Wesley's Notes on the Bible
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
4:1 Now - To illustrate by a plain similitude the preeminence of the Christian, over the legal, dispensation. The heir, as long as he is a child - As he is under age. Differeth nothing from a servant - Not being at liberty either to use or enjoy his estate. Though he be lord - Proprietor of it all.
But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
4:2 But is under tutors - As to his person. And stewards - As to his substance.
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
4:3 So we - The church of God. When we were children - In our minority, under the legal dispensation. Were in bondage - In a kind of servile state. Under the elements of the world - Under the typical observances of the law, which were like the first elements of grammar, the A B C of children; and were of so gross a nature, as hardly to carry our thoughts beyond this world.
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
4:4 But when the fulness of the time - Appointed by the Father, Gal 4:2. Was come, God sent forth - From his own bosom. His Son, miraculously made of the substance of a woman - A virgin, without the concurrence of a man. Made under the law - Both under the precept, and under the curse, of it.
To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
4:5 To redeem those under the law - From the curse of it, and from that low, servile state. That we - Jews who believe. Might receive the adoption - All the privileges of adult sons.
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
4:6 And because ye - Gentiles who believe, are also thus made his adult sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts likewise, crying, Abba, Father - Enabling you to call upon God both with the confidence, and the tempers, of dutiful children. The Hebrew and Greek word are joined together, to express the joint cry of the Jews and gentiles.
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
4:7 Wherefore thou - Who believest in Christ. Art no more a servant - Like those who are under the law. But a son - Of mature age. And if a son, then an heir of all the promises, and of the all - sufficient God himself.
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
4:8 Indeed then when ye knew not God, ye served them that by nature - That is, in reality. Are no gods - And so were under a far worse bondage than even that of the Jews. For they did serve the true God, though in a low, slavish manner.
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?
4:9 But now being known of God - As his beloved children. How turn ye back to the weak and poor elements - Weak, utterly unable to purge your conscience from guilt, or to give that filial confidence in God. Poor - incapable of enriching the soul with such holiness and happiness as ye are heirs to. Ye desire to be again in bondage - Though of another kind; now to these elements, as before to those idols.
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
4:10 Ye observe days - Jewish sabbaths. And months - New moons. And times - As that of the passover, pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles. And years - Annual solemnities. it does not mean sabbatic years. These were not to be observed out of the land of Canaan.
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
4:11 The apostle here, dropping the argument, applies to the affections, Gal 4:11 - 20, and humbles himself to the Galatians, with an inexpressible tenderness.
Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
4:12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am - Meet me in mutual love. For I am as ye were - I still love you as affectionately as ye once loved me. Why should I not? Ye have not injured me at all - I have received no personal injury from you.
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
4:13 I preached to you, notwithstanding infirmity of the flesh - That is, notwithstanding bodily weakness, and under great disadvantage from the despicableness of my outward appearance.
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.
4:14 And ye did not slight my temptation - That is, ye did not slight or disdain me for my temptation, my thorn in the flesh.
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.
4:15 What was then the blessedness ye spake of - On which ye so congratulated one another.
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
4:17 They - The judaizing teachers who are come among you. Zealously affect you - Express an extraordinary regard for you. But not well - Their zeal is not according to knowledge; neither have they a single eye to your spiritual advantage. Yea, they would exclude you - From me and from the blessings of the gospel. That ye might affect - Love and esteem them.
But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
4:18 In a good thing - In what is really worthy our zeal. True zeal is only fervent love.
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
4:19 My little children - He speaks as a parent, both with authority, and the most tender sympathy, toward weak and sickly children. Of whom I travail in birth again - As I did before, Gal 4:13, in vehement pain, sorrow, desire, prayer. Till Christ be formed in you - Till there be in you all the mind that was in him.
I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
4:20 I could wish to be present with you now - Particularly in this exigence. And to change - Variously to attemper. My voice - He writes with much softness; but he would speak with more. The voice may more easily be varied according to the occasion than a letter can. For I stand in doubt of you - So that I am at a loss how to speak at this distance.
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
4:21 Do ye not hear the law - Regard what it says.
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
4:22 Gen 21:2,9.
But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
4:23 Was born after the flesh - In a natural way. By promise - Through that supernatural strength which was given Abraham in consequence of the promise.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
4:24 Which things are an allegory - An allegory is a figurative speech, wherein one thing is expressed, and another intended. For those two sons are types of the two covenants. One covenant is that given from mount Sinai, which beareth children to bondage - That is, all who are under this, the Jewish covenant, are in bondage. Which covenant is typified by Agar.
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
4:25 For this is mount Sinai in Arabia - That is, the type of mount Sinai. And answereth to - Resembles Jerusalem that now is, and is in bondage - Like Agar, both to the law and to the Romans.
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
4:26 But the other covenant is derived from Jerusalem that is above, which is free - Like Sarah from all inward and outward bondage, and is the mother of us all - That is, all who believe in Christ, are free citizens of the New Jerusalem.
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.
4:27 For it is written - Those words in the primary sense promise a flourishing state to Judea, after its desolation by the Chaldeans. Rejoice. thou barren, that bearest not - Ye heathen nations, who, like a barren woman, were destitute, for many ages, of a seed to serve the Lord. Break forth and cry aloud for joy, thou that, in former time, travailedst not: for the desolate hath many more children than she that hath an husband - For ye that were so long utterly desolate shall at length bear more children than the Jewish church, which was of old espoused to God. Isa 54:1.
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
4:28 Now we - Who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles. Are children of the promise - Not born in a natural way, but by the supernatural power of God. And as such we are heirs of the promise made to believing Abraham.
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
4:29 But as then, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so it is now also - And so it will be in all ages and nations to the end of the world.
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.
4:30 But what saith the scripture - Showing the consequence of this. Cast out the bondwoman and her son - Who mocked Isaac. In like manner will God cast out all who seek to be justified by the law; especially if they persecute them who are his children by faith. Gen 21:10.
So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
4:31 So then - To sum up all. We - Who believe. Are not children of the bondwoman - Have nothing to do with the servile Mosaic dispensation. But of the free - Being free from the curse and the bond of that law, and from the power of sin and Satan.