Galatians 4:9
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
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(9) Known God.—The word for “known” is different from that so translated in the verse above. It brings out more distinctly the process of obtaining knowledge, especially with reference to a state of previous ignorance. Having come to know God.

Or rather are known of God.—In speaking of the Galatians as “coming to know” God, it might seem as if too much stress was laid on the human side of the process, and therefore, by way of correction, the Apostle presents also the divine side. Any true and saving knowledge of God has for its converse the “being known of God”—i.e., recognition by God and acceptance by Him, such as is involved in the admission of the believer into the Messianic kingdom.

Again.—In the Greek a double phrase, for the sake of emphasis, over again from the very beginning, as a child might be said to go back to his alphabet.

Weak and beggarly elements.—”Elements” is used here, in the same sense as in Galatians 4:3, of that elementary religious knowledge afforded in different degrees to Jew and Gentile before the coming of Christ. These are called “weak” because they were insufficient to enable man to work out his own salvation. (Comp. St. Paul’s account of the inward struggle, and of the helpless condition to which man is reduced by it, in Romans 7:7-24.) They are called “beggarly,” or “poor,” because, unlike the gospel, they were accompanied by no outpouring of spiritual gifts and graces. The legal system was barren and dry; the gospel dispensation was rich with all the abundance and profusion of the Messianic time (Joel 2:19; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-14; Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 65:21-25; John 7:37-38, et al.)

4:8-11 The happy change whereby the Galatians were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was the effect of his free and rich grace; they were laid under the greater obligation to keep to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. All our knowledge of God begins on his part; we know him because we are known of him. Though our religion forbids idolatry, yet many practise spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, though they repent not, but go on in their sins. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion, to be afterwards drawn aside from purity and simplicity. And the more mercy God has shown, in bringing any to know the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them. Hence all who are members of the outward church should learn to fear and to suspect themselves. We must not be content because we have some good things in ourselves. Paul fears lest his labour is in vain, yet he still labours; and thus to do, whatever follows, is true wisdom and the fear of God. This every man must remember in his place and calling.But now ... - The sense is, that since they had been made free from their ignoble servitude in the worship of false gods, and had been admitted to the freedom found in the worship of the true God, it was absurd that they should return again to that which was truly slavery or bondage, the observance of the rites of the Jewish law.

That ye have known God - The true God, and the ease and freedom of his service in the gospel.

Or rather are known of God - The sense is, "Or, to speak more accurately or precisely, are known by God." The object of this correction is to avoid the impression which might be derived from the former phrase that their acquaintance with God was owing to themselves. He therefore states, that it was rather that they were known of God; that it was all owing to him that they had been brought to an acquaintance with himself. Perhaps, also, he means to bring into view the idea that it was a favor and privilege to be known by God, and that therefore it was the more absurd to turn back to the weak and beggarly elements.

How turn ye again - Margin, "Back." "How is it that you are returning to such a bondage?" The question implies surprise and indignation that they should do it.

To the weak and beggarly elements - To the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law, imposing a servitude really not less severe than the customs of paganism. On the word elements, see the note at Galatians 4:3. They are called "weak" because they had no power to save the soul; no power to justify the sinner before God. They are called "beggarly" (Greek πτωχὰ ptōcha, poor), because they could not impart spiritual riches. They really could confer few benefits on man. Or it may be, as Locke supposes, because the Law kept people in the poor estate of pupils from the full enjoyment of the inheritance; Galatians 4:1-3.

Whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage - As if you had a wish to be under servitude. The absurdity is as great as it would be for a man who had been freed from slavery to desire his chains again. They had been freed by the gospel from the galling servitude of paganism, and they now again had sunk into the Jewish observances, as if they preferred slavery to freedom, and were willing to go from one form of it to another. The main idea is, that it is absurd for people who have been made free by the gospel to go back again into any kind of servitude or bondage. We may apply it to Christians now. Many sink into a kind of servitude not less galling than was that to sin before their conversion. Some become the slaves of mere ceremonies and forms in religion. Some are slaves to fashion, and the world still rules them with the hand of a tyrant. They have escaped, it may be, from the galling chains of ambition, and degrading vice, and low sensuality; but they became slaves to the love of money, or of dress, or of the fashions of the world, as if they loved slavery and chains; and they seem no more able to break loose than the slave is to break the bonds which bind him. And some are slaves to some expensive and foolish habit. Professed Christians, and Christian ministers too, become slaves to the disgusting and loathsome habit of using tobacco, bound by a servitude as galling and as firm as that which ever shackled the limbs of an African. I grieve to add also that many professed Christians are slaves to the habit of "sitting long at the wine" and indulging in it freely. O that such knew the liberty of Christian freedom, and would break away from all such shackles, and show how the gospel frees people from all foolish and absurd customs!

9. known God or rather are known of God—They did not first know and love God, but God first, in His electing love, knew and loved them as His, and therefore attracted them to the saving knowledge of Him (Mt 7:23; 1Co 8:3; 2Ti 2:19; compare Ex 33:12, 17; Joh 15:16; Php 3:12). God's great grace in this made their fall from it the more heinous.

how—expressing indignant wonder at such a thing being possible, and even actually occurring (Ga 1:6). "How is it that ye turn back again?"

weak—powerless to justify: in contrast to the justifying power of faith (Ga 3:24; compare Heb 7:18).

beggarly—contrasted with the riches of the inheritance of believers in Christ (Eph 1:18). The state of the "child" (Ga 4:1) is weak, as not having attained manhood; "beggarly," as not having attained the inheritance.

elements—"rudiments." It is as if a schoolmaster should go back to learning the A, B, C'S [Bengel].

again—There are two Greek words in the original. "Ye desire again, beginning afresh, to be in bondage." Though the Galatians, as Gentiles, had never been under the Mosaic yoke, yet they had been under "the elements of the world" (Ga 4:3): the common designation for the Jewish and Gentile systems alike, in contrast to the Gospel (however superior the Jewish was to the Gentile). Both systems consisted in outward worship and cleaved to sensible forms. Both were in bondage to the elements of sense, as though these could give the justification and sanctification which the inner and spiritual power of God alone could bestow.

ye desire—or "will." Will-worship is not acceptable to God (Col 2:18, 23).

After that ye have known God; after that you are come to a true and saving knowledge of God in Christ, and know God as he is.

Or rather are known of God; or rather after you are received of God, approved of him, made through Christ acceptable to him, which is much more than a true comprehension of God in your notion and understanding.

How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? How turn you back again to the legal services of the ceremonial law? Which he calleth elements, or rudiments, because they were God’s first instructions given to his church for his worship, to which he intended afterward a more perfect way of worship. He calls them

weak, because they brought nothing to perfection; and the observance of them was impotent as to the justification of a soul, as all the law is. He calls them

beggarly, in comparison of the more rational, spiritual way of worship under the gospel. He saith that they desired

to be in bondage unto these, because they would not see and make use of the liberty from them which Christ had purchased.

Objection. It may be objected, that the Galatians were not educated in Judaism; how then doth the apostle charge them with turning back to them?

Answer. This hath made some think, that, by

the weak and beggarly elements, mentioned in this verse, the apostle meaneth their Gentile superstitions and idolatries; but this is not probable, the apostle, all along the Epistle, charging them with no such apostacy. Others think, that he in this verse chiefly reflecteth on the believing Jews, who afterwards returned again to the use of the law. But why may not we rather say, that he calleth their fact a turning back, not so much with reference to their personal practice, as to the state of the church; which was once under those elements, but by the coming of Christ was brought into a more perfect state. So that for them who were called into the church in the time of this its more perfect state, for them to return to the bondage of the law, that was truly to turn back; if not to any practice of their own, which they had cast off, yet to a state of the church which the church of God had now outgrown.

