household of God (Ephesians 2:19),

one free of all law of bondage and in full possession of a son's privileges; no sinner,

now, under his Father's frown; but accepted, beloved, cherished, honored with his

Father's confidence. And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (ei) de\ ui(o/ kai\   do greek



κληρονόμος διὰ Θεοῦ - klaeronomos dia Theou  - heir through God  [Receptus,

κληρονόμος Θεοῦ διὰ Ξριστοῦ -  klaeronomos Theou dia Christou - heir of God

through Christ] and if a son, an heir also through God. So Romans 8:17, "And if

children (τέκνα - tekna - children), heirs also; heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ."

The inheritance here meant is the possession of every blessing which the theocratic

kingdom entitles its members to look forward to. And the point of this added clause

is that no further qualification is needed for our having a vested right in that

inheritance, than that which is supplied by faith in Christ, uniting us to him and

making us sharers with him; no such qualification, for example, as the Mosaizing

reactionaries insisted upon (see Acts 15:1); no observance of ceremonial rites,

whether of the Law or of such freaks of heretical "will-worship" as are referred

to in Colossians 2:23. Thy faith in Christ (says in effect the apostle) gives thee

now for good and all an assured place in whatever inheritance God designs to

give his people. The manuscripts 'rod other authorities for the text present

considerable variety in the reading of the last words of this clause. The reading

adopted by L. T. Tr., Meyer, Alford, Lightfoot, and Hort and Westcott, namely,

κληρονόμος διὰ Θεοῦ, is that found in the three oldest uncials, and presents a

form of expression which was likely so greatly to surprise the copyist as to

set him naturally upon the work of revision; whereas that of the Received Text,

κληρονόμος Θεοῦ διὰ Ξριστοῦ, would have seemed to him so perfectly natural and

easy that he would never have thought of altering it. The words, "heir through God,"

taken in connection with the foregoing context, insist upon the especial appointment

of the Supreme God Himself; His intervention displayed in the most conspicuous

manner conceivable, through the incarnated Son and the sent-forth Spirit. The

believer is here said to be a son and an heir "through God," in the same sense as

St. Paul affirms himself to be an apostle "through Jesus Christ and God the Father,"

and "through the will of God" (ch. 1:1; I Corinthians 1:1); for "of Him and

through Him and unto Him are all things," and most manifestedly so, the things

composing the economy of grace which the gospel announces (Romans 11:36).

The apostle has thus brought back his discourse to the same point which it had

reached before in ch. 3:29. The reader will do well to carefully compare this section

of the Epistle (vs. 3-7) with Romans 7:25-8:4 and Romans 8:14-17. With great

similarity in the forms of expression, the difference of the apostle's object in the

two Epistles is clearly discerned. There he is discoursing the more prominently

of the believer's emancipation from the controlling power of a sinful nature, which,

under the Law, viewed under its moral aspect rather than its ceremonial, was rather

fretted into yet more aggravated disobedience than quelled or overpowered. Here

his subject is more prominently the believer's emancipation from the thraldom

of the Law's ceremonialism, which in the present Epistle, relative to the troubles

in the Galatian Churches, he has more occasion to deal with. Both the one

deliverance, however, and the other was necessary for the believer's full

consciousness of adoptive sonship; and each was, in fact, involved in the other.


Thus the apostle corroborates the closing verse of the third chapter: “And if ye be

Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

The slave is not an heir; the son enters on his father’s inheritance, which comes to

him, not by merit, but by promise.



8 “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by

nature are no gods.”  Howbeit (ἀλλά - alla - but); a strongly adversative conjunction,

belonging to the whole sentence comprised in this and the next verse, which are closely

welded together by the particles μὲν – men – indeed;  and δέ - de – yet; but. In

contravention of God's work of grace just described, they were renouncing their sonship

and making themselves slaves afresh. Then (τότε μέν – tote men). The μέν, with its

balancing δέ in v. 9, here, as often is the case, unites together sentences not in their

main substance strictly adverse to each other, but only in subordinate details contrasted,

of which we have an exemplary instance in Romans 8:17, Κληρονόμους μὲν Θεοῦ

συγκληρονόμους δὲ Ξριστοῦ - Klaeronomous men Theou sugklaeronomous de Christou

heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. In such cases we have often no resource in

English but to leave the μὲν untranslated, as our Authorized Version commonly does;

"indeed" or "truly," for example, would be more or less misleading. The truth is, the

apostle in these two verses is heaping reproach upon the Galatian Judaizers; first, in

this verse, for their former (guilty) ignorance of God and their idolatries, and then,

in the next verse, for their slighting that blessed friendship with God which they owed

only to His preventing grace. In dealing with Gentile Christians the apostle repeatedly

is found referring to their former heathenism, for the purpose of enforcing humility or

abashing presumption, as for example in Romans 11:17-25; 15:8-9; I Corinthians 12:2;

Ephesians 2:11-13, 17. In the case of the Galatians his indignation prompts him to use

a degree of outspoken severity which he was generally disposed to forbear employing.

The "then" is not defined, as English readers might perhaps misconstrue the Authorized

Version as intending, by the following clause, "not knowing God," which in that

version is "when ye knew not God" - a construction of the words which the use of the

participle would hardly warrant; rather the time referred to by the adverb is the time

of which he has before been speaking, when God's people were under the pedagogy

of the Law. This, though when compared with Christ's liberty a state of bondage, was,

however (the apostle feels), a position of high advancement as compared with that

of heathen idolaters. These last were "far off," while the Israelites were "nigh"

(compare the passages just now referred to). During that time of legal pedagogy

the Galatians and their forefathers, all in the apostle's view forming one class,

were wallowing in the mire of heathenism. When ye knew not God (οὐκ εἰδότες

θεόν ouk eidotes Theon – not having perception of God; ye knew not God and, etc.

"Knowing not God" describes the condition of heathens also in I Thessalonians 4:5,

"Not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles which know not (τὰ μὴ εἰδότα –

ta mae eidota – which know not) God;" II Thessalonians 1:8, "Rendering vengeance

to them that know not (τοῖς μὴ εἰδόσιν – tois mae eidosin – that know not; to the

ones not having perceived) God." Both of these passages favor the view that the

apostle does not in the least intend in the present clause to excuse the idolatries

which he goes on to speak of, but rather to describe a condition of godlessness

which, as being positive rather than merely negative, inferred utter pravity and

guiltiness. He uses οὐκ with the participle here, in place of the μὴ in the two

passages cited from the Thessalonians, as intending to state an historical fact

viewed absolutely - a sense which is made clear in English by substituting an

indicative verb for the participle. Ye did service unto (ἐδουλεύσατε – edouleusate –

served; devoted yourselves to; ye slave. The verb is, perhaps, used here in that

milder sense in which it frequently occurs; as in Matthew 6:24; Luke 15:29;

16:13;  Acts 20:19; Romans 7:6, 25; 14:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:9.

The Revised Version, however, gives "were in bondage to" in the present

instance, but "serve" in the passages now cited. The aorist, instead of an

imperfect, describes the form of religious life which they then led as a whole.

Them which by nature are no gods (τοῖς φύσει μὴ οὖσιν θεοῖςtois phusei

mae ousin theois – which by nature are no gods). The Textus Receptus has

τοῖς μὴ φύσει οϋσι θεοῖς, which would apparently mean "which arc not gods

by nature, but only in your imagination;" like "There be that are called gods,"

in I Corinthians 8:5 - Zeus, Apollo, Here, etc., mere figments of imagination

(compare ibid.  v. 4). The more approved reading suggests rather the idea that the

objects they worshipped might not be non-existent, but were certainly not of a

Divine nature; "by nature," that is, in the kind of being to which they belong

(Ephesians 2:3; Wisdom of Solomon 13:1, μάταιοι φύσει – mataioi phusei –

vain by nature). The question may be asked - If they were not gods, what then

were they? The apostle would probably have answered, "Demons;" for thus he

writes to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 10:20): "The things which the Gentiles

sacrifice they sacrifice to devils (δαιμονίοις – daimoniois – to demons), and not

to God." Alford renders, "to gods which by nature exist not," etc.; but the more

obvious sense of οϋσιν is that of a copula merely (compare II Chronicles 13:9,

Septuagint, "He became a priest (τῷ μὴ ὄντι θεῷ - to mae onti theo – that are

no gods").


“Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them

which by nature are no gods.”  The apostle here seems to turn to the

Gentile portion of the Church, and impresses upon them the folly of

placing themselves under the yoke of Mosaic Law.


The Gentiles did not know God.  The apostle explains, in the first

chapter of Romans, how the knowledge of God died out of the minds of

men. It occurred through a deliberate perversion of the moral powers of

man. They knew not God, and were thus in a terrible sense “without God

in the world.”  The Gentile bondage was terrible with its sacrifices, its

mutilations, its orgies, its cruelties. It degraded the mind, fettered the

imagination, cramped the heart, of its votaries.  (this is the direction

in which America is quickly gravitating – “And even as they did not

like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a

reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient”

[Romans 1:28] – CY – 2009)


9 “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God,

how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire

again to be in bondage?”  But now (νῦν δέ - nun de - and now; now yet. (See

note on "then" in v. 8). After that ye have known God, or rather are known of God

(γνόντες Θεόν μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὐπὸ Θεοῦ - gnontes Theon mallon de gnosthentes

hupo Theo - after that ye have gotten to know God, or rather to be known of God;

knowing God rather yet being known by God. Considering the interchangeable use

of γνῶναι (ye have known) or ἐγνωκέναι (we have known) and εἰδωέναι (are

acquainted) in John 8:55 and II Corinthians 5:16, it seems precarious to make much

distinction between them as applied to the knowledge of God. The former, however,

is the verb more commonly used in this relation; by St. John, in his First Epistle,

where so much is said of knowing God, exclusively; although in other relations

he, both in Epistle and Gospel, uses the two verbs interchangeably. The expression,

"to know God," is one of profound pregnancy; denoting nothing less than that divinely

imparted intuition of God, that consciousness of his actual being, viewed in His

relation to ourselves, which is the result of truly "believing in Him." Moreover, as it

is knowing a personal Being, between whom and ourselves mutual action may be

looked for, it implies a mutual conversancy between ourselves and Him, as the term

"acquaintance" (οἱ γνῶστοί  – hoi gnostoi – known ones), as used in Luke 2:44 and

23:49, naturally does. So that "having gotten to be known of God" is very nearly

equivalent to having been by God brought to be, to speak it reverently, on terms of

acquaintanceship with Him; and this does indeed seem to be meant in I Corinthians

8:3. The Galatian believers had in very truth gotten to know God, if they had learnt

to cry out unto Him, "Abba, Father." And the remembrance of this happy experience

of theirs, which he had, we may suppose, himself witnessed in the early days of their

discipleship, prompts him to introduce the correction, "or rather to be known of God."

