Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
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).
But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
2. tutors and governors—rather, "guardians (of the person) and stewards (of the property)." Answering to "the law was our schoolmaster" or "tutor" (Ga 3:24).
until the time appointed of the father—in His eternal purposes (Eph 1:9-11). The Greek is a legal term, expressing a time defined by law, or testamentary disposition.
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
3. we—the Jews primarily, and inclusively the Gentiles also. For the "we" in Ga 4:5 plainly refers to both Jew and Gentile believers. The Jews in their bondage to the law of Moses, as the representative people of the world, include all mankind virtually amenable to God's law (Ro 2:14, 15; compare Note, see on Ga 3:13; Ga 3:23). Even the Gentiles were under "bondage," and in a state of discipline suitable to nonage, till Christ came as the Emancipator.
were in bondage—as "servants" (Ga 4:1).
under the elements—or "rudiments"; rudimentary religion teaching of a non-Christian character: the elementary lessons of outward things (literally, "of the [outward] world"); such as the legal ordinances mentioned, Ga 4:10 (Col 2:8, 20). Our childhood's lessons [Conybeare and Howson]. Literally, The letters of the alphabet (Heb 5:12).
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
4. the fulness of the time—namely, "the time appointed by the Father" (Ga 4:2). Compare Note, see on Eph 1:10; Lu 1:57; Ac 2:1; Eze 5:2. "The Church has its own ages" [Bengel]. God does nothing prematurely, but, foreseeing the end from the beginning, waits till all is ripe for the execution of His purpose. Had Christ come directly after the fall, the enormity and deadly fruits of sin would not have been realized fully by man, so as to feel his desperate state and need of a Saviour. Sin was fully developed. Man's inability to save himself by obedience to the law, whether that of Moses, or that of conscience, was completely manifested; all the prophecies of various ages found their common center in this particular time: and Providence, by various arrangements in the social and political, as well as the moral world, had fully prepared the way for the coming Redeemer. God often permits physical evil long before he teaches the remedy. The smallpox had for long committed its ravages before inoculation, and then vaccination, was discovered. It was essential to the honor of God's law to permit evil long before He revealed the full remedy. Compare "the set time" (Ps 102:13).
was come—Greek, "came."
sent forth—Greek, "sent forth out of heaven from Himself" [Alford and Bengel]. The same verb is used of the Father's sending forth the Spirit (Ga 4:6). So in Ac 7:12. Compare with this verse, Joh 8:42; Isa 48:16.
his—emphatical. "His own Son." Not by adoption, as we are (Ga 4:5): nor merely His Son by the anointing of the Spirit which God sends into the heart (Ga 4:6; Joh 1:18).
made of a woman—"made" is used as in 1Co 15:45, "The first man, Adam, was made a living soul," Greek, "made to be (born) of a woman." The expression implies a special interposition of God in His birth as man, namely, causing Him to be conceived by the Holy Ghost. So Estius.
made under the law—"made to be under the law." Not merely as Grotius and Alford explain, "Born subject to the law as a Jew." But "made" by His Father's appointment, and His own free will, "subject to the law," to keep it all, ceremonial and moral, perfectly for us, as the Representative Man, and to suffer and exhaust the full penalty of our whole race's violation of it. This constitutes the significance of His circumcision, His being presented in the temple (Lu 2:21, 22, 27; compare Mt 5:17), and His baptism by John, when He said (Mt 3:15), "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
5. To—Greek, "That He might redeem."
them … under the law—primarily the Jews: but as these were the representative people of the world, the Gentiles, too, are included in the redemption (Ga 3:13).
receive—The Greek implies the suitableness of the thing as long ago predestined by God. "Receive as something destined or due" (Lu 23:41; 2Jo 8). Herein God makes of sons of men sons of God, inasmuch as God made of the Son of God the Son of man [Augustine on Psalm 52].