But now, after that ye have known God, God in Christ, as their covenant God and Father, through the preaching of the Gospel, and in the light of divine grace; God having caused light to shine in their dark hearts; and having given them the light of the knowledge of himself in the face of Christ, and having sent down into their hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying "Abba", Father.

Or rather are known of God; for it is but little that the best of these, that have the greatest share of knowledge, know of him; and what knowledge they have, they have it first, originally, and wholly from him: that knowledge which he has of them is particular, distinct, and complete; and is to be understood, not of his omniscience in general, so all men are known by him; but of his special knowledge, joined with affection, approbation, and care: and the meaning is, that they were loved by him with an everlasting love, which had been manifested in their conversion, in the drawing of them to himself, and to his Son; that he approved of them, delighted in them, had an exact knowledge, and took special care of them: but, oh, folly and ingratitude!

how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage? meaning the ordinances of the ceremonial law, he before calls "the elements of the world", and here "weak", because they could not give life, righteousness, peace, joy, comfort, and salvation; and, since the coming of Christ, were become impotent to all the uses they before served; and beggarly, because they lay in the observation of mean things, as meats, drinks, &c. and which were only shadows of those good things, the riches of grace and glory, which come by Christ. The Galatians are said to turn again to these; not that they were before in the observation of them, except the Jews, but because there was some likeness between these, and the ceremonies with which they carried on the service of their idols; and by showing an inclination to them, they discovered a good will to come into a like state of bondage they were in before; than which nothing could be more stupid and ungrateful in a people that had been blessed with so much grace, and with such clear Gospel light and knowledge.

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and {k} beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire {l} again to be in bondage?

(k) They are called impotent and beggarly ceremonies, being considered apart by themselves without Christ: and again, by that means they gave good testimony that they were beggars in Christ, for when men fall back from Christ to ceremonies, it is nothing else but to cast away riches and to follow beggary.

(l) By going backward.

Galatians 4:9. Γνόντες Θεόν] After ye have known God through the preaching of the gospel. Olshausen’s opinion, that εἰδότες denotes more the merely external knowledge that God is, while γνόντες signifies the inward essential cognition, is shown to be an arbitrary fancy by passages such as John 7:37; John 8:55; 2 Corinthians 5:16.

μᾶλλον δέ] imo vero, a corrective climax (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 5:11; Jacobs, ad Ach. Tat. II. p. 955; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. iii. 13. 6; Grimm, on Wis 8:19), in order to give more startling prominence to the following πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε κ.τ.λ., as indicating not a mere falling away from the knowledge of God, but rather a guilty opposition to Him.

γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ Θεοῦ] after ye have been known by God. This is the saving knowledge, of which on God’s part men become the objects, when He interests Himself on their behalf to deliver them. Into the experience of having been thus graciously known by God the Galatians were brought by means of the divine work which had taken place in them, anticipating their own volition and endeavour—the work of their calling, enlightenment, and conversion;[188] so that they therefore, when they knew God, became in that very knowledge aware of their being known by God,—the one being implied in the other—through their divinely bestowed admission into the fellowship of Christ.[189] See on 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12; also Matthew 7:23. Hofmann desires the condition of the acceptance of grace to be mentally supplied; but this is arbitrary in itself, and is also incorrect, because those, who are the objects of God’s gracious knowledge, are already known to Him by means of His πρόγνωσις as the credituri and are ordained by Him to salvation (see on Romans 8:29 f.). But the literal sense cognoscere is not to be altered either into approbare, amare (Grotius and others), or into agnoscere suos (Wetstein, Vater, Winer, Rückert, Usteri, Schott, Baumgarten-Crusius, and others); nor is it to be understood in the sense of Hophal: brought to the knowledge (Beza, Er. Schmidt, Cornelius a Lapide, Wolf, Nösselt, Koppe, Flatt, and others); nor can we, with Olshausen, turn it into the being penetrated with the love wrought by God, which only follows upon the being known by God, 1 Corinthians 8:3. Lastly, there has been introduced, in a way entirely un-Pauline, the idea of the self-recognition of the Divine Spirit in us (Matthies), or of the consciousness of the identity of the human and the divine knowing (Hilgenfeld). On the deliberate change from the active to the passive, γνόντες, γνωσθέντες, comp. Php 3:12. Luther, moreover, appropriately remarks, “non ideo cognoscuntur quia cognoscunt, sed contra quia cogniti sunt, ideo cognoscunt.”