Their having attained such a consciousness of sonship had been, as he writes, v. 7,

"through God;"


  • He it was that had sent forth His Son that His people might receive

the adoption of sons;

  • He that had sent forth His Spirit into their hearts to give them the sense

of sonship;

by gifting them with the blissful prerogative of knowing what He was to them.


The correction of "knowing" by "being known" is analogous to that of "apprehend"

by "being apprehended" in Philippians 3:12. The pragmatic value of this correcting

clause is to make the Galatians feel, not only what a willful self-debasement it was

on their part, but also what a slight put upon the Divine favors shown to them,

that they should frowardly repudiate their filial standing to adopt afresh that servile

standing out of which He had lifted His people. What was this but a high-handed

contravening of God's own work, a frustration of His gospel? And this by them

whom only the other day He had rescued from the misery and utter wickedness of

idolatry! How turn ye again; or, back (πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν – pos epistrephete

palin -  how turn ye back again). An abrupt change from the form of sentence which

the foregoing words naturally prepared us for; which might have been such as we

should have by simply omitting the "how." As if it were, "After having gotten to be

known of God, ye are turning back again - how can ye? - to the weak," etc. This

"how," as in ch. 2:14, is simply a question of remonstrance; not expecting an answer,

it bids the person addressed consider the amazing unseemliness of his proceeding

(so Matthew 22:12; compare also I Timothy 3:5; I John 3:17). The verb ἐπιστρέφειν

- epistrephein frequently denotes "turning back" (Matthew 10:13; 12:44; II Peter 2:22;

Luke 8:55). To the weak and beggarly elements (ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα –

epi ta asthenae kai ptocha stoicheia – on the infirm and poor elements; the mere

elementary lessons, the ABC’s (see v. 4, and note), which can do nothing for you

and have nothing to give you. The description is relative rather than absolute.

The horn-book, useful enough for the mere child, is of no use whatever to the

grown-up lad who has left school. In Hebrews 7:18 mention is made of "the

weakness and unprofitableness" of the Levitical Law relative to the expiation of

sin; which is not precisely the aspect of the Law which is here under view. The word

"beggarly" was probably in the writer's mind contrasted with "the unsearchable

riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage!

(οῖς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεύειν θέλετε – hois palin anothen douleuein thelete –

whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?) The verb δουλεύειν (to be

slaving) is here, differently from v. 8, contrasted with the condition of a son

enjoying his full independence (see v. 25 and ch. 5:1). It would be an insufferable

constraint and degradation to the full-grown son to be set to con over and repeat the

lessons of the infant school. Ἄνωθεν, (afresh, anew), intensifies πάλιν (again)

by adding the notion of making a fresh start from the commencing-point of the course

indicated. The application of these words, together especially with the phrase, "turn

back again," in the preceding clause, to the case of the Galatian converts from

idolatrous heathenism, has suggested to many minds the idea that St. Paul groups the

ceremonialism of heathen worship with that of the Mosaic Law. Bishop Lightfoot in

 particular has here a valuable note, in which, with his usual learning and breadth of

view, he shows how the former might in its ritualistic element have subserved the

purpose of a disciplinary training for a better religion. Such a view might be regarded

as not altogether out of harmony with the apostle's spirit as evinced in his discourses

to the Lyeaonians and the Athenians (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31). But though in his

wide sympatheticalness he might, if discoursing with heathens, have sought thus to

win them to a better faith, he is hardly just now in a mood for any such sympathetic

tolerance. He is much too indignant at the behavior of these Galatian revolters to

allow that their former religious ceremonies could have been good enough to be

admitted to group with those of the Law of Moses: he has just before adverted to

their former heathenism for the very purpose of (so to speak) setting them down –

a purpose which would be a good deal defeated by his referring to that cult of theirs

as in any respect standing on a level with the cult of the Hebrews. Indeed, it may be

doubted whether, at the utmost limit to which he would at any time have allowed

himself to go, in the "economy" which he unquestionably was used to employ in

dealing with souls, he would, however, have gone so far as to class the divinely

appointed ordinances of Israel, the training-school of God's own children, with

the ritual of demon-inspired worships. It is much easier to suppose that the apostle

identifies the Galatian Churchmen with God's own people, with whom they were

now in fact σύμφυψοιsumphupsoi -  blended in corporal identity with them.

God's children had heretofore been in bondage to the ABC’s , of the Law, but were

so no longer; if any of those who were now God's children took it in hand to observe

that Law, then were they, though not in their individual identity, yet in their

corporate identity, turning back again to the ABC’s from which they had been

emancipated. The former experience of Israel was their experience, as the

"fathers" of Israel were their fathers (I Corinthians 10:1); which experience

they were now setting themselves to renew.



A Protest Against Relapse (v. 9)


“But now, after having known God, or rather were being known of God, how

are you turning again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire

again to be in bondage?”


The Galatians had come to know God through the preaching of the gospel.

This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ,

whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)  The seeds of defection and apostasy

lie in almost every heart.  “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth

take heed lest he fall” – (I Corinthians 10:12)  “Take heed, brethren, lest

there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the

living God”  (Hebrews 3:12)


Contrast “weak and beggarly elements” with “the unsearchable riches of

Christ – (Ephesians 3)  Why go back to kindergarten as an adult?


10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.”  (ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε,

καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιρούς καὶ ἐνιαυτούςhameras parataereisthe kai maenas kai

kairous kai eniautous -  days ye are intent on observing, and months, and seasons,

 and years. In the compound verb παρατηρεῖν (observe; attentive wathching), the

prepositional prefix, which often denotes "amiss," seems rather, from the sense of

"at one's side," to give the verb the shade of close, intent observation. This may

be shown by the circumstances to be of an insidious character; thus the active

παρατηρεῖν in Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7; 14:1; Acts 9:24, and the middle παρατηροῦμαι –

, with no apparent difference of sense, in Luke 20:20. Josephus uses the verb of

"keeping the sabbath days" ('Ant.,' 3:05, 8), and the noun παρατήρησις τῶν νομίμων

parataeraesis - observance of the things which are according to the laws -

('Ant.,' 8:03, 9). The accumulation of nouns with the reiterated "and," furnishing

another example of the δεινότης deinotaes - vehementance) of St. Paul's style,

betokens a scornfully impatient mimesis. These reactionaries were full of festival-

observing pedantry - "days," "new moons," "festivals," "holy years," being always

on their lips. The meaning of the first three of the nouns is partially suggested by

Colossians 2:16, "Let no man judge you... in respect of a feast day, or a new moon,

or a sabbath day (ἑορτῆς νουμηνίας, σαββάτων – heortaes noumaenias sabbaton –

festival, new moon, sabbaths);" in which passage, we may observe, there is a

similar tone of half-mocking mimesis; where the same ideas are apparently

presented, but in a reverse order. Compare also II Chronicles 8:13, “Offering

according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons,

and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened

bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles." The "days," then,

in the present passage, we may suppose, are the sabbath days, together perhaps

with the two fast days every week which the Jewish tradition prescribed (Luke 18:12).

The "months" point to the new moons, the observance of which might occasion to

these Gentiles considerable scope for discussion in adjusting themselves to the

Jewish calendar, different no doubt from the calendar they had been hitherto used to.

The "seasons" would be the annual festivals and fasts of the Jews, not only the three

prescribed by the Levitical Law, but also certain others added by tradition, as the

Feasts of Purim and of Dedication. So far we appear to be on tolerably sure ground.

The fourth item, "years," may refer either to the sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:2-7),

which at any rate latterly the Jews had got to pay much attention to (I Maccabees

6:49, 53;  Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14:10, 6; also 14:16, 2; Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 5:4); or possibly

the jubilee years, one such fiftieth year, it might be, falling about this time due.

Bengel ('Gnomon') supposes that a sabbatical year might be being held A.D. ,

to which date he assigns this Epistle; while Wieseler ('Chronicles Synops.,'

p. 204, etc., referred to by Bishop Lightfoot) offers a similar conjecture for the

year A.D. autumn to A.D. autumn. Very striking is the impatience which the

apostle manifests in overhearing as it were the eager discussions occupying the

attention of these foolish Galatian Judaizers. Their interest, he perceived, was

absorbed by matters which were properly for them things of no concern at all,

but which, with ostentatious zeal as such persons do, they were making their concern.

The cause of their doing so lay, we may believe, in the feeling which was growing up

in their minds that such like outward observances would of themselves make their life

acceptable to God; this general sentiment habiting itself, in the choice of the particular

form of outward ceremonies to be adopted, in the observance of the celebrations given

by God to His people for the season of their nonage. The principle itself was no doubt

repugnant to the apostle's mind, even apart from the Judaizing form which it was

assuming, and which threatened a defection from Christ. Curious regard to such

matters he evidently on its own account regards with scorn and impatience. But

therewith also the old venerable religion, localized at Jerusalem as its chief seat,

would under the impulse of such sentiments be sure to perilously attract their minds

away from the (διόρθωσις – diorthosis – reformation -  Hebrews 9:10) to which it

had now been subjected; and they were in danger of losing, nay, had in great degree

at least already lost, the zest which they once had felt in embracing the exceeding

great and precious gifts which Christ had brought to them. What was there here

but the "evil heart of unbelief" spoken of in Hebrews 3:12, "in departing from

the living God," now manifesting Himself to His people in His Son? It is this

hostility characterizing the behavior of the Galatian Churchmen which marks its

essential difference as compared with that observance of "days" and "meats" which

in Romans 14 the apostle treats as a matter, relative to which Christians were to live

in mutual tolerance. As long as a Christian continued to feel his relation to the

Lord Jesus (Romans 14:6-9), it mattered not much if he thought it desirable to

observe the Jewish sabbath or to abstain from eating animal food. He might, indeed,

make himself thereby chargeable with spiritual folly; the apostle clearly thought

he would; but if he still held fast by Christ as the sole and all-sufficing Source to

him of righteousness before God and of spiritual life, he was to be received and

welcomed as a brother, without being vexed by interference with these foolish

tenets of his. It became different when his care for such really indifferent externals

took his heart away from a satisfied adherence to the Lord; then his ceremonialism

or asceticism became rank and even fatal heresy. And this was what the apostle

was fearing on behalf of his once so greatly cherished disciples in Galatia.


11 “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.”

(φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς μή πῶς εἰκῆ κεποπίακα εἰς ὑμᾶςphoboumai humas mae pos eikae

kepopiaka eis humas - I am afraid of you, lest by any means 1 have bestowed labor

upon you in vain. That is, this behavior of yours makes me fear whether I may not

have bestowed labor upon you fruitlessly. A similar construction of μή πως

(lest somehow) with an indicative occurs in I Thessalonians 3:5, Μή πως ἐπείρασεν

 ὑμᾶς ὁ πειράζων – Mae pos epeirasen humas ho peirazon -  Fearing, whether the

tempter may not have tempted you; followed by the subjunctive, Καὶ εἰς κένον

γένηται ὁ κόπος ἡμῶν – Kai eis kenon genaetai ho kopos haemon - And lest our

labor should [in the as yet future result] prove to be for no good. This passage in

the Thessalonians serves to illustrate the nature of the mischief, which, in the

present case, the apostle feared might result. For one thing, there was the hurt,

the perhaps fatal hurt, which the Galatian believers might themselves receive from

that virtual renouncement of their spiritual inheritance which they now seemed to

be foolishly making. But there was also the disappointment which would accrue

to himself through the failure of his work among them: "For what," as he wrote

to the Thessalonians, I Thessalonians 2:19, "is our hope, or crown of glorying?

Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at His coming?" The same anticipated

joy he speaks of in writing to the Philippians, as about to accrue to himself from

the steadfastness of his converts: "That I may have whereof to glory in the day

of Christ, that I did not run in vain, neither labor in vain." (Philippians 2:16)

This anticipation was a joy which he would fain not have wrested from him.


12 “Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured

me at all.”  Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are (γίνεσθε ὡς

ἐγώ ὅτι κἀγὼ ὡς ὑμεῖς ἀδελφοί δέομαι – ginesthe hos ego hoti kago hos humeis

adelphoi deomai -  be ye as I; because I on my part an as ye; brethren, I entreat.)

We may compare I Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, even as on my part I

am of Christ (μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε καθὼς κἀγὼ Ξριστοῦ - mimaetai mou ginesthe

kathos kago Christo – be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ)." There

is no need in respect to γίνεσθε (be ye becoming) to accentuate the notion of change;

this verb often means simply "show one's self, act as;" as e.g. ibid.  ch. 14:20,

Μὴ παιδία γίνεσθε... ταῖς δὲ φρεσὶ τέλειοι γίνεσθε – Mae paidia ginesthe...tais

de phresi teleioi ginesthe – be ye not children in understanding...yet in mature

disposition be ye becoming; but in understanding be ye men: I Corinthians 15:58,

and often. "Be as I;" to wit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus as our sole and all-sufficing

Righteousness before God, and in that faith letting go all care about rites and

ceremonies of the Law of Moses, or indeed ceremonialism of any kind, as if

such things mattered at all here, in the business of being well-pleasing to God,

whether done or forborne. "Because I on my part am as ye." I, a born Jew, once

a zealous worker - out of legal ceremonial righteousness, have put that aside,

and have placed myself on the footing of a mere Gentile, content to live like a

Gentile (ἐθνικῶς καὶ οὐκ Ἰουδαῖκῶςethnikos kai ouk Ioudaikos – as Gentiles

and not as Jews Galatians 2:14), trusting in Christ like as any Gentile has to do

who was bare alike of Jewish prerogative and of ceremonial righteousness. This

"for" or "because" is an appeal to them for loving sympathy and fellow-working.

What was to become of him if Gentiles withheld from him their practical sympathy

with his religious life? To what other quarter could he look for it? From Jewish

sympathy he was an utter outcast. The ἀδελφοί δέομαι, (brethren, I entreat), comes

in here as a breathing forth of intense imploring. And a remarkable instance is here

afforded of that abrupt, instantaneous transition in the expression of feeling which

is one great characteristic of St. Paul when writing in one of his more passionate

moods. Compare for this the flexure of passionate feeling prevailing through the

tenth and three following chapters of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Just

before, in this chapter, vs. 8-11, the language has been that of stern upbraiding, and,

indeed, as if de haut en bas (in a condescending or superior manner); as from one

who from the high level of Israelite pre-eminence was addressing those who quite

recently were mere outcast heathens. But here he seems suddenly caught and

carried away by a flood of passionate emotion of another kind. The remembrance

comes to his soul of his own former sorrows, when he "suffered the less of all things,"

as he so pathetically tells the Philippians (Philippians 3:4-14); when in the working

out of his own salvation, and that of the Gentiles to whom he had been appointed

to minister, he had cut himself off from all that he had once prized, and from all

the attachments of kindred and party and nation. A terrible rending had it been

for him when he had ceased to be a Jew; his flesh still quivered at the recollection,

though his spirit rejoiced in Christ Jesus. And now this mood of feeling prompts

him to cast himself almost as it were at the feet of these Gentile converts, adjuring

them not to turn away from him, not to bereave him of their fellowship and sympathy.

Ye have not injured me at all (οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε – ouden me aedikaesate -  

no wrong have ye done me.) This commences a new sentence, which runs on through

the next three verses. The apostle is anxious to remove from their minds the

apprehension that he was offended with them on the ground of unkindness shown

by them towards himself. It was true that he had been writing to them in strong

terms of displeasure and indignation; but this was altogether on account of their

behavior towards the gospel, not at all on account of any injury that he had himself

to complain of. He is well aware of the virulent operation of the sentiment expressed

by the old maxim, "Odimus quos laesimus;" and is therefore eager and anxious to

take its sting out of the mutual relations between himself and them. When the apostle

is writing under strong emotion, the connecting links of thought are frequently

difficult to discover; and this is the case here. But this seems to be the thread of

connection: the Galatian Christians would not be ready to accord him any

sympathetic compliance with his entreaty that they would "be as he was,"

if they thought he entertained towards them sentiments of soreness or resentment

on personal grounds. There was no reason, he tells them, why they should; they had

done him no wrong. There is no reason for supposing that the time of the action

referred to in οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε (in nothing ye injured me) is identical with that

indicated by the aorists of the two next verses. From the words, τὸ πρότερον

to proteron -  the first time, in v. 13, it is clear, as critics have generally felt,

that there had been a second visit after that one. If so, a disclaimer of offence

taken during the first visit would not have obviated the suspicion of offence

taken during a later one. The aorist of ἠδικήσατε (ye injure) must, therefore,

cover the whole period of intercourse. Perhaps thus: whatever wrong you may

suspect me of charging you with, be assured I do not charge you with it; there was

no personal affront then offered me. In what follows, it is true, he dwells

exclusively upon the enthusiastic demonstration which they made of their personal

attachment to him when he first visited them; but though the assertion here made

is not to its full extent proved good by the particulars given in vs. 13-14, and

though the enthusiasm of personal kindness there described must, under the

circumstances, have very considerably abated; yet, very supposably, nothing

may have occurred since then - nothing, for example, during his second visit –

which would show that they now disowned those feelings of love and respect.

At all events, he refuses to allow that there had. No personal affront had he to

complain of; while, on the other hand, their former intense kindness had laid

up as it were a fund of responsive affection and gratitude in his bosom which

could not be soon exhausted.


Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you,

lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.  Brethren, I beseech you,

be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.”


Paul had put a lot of time and effort in the Galatian churches and he

doesn’t want them to go backward.  He asks them to stand on the same

platform of liberty with himself -  “Become ye as I am”  — free yourself from

the bondage of ordinances as I have done “for I also have become as ye

are,” standing in your Gentile freedom, that I might preach the gospel to

you Gentiles. I became “as without Law to them that were without Law,

that I might save them that were without Law” (1 Corinthians 9:21).

He had abandoned the legal ground of righteousness as well as the

ceremonial formalism of the Jews, and he now invites the Gentiles to stand

beside him in this position of freedom and privilege.  “Be as I;” to wit,

rejoicing in Christ Jesus as our sole and all-sufficing Righteousness before

God, and in that faith letting go all care about rites and ceremonies of the

Law of Moses, or indeed ceremonialism of any kind, as if such things

mattered at all here, in the business of being well-pleasing to God, whether

done or forborne. “Because I on my part am as ye.” I, a born Jew, once a

zealous worker — out of legal ceremonial righteousness, have put that aside,

and have placed myself on the footing of a mere Gentile, content to live like a

 Gentile (ἐθνικῶς ζῇς καὶ οὐκ Ἰουδαι'κῶςethnikos zaes kai ouk Ioudai’kos –

as the nations are living and not as Jews, Galatians 2:14), trusting in Christ

like as any Gentile has to do! 


13 “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you

at the first.”  Ye know (οἴδατε δέ - oidate de – yet ye have perceived; and ye know).

The apostle very often uses the verb οἵδαμεν, or οἴδατε, conjoined with either δέ - de –

yet; γάρ – gar – for; or καθώς – kathos – according as; when recalling some

circumstance of personal history (I Corinthians 16:15; Philippians 4:15;

I Thessalonians 2:1, 2, 5, 11; 4:4; II Timothy 1:15) or to introduce the statement

of a doctrine as one which would be at once recognized as certain or familiar

(Romans 2:2; 3:19; 8:28; I Timothy I:8; II Thessalonians 2:6). The phrase as so

used is equivalent to "We [or, 'you'] do not need to be told," etc.; and with δὲ is

simply a formula introducing such a reminiscence, this conjunction having in

such cases no adversative force, but being simply the δὲ of transition (metabatic);

equivalent to "now" or "and," or not needing to be represented at all in translation;

so that the Authorized Version is perfectly justified in omitting it in the present

instance. The phrase may be taken as meaning "And you will well remember."

If the apostle had intended to introduce a statement strongly adversative to the

last preceding sentence, he would probably have written ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον –

alla tounantion – but on the contrary (ch. 2:7) or some such phrase. How through

infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you (ὅτι δἰ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς

εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖνhoti di astheneian taes sarkos euaeggelisamaen humin

that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you. "An infirmity

of the flesh;" that is, a bodily illness. The noun ἀσθένεια (infirmity) is used for

"illness" in John 11:4; Acts 28:9; I Timothy 5:23; Matthew 8:17. It also denotes a

nervous disablement, as Luke 13:11-12; John 5:5. The verb ἀσθενέωastheneo –

is the common word for "being sick," as Luke 4:40; 7:10; John 11:3, etc. It is

possible that the apostle meant to say that the Galatians might not unnaturally

have thought themselves treated slightingly in that his remaining among them so

long was owing to illness and not to his own choice; but that yet, for all that, they

had shown themselves most eager in welcoming their involuntary visitor. The words,

however, do not require to be thus construed, and in all probability intend no more

than to bring back to their remembrance the disorder under which he was then

suffering. The illness would seem to have been of a nature to make his personal

appearance in some way unsightly, and even repulsive; for the ἐξεπτύσατε –

exeptusate - loathed, despised,  of the next verse suggests even the latter idea.

