|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-7 The apostle deals plainly with those who urged the law of Moses together with the gospel of Christ, and endeavoured to bring believers under its bondage. They could not fully understand the meaning of the law as given by Moses. And as that was a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage; they were tied to many burdensome rites and observances, by which they were taught and kept subject like a child under tutors and governors. We learn the happier state of Christians under the gospel dispensation. From these verses see the wonders of Divine love and mercy; particularly of God the Father, in sending his Son into the world to redeem and save us; of the Son of God, in submitting so low, and suffering so much for us; and of the Holy Spirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers, for such gracious purposes. Also, the advantages Christians enjoy under the gospel. Although by nature children of wrath and disobedience, they become by grace children of love, and partake of the nature of the children of God; for he will have all his children resemble him. Among men the eldest son is heir; but all God's children shall have the inheritance of eldest sons. May the temper and conduct of sons ever show our adoption; and may the Holy Spirit witness with our spirits that we are children and heirs of God.
Verse 1. - Now I say (λέγω δέ). A form of expression usual with the apostle when introducing a new statement designed either to explain or elucidate something before said (cf. Galatians 3:17; Galatians 5:16; Romans 15:8, according to the Received Text; 1 Corinthians 1:12. So τοῦτο δέ φημι, 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 15:50). It is intended apparently to quicken attention: "Now I wish to say this." In the present case the apostle designs to throw further light upon the position taken in Galatians 3:24, that God's people, while under the Law, were under a bondage from which they have now been emancipated. Compare the somewhat similar process of illustration adopted in Romans 7:2-4. In both passages it is not a logical demonstration that is put forward, but an illustratively analogous case in human experience. A metaphor, though not strictly an argument, yet frequently helps the reader to an intuitive perception of the justness of the position laid down. That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all (ἐφ ὅσον χρόνονὁ κληρονόμος νήπιός ἐστιν οὐδὲν διαφέερει δόλου κύριος πάντων ὤν); so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bondservant, though he is lord of all. The article before κληρονόμος, heir, is the class article, as before μεσίτης, mediator (Galatians 3:20) - "an heir." In the word νήπιος the apostle evidently has in view one who as yet is in his nonage - as in English law phrase, "an infant." In Roman law language, infans is a child under seven, the period of minority reaching to twenty-five. In Attic Greek, the correlate to one registered amongst "men" was a παῖς. It does not appear that the apostle means to use a technical legal expression. He contrasts νήπιος with ἀνὴρ in 1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:13, 14. "Differeth nothing from a bond-servant;" i.e. is nothing better than a bond-servant, as Matthew 6:26; Matthew 10:31; Matthew 12:12. The verb διαφέρειν seems used only in the sense of your differing from another to your advantage, so that τὰ διαφέροντα are things that are more excellent. "Lord," "proprietor;" the title to the property inheres in him, though he is not yet fit to handle it.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now I say,.... To illustrate what he had said of the law's being a schoolmaster to the Jews until the coming of Christ, and then ceasing as such, he proposes the case of an heir during his minority, till he come to the proper time of enjoying his estate.
that the heir, as long as he is a child; anyone that is an heir to his father's estate, or another's, whilst under age, being reckoned as a child, as he is from his infancy to his manhood,
differeth nothing from a servant: he is not his own man, nor at his own dispose; he cannot do as he pleases; he is under restraint; he is kept to school or to business, and is liable to correction and chastisement according as he behaves; nor can he have the free use of his father's estate,
though he be Lord of all, of all the servants, according to the Arabic version; or of the whole estate his father left him, of which he is Lord in right, but not in possession; he is right heir to it, though as yet it is not in his hands, nor can he do with it as he will.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ga 4:1-31. The Same Subject Continued: Illustration of Our Subjection to the Law Only till Christ Came, from the Subjection of an Heir to His Guardian till He Is of Age. Peter's Good Will to the Galatians Should Lead Them to the Same Good Will to Him as They Had at First Shown. Their Desire to Be under the Law Shown by the Allegory of Isaac and Ishmael to Be Inconsistent with Their Gospel Liberty.
1-7. The fact of God's sending His Son to redeem us who were under the law (Ga 4:4), and sending the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Ga 4:6), confirms the conclusion (Ga 3:29) that we are "heirs according to the promise."
the heir—(Ga 3:29). It is not, as in earthly inheritances, the death of the father, but our Father's sovereign will simply that makes us heirs.
child—Greek, "one under age."
differeth nothing, &c.—that is, has no more freedom than a slave (so the Greek for "servant" means). He is not at his own disposal.
lord of all—by title and virtual ownership (compare 1Co 3:21, 22).
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