πῶς] “interrogatio admirabunda” (Bengel), as in Galatians 2:12.

πάλιν] does not mean backwards (Flatt, Hofmann), as in Homer (see Duncan, Lex. ed. Rost, p. 886; Nägelsbach z. Ilias, p. 34, ed. 3),—a rendering opposed to the usage of the N.T. generally, and here in particular to the πάλιν ἄνωθεν which follows; it means iterum, and refers to the fact that the readers had previously been already in bondage to the στοιχεῖα, namely, most of them as heathen. Now they turn indeed (ἐπιστρέφετε, present tense, as in i. 6) to the Jewish ordinances; but the heathen and Jewish elements (on the latter, see Hebrews 7:18 f.) are both included in the category of the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου (see on Galatians 4:3), so that Paul is logically correct in using the πάλιν; and the hypothesis of Nösselt (Opusc. I. p. 293 ff.; comp. Mynster in his kl. theol. Schr. p. 76; Credner, Einl., and Olshausen), that the greater part of the readers had been previously proselytes of the gate, is entirely superfluous, and indeed at variance with the description of the pre-Christian condition of the Galatians given in Galatians 4:8; for according to Galatians 4:8, the great mass of them must have been purely heathen before their conversion, because there is no mention of any intermediate condition between τότε and νῦν. According to Wieseler (comp. also Reithmayr), πάλιν is intended to point back to their conversion to Christ, so that the turning to the στοιχεῖα is designated as a second renewed conversion (ἐπιστρέφετε), namely, in pejus. This would yield an ironical contrast, but is rendered impossible by the words οἷς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλ. θέλετε. Wieseler is driven to adopt so artificial an explanation, because he understands the στοιχεῖα as referring to the law only; and this compels him afterwards to give an incorrect explanation of οἷς.

ἀσθενῆ κ. πτωχά] because they cannot effect and bestow, what God by the sending of His Son has effected and bestowed (Galatians 4:5). Comp. Romans 8:3; Romans 10:12; Hebrews 7:18.

πάλιν ἄνωθεν] for those reverting to Judaism desired to begin again from the commencement the slave-service of the στοιχεῖα, which they had abandoned; ἀρχαῖς προτέραις ἑπόμενοι, Pind. Ol. x. 94. Comp. Wis 19:6. Not a pleonasm, as πάλιν ἐκ δευτέρου (Matthew 26:42), πάλιν αὖτις (Hom. Il. i. 59), or δεύτερον αὖθις (Hom. Il. i. 513); but the repetition is represented as a new commencement of the matter, as ἐκ νέας αὖθις ἀρχῆς (Plut. solert. anim. p. 959), and πάλιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς (Barnab. Ep. 16). It is just the same in the instances in Wetstein. The οἷς is, however, the simple dative as in Galatians 4:8 and usually with δουλεύειν; it is not equivalent to ἐν οἷς (Wieseler), with δουλ. used absolutely.

θέλετε] ye desire, ye have the wish and the longing for, this servitude! Comp. Galatians 4:21.

[188] Hence in point of fact Theophylact (following Chrysostom) rightly explains: προσληφθέντες ὑπὸ Θεοῦ. Because of God’s knowing them they have known God; consequently not, “proprio Marte vel acumine sui ingenii vel industria, sed quia Deus misericordia sua eos praevenerit, quum nihil minus quam de ipso cogitarent,” Calvin.