Evidently this disorder, as also the one n spat out, noted in II Corinthians 12:7-8,

did not disqualify him for ministerial work altogether. He adverts to the circumstance,

as making it yet more remarkable and more grateful to his feelings, that,

notwithstanding the disagreeable aspect which in some way his disorder presented to

those about him, they had cherished his presence among them with so much kindness

as they did and also with such reverential respect. How it was that his illness brought

about this protracted stay, whether it was that he fell ill while journeying through

the country so as to be unable to pursue his way to his ulterior destination, or

whether the remarkable healthiness of the climate either first attracted him thither

or detained him there for convalescence (see Bishop Lightfoot, 'Galatians,' p. 10,

note 2, for the character of the climate at Angora, the ancient Ancyra), it is

impossible for us to determine. It is noticeable that St. Chrysostom's comments

on the passage appear to show that he considered the apostle to be simply stating

the circumstances under which and not those in consequence of which he preached

the gospel to them; and so also OEcumenius and Theophylact paraphrase by

μετὰ ἀσθενείαςmeta astheneias  suggesting the conjecture that they and

St. Chrysostom understood the words as equivalent to "during a period of infirmity

 of the flesh." But this gives to διὰ with an accusative a sense which, to say the least,

is not a common one. Is this illness of body to be connected with the affliction, most

probably a bodily affliction, mentioned in II Corinthians 12:7-8, "the stake in the

flesh"? This latter affliction has been discussed very fully by Dean Stanley and Meyer

on the Corinthians, by Bishop Lightfoot in his commentary on the Galatians, and by

Dr. Farrar in his ' Life of St. Paul.' It appears to have first befallen the apostle after

the "revelations" accorded to him fourteen years before he wrote his Second Epistle

to the Corinthians, which he is supposed to have done in the autumn of A.D. 57. This

would bring us back to about A.D. 43. The apostle's first visit to Galatia, according

to Bishop Lightfoot, p. 22, took place about A.D. 51. When we consider that no

doubt many of those wearing labors and hardships, interspersed with frequent

suffering of gross personal outrage, recounted in II Corinthians 11:23-27, had been

undergone in the eight first of those fourteen years (the stoning at Lystra certainly

had), it must seem very precarious to conjecture that the malady here referred to

was a recurrence of just that particular disorder experienced eight years before.

How many other ailments might not the apostle have been subject to, amid the

cruel allotment of suffering and hardship which prevailingly marked his course!

It is quite as probable, to say the least, that he may then have been suffering in

health or in limb from some assault of personal violence recently undergone.

St. Luke gives no particulars whatever of this portion of St. Paul's journey, which is

only just mentioned in Acts 16:6. The apostle visited Corinth for the first time not

many months after this first sojourn in Galatia; and it is interesting to observe that

he speaks of his having then ministered to them in "feebleness" (ἀσθενείᾳ,

I Corinthians 2:3), in a manner strongly suggestive of bodily weakness. At the first

(τὸ πρότερονto proteron - the first time - an expression plainly implying that

there had been a subsequent sojourn. Respecting this latter visit, all we know is

what we have so cursorily stated in Acts 18:23; unless, perchance, we may be

able to draw some inferences relating to it from what we read in this Epistle itself.

Chronologers are pretty well agreed in placing the commencement of this third

apostolical journey about three years after the commencement of the second.



14 “And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected;

but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.”  And my temptation

which was in my flesh (καὶ τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν [Receptus, πειρασμόν μου τὸν]

ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου – kai ton peirasmon humon [Receptus, peirasmon mou ton –

the temptation; trial of me] en tae sarki mou – and my trial in my flesh; and that

which was a temptation for you in my flesh). "In my flesh;" that is, in my bodily

appearance. Instead of ὑμῶν (you), the Textus Receptus gives μου τόν (of me the):

but ὑμῶν is the reading of the best manuscripts, and, as the more difficult one, was

the one most likely to be tampered with; it is accordingly accepted by recent editors

with great unanimity. "My trial "would add to the sentence a tinge of pathetic self-

commiseration. "Your trial" brings out the sentiment how greatly his affliction

would be likely to indispose his hearers to listen to his message; it "tested" very

severely the sincerity and depth of their religious sensibility. Ye despised not,

nor rejected (οὐκ ἐξουθενήσατε οὐδὲ ἐξεπτύσατε – ouk exouthenaesate oude

exeptusate - ye scorned not, nor loathed. The disfigurement on the apostle's

person, whatever it was, did not detain their attention; they did not, at least not long,

occupy themselves with indulging their feelings of ridicule or disgust; their sense

of it got to be soon absorbed in their admiration of the apostle's character and in

their delight in THE HEAVENLY MESSAGE which he brought to them. The verb

 ἐξουθενέω – exoutheneo, in the New Testament found only in St. Luke and St. Paul,

means always, not merely "to despise," but to express contempt for a thing, "to scout"

(compare Luke 18:9; 23:11; Acts 4:11; Romans 14:3, 10; I Corinthians 1:28; 6:4;

II Corinthians 10:10; I Thessalonians 5:20). Grotius observes of ἐξεπτύσατε (ye

loathe) that it is a figurative expression drawn from our spitting out of our mouth

what greatly offends our taste; quoting Catullus ('Carm.' 50, 'Ad Lic.'): "Precesque

nostras, Oramus, ne despuas." Critics have remarked that ἐκπτύειν (rejected), which

is not found elsewhere used thus metaphorically as ἀποπτύειν (spat out) is, is probably

so applied here by the apostle to produce a kind of alliteration after ἐξουθενήσατε

(ye scorn): as if it were "Non reprobastis, nec respuistis." But received me as an

angel of God, even as Christ Jesus (ἀλλ ὡς ἄγγελον Θεοῦ ἐδέξασθέ με ὡς

Ξριστὸν Ἰησοῦν – all hos aggelon Theou edexasthe me hos Christon Iaesoun –

but as messenger of God ye received me as Christ Jesus;  but as an angel of God

received ye me, as Christ Jesus. Their first feeling of aversation from his personal

appearance gave place to emotions of delight in his message of which he seemed

as it were the embodiment, and of reverential love and gratitude to himself. His

manifest absorption in the glad tidings he brought, and in love to his Lord,

irradiating his whole being with his unbounded benevolence and gladsomeness as

the messenger of peace (Ephesians 2:17), was recognized by them with a response

of unspeakable enthusiasm. A faint parallel is afforded by I Thessalonians 2:18.


15 “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that,

if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have

given them to me.”  Where is then (or, what was then) the blessedness ye spake of?

(ποῦ οϋν [Receptus τίς οϋν ἦν] ὁ μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶνpou oun tis oun [Receptus tis

oun aen] ho makarismos humon - where, then, is that gratulation of yourselves (or,

of yours)? The reading, ποῦ οϋν, which is that of the best manuscripts, is now

generally accepted in preference to that of the Textus Receptus, τίς οϋν ἦν

(what then was), in which, however, τίς οϋν stands on a higher footing of evidence

than the remaining word ἦν. This latter reading may be taken to mean: either,

"Of what sort, then, was that gratulation of yours? "that is, what was its value in

respect to the  depth of conviction on which it was founded? - τίς (who) being qualis,

as Luke 10:22; 19:3, etc., which would bring us to much the same result as ποῦ: or,

"How great, then, was that gratulation of yours!" But the "then" (οϋν) comes in

lamely; τότε ("at that time") would have been more in place; and, further, it is

questionable whether the τίς of admiration ever occurs without the wonder taking

a tinge of inquiry, as, for example, Mark 6:2; Luke 5:21; Colossians 1:27, which

would be out of place here. With the more approved reading, ποῦ οϋν, the apostle

asks, "What is, then, become of that gratulation of yourselves?" The "then" recites

the fact, implied in the description given of their former behavior, that they did

once congratulate themselves on the apostle's having brought them the gospel.

This is more directly brought into view in the words which follow. As the verb

μακαρίζωmakarizo  means "pronounce happy," as Luke 1:48 and James 5:11,

the substantive μακαρισμὸς denotes "pronouncing one to be happy;" as Romans

4:6, 9. So Clement of Rome ('Ad Cor.,' 50), who weaves the apostle's words into

his own sentence with the same meaning. This congratulation must have been

pronounced by the Galatians upon themselves, not upon the apostle; the apostle

would have spoken of himself on the object of their εὐλογία – eulogia -  praise,

not of their μακαρισμός. For I bear you record (μαρτυρῶ γὰρ ὑμῖν – marturo gar

humin - for I bear you witness); testify on your behalf; the phrase always denoting

commendation (Romans 10:2; Colossians 4:13). Compare "Ye were running well,"

ch. 5:3. The verb denotes a deliberate, almost solemn, averment. That, if it had been

possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me

(ὅτι εἰ δυνατόν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν ἐξορύξαντες ἐδώκατέ [Receptus, ἂν ἐδώκατε]

μοιhoti ei dunaton tous ophthalmous humon exoruxantes edokate [Receptus, an

edokate] moi - that, if possible, ye had spirted out your eyes to give them to me.

The phrase, ἐξορύσσειν ὀφθαλμούς , occurs in the Septuagint of Judges 16:21 and

I Samuel 11:2, Hebrew, "bore out the eyes." The omission of the ἄν, which is

rejected by recent editors, perhaps intimates the certainty and readiness with

which they would have done it; but the particle occurs very sparingly in the

New Testament as compared with classical Greek. There seems something strange

in the specification of this particular form of evidencing zealous attachment. If there

had otherwise appeared any question of making gifts, the apostle might have been

construed to mean, "Ye were ready to give me anything, your very eyes even;"

but this is not the case. Possibly the particular mention of "the Churches of Galatia"

in I Corinthians 16:1 may have been occasioned by their having shown an especial

readiness, even at the apostle's second sojourn among them, to take part in the

collection referred to; or by their having been the first Churches he came to in

that particular tour, the directions which he gave to them being given also to all

the Churches he went on to visit; but on this point see Introduction p. 16. The tone

of ch. 6:6-10 does not betoken especial open-handedness on their part, unless,

perhaps, the words, "let us not grow weary," hint at a liberality once displayed

but now declined from. On the whole, this specification of "eyes" seems rather

to point to there having been something amiss with the apostle's own eyes, either



  • ophthalmia or
  • the effect of personal outrage perpetrated upon him.


It is especially deserving of notice how the apostle, in the two clauses of this verse,

links together their joy in their newly found Christian blessedness with their grateful

love to himself; the latter fact is adduced as proof of the former. Their gospel

happiness, he feels, was indissolubly woven in with their attachment to him:

if they let go their joy in Christ Jesus, as, apart from any qualification to be

acquired by observances of the Law of Moses, their all-sufficient righteousness,

they must also of necessity become estranged from him, who was nothing if not

the exponent and herald to them of that happiness. This consideration is of great

  moment for the right understanding of the next verse.


16 “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”

 [ὥστε ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν γέγονα ἀληθεύων ὑμῖνhoste echthros humon gegona

alaetheuon humin - so then, am I become your enemy, because I deal with you

according to truth?] This is a wailing remonstrance against an apprehended

incipient state of alienation. "So then," ὥστε (see note on v. 7), occurs repeatedly

before an imperative; as I Corinthians 3:21; 4:5; 10:12; Philippians 2:12; 4:1;

James 1:19; here only before a question. Its consecutive import here lies in the

essential identification between their attachment to St. Paul and their allegiance to

the pure gospel. If they forsook the gospel, their heart was gone from him. Naturally

also their incipient (beginning stage of) defection from the truth was accompanied by

a jealousy on their part how he would regard them, and by a preparedness to listen to

those who spoke of him, as Judaizers everywhere did, with disparagement and dislike.

