Galatians 4:2
He is subject to guardians and trustees until the date set by his father.
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.

Until Christ be formed in you.
Now, although the apostle nowhere carries out this into a full allegory, yet it may be clearly seen that this thought dwelt in his mind, viz., that as Christ came into this world, and was first a babe, and then a youth, and finally a man, so there was an order in the stages of our personal experience; and that Christ in us was born, first as a babe, and went on through all the stages of youth up to maturity, so that we have in the spiritual experience of our nature the parallel, the analogue, of that which Christ Himself went through. This great truth, therefore, is to be borne in mind, that Christian life begins at the point of weakness, and goes on by regular normal stages to maturity. It is first a spark, and then a flame, hidden in much smoke, and at last a pure and glowing coal. With this unfolding of the primal idea, I proceed, now, to make some applications.

1. Children and youth may become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and may be safely gathered into the Christian fold, if only their parents and their pastors will be content to receive the babe — Christ in the young convert, or the young Christian. Persons, we all know, are more susceptible at an early age that at any other. Children are not superior to men in knowledge, nor in strength, nor in discrimination. There are a thousand of the acquirements by which a man battles with the world that they are not superior in. But there is one all-important principle which belongs to childhood, and not to any other time, viz.: that peculiar development of the soul by which it knows how to take hold of another, and to borrow its light from that other. To borrow an orchard illustration, there is but one period of the year in which you can graft well. It may be possible to graft successfully at other times; but there is one period when you must make the transfer if you would take a bud from one tree, and graft it into another, and have it produce its kind, and do the best that it is capable of doing. There is but just one season when the bark lifts easy, and the staff is in the right condition. There is a time, also, when the little natures bud- easily, and graft easily. It is possible to graft them at other times, by extra elaboration; but more than half of the grafts will blow out, as the saying is. There is a period, however, in which ninety-nine out of a hundred will stick and grow. For all the adaptations of the child at the time are such as to incline it to borrow its life from another. It feeds upon another instinctively. It is a little parasite. It is but the transfer of that which is its need and instinct to the blessed Saviour. And then it becomes a Christian child. But many people, in bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, look with great suspicion on early Christian experiences. They are afraid of abnormal growths.

2. One may be a Christian who is yet very far from the beauty and symmetry and manhood of piety. We are not to suppose that they only are Christians who are beautiful Christians, or who are embellished with all Christian graces. A man may be a Christian, and his Christ may be a babe. A man may be a Christian, and the Christian nature in him may yet be, as it were, in its boyhood. A man may be a Christian, and yet the Christ in him may have reached only that stage in which it enters upon young manhood. A man may be a Christian, and the Christ in him may have entered upon His ministry, as it were, in the full ripeness of His manhood. We are not, therefore, to suppose that persons are not Christians because they are very imperfect. If a man's heart is in the cause, and he enlists in the army, he is a soldier, not when he is a veteran, but when he enlists. He is a soldier just as really when his name goes down on the roll, and he goes out with the awkward squad to the first drill, as after he has been in the army five years — although he is not a soldier with the same degree and amplitude of experience. He is a soldier, provided his heart is right, and he loves the cause, and he joins in earnest. The degree of imperfection and ignorance that is in him has nothing to do with the fact of his being a soldier. It is that silent other thing, viz, the principle at the core of your life which undertakes to organize your whole being on the law of love. And that may be established in a man without any outward experience. A person may come to a state in which he means to be like Christ, and means to cut off everything that hinders his being like Christ, and to enforce outward and inward compliance to this law of love in Jesus Christ; and yet, he may not have light nor joy. But it is the raising up of that standard, the vindicating of that sovereign law in the soul, which constitutes the beginning of the Christian life. If it comes with joy so much the better. If it does not come with joy it is none the less true conversion.