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
6. because ye are sons—The gift of the Spirit of prayer is the consequence of our adoption. The Gentile Galatians might think, as the Jews were under the law before their adoption, that so they, too, must first be under the law. Paul, by anticipation, meets this objection by saying, Ye are sons, therefore ye need not be as children (Ga 4:1) under the tutorship of the law, as being already in the free state of "sons" of God by faith in Christ (Ga 3:26), no longer in your nonage (as "children," Ga 4:1). The Spirit of God's only Begotten Son in your hearts, sent from, and leading you to cry to, the Father, attests your sonship by adoption: for the Spirit is the "earnest of your inheritance" (Ro 8:15, 16; Eph 1:13). "It is because ye are sons that God sent forth" (the Greek requires this translation, not "hath sent forth") into OUR (so the oldest manuscripts read for "your," in English Version) hearts the Spirit of His son, crying, "Abba, Father" (Joh 1:12). As in Ga 4:5 he changed from "them," the third person, to "we," the first person, so here he changes from "ye," the second person, to "our," the first person: this he does to identify their case as Gentiles, with his own and that of his believing fellow countrymen, as Jews. In another point of view, though not the immediate one intended by the context, this verse expresses, "Because ye are sons (already in God's electing purpose of love), God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts," &c.: God thus, by sending His Spirit in due time, actually conferring that sonship which He already regarded as a present reality ("are") because of His purpose, even before it was actually fulfilled. So Heb 2:13, where "the children" are spoken of as existing in His purpose, before their actual existence.
the Spirit of his Son—By faith ye are one with the Son, so that what is His is yours; His Sonship ensures your sonship; His Spirit ensures for you a share in the same. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Ro 8:9). Moreover, as the Spirit of God proceeds from God the Father, so the Spirit of the Son proceeds from the Son: so that the Holy Ghost, as the Creed says, "proceedeth from the Father and the Son." The Father was not begotten: the Son is begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son.
crying—Here the Spirit is regarded as the agent in praying, and the believer as His organ. In Ro 8:15, "The Spirit of adoption" is said to be that whereby WE cry, "Abba, Father"; but in Ro 8:26, "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." The believers' prayer is His prayer: hence arises its acceptability with God.
Abba, Father—The Hebrew says, "Abba" (a Hebrew term), the Greek, "Father" ("Pater," a Greek term in the original), both united together in one Sonship and one cry of faith, "Abba, Father." So "Even so ('Nai,' Greek) Amen (Hebrew)," both meaning the same (Re 1:7). Christ's own former cry is the believers' cry, "Abba, Father" (Mr 14:36).
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
7. Wherefore—Conclusion inferred from Ga 4:4-6.
thou—individualizing and applying the truth to each. Such an individual appropriation of this comforting truth God grants in answer to them who cry, "Abba, Father."
heir of God through Christ—The oldest manuscripts read, "an heir through God." This combines on behalf of man, the whole before-mentioned agency, of THE Trinity: the Father sent His Son and the Spirit; the Son has freed us from the law; the Spirit has completed our sonship. Thus the redeemed are heirs THROUGH the Triune God, not through the law, nor through fleshly descent [Windischmann in Alford]; (Ga 3:18 confirms this).
heir—confirming Ga 3:29; compare Ro 8:17.
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
8-11. Appeal to them not to turn back from their privileges as free sons, to legal bondage again.
then—when ye were "servants" (Ga 4:7).
ye knew not God—not opposed to Ro 1:21. The heathen originally knew God, as Ro 1:21 states, but did not choose to retain God in their knowledge, and so corrupted the original truth. They might still have known Him, in a measure, from His works, but as a matter of fact they knew Him not, so far as His eternity, His power as the Creator, and His holiness, are concerned.
are no gods—that is, have no existence, such as their worshippers attribute to them, in the nature of things, but only in the corrupt imaginations of their worshippers (see on 1Co 8:4; 1Co 10:19, 20; 2Ch 13:9). Your "service" was a different bondage from that of the Jews, which was a true service. Yet theirs, like yours, was a burdensome yoke; how then is it ye wish to resume the yoke after that God has transferred both Jews and Gentiles to a free service?