[189] Comp. Ignat. ad Magnes. Interpol. Galatians 1 : διʼ οὗ (through Christ) ἔγνωτε Θεὸν, μᾶλλον δὲ ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγνώσθητε. Similarly, in an opposite sense, ad Smyrn. Galatians 5 : ὅν τινες ἁγνοοῦντες ἀρνοῦνται (abnegant), μᾶλλον δὲ ἠρνήθησαν (abnegati sunt) ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ (by Christ).

Galatians 4:9. μᾶλλον δὲ. This correction is added, lest any should pride themselves on their knowledge of God, to warn them that it is not due to their own act, but to God who recognised them as His sons and repealed Himself to them. ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ. Hitherto the Apostle has spoken with respect of the education given to the world before Christ (Galatians 4:1-3), bearing in mind the progress of the Greek and Roman world in social habits, institutions and laws: they had in fact learnt much in the sphere of morals and natural religion that would bear comparison with the progress of Israel under the light of the revealed Law of God. But when he compares the mechanical routine of formal observances which formed the staple of religion for the heathen and for many so-called religious Jews with the spiritual teaching of the Gospel, he does not hesitate to denounce them as weak and beggarly.

9. now, after that ye have known … are known] The word rendered ‘known’ is different in the original from that so rendered in Galatians 4:8. It here denotes more than the acknowledgment of God’s existence—a discern ment of His character and recognition of His authority, on the part of man; approval on the part of God. The same English word is used in 1 Corinthians 13:12 to render a still stronger verb in the Greek of which the margin of R.V. gives ‘fully know’ as the equivalent.

or rather] God knows man before man knows God—an humbling thought.

weak and beggarly elements] See note on Galatians 4:3. They are ‘weak’, powerless to give life (Hebrews 7:18); ‘beggarly’ (rather, ‘poor’) as contrasted with ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’, the riches of that grace which came by Jesus Christ.

Galatians 4:9. Γνόντες Θεὸν, knowing God) The true God, who is a Spirit. When you know Him, and yet follow eagerly after those elements, it is the same thing as if a master should wish to return to learn the alphabet [his A B C D child’s book].—μᾶλλον, rather) it is the gift of God. He acknowledged and declared you to be His sons; comp. Exodus 33:12; Exodus 33:17. What belongs to God, is of the chief consequence as concerns our salvation, rather than what belongs to ourselves; comp. Php 3:12.—πῶς, how?) An interrogation expressing much wonder; Galatians 1:6, I marvel.—πάλιν, again) as we have formerly been in bondage.—ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ, weak and beggarly) Weakness opposed to filial boldness, beggarliness, to the abundance connected with the inheritance.—οἷς, to which) to elements, not to God.—πάλιν ἄνωθεν (back) again afresh) You wish to be in bondage again: now to elements, as formerly to idols; and afresh, you are in bondage to the same elements anew, by which Israel had been formerly enslaved; comp. the word again, Romans 8:15, note.—δουλεύειν, to be in bondage) in a manner unworthy of freemen.—θέλετε, you wish) See Galatians 4:21, and Mark 12:38, note. [It is not every kind of readiness in wishing or desiring, that is good, Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:23.—V. g.]