3. In a Christian life, as in the ordinary life, there are two principles at work — first, the force of nature in the steady growth and unfolding of our normal powers; and secondly, the voluntary drill which, working in harmony with nature, we call education. Christian graces, if I might so say without being misapprehended, are like so many trades. They are not to be learned theoretically; and certainly they are not created in us by the mere operation of the Spirit, nor by the forces of sanctified nature. We learn them just as we learn anything in outward life. It is supposed that the Spirit of God makes men humble; that it, as it were, sends humility into them. Just as dew falls, and orbs itself on the bearded grass, gemmed and jewelled on a summer's morning; so men think that the Christian graces fall down oat of the great heavenly concave above them; and that all one knows is, that he went to sleep violet dry, and woke up a violet wet and beautiful! Many persons think that meekness, and gentleness, and humility, and faith, and patience, and hope, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are Divine gifts. They are Divine gifts, to be sure. So is corn a Divine gift; so is wine a Divine gift; and so are cattle on a thousand hills Divine gifts; but men have to work for them. God gives them to man's industry, and not to his laziness. All gifts are Divine gifts in such a sense as that. If the connection between the soul and God were to stop, these things would never take place; but He works together with us to will and to do these things. No man ever came to a state of Christian eminence by waiting and praying alone.

4. The experiences of Christian life are not promiscuous. They stand in a certain order of nature. Just as in summer all flowers do not blossom in spring, nor wait till autumn; as there is a regular succession, according to the temperament of the year, following a line of increasing heat; as there is an order of development in the tree; as there is first the leaf, and afterwards the green fruit, and then the ripe fruit, so is it in Christian life. Christ begins with us at the infant point, and develops in us steadily; and the later developments cannot be had until the intermediate ones are passed. We are steadily to grow; but at each point of growth we are, as it were, to seize the experiences of that point. When first people think they are delivered from the power of sin and Satan and death; when they first have a triumphant feeling that Christ loves them, and they know they love Christ, there is something wonderful and beautiful in it, and they should remember it as long as they live; but, after all, is that the best? And do you look back and say, "I never again had such experiences of love; I never again was so happy; I never again was so near to Christ?" Oh I what a life you have been living! Why, how far have you been? Is your Christ a babe yet? Born into your soul, did you turn the key of the chamber where He was? And did you send no schoolmaster and no nurse there? Did you starve the infant child? And has there never been any growth in that child? Is it but a phantom or vision in you? That child Jesus, born into your soul, should have grown, and should little by little have expelled the natural man, and swollen to all the proportions of your being, until he became Christ formed truly and perfectly in you. How is it with you, dear Christian brethren? Have you grown in that part of your being which is represented by Christ's love, and humility, and disinterestedness? Have you imitated Him in going about doing good? Have these elements of the Divine nature in you severally grown and cohered symmetrically, and swollen to the proportions of full manhood? On earth there is no sight more beautiful, and there never will be a sight more beautiful till He comes to reign a thousand years, than a character which has been steadfastly growing in every direction, and has come to old age rich and ripe. I am sorry to say that such characters are rare.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. THE APOSTLE'S MINISTRY. He takes the condition of a mother to express his most tender affection. If this be the case with Paul, how great is the compassion of God (Isaiah 49:15).

2. He signifies the measure of his ministerial pains (2 Corinthians 11:23). Those who take most pains are most successful.

3. He signifies the dignity of his ministry that it is the instrument of the new birth.

II. ITS END. "Till Christ," etc. This conformity to Christ is two-fold.

1. In quality.

(1)To the death of Christ.

(2)To the resurrection life of Christ.

2. In practice.

(1)As prophets; confessing Christ; teaching and admonishing one another.

(2)As priests; to offer spiritual sacrifices.

(3)As kings; to have sway over the corruptions of our own hearts.

(W. Perkins.)

They are weak, humble, teachable, obedient, hopeful, and progressive; and hence are called children.

(Thomas Jones.)