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?
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).
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
10. To regard the observance of certain days as in itself meritorious as a work, is alien to the free spirit of Christianity. This is not incompatible with observing the Sabbath or the Christian Lord's day as obligatory, though not as a work (which was the Jewish and Gentile error in the observance of days), but as a holy mean appointed by the Lord for attaining the great end, holiness. The whole life alike belongs to the Lord in the Gospel view, just as the whole world, and not the Jews only, belong to Him. But as in Paradise, so now one portion of time is needed wherein to draw off the soul more entirely from secular business to God (Col 2:16). "Sabbaths, new moons, and set feasts" (1Ch 23:31; 2Ch 31:3), answer to "days, months, times." "Months," however, may refer to the first and seventh months, which were sacred on account of the number of feasts in them.
times—Greek, "seasons," namely, those of the three great feasts, the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
years—The sabbatical year was about the time of writing this Epistle, A.D. 48 [Bengel].
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
11. lest—Greek, "lest haply." My fear is not for my own sake, but for yours.
Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
12. be as I am—"As I have in my life among you cast off Jewish habits, so do ye; for I am become as ye are," namely, in the non-observance of legal ordinances. "The fact of my laying them aside among Gentiles, shows that I regard them as not at all contributing to justification or sanctification. Do you regard them in the same light, and act accordingly." His observing the law among the Jews was not inconsistent with this, for he did so only in order to win them, without compromising principle. On the other hand, the Galatian Gentiles, by adopting legal ordinances, showed that they regarded them as needful for salvation. This Paul combats.
ye have not injured me at all—namely, at the period when I first preached the Gospel among you, and when I made myself as you are, namely, living as a Gentile, not as a Jew. You at that time did me no wrong; "ye did not despise my temptation in the flesh" (Ga 4:14): nay, you "received me as an angel of God." Then in Ga 4:16, he asks, "Have I then, since that time, become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
13. how through infirmity—rather, as Greek, "Ye know that because of an infirmity of my flesh I preached," &c. He implies that bodily sickness, having detained him among them, contrary to his original intentions, was the occasion of his preaching the Gospel to them.
at the first—literally, "at the former time"; implying that at the time of writing he had been twice in Galatia. See my Introduction; also see on Ga 4:16, and Ga 5:21. His sickness was probably the same as recurred more violently afterward, "the thorn in the flesh" (2Co 12:7), which also was overruled to good (2Co 12:9, 10), as the "infirmity of the flesh" here.
And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
14. my temptation—The oldest manuscripts read, "your temptation." My infirmity, which was, or might have been, a "temptation," or trial, to you, ye despised not, that is, ye were not tempted by it to despise me and my message. Perhaps, however, it is better to punctuate and explain as Lachmann, connecting it with Ga 4:13, "And (ye know) your temptation (that is, the temptation to which ye were exposed through the infirmity) which was in my flesh. Ye despised not (through natural pride), nor rejected (through spiritual pride), but received me," &c. "Temptation does not mean here, as we now use the word, tendency to an evil habit, but BODILY TRIAL."
as an angel of God—as a heaven-inspired and sent messenger from God: angel means "messenger" (Mal 2:7). Compare the phrase, 2Sa 19:27, a Hebrew and Oriental one for a person to be received with the highest respect (Zec 12:8). An angel is free from the flesh, infirmity, and temptation.
as Christ—being Christ's representative (Mt 10:40). Christ is Lord of angels.
Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
15. Where, &c.—Of what value was your congratulation (so the Greek for "blessedness" expresses) of yourselves, on account of your having among you me, the messenger of the Gospel, considering how entirely you have veered about since? Once you counted yourselves blessed in being favored with my ministry.
ye would have plucked out your own eyes—one of the dearest members of the body—so highly did you value me: a proverbial phrase for the greatest self-sacrifice (Mt 5:29). Conybeare and Howson think that this particular form of proverb was used with reference to a weakness in Paul's eyes, connected with a nervous frame, perhaps affected by the brightness of the vision described, Ac 22:11; 2Co 12:1-7. "You would have torn out your own eyes to supply the lack of mine." The divine power of Paul's words and works, contrasting with the feebleness of his person (2Co 10:10), powerfully at first impressed the Galatians, who had all the impulsiveness of the Celtic race from which they sprang. Subsequently they soon changed with the fickleness which is equally characteristic of Celts.
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
16. Translate, "Am I then become your enemy (an enemy in your eyes) by telling you the truth" (Ga 2:5, 14)? He plainly did not incur their enmity at his first visit, and the words here imply that he had since then, and before his now writing, incurred it: so that the occasion of his telling them the unwelcome truth, must have been at his second visit (Ac 18:23, see my Introduction). The fool and sinner hate a reprover. The righteous love faithful reproof (Ps 141:5; Pr 9:8).
They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
17. They—your flatterers: in contrast to Paul himself, who tells them the truth.
zealously—zeal in proselytism was characteristic especially of the Jews, and so of Judaizers (Ga 1:14; Mt 23:15; Ro 10:2).
affect you—that is, court you (2Co 11:2).
not well—not in a good way, or for a good end. Neither the cause of their zealous courting of you, nor the manner, is what it ought to be.
they would exclude you—"They wish to shut you out" from the kingdom of God (that is, they wish to persuade you that as uncircumcised Gentiles, you are shut out from it), "that ye may zealously court them," that is, become circumcised, as zealous followers of themselves. Alford explains it, that their wish was to shut out the Galatians from the general community, and attract them as a separate clique to their own party. So the English word "exclusive," is used.
But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
18. good to be zealously affected—rather, to correspond to "zealously court" in Ga 4:18, "to be zealously courted." I do not find fault with them for zealously courting you, nor with you for being zealously courted: provided it be "in a good cause" (translate so), "it is a good thing" (1Co 9:20-23). My reason for saying the "not well" (Ga 4:17; the Greek is the same as that for "good," and "in a good cause," in Ga 4:28), is that their zealous courting of you is not in a good cause. The older interpreters, however, support English Version (compare Ga 1:14).
always—Translate and arrange the words thus, "At all times, and not only when I am present with you." I do not desire that I exclusively should have the privilege of zealously courting you. Others may do so in my absence with my full approval, if only it be in a good cause, and if Christ be faithfully preached (Php 1:15-18).
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
19. My little children—(1Ti 1:18; 2Ti 2:1; 1Jo 2:1). My relation to you is not merely that of one zealously courting you (Ga 4:17, 18), but that of a father to his children (1Co 4:15).
I travail in birth—that is, like a mother in pain till the birth of her child.
again—a second time. The former time was when I was "present with you" (Ga 4:18; compare Note, see on Ga 4:13).
Christ be formed in you—that you may live nothing but Christ, and think nothing but Christ (Ga 2:20), and glory in nothing but Him, and His death, resurrection, and righteousness (Php 3:8-10; Col 1:27).
I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
20. Translate as Greek, "I could wish." If circumstances permitted (which they do not), I would gladly be with you [M. Stuart].
now—as I was twice already. Speaking face to face is so much more effective towards loving persuasion than writing (2Jo 12; 3Jo 13, 14).
change my voice—as a mother (Ga 4:19): adapting my tone of voice to what I saw in person your case might need. This is possible to one present, but not to one in writing [Grotius and Estius].
I stand in doubt of you—rather, "I am perplexed about you," namely, how to deal with you, what kind of words to use, gentle or severe, to bring you back to the right path.