Verse 9. - But now (νῦν δέ); and now. (See note on "then" in ver. 8). After that ye have known God, or rather are known of God (γνόντες Θεόν μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὐπὸ Θεοῦ); after that ye have gotten to know God, or rather to be known of God. Considering the interchangeable use of γνῶναι or ἐγνωκέναι and εἰδωέναι in John 8:55 and 2 Corinthians 5:16, it seems precarious to make much distinction between them as applied to the knowledge of God. The former, however, is the verb more commonly used in this relation; by St. John, in his First Epistle, where so much is said of knowing God, exclusively; although in other relations he, both in Epistle and Gospel, uses the two verbs interchangeably. The expression, "to know God," is one of profound pregnancy; denoting nothing less than that divinely imparted intuition of God, that consciousness of his actual being, viewed in his relation to ourselves, which is the result of truly "believing in him." Moreover, as it is knowing a personal Being, between whom and ourselves mutual Action may be looked for, it implies a mutual conversancy between ourselves and him, as the term "acquaintance" (οἱ γνῶστοί τινος), as used in Luke 2:44 and 23. 49, naturally does. So that "having gotten to be known of God" is very nearly equivalent to having been by God brought to be, to speak it reverently, on terms of acquaintanceship with him; and this does indeed seem to be meant in 1 Corinthians 8:3. The Galatian believers had in very truth gotten to know God, if they had learnt to cry out unto him, "Abba, Father." And the remembrance of this happy experience of theirs, which he had, we may suppose, himself witnessed in the early days of their discipleship, prompts him to introduce the correction, "or rather to be known of God." Their having attained such a consciousness of sonship had been, as he writes, ver. 7, "through God;" he it was that had sent forth his Sen that his people might receive the adoption of sons; he that had sent forth his Spirit into their hearts to give them the sense of sonship; he had shown that he knew, recognized them to be his (2 Timothy 2:19), by gifting them with the blissful prerogative of knowing what he was to them. The correction of "knowing" by "being known" is analogous to that of "apprehend" by "being apprehended" in Philippians 3:12. The pragmatic value of this correcting clause is to make the Galatians feel, not only what a wilful self-debasement it was on their part, but also what a slight put upon the Divine favours shown to them, that they should frowardly repudiate their filial standing to adopt afresh that servile standing out of which he had lifted his people. What was this but a high-handed contravening of God's own work, a frustration of his gospel? And this by them whom only the other day he had rescued from the misery and utter wickedness of idolatry! How turn ye again; or, back (πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν); how turn ye back again. An abrupt change from the form of sentence which the foregoing words naturally prepared us for; which might have been such as we should have by simply omitting the "how." As if it were, "After having gotten to be known of God, ye are turning back again - how can ye? - to the weak," etc. This "how," as in Galatians 2:14, is simply a question of remonstrance; not expecting an answer, it bids the person addressed consider the amazing unseemliness of his proceeding (so Matthew 22:12; comp. also 1 Timothy 3:5; 1 John 3:17). The verb ἐπιστρέφειν frequently denotes "turning back" (Matthew 10:13; Matthew 12:44; 2 Peter 2:22; Luke 8:55). To the weak and beggarly elements (ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα); the mere elementary lessons, the A, B, G (see ver. 4, and note), which can do nothing for you and have nothing to give you. The description is relative rather than absolute. The horn-book, useful enough for the mere child, is of no use whatever to the grown-up lad who has left school. In Hebrews 7:18 mention is made of "the weakness and unprofitableness" of the Levitical Law relative to the expiation of sin; which is not precisely the aspect of the Law which is here under view. The word "beggarly" was probably in the writer's mind contrasted with "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage! (οῖς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεύειν θέλετε;); whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? The verb δουλεύειν is here, differently from ver. 8, contrasted with the condition of a son enjoying his full independence (see ver. 25 and Galatians 5:1). It would be an insufferable constraint and degradation to the full-grown son to be set to con over and repeat the lessons of the infant school. Ἄνωθεν, afresh, over again, intensifies πάλιν by adding the notion of making a fresh start from the commencing-point of the course indicated. The application of these words, together especially with the phrase, "turn back again," in the preceding clause, to the case of the Galatian converts from idolatrous heathenism, has suggested to many minds the idea that St. Paul groups the ceremonialism of heathen worship with that of the Mosaic Law. Bishop Lightfoot in particular has here a valuable note, in which, with his usual learning and breadth of view, he shows how the former might in its ritualistic element have subserved the purpose of a disciplinary training for a better religion. Such a view might be regarded as not altogether out of harmony with the apostle's spirit as evinced in his discourses to the Lyeaonians and the Athenians (Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:22-31). But though in his wide sympatheticalness he might, if discoursing with heathens, have sought thus to win them to a better faith, he is hardly just now in a mood for any such sympathetic tolerance. He is much too indignant at the behaviour of these Galatian revolters to allow that their former religious ceremonies could have been good enough to be admitted to group with those of the Law of Moses: he has just before adverted to their former heathenism for the very purpose of (so to speak) setting them down - a purpose which would be a good deal defeated by his referring to that cult of theirs as in any respect standing on a level with the cult of the Hebrews. Indeed, it may be doubted whether, at the utmost limit to which he would at any time have allowed himself to go, in the "economy" which he unquestionably was used to employ in dealing with souls, he would, however, have gone so far as to class the divinely appointed ordinances of Israel, the training-school of God's own children, with the ritual of demon-inspired worships. It is much easier to suppose that the apostle identifies the Galatian Churchmen with God's own people, with whom they were now in fact σύμφυψοι, blended in corporal identity with them. God's children had heretofore been in bondage to the A, B, C, of the Law, but were so no longer; if any of those who were now God's children took it in hand to observe that Law, then were they, though not in their individual identity, yet in their corporate identity, turning back again to the A, B, C, from which they had been emancipated. The former experience of Israel was their experience, as the "fathers" of Israel were their fathers (1 Corinthians 10:1); which experience they were now setting themselves to renew. Galatians 4:9Rather are known of God

