Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child [=infants] , differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children [=infants], were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption[=postion] of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Whilst a convenience, chapter and verse, divisions can interrupt the flow and sense of a passage of scripture; and here is one such example. In the verses from Gal. 3:13 Paul introduced us directly to the Mosaic Law and its place in relation to God’s purposes. And this theme continues in these opening verses of chapter 4. Also the preceding verses of Ch. 4 we have the topic of new birth discussed, and this theme is also continued here. So it would be good to ignore the chapter divisions at this point and continue the thoughts already introduced.
One further point that needs to be made: Paul has been talking of the giving of the Law, and we know it was to the nation of Israel, and not the Gentile nations; so we need to bare in mind that when Paul talks of being under the Law it is specific to Israel and not the Gentiles! This passage continues with the theme of being under tutors, which was touched upon in Ch.3:25.
Paul turns our attention to the customs of the day, namely when children became adults in the eyes of society. Whether Jew or Gentile there was ‘ a rite of passage’.
For the Jews this was known as the ‘Bar Mitzvah’ (meaning: one to whom the commandments apply). It was when the Jew in question became responsible for his/her actions. Before then the parents were responsible for their children to follow the law, but on reaching the appropriate age, they became responsible for themselves. They became at that ‘fullness of age’ adults, it was not the ceremony that gave them the position, but the age that they reached, the ceremony was a celebration of the fact that it happened.
For the Roman there was a similar event to acknowledge the coming of age. When he was of age the son would discard the tunic of boyhood ( praetexta juvenalis) and put on the robe of manhood ( toga virilis). Then in a ceremony ( we shall omit the pagan rituals!) the father would take him, in a procession, to the Forum; this would included a large train of people including slaves, freedmen, family and friends. At the Forum the lad’s name would be added to the public records so that he would be a citizen of Rome. His father would declare him publicly to be his son and legal heir.
C1.2 The appointed time
Let us now apply these thoughts to the passage in question. The nation of Israel received the Law, as a temporary measure and for a limited period of time. It also guarded and shut up the nation until Christ came Gal.3:23, its ultimate purpose was to bring us to Christ Gal. 3:24.
So when God the Father’s appointed time was come, or the fullness of time as Paul puts it, Christ was born of a woman. This was God’s timing for Israel to cease from the servant like state and come into the inheritance that he had promised way back to Abraham. Up until then Israel had been under tutors, guardians etc. The Hebrew writer puts it like this:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
The time of childhood had come to an end, when they were children (that is under the Law) they acted like it, but now they had to put away the childish things I Cor. 13:11. Hence we can immediately link this in to our theme, to be under a legalistic system in ‘spiritual ‘ things is to revert back to childish things! It is not a sign of maturity, but rather the opposite.
When Jesus was born he was born of a woman under the Mosaic Law, thus fulfilling the first ‘Messianic’ promise of scripture: Gen.3:15. He was subject to the Law and fulfilled it to the letter perfectly, something no one else could ever do. Mtt.5:17-18. He was subjected to his earthly parents until the time of His Father’s appointment Lk.2:21. Then on the appointed day the Father declared Him publicly, the public record being His baptism in water.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
see also Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb.1:5;5:5
From that time forward Jesus only moved and spoke what He heard from His Father
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
We also have to understand that in order to fulfil His Father’s will, namely accomplishing our redemption, Jesus had to be identified with mankind in every respect. For example on the cross He became identified with our sin, II Cor.5:21. So it was with the Law. He was made under the Law, He became identified in that respect; the difference of course was that He fulfilled it to the letter. Then He was declared to be to be THE Son of God to all.
C1.3 The Adoption of sons
Christ came to redeem (buy from bondage) those under the Law (ie. the Jews) in order to receive the adoption. These who are Gentiles don’t go through the child/ law state but become sons immediately on new birth. Whether Jew or Gentile, all become sons of God (we refer back to Ch.3 again.) when baptised by the Spirit into the body of Christ. Everything we are and have as Christians is only because we are baptised into Christ; we are anointed only because we are in Him – THE anointed one; we are chosen only because He is the chosen one; and so on. Likewise we are only sons of God because we are baptised into the body of THE Son of God. At new birth we are both regenerated and adopted: that is we receive both the nature and position of sons, on new birth.
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
The previous chapters of Romans, namely Ch.6 & 7 deals with our regeneration and receiving the nature of Christ’s life; firstly by being dead to sin, and then dead to the Law. When we come into Ch. 8 we have Paul showing us what it is to walk in the Spirit, that is in newness of life.
In this passage, linking it to to our thoughts in Galatians, we note Paul’s argument: we are not debtors to live after the flesh. Because Christ has regenerated us and brought us into His life all the obligations of the flesh are gone; we owe the flesh nothing! We are not to indulge ourselves in the things of the flesh at all. Applying this to the Galatian theme, this includes living the Christian life according to Law and regulations. For doing such will bring death. Instead we are to, by the Spirit, mortify such things, put to death all temptations to walk after the flesh, and not to think for one moment that we owe the flesh anything.
The idea of being debtors to the flesh is no more than gratifying it by such things as believing we need to make a sacrifice for our salvation or Christian walk in some way. We condemn systems of religion for such an approach, yet how many in, so called evangelical Christianity, do the same in some way? We owe the flesh nothing, Christ has set us free from such an approach to living!
Such an approach brings bondage and slavery, and fear – fear that we haven’t paid the debt to the flesh properly. For example, we haven’t been austere enough in our lives, such as reading enough chapters of the Bible a day, not giving enough in the collection, not attending enough meetings, not clearing our house of enough things ‘unspiritual’, and so on. The Christian life was never meant to be thus. Indeed this is not Christian living at all, but the child/Law like state that Paul speaks of in Gal. 4. If we are regenerated, we are sons of God and are free from such bondages! The life we then lead is to be Spirit , and not flesh, led.
Because we are baptised into Christ then we are raised to the position of sons of God, but there is more! Because we are in Christ we are, as a result, co-heirs with Him! So as Jesus identified Himself with us in our condition, by HIS work of eternal redemption, we become identified with Him. This however is all HIS doing and nothing of us. No work of the flesh could ever do that, all the flesh ever did was to bring condemnation (guilt) and fear, because we haven’t, nor could ever reached the standard.
New birth frees us from all the works of the flesh, and puts the spirit of adoption in us that we say to God: Abba Father.