Galatians 4:1
What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything.
Fourth Sunday in LentMartin LutherGalatians 4:1
The Method and Fruits of JustificationVariousGalatians 4:1
Reading LifeJ. Vaughan, M. A.Galatians 4:1-2
The Children At SchoolE. Garbett, M. A.Galatians 4:1-2
The Three EstatesE. Garbett, M. A.Galatians 4:1-2
Under Tutors and GovernorsJ. Vaughan, M. A.Galatians 4:1-2
Majority Through the GospelR.M. Edgar Galatians 4:1-7
Majority and MinorityR. Finlayson Galatians 4:1-11

Paul, having spoken of the Law-school in the preceding sections, and of the participation of believing Gentiles in the privileges of the Abrahamic family, proceeds in the present section to speak of the times before Christ's advent as infantile, of the advent as the fulness of times, and of the majority which is realized by believers through the gospel. Four leading thoughts are thus presented.

I. THE IMPERFECT TIMES. (Vers. 1-3.) The Old Testament times represent the experience of all men before the reception of the gospel. They were the minority of humanity. The soul was then like a child who is placed under stewards and guardians, and is not allowed to take charge of itself. It lived by law and rule, and had not entered upon proper self government and independence. Now, all the world was in this legal condition as well as the Jews. Nay, we are all before conversion in it; we are legalists by nature, we do what is prescribed with more or less fidelity, and congratulate ourselves upon the doing of it. It is the "infantile" stage. It is the imperfect times, as contrasted with the riper experience the gospel brings. And yet it is better that the soul should be at the school of Law than wandering waywardly after its own devices. Better be under restraint than be utterly spoiled by getting our own way. We ought not to under-estimate the discipline which the Law-school secured.

II. THE ADVENT OF THE SON. (Vers. 4, 5.) It was Christ's coming which brought in the fulness of times. He came to put an end to the world's minority and to secure the world's redemption. He did so by being "born of a woman," by being "born under the Law," and undertaking all his brethren's responsibilities. Having obeyed the Law in its penalty of death for disobedience as well as in its precepts, he redeemed men from the condemning power of Law, and secured their adoption as sons. The world at the advent of the Son must have looked differently to the eye of God the Father. For milleniums he had been looking anxiously down to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. But, alas! the verdict had to be that "they are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:2, 3). But at the advent of Christ a new example presented itself, a new type arose - a sinless Being appeared upon the stage, with all the interest around him of sinlessness. A breach of continuity took place when the babe was born in Bethlehem. Instead of the world being now condemned wholesale, it possessed for the Divine mind a deep attraction. The drama of sinlessness amid temptation was being carried on, and a repulsive world became the centre of moral and spiritual power. A new age thus dawned upon humanity. Man's minority was over and his inheritance was at hand.

III. THE ADVENT OF THE SPIRIT. (Ver. 6.) The magnificent panorama of sinlessness, however, might have passed impressively before the eye of God, and have given flesh interest to the problem of humanity, without at all affecting men themselves. But the advent of the Spirit secured men in their spiritual inheritance. The cry of the human heart, which had been so indefinite before, became definite and pathetic. It became the cry of children who had learned at last to feel at home with God. The converted Jew and the converted Gentile began to cry to the one Father in heaven, and to feel "orphans" no more (cf. John 14:18). The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of adoption enables human hearts to look up hopefully to heaven, and to realize that it is no longer empty, but filled with the presence of an infinite and all-merciful Father, who desires above all things the welfare of his children. It is this marvellous arrangement of the advent of an infinite Spirit of adoption which ensures the reality of adoption, and makes all the sons feel at home. Poets doubtless wrote about man being "God's offspring" (Acts 17:28), but the fancy of the poet could only become a fact of human experience when the indwelling Spirit prompted the cry, "Abba, Father."

IV. THE HEIR THEREBY ENTERED UPON HIS MAJORITY. (Ver. 7.) The termination of slavish fear, and the advent of a sense of sonship, is what we call conversion. But we hardly realize at once the meaning of our inheritance. How magnificent it is! To realize that God no longer is angry with us, but looks down with ineffable tenderness as our heavenly Father; to realize that, though we have nothing of ourselves, we have become heirs of all things, and find that all things are being made to work together for our good (Romans 8:28); to realize that we are "heirs of God through Christ," - is surely glorious! There is happiness when noble heirs reach their majority. What feasting and good will and congratulation goes on in the baronial halls! Poets sing of it, and artists paint the scene. But no joy of majority on earth can compare with the joy which attends the sense of our spiritual majority before God. The baron's heir is filled with mingled feelings if his heart beat true, for he knows that the condition of his inheritance is, alas! his father's death. He must be base indeed who can contemplate such a condition without emotion. But when the Spirit of adoption comes within us it is to enable us to realize that, not only is our majority come, but also our inheritance as sons of God; into this inheritance we may enter at once. The Father never dies, and his presence, instead of keeping us out of our enjoyment, consecrates and enlarges it to a heavenly fulness. "All things are ours, if we are Christ's" (1 Corinthians 3:20-23). May we no longer live as bond-servants before God, but enter by adoption into the privileges of sons! - R.M.E.