It is a common saying that a letter is a dead messenger, for it can give no more than it hath. And no epistle or letter is written so exactly that it is not lacking in some respect. For the circumstances are divers; there is diversity of times, places, persons, manners, and affections, all which no epistle can express; therefore it moveth the reader diversely, making him now sad, now merry, as he himself is disposed. But if anything be spoken sharply, or out of time, the living voice of a man may expound, mitigate, or correct the same. Therefore the apostle wisheth that he were with them, to the end he might temper and change his voice, as he should see it needful, by the qualities of their affections. As, if he should see any of them very much troubled, he might so temper his words that they should not be oppressed thereby with more heaviness; contrariwise, if he should see others high-minded, he might sharply reprehend them, lest they should be too secure and careless, and so at length become despisers of God. "Wherefore he could not devise how he, being absent, should deal with them by letters. As if he should say: If my epistle be too sharp, I fear I shall more offend than amend some of you. Again: If it be too gentle, it will not profit those who are perverse and obstinate; for dead letters and words give no more than they have. Contrariwise, the living voice of a man, compared to an epistle, is a queen; for it can add and diminish, it can change itself into all manner of affections, times, places, and persons.


I. PAUL'S DESIRE. This presence of pastors among their people is most necessary.

1. To prevent spiritual dangers; whence they are called watchmen and overseers.

2. To redress wrongs.

3. To recover backsliders.

II. THE END of this desire — "That I may change my voice."

1. From that of seeming rebuke to that of tender entreaty.

2. From that of the hard controversialist to that of the loving teacher and friend. Learn that frequent conference between pastor and people is most desirable —

(1)That pastors may know better how to teach.

(2)That people may know better what is taught.

(3)That both may live in peace and goodwill.

III. THE OCCASION of the desire.

1. The apostle's perplexity was real.

2. He took steps to relieve his doubts by this Epistle.

3. He left events to God.

(W. Perkins.)

Fellowship of souls does not consist in the proximity of persons. There are millions who live in close personal contact — dwell under the same roof, board at the same table, and work at the same shop — between whose minds there is scarcely a point of contact, whose souls are far asunder as the poles; while contrariwise there are those Who are separated by oceans and continents, ay, by the mysterious gulf which divides time and eternity, between whom there is constant; intercourse, a delightful fellowship. In truth, we have often more communion with the distant than with the near.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I stand in doubt of some of you. I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. And if there be no ground for it, you will forgive me; for if it be an error, it is the error of love. Even the apostles, the most select society that ever was formed, had a Judas among them. Even a judicious Christian may suspect that your whole hearts are not engaged, that the vigour of your spirits is not exerted, and that there is no spiritual life in your devotions. This man may suspect; and he who searches the heart may see it is so in fact. I also stand in doubt of some of you, that you have worn off your religious impressions before they ripened to a right issue. This is a very common case in the world, and therefore it may be yours. The temper of a Christian has such a resemblance to Christ's, that it was called Christ in embryo, spiritually formed within us. It is indeed infinitely short of the all-perfect original, but yet it is a prevailing temper, and habitually the governing principle of the soul. That filial temper towards God, that humble veneration and submission, that ardent devotion, that strict regard to all the duties of religion, that self-denial, humility, meekness and patience, that heavenly-mindedness and noble superiority to the world, that generous charity, benevolence and mercy to mankind, that ardent zeal and diligence to do good, that temperance and sobriety which shone in the blessed Jesus with a Divine incomparable splendour: these and the like graces and virtues shine, though with feebler rays, in all His followers. They have their infirmities indeed, many and great infirmities — but not such as are inconsistent with the habitual prevalency of this Christ-like disposition. You may make what excuses you please, but this is an eternal truth, that unless you have a real resemblance to the holy Jesus, you are not His genuine disciples. Pray examine critically into this point. Have you a right to take your name Christian from Christ, by reason of your conformity to Him? Again, if Christ be formed in your hearts, he lives there. The heavenly embryo is not yet complete, not yet ripe for birth into the heavenly world, but it is quickened. I mean, those virtues and graces above-mentioned are not dead, inactive principles within you, but they operate, they show themselves alive by action, they are the governing principles of your practice. Before I dismiss this head, I must observe that the production of this Divine infant, if I may so call it, in the heart, is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. Ii; is not the growth of nature, but a creation by Divine power. But you would inquire farther, "In what manner does this Divine agent work; or how is Christ formed in the hearts of His people?" I answer, the heart of man has a quick sensation. Nothing can be done there without its perceiving it, much less can Christ be formed there, while it is wholly insensible of the operation. There is indeed a great variety in the circumstances, but the substance of the work is the same in all adults. Therefore, if ever you have been the subjects of it, you have been sensible of the following particulars.