No doubt the accounts which had just reached him of the symptoms showing themselves

among them of defection from the gospel, and which prompted the immediate dispatch

of this Epistle, had informed him also of symptoms of a commencing aversation from

himself. The construction of γέγονα (I have become) with ἀληθεύων (by being true)

is similar to that of γέγονα ἄφρωνgegona aphron – I have become a fool with

καυχώμενος – kauchomenos – in boasting; in glorying: in the Textus Receptus

of II Corinthians 12:11, which is perfectly good Greek, even though the word

καυχώμενος must be removed from the text as not genuine. The verb "I am become"

describes the now produced result of the action expressed by the participle ἀληθεύων,

(dealing according to truth) - an action which has been continuous to the present hour

and is still going on. If the apostle were referring only to something which had taken

place at his second visit, he would have probably used different tenses; either, perhaps,                            

ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν ἐγευόμην ἀληθεύωνechthros humon egeuomaen alaetheuon - compare

φανῃ... κατεργαζομένηphane....katergazomenae – it may be

producing - in Romans 7:13 (or with a contemporaneous aorist participle, ἀληθεύσας);

or, ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν γέγονα ἀληθεύσας, like εϊναι μοιχαλίδα γενομένην ἀνδρὶ ἑτέρῳ -

einai moichalida genomenaen andri hetero – to be an adultress on becoming married

to a different man in Romans 7:3. As it stands, "dealing with you according to truth"

(ἀλήθεύων ὑμῖν – alaetheuon humin) expresses the apostle's continuous declaration

of the gospel, and his never-flinching insistance upon the mortal danger of defection

from it (see ch.1:9, προειρήκαμεν – proeiraekamen – we have declared before); and

"I am become your enemy" points to the result now manifesting itself from this

steadfast attitude of his, in consequence of their consciousness of meriting his

disapproval. The verb ἀληθεύω – alaetheuo - to deal faithfully or truly with anyone

occurs only once in the Septuagint - in Genesis 42:16, εἰ ἀληθεύετε οὔ - ei

alaetheuete ae ou - whether there be any truth in you (Authorized Version and Hebrew);

and once besides in the New Testament - in Ephesians 4:15, Ἀληθεύοντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ -

Alaetheuontes en agapae – speaking the truth in love, where the verb denotes,

apparently, not merely being truthful in speech, but the whole habit of addiction

both to uprightness and to God's known truth; for we can hardly leave out of our

view this latter idea, when we consider how frequently the apostle designates the

gospel by the term "the truth" (II Corinthians 4:2; 6:7; 13:8; here ch. 3:1; Ephesians

1:13; II Thessalonians 2:10, 12-13; I Timothy 2:4). "Enemy" is either one regarded

as adopting a hostile position to them, or one viewed with hostile feeling by them,

which latter is its sense in Romans 11:28; II Thessalonians 3:15. The above exposition

of the import of this verse is confirmed by the consideration that the Epistle affords

no trace of the apostle's relations with the Galatian converts having been other than

mutually friendly at even his second visit to them. This fact is implied in v. 12, and

ch. 1:9 furnishes no evidence to the contrary; for those warnings may have been

uttered in his first visit as well as in his second, without occasioning or being

occasioned by any want of mutual confidence. This view of their mutual relations

is confirmed likewise by the feelings of indignant astonishment with which evidently

the apostle took up his pen to address them in this letter: the tidings which had just

reached him had been a painful surprise to him.


vs. 13-16 – Paul had some kind of physical problem – many think it was

poor eyesight due to some kind of unsightly (no pun intended) disease.  It

seemed to be offensive to others - It had a tendency to cause loathing in those

who had met him. It must have been humiliating to himself;  for it was designed

as a check to spiritual pride: “Lest I should be exalted above measure.” 

(II Corinthians 12:7)   Perhaps it accounted for “his speech being contemptible”

and “his presence weak.”  (II Corinthians 10:10)  It had the effect, at all events,

of checking him in his travels at a momentous period, when the Galatians became

his debtors for the gospel.  His visit was not designed, but accidental. He was

traveling through their country on his way to regions beyond, when he was seized

with illness and detained so long that he found an opportunity to preach the

gospel. Precious infirmity to the Galatians! It was an opportunity

providentially created.  The disfigurement on the apostle’s person, whatever

it was, did not distract their attention. They did not, at least not long, occupy

themselves with indulging their feelings of ridicule or disgust; their sense of

it got to be soon absorbed in their admiration of the apostle’s character and in

their delight in the heavenly message which he brought to them.


“ye……received me as an angel, even as Christ Jesus” - Their first feeling

of aversion from his personal appearance gave place to emotions of delight in

his message of which he seemed as it were the embodiment, and of reverential

love and gratitude to himself. His manifest absorption in the glad tidings he

brought, and in love to his Lord, irradiating his whole being with his unbounded

benevolence and gladsomeness as the messenger of peace (Ephesians 2:17),

was recognized by them with a response of unspeakable enthusiasm.


Paul’s attitude about this – “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice,

that it might depart from me.  And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient

for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore

will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest

upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in

necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am

weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:8-10)


“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” –

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”

(Proverbs 27:6).  Think of the courage of the apostle. He tells the Galatians the

truth at the sacrifice of their personal friendship and love. Truth was a more

precious thing than man’s esteem. IT WAS THE VERY TRUTH OF THE


not time to be a “man-pleaser”!


17 “They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye

might affect them.”  They zealously affect you, but not well (Ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς οὐ

καλῶςZaelousin humas ou kalos -  they admire you in no good way; they are

being zealous over you but not ideally). Of the several senses of the verb ζηλοῦν,

those of "envy," "emulate," "strive after," are plainly unsuitable in this verse and

the one which follows. So also are the senses "to be zealous on one's behalf, to be

jealous of one," which in Hellenistic usage crept into it, apparently from its having

been in other senses adopted to represent the Hebrew verb qinne, and borrowing

these from this Hebrew verb. The only phase of its meaning which suits the present

passage is that which it perhaps by far the most frequently presents in ordinary Greek,

though not so commonly in the Septuagint and in the New Testament, namely,

"to admire," "deem and pronounce highly fortunate and blessed." When used in this

sense, it has properly for its object a person; but with a suitable qualification of

meaning it may have for its object something inanimate. Very often is the accusative

of the person accompanied with the genitive of the ground of gratulation, as

Aristophanes, 'Ach.,' 972, Ζηλῶσε τῆς εὐβουλίαςZaelose taes euboulias –

"I congratulate, admire, you for your cleverness;" see also 'Equit.,' 834; '

Thes moph.,' 175; 'Vesp.,' 1450; but not always; thus Demosthenes, 'Fals. Legat.,'

p. 424, "(Θαυμάζουσι καὶ ζηκοῦσι – Thaumazousi kai zaekousi - they admire and

congratulate and would each one be himself the like;" 'Adv. Lept.,' p. 500 (respecting

public funeral orations), "This is the custom of men admiring (ζηλοὐντων) virtue,

not of men looking grudgingly upon those who on its account are being honoured;"

Xenophon, 'Mere.,' 2:1,19. "Thinking highly of themselves, and praised and admired

 (ζηλουμένους) by others;" Josephus, 'C. Ap.,' 1:25, "(ζηλουμένους) admired by

many." It thus seems to be often just equivalent to ὀλβίζω - olbizo or μακαρίζω –

makarizo – happy; blessed, with the sense of which latter verb it is brought into

close neighborhood in Aristophanes, 'Nubes,' 1188, "' Blessed (μάκαρ - makar),

Strepsiades, are you, both for being so wise yourself and for having such a son as

you have,' - thus will my friends and fellow-wardsmen say, in admiration of me

(ζηλοῦντες)." Probably this is the sense in which the apostle uses the verb in

II Corinthians 11:2, Ζηλῶ γὰρ ὑμᾶς Θεοῦ ζηκῷ - Zaelo gar humas Theou zaeko –

I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; I rejoice in your felicity with an

infinite joy; referring to the intense admiration which he felt of their present

felicity, in their having been betrothed a chaste maiden to Christ; not till the

next verse introducing the mention of his fear lest this paradisaical happiness

might be darkened by the wiles of Satan. It is in a modified shade of the same

sense that the word is employee - where it is rendered "covet earnestly" in

our Authorized Version in I Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 39. In the passage now

before us, then, ζηκιῦσιν ὑμᾶς probably means "they admire you," that is, they

tell you so. They were expressing strong admiration of the high Christian

character and eminent gifts of these simple-minded believers; the charisms

(gifts) which had been bestowed upon them (ch. 3:2); their virtues, in contrast

especially with their heathen neighbors; their spiritual enlightenment. No doubt

all this was said with the view of courting their favor; but ζηλοῦτε can hardly

itself mean "court favor," and no instance of its occurring in this sense has been

adduced; and this rendering of the verb breaks down utterly in v. 18. The persons

referred to must, of course, be understood as those who were busy in instilling

at once Judaizing sentiments and also feelings of antipathy to the apostle himself,

as if he were their enemy (v. 16). The Epistle furnishes no indication whatever

that these persons were strangers coming among them from without, answering,

for example, to those spoken of in ch. 2:12 as disturbing the Antiochian Church.

It is quite supposable that the warning which, not long after the writing of this

Epistle, the apostle addressed to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:29-30),

when putting them on their guard against those who "from among their own selves

should rise up speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them," was

founded in part upon this experience of his in the Galatian Churches. Galatian

Churchmen it may well have been, and no other, who now (as the apostle had just

been apprised) were employing that χρηστολογία καὶ εὐλογία – chraestologia kai

eulogia - , that "kind suave speech" and that "speech of compliment and laudation,"

which in Romans 16:18 (emphasis on “the simple - while I am doing this – Sept. 23,

2018 - in going back and forth between the commentary, the Greek and the Septuagint –

on my computer – I invariedably pass through Google; Bing, etc. and it is full of info

to deceive the simple!  CY – 2018) he describes as a favorite device of this class of

deceivers, to win the ear of their unwary brethren. "In no good way;" for they did

it insincerely and with the purpose of drawing them into courses which, though these

men themselves  knew it not, were nevertheless fraught with ruin to their spiritual

welfare.  (How terrible in this 21st Century NOT TO KNOW ANY BETTER!

