Galatians 4:3

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.

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.
The law was so called.


II. Because JEWRY WAS A LITTLE SCHOOL set up in a corner of the world and THE LAW AN A.B.C. OR PRIMER in which Christ was revealed in an elementary and obscure manner. Thus we see —

1. That God's ancient people were heirs as well as we: the only difference is the manner which God used in dispensing His blessings.

2. That they were but children in respect of us;

(1)as regards the Mosaic regimen: they were kept subject to more laws than we;

(2)as regards revelation: God has revealed more to us than to them (Luke 10:24; Hebrews 1:1-2).

3. That we should increase in the knowledge and grace of God so as to be answerable to our condition. How sad that a Christian who should be a teacher is often a babe (Hebrews 5:12).

4. That we should rejoice in and live conformably to our privilege as sons.

(W. Perkins.)

They must first learn the import of external signs. They must learn language and letters. They must put together syllables and words. They must see thought through the medium of form, or learn to think of what is moral and spiritual by facts, parables, pictures, or such like appeals to the imagination and the senses. For a time words to the young mind are things — stories are facts. By and by the inward meaning of what has been learned comes to be understood. The outward ultimately falls off or loses its primary aspect and uses; and the man, with his fully developed and perfected faculties, is in immediate contact with the abstract and the spiritual. He then feels as if he apprehended it, and could reason about it, or at least meditate upon it, without the aid of words and signs. "When I was a child," etc. (1 Corinthians 12:11-13). Then I saw through a glass darkly — feeling after truth as reflected from a mirror, or presented in a parable; now I look upon it face to face.

(T. Binney, D. D.)

1. Because of their want of knowledge of God and the feebleness of their intellect in the things of God.

2. Because of their condition as under the laws of nature or of ceremonies, so that they were no better than servants under the control of a taskmaster.But to the Jews especially does this word "children" apply —

1. As being ordinarily busied about small things, minute observances — the occupation of children.

2. Because of the littleness of their knowledge of Divine things.

3. Because of their fear of correction, their timidity as children, going ever in the fear of death

(W. Denton, M. A.)

I. His position — one of restraint, subservience, dependence.

II. His training — suitable (v. 3), wise, appointed and limited by the Father.

III. His prospects — well grounded, magnificent, conditional.

(J. Lyth.)Childhood is a period of —




(J. Lyth.)

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