Rather corrects the first statement, have known God, which might seem to attach too much to human agency in attaining the knowledge of God. The divine side of the process is thrown into the foreground by are known, etc. Known does not mean approved or acknowledged, but simply recognized. Saving knowledge is doubtless implied, but is not expressed in the word. The relation of knowledge between God and his sons proceeds from God. The Galatians had not arrived at the knowledge of God by intuition nor by any process of reasoning. "God knew them ere they knew him, and his knowing them was the cause of their knowing him" (Eadie). Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Timothy 2:19; Matthew 7:23. Dean Stanley remarks that "our knowledge of God is more his act than ours." If God knows a man, that fact implies an activity of God which passes over to the man, so that he, as the subject of God's knowledge, comes into the knowledge of God. In N.T. γινώσκειν often implies a personal relation between the knower and the known, so that knowledge implies influence. See 1 Corinthians 2:8; John 1:10; John 2:24; John 17:3. For a parallel to this interchange between the active and the passive, see Philippians 3:12.

How (πῶς)

"A question full of wonder" (Bengel). Comp. I marvel, Galatians 1:6.

Turn ye again (ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν)

Better, the continuous present, are ye turning, as of a change still in progress. Comp. Galatians 1:6. Πάλιν again, according to N.T. usage, and corresponding with πάλιν ἄνωθεν in the following clause. Not back, which is the earlier sense and the usual classical meaning.

Weak and beggarly elements (ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα)

For elements see on Galatians 4:3. For πτωχὰ beggarly, see on Matthew 5:3. The two adjectives express the utter impotence of these "elements" to do and to bestow what was done and given by God in sending his Son into the world. Comp. Romans 8:3; Hebrews 7:18.

Again (πάλιν ἄνωθεν)

Ἄνωθεν (ἄνω above) adds to πάλιν the idea of going back to the beginning. Its primary meaning is from above; thence, from the first, reckoning in a descending series. So Luke 1:3; Acts 26:5. Such combinations as this are not uncommon in N.T. and Class. See, for instance, Acts 18:21; Matthew 26:42; Acts 10:15; John 21:16. But these additions to πάλιν are not pleonastic. They often define and explain it. Thus, John 21:16, πάλιν marks the repetition of Jesus' question, δεύτερον the number of the repetition. He asked again, and this was the second time of asking.

Ye desire (θέλετε)

It was more than a mere desire. They were bent on putting themselves again into bondage. See on Matthew 1:19.

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