Yea, they would exclude you; or, us (ἀλλὰ ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν – alla ekkeisai

humas thelousin -  nay, rather, to shut you out is their wish; they are willing to debar

you). The reading "us," noticed in the margin of the Authorized Version, is probably a

merely conjectural emendation made in the Greek text by Beza, wholly unsupported

by manuscript authority. The ἀλλὰ (but) is adversative to the οὐ καλῶς (not well;

not ideally), the secondary thought of the preceding clause, in the same way as the

ἀλλὰ in I Corinthians 2:7 is adversative to the secondary negative clauses of v. 6.

The verb "shut out," with no determinative qualification annexed, must have it

supplied from the unexpressed ground for the "admiration" denoted by the verb

ζηλοῦσιν. The high eminence of spiritual condition and happiness on the possession

of which these men were congratulating their brethren, they would be certainly

excluded from if they listened to them. Compare the phrase, "who are unsettling you,"

driving you out of house and home, in ch. 5:12, where see note. That ye might affect

them (ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε – hina autous zealoute – that over them ye may be being

zealous - that ye may admire themselves). The position of αὐτοὺς (them) makes it

emphatic. We may paraphrase thus: that, being detached from regard to my teaching,

and made to feel a certain grave deficiency on your own part in respect to

acceptableness with God, ye may be led to look up as disciples to these kind-hearted

sympathetic advisers for instruction and guidance. The construction of ἵνα (that) with

ζηλοῦτε (ye may be being zealous) which in ordinary Greek is the present indicative,

ζηλῶτε being the form for the present subjunctive, is precisely similar to that of

ἵνα... μὴ - hina....mae - with φυσιοῦσθε – phusiousthe – that ye may not be being

puffed up in I Corinthians 4:6. When it is considered how punctually St. Paul is

wont to comply with the syntactical rule with reference to ἵνα, and that these two

remarkable deflections therefrom are connected with contract forms of verbs in -όω,

Ruckert's suggestion seems to be perfectly reasonable, that the solecism (a mistake

in speech or writing) lies, not in the syntactical construction, but in the grammatical

inflexion, contracting -όη into -οῦ instead of into ῶ. This form of contraction may

have been a provincialism of Tarsus, or it may have been idioms (a group of words

established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual

words and  a form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people.

 of St. Paul himself. Other expedients of explanation which have been proposed are

intolerably harsh and improbable.


18 “But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only

when I am present with you.”  (καλὸν δὲ ζηλοῦσθαι ἐν καλῷ παντότε καὶ μὴ

μόνον ἐν τῷ παρεῖναί με πρὸς ὑμᾶς – kalon de zealousthai en kalo pantote kai

mae monon en to pareinai me pros humas - but good it is to be admired, in what

is good, at all times and not only when I am present with you). That is, but as to

being admired and felicitated (happy), the good kind of admiring felicitation

(happiness) is that which, being tendered on a good account, is enjoyed at all times,

and not only, my little children, when 1 am with you, as on that first occasion when

you were so full of mutual felicitation and joy in the newly found sense of God's

adoption and love in Christ Jesus. In signification, this ζηλοῦσθαι (to be admired),

is equivalent to μακαρίζεσθαι makarizesthai -  to be congratulated, and was illustrated

in the first note on v. 17, especially by the reference to Aristophanes, 'Nubes,' 1188.

Ζηλοῦσθαι ἐν τῷ παρεῖναι με πρὸς ὑμας – Zaelousthai en to pareinai me pros humas –

"to be objects of admiration when I am present with you," is manifestly a recital of

the μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν (the gratulation of yourselves), of v. 15. The vivid remembrance

of the simple-hearted joy and frank sympathy with each other's happiness of those

days comes back to the apostle's mind with fresh force, after his brief mention and

rebuke of the false-hearted gratulations and compliments by which they were now

in danger of being ensnared. With a gentle reprehension of their levity, in that they

were now bartering that former well-founded happiness for this later poor gratification

of being recipients of mere false flattery, he yearns to bring them back to what they

were so senselessly casting away, and that they should hold it fast, a stable joy,

whether he was with them or not. This would be the case if "Christ were truly formed

in them." The phrase, ἐν καλῷ, (in what is good), is similar to ἐν κρυπτῷ - en krupto –

in secret; in hiding (John 7:4); ὁ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ Ἰουδαῖος  - ho en to

phanero en to krupto Ioudaios – an apparent outward Jew (Romans 2:28-29). The

sphere in which this admiring felicitation acts must be "what is good;" here that

highest good which these Galatians were in danger of losing, if, indeed, they

possessed it - being, and knowing themselves to be, sons of God. It is a doubtful

point whether v. 19 should be conjoined with this present verse, with a colon

between vs. 19 and 20, and a comma only at the end of v. 18; or whether the

sentences should be separated as they appear in our Authorized Version. But at all

events, the earnest, anxious, tender affectionateness which, as it were, wrings the

apostle's heart in writing v. 19, is to be felt already working in his soul in the writing

of this eighteenth verse. The sense above given to the verb ζηλοῦν, though disallowed

by Alford and Bishops Ellicott and Lightfoot, appears to be that recognized by the

Greek commentators Chrysostom and Theophylact.



vs. 17-18 – The Tactics of False Teachers - They aimed at isolating their

converts from the sounder portion of the Church that they might thus be

led to throw themselves completely into the hands of their seducers. They

wished to form them into a separate clique. The first object of errorists is

usually to undermine the confidence of converts in their old teachers, and

then to get themselves regarded as alone worthy to fill their place.


They zealously affect you, but not well; (Ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς οὐ καλῶς

Zaelousin humas ou kalos - they admire you in no good way; they are

being zealous over you not ideally.  They (false teachers)were employing that

χρηστολογία καὶ εὐλογία – chraestologia kai eulogia – compliments and adulation,

that “kind suave speech” which in Romans 16:18 he describes as a favorite

device of this class of deceivers, to win the ear of their unwary brethren. “In no

good way;” for they did it insincerely and with the purpose of drawing them

into courses which, though these men themselves knew it not, were nevertheless

fraught with ruin to their spiritual welfare.


yea, they would exclude you” - (ἀλλὰ ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσινalla

ekkleisai humans thelousin – but to debar you they are willing); nay,

rather, to shut you out is their wish.  The verb “shut out,” with no

determinative qualification annexed, must have it supplied from the unexpressed

ground for the “admiration” denoted by the verb Ζηλοῦσιν. The high eminence of

spiritual condition and happiness on the possession of which these men were

congratulating their brethren, they would be certainly excluded from if they listened

to them –“ that ye might affect them.  But it is good to be zealously affected

always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.”  The vivid

 remembrance of the simple-hearted joy and frank sympathy with each other’s

happiness of those days (the “blessedness” of v. 15) comes back to the apostle’s

mind with fresh force, after his brief mention and rebuke of the false-hearted

gratulations and compliments by which they were now in danger of being



Christian Zeal - Christian zeal must spring from a Christian motive –

 love to Christ, love to the truth, love to the souls of men. Zeal must be

according to knowledge.  It must be permanent, and not fitful, in its influence.

 “Always.”  The zeal of believers ought to be as lasting as the realities of religion

are permanent.


19 “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed

in you,” (Τεκνία μου [τέκνα μου] οὔς πάλιν ὠδίνω ἄρχις οῦ μορφωθῇ Ξριστὸς ἐν

ὑμῖν – teknia mou [tekna mou] ous palin odino archis ou morphothae Christos en

humin - my little children [my children] of whom I am again in travail, until Christ be

formed in you). It has been above remarked to be doubtful whether this verse should be

conjoined with the preceding verse or with that which follows. The objection to the

latter arrangement, presented by the δὲ - de – yet; but - at the commencement of

v. 20, is thought by many to be obviated by a number of instances which have been

alleged in which this conjunction is used with a sentence following a vocative

compellation (see Alford, Ellicott). But such cases appear marked by a tone of

vivacity and surprise which is not present here. On the other hand, the tone of

loving affectionate anxiety breathing in this verse links it more closely

with the preceding than with the following one, in which such pathos is no

longer discernible, but is replaced by a deliberative attitude of mind. The word

τεκνία (little children) occurs as a compellation here only in St. Paul's writings,

though repeatedly in St. John's Epistle and once in his Gospel (John 13:33), where

it appears as used by our Lord in an access of deeply moved affectionateness.

St. Paul addresses Timothy as "his child" (τέκνον - teknon) in II Timothy 2:1

and I Timothy 1:18, not only as a term of endearment, but as denoting also his

having been spiritually begotten by him (compare Philemon 1:10; I Corinthians

4:15). Here the like sense attaches to the word, as is clear from the following

clause, "of whom I am again in travail;" but the diminutive form of the noun,

agreeing well with the notion of a child at its birth, combines in this case apparently

a tender allusion also to the extremely immature character of their Christian

discipleship (compare "babes (νήπιοι – naepioi) in Christ," I Corinthians 3:1) –

so immature, in fact, that the apostle is travailing of them afresh, as if not yet

born at all. This particular shade of meaning, however, must be sacrificed, if we

accept the reading τέκνα μου (my children), which is highly authenticated.

The verb ὠδίνωodino - I am travailing cannot be understood as pointing to

gestation merely; it can only denote the pangs of parturition (giving birth to young).

The apostle by this figure describes himself as at this hour in an anguish of desire to

bring the souls of his converts both to a complete state of sonship in Christ Jesus,

and to a complete consciousness of that state - now at length bring them thereto,

though that former travail had seemingly been in vain. In I Corinthians 4:15

and Philemon 1:10 he refers to himself as a spiritual father of his converts,

and this too with touching pathos. Great is the pathos too of his reference

to himself as, in his fostering care of his Thessalonian converts, like a tender

"nursing mother cherishing her own children," and also as of a "father" of them

(I Thessalonians 2:7, 11). But neither of those passages equals the present in the

expression of intense, even anguished, longing to effect, if only he might be able

to effect it, a real transformation in the spiritual character of these Galatian converts.

"Until" - I cannot rest till then! - "Christ be formed in you." The verb μορφόω –

morphoo - form, occurs only here in the New Testament in its uncompounded

shape. A passage is cited from 'Const. Apost.,' 4:7, in which it occurs in the phrase,

"formed man in the womb." In the Septuagint of Exodus 21:22 we have

ἐξεικονισμένον – exeikonismenon - the unborn infant. It certainly seems as if

the apostle used the word as one belonging to the same region of thought as

the ὠδίνω, but, with the like bold and plastic touch as elsewhere characterizes

his use of imagery, refusing to be tied to thorough-going consisteney in its

application. Compare for example II Corinthians 3:2. When the hour of ὠδῖνες

(travail, birth pangs) is come, the period of the "formation" of the babe has expired.

