- Locate the Passage
3:26-4:11 begins with a shift from the third person pronoun to the second person pronoun (“we” in verse 25 to “you” in verse 26). The passage continues in 4:1-11 with a discussion and application of the concept of sonship.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository. There are no imperative commands in the passage.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
The passage begins with an application of the concept of sonship by faith (26-29). There is a fundamental equality of believers as it relates to their right standing before God. Ethnic, social and gender distinctions/conditions are in no way meritorious. In the words of Dr. Jack MacGorman, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” (Note: This passage in no way supports the removal or blurring of God-given roles and distinctions as they relate to gender).
4:1-5 comprises the second key division of the passage. After addressing the provisional and administrative role of the law, Paul highlights the accomplishment of Jesus in securing the status of sonship for those who believe.
The last division, 4:6-11, focuses on the assuring activity of the Holy Spirit (6-7). In verses 8-11, Paul goes on to register his exasperation and concern related to the behavior of his Galatian readers.
- Exegete the Passage
Verse 26 indicates that believers are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (locative of sphere). Vere 27 uses the language of baptism to stress the identification of believers with Christ. Those who have been baptized (ebaptisthete-aorist passive indicative) into
Christ have put on (enedusasthe-aorist middle indicative-“clothed themselves with”) Christ. As a result of this identification, there is neither Jew nor Greek (ethnic distinction), slave nor free (social distinction) and no male or female (sexual/gender distinction) with regard to acceptance before God. Believers are one in Christ. As Christ’s people and Abraham’s offspring, they are also heirs (kleponomai) according to promise (verses 28-29).
In 4:1-3, Paul addresses the custodial role of the law. Drawing from human experience, he notes that an heir, as long as he is a child/minor, is no different than a slave. This is because the child has yet to come into possession of his inheritance. Although the child is the “owner of everything,” he is under (hupo) guardians (epitropous) and managers (oikonomous) until the date set (prothesmias) by the father. After this illustration and its explanation, Paul makes the vital application. Likewise, when we were minors/children, we were enslaved (dedoulomenoi) to the elementary principles (stoicheia-“elemental spirits” or “building blocks”) of the world. According to verses 4-5, the coming of Jesus changed everything. This change occurred when the fullness (pleroma) of time (chronou) had come. At this time “set by the Father,” God sent forth (echapesteilen) his Son. This Son was born of a woman and born under the law, Verse 5 specifically addresses God’s purpose in sending forth his Son. It was in order to (hina) redeem (echagorase-“purchase” or “ransom”) those under the law that they might receive adoption (huiothesian) as sons.
In verses 6-7, Paul addresses the assuring activity of the Holy Spirit. God has sent the Spirit of his Son (note the inter-trinitarian symmetry here) into our hearts, crying “Abba! (Aramaic term that communicates intimacy and endearment) “Father!” Therefore, the believer is no longer a slave but a son and heir through God. Verses 8-11 record Paul’s exasperation with his readers. With such riches at their disposal through Christ, how can they even consider turning back again to the “old days?” Verse 10 refers to the apparently legalistic observance of days, months, seasons and years by the Galatian believers. Verse 11 reflects Paul’s serious concern regarding them. He is afraid (phoboumai) that he may have labored over them (kekopiaka-perfect active indicative) in vain. However, as the rest of the letter indicates, Paul was not ready to “give up” on the Galatians (see 5:10).
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Sermon
- The application of the gospel supplies equality of sonship (26-29)
one in Christ
- The accomplishment of Jesus secures our sonship (1-5)
administration of the law 1-3
Christ sent in the “fullness” of time 4
to redeem…that we might receive adoption
- The activity of the Spirit assures our sonship (6-11)
Paul’s exasperation and concern