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
21. desire—of your own accord madly courting that which must condemn and ruin you.
do ye not hear—do ye not consider the mystic sense of Moses' words? [Grotius]. The law itself sends you away from itself to Christ [Estius]. After having sufficiently maintained his point by argument, the apostle confirms and illustrates it by an inspired allegorical exposition of historical facts, containing in them general laws and types. Perhaps his reason for using allegory was to confute the Judaizers with their own weapons: subtle, mystical, allegorical interpretations, unauthorized by the Spirit, were their favorite arguments, as of the Rabbins in the synagogues. Compare the Jerusalem Talmud [Tractatu Succa, cap. Hechalil]. Paul meets them with an allegorical exposition, not the work of fancy, but sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. History, if properly understood contains in its complicated phenomena, simple and continually recurring divine laws. The history of the elect people, like their legal ordinances, had, besides the literal, a typical meaning (compare 1Co 10:1-4; 15:45, 47; Re 11:8). Just as the extra-ordinarily-born Isaac, the gift of grace according to promise, supplanted, beyond all human calculations, the naturally-born Ishmael, so the new theocratic race, the spiritual seed of Abraham by promise, the Gentile, as well as Jewish believers, were about to take the place of the natural seed, who had imagined that to them exclusively belonged the kingdom of God.
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
22. (Ge 16:3-16; 21:2).
Abraham—whose sons ye wish to be (compare Ro 9:7-9).
a bond maid … a free woman—rather, as Greek, "the bond maid … the free woman."
But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
23. after the flesh—born according to the usual course of nature: in contrast to Isaac, who was born "by virtue of the promise" (so the Greek), as the efficient cause of Sarah's becoming pregnant out of the course of nature (Ro 4:19). Abraham was to lay aside all confidence in the flesh (after which Ishmael was born), and to live by faith alone in the promise (according to which Isaac was miraculously born, contrary to all calculations of flesh and blood).
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
24. are an allegory—rather, "are allegorical," that is, have another besides the literal meaning.
these are the two covenants—"these [women] are (that is, mean; omit 'the' with all the oldest manuscripts) two covenants." As among the Jews the bondage of the mother determined that of the child, the children of the free covenant of promise, answering to Sarah, are free; the children of the legal covenant of bondage are not so.
one from—that is, taking his origin from Mount Sinai. Hence, it appears, he is treating of the moral law (Ga 3:19) chiefly (Heb 12:18). Paul was familiar with the district of Sinai in Arabia (Ga 1:17), having gone thither after his conversion. At the gloomy scene of the giving of the Law, he learned to appreciate, by contrast, the grace of the Gospel, and so to cast off all his past legal dependencies.
which gendereth—that is, bringing forth children unto bondage. Compare the phrase (Ac 3:25), "children of the covenant which God made … saying unto Abraham."
Agar—that is, Hagar.
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
25. Translate, "For this word, Hagar, is (imports) Mount Sinai in Arabia (that is, among the Arabians—in the Arabian tongue)." So Chrysostom explains. Haraut, the traveller, says that to this day the Arabians call Sinai, "Hadschar," that is, Hagar, meaning a rock or stone. Hagar twice fled into the desert of Arabia (Ge 16:1-16; 21:9-21): from her the mountain and city took its name, and the people were called Hagarenes. Sinai, with its rugged rocks, far removed from the promised land, was well suited to represent the law which inspires with terror, and the spirit of bondage.
answereth—literally, "stands in the same rank with"; "she corresponds to."
Jerusalem which now is—that is, the Jerusalem of the Jews, having only a present temporary existence, in contrast with the spiritual Jerusalem of the Gospel, which in germ, under the form of the promise, existed ages before, and shall be for ever in ages to come.
and—The oldest manuscripts read, "For she is in bondage." As Hagar was in bondage to her mistress, so Jerusalem that now is, is in bondage to the law, and also to the Romans: her civil state thus being in accordance with her spiritual state [Bengel].
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
26. This verse stands instead of the sentence which we should expect, to correspond to Ga 4:24, "One from Mount Sinai," namely, the other covenant from the heavenly mount above, which is (answers in the allegory to) Sarah.