1. You have been made deeply sensible of your being entirely destitute of this Divine image. Your hearts have appeared to you as a huge, shapeless mass of corruption, without one ingredient of true goodness, amidst all the flattering appearances of it.

2. You have hereupon set yourselves in earnest to the use of the means appointed for the renovation of your nature.

3. You have been made sensible of your own weakness, and the inefficacy of all the means you could use to produce the Divine image upon your hearts; and that nothing but the Divine hand could draw it there.

4. Hereupon the Holy Spirit enlightened your mind to view the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and the method of salvation revealed in the gospel. You were enabled to cast your guilty corrupt, helpless soul upon Jesus Christ, whom you saw to be a glorious all-sufficient Saviour; and with all your hearts you embraced the way of salvation through His mediation. The view of His glory proved transformative: while you were contemplating the object, you received its likeness; the rays of glory beaming upon you, as it were, rendered your hearts transparent, and the beauties of holiness were stamped upon them.

5. If Christ has ever been formed in you, it is your persevering endeavour to improve and perfect this Divine image. You long and labour to be fully conformed to Him, and, as it were, to catch His air, His manner and spirit, in every thought, in every word, and in every action. As far as you are unlike to Him, so far you appear deformed and loathsome to yourselves. While you feel an unchristian spirit prevail within you, you seem as if you were possessed with the devil. And it is the labour of your life to subdue such a spirit, and to brighten and finish the features of the Divine image within you, by repeated touches and retouches.

(President Davies, M. A.)

There are minerals which exhibit different colours on different faces. Thus dichroite, or iolite, is often deep blue along its vertical axis; but, on a side perpendicular to this axis, it is brownish yellow. The phenomenon results from the manner in which the particles are arranged for' reflecting and transmitting light. The whole internal structure must be changed before the same colour shall be presented on all the faces. There is a moral dichroism. It consists in a man's being Janus-faced — that is, double-faced — both in his principles and his practice, in order to secure popular favour and avoid odium. The chameleon is said to have the power of assuming the colour of the object on which it fastens; so this man means to conform his creed and his practice to those which are most popular in the community where he happens to abide or sojourn. In one place he is orthodox; in another, heterodox; in one, an advocate for temperance; in another, loose in this matter, both in theory and practice: in one place, proslavery; in another, antislavery. His moral and religious principles are not settled, or, rather, he makes them bend to his worldly interest, and you have no way of determining where to find him in any circumstance, except to inquire what aspect self-interest will require him to put on. Nor will it ever be essentially better until Divine grace shall have transformed and re-arranged the elements of his character.


Mr. Camden reports of one Redwald, king of the East Saxons, the first prince of this nation that was baptized, yet in the same church he had one altar for Christian religion, another for that of the heathens. And many such false worshippers of God there are to be found amongst us — such as divide the rooms of their souls betwixt God and the devil, that swear by God and Malcham, that sometimes pray and sometimes curse, that halt betwixt God and Baal — mere heteroclites in religion. But God cannot endure this division: He will not have thy threshold to stand by His threshold; He will have all thy heart; He cares not for half, if it and the devil have the other.


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