Now this I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant.
There is nothing final in the character of this world. But all betrays infancy. Everything is in a state of preparation. We move up and down amidst the reflections of the future. Certainly the material world has not reached its destination. The air we breathe — the sky we look on — the soil we tread — are only to go to make a "new heaven and a new earth." And the Divine government, which is now, is mainly to illustrate the government which is to come. We have churches now; but they are only to prepare us for a state where there shall be no church — because every spot shall be holy. This world, then, is one large training-school, where we are placed for a little while, to learn to fulfil the duties of that great service for which we were destined and created. Training consists of three things: instruction, which is the imparting knowledge, and giving new ideas; education, which is the drawing out, and directing, the powers of mind and heart; and moral discipline, which is the moulding character, and the formation of good habits. This is just what life is.

I. We are here TO GET KNOWLEDGE, and new ideas about the things of God. How shall we enter heaven without some previous knowledge of it: its conditions — its employments? And if there is no greater pleasure on this earth than to get a new idea, what must it be when the new ideas are these: to inform the mind about God; to see every day some new, fresh beauty in Jesus; to impregnate the understanding with the Infinite?

II. But let me speak to you, secondly, of your EDUCATION for another world — according to the strict meaning of the word education. You are probably aware that the word "education" means "to draw out," "to educe." So that when we educate a child, it is, literally and properly, that we draw out what is in the child. The gardener does not make the branches and the tendrils; but he lays them out, he guides them, he gives each its proper place and order. He lops what is redundant; he fastens and makes sure what is good. But, be sure of this, there is that in you which, if you will, and if you will only let it, can expand into all that is happy, and all that is holy, and all that is useful, and all that is Divine, here and for ever.

III. Now, thirdly, the way in which this is to be done, we call DISCIPLINE, the third part of training. Selfdiscipline, and God's discipline. And yet they are not two, for God's discipline is to make and to take effect through self-discipline. Do not count discipline a hard word. In God's vocabulary, discipline is only another word for love. There cannot be discipline without friction — without struggle. But a victory over self is such a very pleasant thing. And the compensations are so accurate, and so great, that discipline itself soon loses to you its sterner sense, and becomes the element of all happiness. Discipline is to form habits. Do not forget that you are placed here mainly to form habits, to learn to do and be what you are to do and be eternally. To form a good habit must always involve the unforming a bad one. So you begin to hold yourself in hand, to exercise self-control, to cultivate pious thoughts — acts of devotion and religious communion, and a holy walk — which are the things you are to do for ever and ever. Meanwhile, all outward things are working for you, You will find yourselves in strange circumstances. But all to practise and increase some grace — and especially a lacking one.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)


1. The servant.

2. The child under tutors and governors.

3. The man come of age, liberated, and in possession of the inheritance.


1. The condition of servitude was that of the Church under the law, in bondage to beggarly elements.

2. The condition of the child already adopted but waiting for the inheritance is that of the Church under the gospel.

3. The condition of the man, full grown and enjoying his inheritance is that of the Church in glory.


1. The state of servitude is that of the soul unconverted. "He that committeth sin is the slave of sin." Sin is "bondage of corruption."

2. The state of Sonship and liberty is that of the soul justified and sanctified (John 8:35; John 15:15).

3. The state of full manhood is where the glorifled saint enters the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away.

(E. Garbett, M. A.)


1. The period covered: from conversion to glorification — "the time appointed of the Father."

2. The necessity for the intermediate schooltime arises from the degree and effect of imperfect sanctification.

3. The school sphere, this world, is admirably adapted to the discipline of the soul. For moral lessons to be learned by heart and conscience differ from intellectual. Instruction may convey the latter, only practical experience the former.

(1)Faith can only grow in the absence of perfect sight;

(2)hope amidst disappointment;

(3)love by opposition and sacrifice;

(4)submission amidst contradiction; and

(5)patience amidst prolonged trial.


1. The knowledge conveyed: God Himself.

(1)The loftiest.

(2)The most satisfying.

2. The books employed.


(2)The human heart.


(4)Scripture, which explains others.

3. The teacher.






1. necessity for this arises from our corrupt nature and constant temptations.

2. In the sense of discipline we must interpret the afflictions of this transitory state (Romans 5:3-5).


1. Be patient.

2. Teachable.

3. Earnest.

4. Obedient, as befits those who are "under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father."

(E. Garbett, M. A.)

This whole world is a training school, and all life is discipline. Understand your position. You are "an heir," an heir of an estate whose value no numbers can represent; an heir of a kingdom! But you are a "child;" whatever age you be, you are in the infancy of your existence. And the great end of your being is preparation for your majority — which lies the other side the grave. And therefore, all is laid out here — by your wise and loving Father — for your education. You are at home in your own household, and all is going on day after day, in the ordinary round. You meet in the morning; you sit together at meals: you join in the evening circle. It all seems very commonplace. But what and if in all this you are placed, by God, to prepare yourself for "the family" in heaven? Or, you go about in all the activities and businesses of your earthly calling. Have you bethought you that they are all to cultivate the accuracy, and the energy, and the faithfulness which will make you fit for higher trust and heavenly engagements, and more than angelic offices, in another stage of your immortality? Or, you walk among the beauties of God's creation: or you sit down and you study the pages of Divine lore: and what is the whole universe, what is it but a lesson book in which you are to read, day by day, something of the character, and the wisdom, and the love of God? Yet, all you read now, is only like a little child learning his alphabet. Those pains and troubles, what are they? Correctives. Not very general correctives that will do for every one. That would not be the way of a good "tutor," or a wise "governor." But the particular grief, the particular happiness, which is exactly suited to your special case, and still more to your destined place and portion which you are to occupy in another world. Are not the poor, and the sorrowful, the "tutors" who are sent to prepare you for the higher exercises of heaven? — for the missions and the ministrations of the redeemed!

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

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