Jerusalem … above—(Heb 12:22), "the heavenly Jerusalem." "New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God" (Re 3:12; 21:2). Here "the Messianic theocracy, which before Christ's second appearing is the Church, and after it, Christ's kingdom of glory" [Meyer].
free—as Sarah was; opposed to "she is in bondage" (Ga 4:25).
all—omitted in many of the oldest manuscripts, though supported by some. "Mother of us," namely, believers who are already members of the invisible Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, hereafter to be manifested (Heb 12:22).
For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
27. (Isa 54:1).
thou barren—Jerusalem above: the spiritual Church of the Gospel, the fruit of "the promise," answering to Sarah, who bore not "after the flesh": as contrasted with the law, answering to Hagar, who was fruitful in the ordinary course of nature. Isaiah speaks primarily of Israel's restoration after her long-continued calamities; but his language is framed by the Holy Spirit so as to reach beyond this to the spiritual Zion: including not only the Jews, the natural descendants of Abraham and children of the law, but also the Gentiles. The spiritual Jerusalem is regarded as "barren" while the law trammeled Israel, for she then had no spiritual children of the Gentiles.
break forth—into crying.
cry—shout for joy.
many more—Translate as Greek, "Many are the children of the desolate (the New Testament Church made up in the greater part from the Gentiles, who once had not the promise, and so was destitute of God as her husband), more than of her which hath an (Greek, 'THE') husband (the Jewish Church having God for her husband, Isa 54:5; Jer 2:2)." Numerous as were the children of the legal covenant, those of the Gospel covenant are more so. The force of the Greek article is, "Her who has THE husband of which the other is destitute."
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
28. we—The oldest manuscripts and versions are divided between "we" and "ye." "We" better accords with Ga 4:26, "mother of us."
children of promise—not children after the flesh, but through the promise (Ga 4:23, 29, 31). "We are" so, and ought to wish to continue so.
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
29. persecuted—Ishmael "mocked" Isaac, which contained in it the germ and spirit of persecution (Ge 21:9). His mocking was probably directed against Isaac's piety and faith in God's promises. Being the older by natural birth, he haughtily prided himself above him that was born by promise: as Cain hated Abel's piety.
him … born after the Spirit—The language, though referring primarily to Isaac, born in a spiritual way (namely, by the promise or word of God, rendered by His Spirit efficient out of the course of nature, in making Sarah fruitful in old age), is so framed as especially to refer to believers justified by Gospel grace through faith, as opposed to carnal men, Judaizers, and legalists.
even so it is now—(Ga 5:11; 6:12, 17; Ac 9:29; 13:45, 49, 50; 14:1, 2, 19; 17:5, 13; 18:5, 6). The Jews persecuted Paul, not for preaching Christianity in opposition to heathenism, but for preaching it as distinct from Judaism. Except in the two cases of Philippi and Ephesus (where the persons beginning the assault were pecuniarily interested in his expulsion), he was nowhere set upon by the Gentiles, unless they were first stirred up by the Jews. The coincidence between Paul's Epistles and Luke's history (the Acts) in this respect, is plainly undesigned, and so a proof of genuineness (see Paley, Horæ Paulinæ).
Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
30. Ge 21:10, 12, where Sarah's words are, "shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac." But what was there said literally, is here by inspiration expressed in its allegorical spiritual import, applying to the New Testament believer, who is antitypically "the son of the free woman." In Joh 8:35, 36, Jesus refers to this.
Cast out—from the house and inheritance: literally, Ishmael; spiritually, the carnal and legalists.
shall not be heir—The Greek is stronger, "must not be heir," or "inherit."
So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
31. So then—The oldest manuscripts read, "Wherefore." This is the conclusion inferred from what precedes. In Ga 3:29 and Ga 4:7, it was established that we, New Testament believers, are "heirs." If, then, we are heirs, "we are not children of the bond woman (whose son, according to Scripture, was 'not to be heir,' Ga 4:30), but of the free woman (whose son was, according to Scripture, to be heir). For we are not "cast out" as Ishmael, but accepted as sons and heirs.