Further, as showing the freedom of the writer's use of imagery, the easiest way of

taking ἐν ὑμῖν (in you) is to suppose that "Christ" is here viewed as "within" them,

and not as a likeness to which they are to be conformed: compare ch. 2:20, "Christ

liveth in me;" and Colossians 1:27, where the "mystery" of the gospel is summed

up in the words, "Christ in you the hope of glory." He cannot rest, he means,

till the image, thought, of Christ as the Object of their sole and absolute trust,

as the complete ground of their acceptance with God and their sonship, shall be

perfectly and abidingly formed in their hearts. The hour in which a perfectly

formed "Christ," that fair' Divine Child of joy and hope, has come to be there,

in their hearts, will be the hour in which the apostle's travailing pangs have

issued in their birth. No doubt the apostle is writing to persons baptized into

Christ and thus clothed with Christ (ch. 3:27); persons, in the language of the Church,

"born again." But however straitly we choose to be restrained in the use of such

images, solidifying into rigid dogma similitudes used for such passing illustration

as the occasion of the moment requires, the sacred writers themselves recognize

no such restriction. As Chrysostom observes in his 'Commentary,' the apostle's

language in effect is, (ἀναγεννήσεως ἑτέρας ὑμῖν δεῖ καὶ ἀναπλάσεως – anagennaeseos

eteras humin dei kai anaplaseos - Ye need a fresh new-birth, a fresh remolding ).

Baptized into Christ as those Galatians were, they were, however, in his view




20 “I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in

doubt of you.”  I desire to be present with you now (ἤθελον δὲ παρεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς

ἄρτι – aethelon de pareinai pros humas arti - I could wish to be present with you

this very hour. The δὲ (yet) marks here simply a transition to another thought, and, as

is not unfrequently the case, and as our Authorized Version assumes, needs not to

be represented in translation at all. Bishop Lightfoot writes, "But, speaking of my

presence, I would I had been present," etc. But this explanation is not necessary.

The imperfect verb ἤθελον (I willed; I desired), like the ἐβουλόμην – eboulomaen –

I intended of Acts 25:22 and the ηὐχόμηνhaeuchomaen -  I wished - of Romans 9:3,

denotes a movement as it were which had just been stirring in the mind, but which

for good reasons is now withdrawn: "I could almost wish - but long distance and

pressure of other duties make it impossible." Thus much in explanation of the

withdrawal of the wish. The wish itself was occasioned by the feeling that the

yearning desire of his soul might perhaps be more likely to be achieved if, by

being on the spot, he were enabled to adapt his treatment to a more distinct

consciousness of the circumstances than he can possibly now have. "To be present

with you;" the very words are repeated from v. 18. It was well both with you and

with me when I was with you: would that I could be with you now!  (On ἄρτι,

(this very hour; now) see note on ch. 1:9.) And to change my voice (καὶ ἀλλάξαι

τὴν φωνήν μου – kai allaxai taen phonaen mou – and to change the sound of me).

The tense of the infinitive ἀλλάξαι (to change) hardly allows us to take the word

as meaning "from moment to moment according to the rapidly varying emergencies."

This would have been expressed rather by ἀλλάσσειν – allassein. The question then

arises - Change: from what to what? to which a great variety of answers have been

proposed. The clue is probably supplied in the words, "be present with you this

very hour." This ἄρτι, contrasting as it does the very present with the former

occasions on which the apostle had been with them, suggests that he meant that

the tone of his utterance would need to be different if amongst them just now

from what it had then been. Then, it was the simple, un-anxious, joyous, exposition

of the blessed gospel, unrestrained by fear of being misunderstood; such a way of

speaking as one would be naturally drawn on to pursue who found himself addressing

those whom he could confide in, and who were disposed frankly and lovingly, with

an honest and good heart, to drink in from his lips the simple faith. Perhaps he might

now find it necessary to replace that mode of utterance by guarded words, by stern

reasoning, by the refuting of willful misconceptions, by exposing and abashing

cavil and objection. For I stand in doubt of you; or, I am perplexed for you

(ἀποροῦμαι γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν – aporoumai gar en humin - I am perplexed about you).

Compare Θαῥῤῶ ἐν ὑμῖν – Tharro en humin - I am in good courage concerning you;

I have confidence in you (II Corinthians 7:16).


  • As "in" the Corinthians the apostle found ground for good courage,
  • so "in" the Galatians he found ground for perplexity.


This explains his wishing that he were with them. He would in that case be

more able to clearly understand their state of mind.



A Tender Appeal to His Converts:  from Reproof to Argument,

from Argument to Entreaty (vs. 19-20)


“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be

formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice;

for I stand in doubt of you.”


  • Mark the tenderness of his address. “My little children;” implying


ü      that he had been the instrument of their conversion, he had

      “begotten them through the Word” (James 1:18);


ü      that they were still little children, with much of the feebleness and

                        simplicity of childhood – in an immature state.


ü      Mark his deep anxiety on their account. Of whom I travail in

      birth again.” The idea not being so much that of pain as of long-   

      continued effort; it was a renewal to him of the birth-pains that      

      accompanied their regeneration.


ü      Mark the end of all his anxiety. Till Christ be formed in you.”

      This refers, not to their regeneration, but to their progressive           

      sanctification. The false teachers had tried to form a new shape in

      their hearts – not Christ, but Moses — but he aimed at the complete           

      development of their spiritual manhood, at the fully formed results of        

      Christ within them. (A complete state of sonship in  Christ Jesus,

      and to a complete consciousness of that state – in the language

      of the church – “born again”)


  • Mark Paul’s Perplexity on their Account - “I am perplexed about you;”

      as to their actual spiritual condition as well as how to recover them

            to the truth of the gospel.



  • Mark Paul’s Desire for  a Face to Face Meeting. “I could, indeed,

            wish to be present with you now and to change my voice.”


ü      A personal interview would necessarily dissipate many



ü       It might revive the old affection in its entireness.


ü      It would give him an opportunity of changing his tone. He had

      been severe in his rebukes, but if present with them he might deal

                        with them with all the softness and tenderness of a mother


vs. 21-23 -  An Appeal to Scriptural History


“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the

other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the

flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.”


The Law itself, upon which the Galatians laid such stress, showed that they were

not meant to be under it. If he could prove from the Law of Moses that Abraham’s

children by faith were free from the bondage of the Law, no further argument was

needed to show that obedience to the Law was not necessary to salvation.

He now means to show that, as children of Abraham through faith in Christ, they

stood on a far higher footing than the children of the Sinai covenant did — a

 position which, by subjecting themselves afresh to the Law, they would forego.


  • The Argument as Embodied in History” -  “For it is written, that

      Abraham had two sons, one by the bondmaid, (Hagar was Sarah’s

      personal property) the other by the freewoman; but, he who was of the  

      bondwoman was born alter the flesh; (Arab world today – CY -2009)

      but he of the freewoman was of the promise.” Here we have:


ü      Two sons of AbrahamIshmael and Isaac, Ishmael being

      mentioned first, because he was born first. Abraham had other sons

      by Keturah, but they had no relation to the particular illustrations

      desired by the apostle.


ü      Two different mothers — the bondmaid Hagar whom Sarah gave to

                        Abraham that he might not be without offspring; and the

                        freewoman, Sarah.


ü      Two entirely different conditions of birth, Ishmael was horn in

      bondage and in the common course of nature; Isaac was born in

      freedom and against nature, when Sarah was old, according to

      “the promise.” These are the simple historic facts which form the

      basis of the apostle’s allegorical explanation.


ü      They are Scripture facts. “It is written,” to show that God’s Word

                        is decisive upon the question.


vs. 24-27 – An Allegory


“Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants;

the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is

Agar.  For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem

which now is, and is in bondage with her children.  But Jerusalem which is

above is free, which is the mother of us all.  For it is written, Rejoice, thou

barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for

the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.”


The lives of these real personages were so shaped by Divine providence as to

afford a striking illustration of other events or objects. The two covenants

were prefigured in the Old Testament under the image of the two wives of

Abraham and their seed respectively.  Since the old economy with its histories

and its ordinances originated from the same Divine Author as the new, it is no

unreasonable belief that in the things of preparatory dispensations He had

set foreshadowings, and in no scant number, of those great things in the

spiritual economy which from “eternal ages” (Revelation 13:8) had been His

thoughts towards us, and in which the whole progress of human history was

to find its consummation.


The Contrast Between the Two Covenants.   “For these” - that is, the two

women — “are the two covenants.” Hagar and Sarah represent the two   

covenants in three important points of contrast:


  • In the Historic Origination of the Covenants:


ü      One dates from Mount Sinai -  “one, indeed, from Mount Sinai;”

                        “which is Hagar; for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia.” This

                        was the covenant of Law, which finds its true representative in the                                                

                        religious attitude of “the Jerusalem which now is.” 


ü      The other dates from the promise made by God to Abraham. This

      was the covenant of promise, which finds its representative in “the            

      Jerusalem which is above” the ideal metropolis of Christ’s

      kingdom, “the heavenly Jerusalem.”


  • In Their Religious Effects:


ü      The covenant of the Law “gendereth to bondage,” and answers to

      “the Jerusalem which is in bondage with her children.” The

      apostle had already described this very bondage under the Law,

      under schoolmasters, under stewards and tutors, under “elements

      of the world.”


ü      The covenant of promise involves freedom and corresponds to

                        “Jerusalem which is free, the mother of us all,” whether Jews

                        or Gentiles.  Believers are therefore “to stand fast in the liberty                                         

                        wherewith Christ has made usfree.” (ch. 5:1)


ü      In their future expansion. Both Hagar and Sarah were to have

      large posterity, but Sarah was to have the larger family, according

      to Scripture prophecy itself. The original promise — “In thee and

      in thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed” - implied

      this pregnant fact. But a voice from Isaiah 54:1 sets it forth in an

      impressive light, “Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not,” that is,

      Sarah, or the Abrahamic covenant; “break forth and cry, thou

      that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children

      than she” (Hagar) “which hath the husband” (Abraham). Thus

      Sarah was to become “the mother of nations.Thus Abraham

      was to become the heir of the world, and Jews and Gentiles

                        were to enter into his wide inheritance.  The main point of this

                        whole allegory is that Judaism is slavery and the Christian state                                    

                        liberty!  The religious life of Judaism consisted of a servile

                        obedience to a letter Law of ceremonialism, interpreted by the rabbins                               

                        with an infinity of hair-splitting rules, the exact observance of which

                        was bound upon the conscience of its votaries as of the essence of

                        true piety. The apostle also probably took account of the slavish

                        spirit which very largely characterized the religious teaching of the

                        ruling doctors of Judaism; their bondage, that is, not only to the

                        letter of the Law, but to the traditions also of men; that spirit which

                        those who heard the teaching of the Lord Jesus felt to be so

                        strongly contrasted by His manner of conceiving and presenting

                        religious truth. “He taught as one having authority, and not as

                        the scribes.” But the main point now contemplated by the apostle

                        was bondage to ceremonialism.



vs. 28-31 – The Conclusion


“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.  But as then

he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit,

even so it is now.  Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the

bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with

the son of the freewoman.  So then, brethren, we are not children of the

bondwoman, but of the free.”


  • The Historic Fact - “He that was born after the flesh persecuted him

      that was born after the Spirit.” He refers to Ishmael’s mockery (the

      word is a verb used of insult and disrespect) of Isaac. (Genesis 21:9) 

      As the elder son, with the right of primogeniture, he ridiculed the feast

      given in honor of Isaac as the heir. The spirit of persecution was in that  

      mockery that sprang out of jealousy and ill feeling.


  • The Allegoric Significance of the Act - “Even so it is now.” The

            persecutors of Paul were Judaists “born after the flesh,” for they claimed

            to inherit the blessings of the covenant by virtue of carnal ordinances.

            They were adroit in all the arts of cruel mockery. Scripture tells the vivid

            story of persecution directed against the Christianity of the first age by the

            fanaticism of the Jews. The apostle might well say in his first epistolary

            writing concerning the Jews, “who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the

            prophets, and drove out us; and please not God, and are contrary to all

      men” (1 Thessalonians 2:15).  (COMPARE TODAY THE MEDIA’S    



      ANYTHING CHRISTIAN  - at the Judgment – modernists will no

      doubt be surprised that the precedent of their mistakes were done

      long ago and by following their father, the devil, their ignorance,

      unatoned, will bring shame, disgrace, and eternal suffering –

      CY – 2009) – (see Luke 12:2-3) Jesus said “And when these things

      begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your    

      redemption draweth nigh” – (Luke 21:28)


  • The Inheritance is an Exclusive Possession - “Nevertheless what saith the

      Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the

      bondwoman shall in no wise be heir with the son of the freewoman.”

      These words of Sarah are not simply from a jealous and petulant woman,

      but of a righteously indignant matron, whose just, if severe, requirement

      was forced on Abraham by God’s own express command, for the Lord

      adopted Sarah’s decision for His own.  (Genesis 21:9-12)  The apostle

      adopts the words of Sarah addressed to Abraham; not giving any hint

      of the nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem and its whole ecclesiastical

      polity, but emphasizing the importance of the Galatians standing clear of

      the doomed system. As there could be no joint heirship between Ishmael

      and Isaac, so there could be no fusion or amalgamation of Law and gospel.           

      Judaism could not be combined with Christianity. It was to be utterly

      cast out, though it then tenaciously held its ground side by side with

      Christianity even within the Church of God itself.


  • The Conclusion of this Whole Allegoric Lesson. “So then, brethren, we

      are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free.” “We, as Isaac was,

      are children of promise.” Let us, therefore, recognize our true position with

      its blessed immunities and privileges. Let us forsake the dangerous

      fellowship of those who are children of the bondwoman. The Galatian  

      tendency was false and evil; for it involved their losing what they had and

      getting nothing better in its place. Their true attitude was that of freedom.




                              ADDITIONAL NOTES


v. 13 - How through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you

(ὅτι δἰ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖνhoti di astheneian taes sarkos

euaeggelisamaen humin - that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the

gospel unto you. “An infirmity of the flesh;” that is, a bodily illness. The noun

ἀσθένεια (infirmity) is used for “illness” in John 11:4; Acts 28:9; I Timothy 5:23;

Matthew 8:17. It also denotes a nervous disablement, as Luke 13:11-12; John 5:5.

The verb ἀσθενέω is the common word for “being sick,” as Luke 4:40; 7:10;

John 11:3.


 v. 19 – “Christ be formed in you”  - “Christ” is here viewed as within them,

and not as a likeness to which they are to be conformed: comp. Galatians 2:22,

 “Christ liveth in me;” and Colossians 1:27, where the “mystery” of the gospel is

summed up in the words, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” He cannot rest, he

means, till the image, thought, of Christ as the Object of their sole and absolute

trust, as the complete ground of their acceptance with God and their sonship,

shall be perfectly and abidingly formed in their hearts. The hour in which a

perfectly formed “Christ,” that fair Divine Child of joy and hope, has come

to be there, in their hearts, will be the hour in which the apostle’s travailing

pangs have issued in their birth.  Compare the great teaching of Christ in

John 14:23 – “If a man love me, he will keep my words:  and my Father

will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him”


v. 23 - But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the

flesh (ἀλλ ὁ μὲν ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης κατὰ σάρκα γεγέννηταιall ho men ek

taes paidiskaes kata sarka gegennaetai – howbeit the son by the handmaid is

shown as born (or, begotten) after the flesh. The ἀλλὰ (all) is strongly adversative;

both, indeed, were sons of Abraham, but there was a marked distinction in the way

in which they severally came into being. The apostle has evidently in his eye the

analogy presented by the natural birth of the Jewish descendants from Abraham,

as contrasted with the birth of Abraham’s spiritual seed through faith in the

 promises of the gospel.


Ishmael was born “after the flesh,” because he was born in the common course

of nature; Isaac was born (v. 28) “after the Spirit,” because his birth was

connected with the invisible spiritual world “through the promise,” which on the

one hand was given by God, the great Sovereign of the spiritual world, and

on the other was laid hold of and made effectual in that same world of

spiritual action by Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith. But he of the freewoman

“was by promise” (ὁ δὲ ἐκ τῆς ἐλευθέρας δὶ [Receptus, διὰ τῆς] ἐπαγγελίας

ho de ek taes eleutheras di [Receptus, dia taes] epaggelias – yet out of the

free woman through the promise;but the son by the freewoman through a promise).

If the article before ἐπαγγελίας (promise) be retained, it is to

be taken as pointing to the well-known promise made by the Lord to

Abraham, both in the night in which God made a covenant with him

(Genesis 15:4). and afresh, in a more definite form, on the eve of the

destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18.). This promise was the means of

Isaac’s being born, calling forth as it did an acting of faith in God, both in

Abraham – “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but

was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that,

what He had promised, He was able also to perform” - (Romans 4:17-21),

and likewise in Sarah  “she judged Him faithful who had promised”

(Hebrews 11:11), in consideration of which the Almighty beyond the course

of nature gave them this child.


v. 24 – “Which is Hagar” -  (ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἄγαρ - - haetis estin Hagar - which is

Hagar). The meaning of ἥτις here is, “which being such in character as it is,

is Hagar.” This covenant, with its children, being wrapped in an element of

slavery, is kindred in character with Hagar and her offspring. It is objected

that Ishmael was not, in fact, a slave. But as Hagar does not appear to have

been a recognized concubine of Abraham, in the same way as Bilhah and

Zilpah were concubines of Jacob, but still continued to be Sarah’s

handmaid (“thy maid,”Genesis 16:6), her child was, of course, born

into the same condition. With Sarah’s consent, it is true, Abraham might, if

he had thought fit, have adopted him as a child of his own; but this does

not appear to have been done.


v. 26 – “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”


This is identical with the “heavenly Jerusalem of Hebrews 12:22, which, standing

in contrast with the “mount that might be touched and that burned with fire,”

Sinai with its soul-crushing terrors, appears associated with the pacifying blood of

Jesus, and with communion with all that is holiest and most glorious. The essential

identity of the contrast in the two passages, which are mutually illustrative,

bespeaks a common origin in one and the same Mind. The supernal

Jerusalem is not chiefly contrasted with the Jerusalem “that now is,” in

point of time: she is not the future only, though in the future to be

manifested — the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down (as St. John

writes) from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:2); but she is there

now, with God. It would be in harmony with St. Paul’s representation to

suppose that he conceives of her having been there with God in heaven of

old, her citizens upon earth being the true servants of God in all ages. In

former ages, however, she was comparatively barren; it needed that the

enthronization of the God-Man, “the Mediator of the new covenant’’

(Hebrews 12:24), on “God’s holy hill of Zion,” should take place

before she could become the prolific mother here shown to us.


v. 27 – “For it is written” (γέγραπται γάρgegraptai gar – for it is written).

The points indicated in the section of Isaiah (54.) referred to by the quotation

which is made of the first verse, and which amply make good what the apostle

has been stating and implying, are these: that a new economy was to appear;

that by this economy a multitude of servants of God should be called into being;

that this multitude should in numbers far surpass those called into being

heretofore; that this economy, though newly manifested, had been in

existence before, but comparatively unblest with offspring; that it was to be

known as an economy of forgiving, adopting love, involving a principle of

spiritual life and of spontaneous, no longer constrained and servile,



“All thy children shall be taught of the Lord” (Isaiah 54:13), as

pointing to the spiritual illumination which should at the time referred to

characterize the people of God universally, so universally that none would

be numbered amongst God’s true people, that is, amongst the disciples of

His Son, who had not “heard from the Father” (John 6:45). We have,

then, in this section of Isaiah a distinctly predictive description of a

condition of spiritual well-being which was to result from Christ’s

mediation; that is, of the illumination, peace and joyful sense of God’s love

which then should be the “heritage of the servants of the Lord.”


“Break forth and cry”  - (scream for joy) - the rejoicing mother of the prophet

Isaiah, as well as the supernal Jerusalem of the apostle, knows of no distinction

in her believing offspring, between Jew and Gentile, comprising both alike.



v. 29 – “he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born

after the Spirit” - It is likely that Ishmael, having arrived at these years,

participated in Hagar’s feelings of jealousy and disappointment that this child

should have come to supersede him in the position which, but for this, he might

have held in the family; and that, on the occasion of this “great feast,” by which

the aged pair were celebrating their pious joy over this “child of promise”

as well as very markedly signalizing his peculiar position as Abraham’s

heir, the elder-born indulged himself in ill-natured and very possibly

profane ridicule of the circumstances under which Isaac was born. Hagar’s

feelings towards her mistress had of old been those of upstart insubordination

(Genesis 16:4). That both mother and son were very greatly in the wrong is

evidenced by the sanction which Heaven accorded to the punishment with

which they were visited. The critics (see Wetstein) quote the following passage

from the rabbinical treatise, ‘Bereshith rabb.,’ 53, 15. “Rabbi Asaria said: Ishmael

said to Isaac, ‘Let us go and see our portion in the field;’ and Ishmael took bow and

arrows, and shot at Isaac, and pretended that he was in sport.” St. Paul’s view,

therefore, of the import of the Hebrew participle rendered “mocking” is corroborated

by the rabbinical interpretation of the word — a consideration which in such a

case is of no small weight. The particular word, “persecuted,’’ with which

the apostle describes Ishmael’s behavior to his half-brother, was, no

doubt, like the expression, “born after the Spirit,” suggested by the

antitypal case to which he is comparing it. But the features justifying its

application to Ishmael viewed as typical were these — spiteful jealousy;

disregard of the will of God; antipathy to one chosen of God to be

Abraham’s seed; abuse of superior power.Even so it is now” (οὕτω καὶ νῦν

houto kai nun - even so he does now). The full sentence represented by this elliptic

one is: “even so now does he that is born after the flesh persecute him that

is born after the Spirit.”



"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:


If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.