Galatians 4:7
The Christian is compared to the son, the Jew to the slave. The gospel brings sonship, Law inflicts bondage. The sonship of the new order involves liberty and heirship. Consider some of the privileges herein implied.

I. INTELLIGENT PRINCIPLES SUBSTITUTED FOR SPECIFIC COMMANDMENTS, The slave is ordered to do this or that without his master condescending to tell him the reason for his mandates. He is bound to a blind, implicit obedience. Nothing is done to develop his understanding and to help him to choose and decide on his own judgment. But the son is admitted to his father's counsels, and educated so as to reason for himself and to act on the dictates of his own conscience. The Law keeps men as slaves. It commands, it does not explain. Christianity

(1) enlightens so that we see the principles of righteousness, understand their inherent rightness and discern their applicability to specific cases;

(2) liberates by allowing us freedom to apply these principles according to our own conscientious convictions, instead of forcing upon us a rigid course of conduct.

II. LOVE AS A MOTIVE INSTEAD OF COMPULSION. The slave may hate his master and only obey in fear of the lash. The true son is above this abject, servile obedience. He has learnt to love his father, and from love to seek to anticipate his father's wishes and willingly to endeavour to please him. The Law commands, threatens, drives, compels. The gospel persuades and attracts. The Christian obeys God because he first loves God. The secret is that Law cannot change our hearts, while the gospel does "create a new heart within" us, so that we no longer need the restraints of Law, but earnestly desire to please God.

III. FAMILY FELLOWSHIP IN PLACE OF SERVILE INFERIORITY. The slave is kept at a distance from his master, holds an inferior position, and is excluded from familiar intercourse. The son lives at home in the presence of his father and enjoys close companionship with him. Law keeps us at a distance from God. Jews were made to feel a sense of separation caused by their Levitical system. Christians are brought near through Christ and belong to the family of God.

IV. A RICH INHERITANCE IN EXCHANGE FOR HELPLESS POVERTY, The slave can own nothing. All he earns and his very person are the property of his master. Sons are heirs. Law allows us to gain nothing - it is a hard master; but the gospel offers the richest gifts. Christians, being God's sons, become fellow-heirs with Christ. - W.F.A.

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son.

1. It is a change from ignorance to knowledge.

2. A change from bondage to self-control.

3. A change from a temporal relationship to an eternal one.


1. God intervenes with the offer of sonship at the fitting time.

2. God sends the only Being who can win us to sonship.

3. God accompanies the gift of sonship with the only infallible witness — the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


(S. Pearson, M. A.)

For what purpose did God make the worlds? Not that He might in solitary joy behold their glittering brightness; but that they might minister to our sense of beauty, and cast lights on our devious way. If we truly understood our relation to the world in which we live, and indeed to the universe of which we form a part, we should see that the material has been made for the sake of the moral, that all things have been put under our feet because we are sons of God Who has more right to the world's riches and wealth than a child of Him to whom the world belongs? Let him erect his machinery, carry on his transactions, dive into the mine, cross the ocean, span yawning gulfs, and pierce hard rocks, assured that He is doing his Father's will in thus obtaining and using his leather's wealth "All things are yours — things present and things to come." "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." But higher things are ours if we are children of God. We become partakers of the Divine nature. That nature is spirit, and our spirits overcome and subjugate the grosset part of our being. That nature is righteous, and we become pure in heart, single in purpose, simple in behaviour, lust toward all men. That nature is mercy, and we, having ourselves obtained the blessings of Divine pity, look with compassion on the fallen, and long to win them to the home from which they have been so long exiles. That nature is changeless power, and our weakness becomes strength, and an inward energy is granted enabling us to triumph over time, the world, and self. That nature is infinite wisdom, and by dwelling ever in the presence of God we see the world's troubles and our own in the light of higher purposes, and when we cannot understand we learn in quiet repose to trust in Him who doeth all things well. That nature is world-embracing and unquenchable love; He takes away the patriarchs when their weary pilgrimage is finished, that He may give them perfect rest. He makes us ask, "The fathers, where are they?" because He wants them home with Him; and soon the doors of His presence-chamber will open for us, new visions of bliss and joy will open upon us, and we shall see God as He is, and be like Him. In the meanwhile our rejoicing is, that "now are we the sons of God."

(S. Pearson, M. A.)

Whoever could believe without any doubt that it were true, and certainly comprehend how immeasurably great a thing it is, that one should be God's child and heir, such an one would without doubt take little account of the world, with all that therein is esteemed precious and honourable, such as human righteousness, wisdom, dominion, power, money, possessions, honour, pleasure, and the like; yea, all that in the world is honourable and glorious, would be to him loathsome and an abomination.


I. NO INHERITANCE WITHOUT SONSHIP. Spiritual blessings are only for those who are in a spiritual condition.

1. The lower orders of creatures are shut out from gifts which belong to the higher forms of life because they are so organized that these cannot enter into their nature.

2. So the soul must be adapted to the enjoyment of spiritual salvation.

3. The final inheritance depends on character. To possess God for ever we must love Him for ever.


1. We are sons in some sense by nature.

2. But we become spiritual sons by grace.


1. The very figure shows us that the process of becoming sons does not; lie within our own power.

2. Christ has come to give the spirit of adoption and regeneration.


1. Ceremonies are nothing.

2. Trust in Christ is everything.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Christ has effected an actual change in the possible aspect of the Divine justice and government to us; and He has carried in the golden urn of His humanity a new spirit and a new life which He has set down in the midst of the race; and the urn was broken on the Cross of Calvary, and the water flowed out, and whithersoever that water comes there is life, and whithersoever it comes not there is death.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

A train dashed into a tunnel with a warning whistle. The whistle and darkness startled a child in his mother's arms, and caused him to scream with fear; but directly the mother's voice was heard, and he felt the soothing hand upon his face, all fear vanished. Yet the child knew not why the train went through the darkness, but immediately the parent's voice reached him, he trusted. When we go through any dark or laborious way, let us also trust our Father in heaven, and nothing will harm us. "The darkness and the light, O Lord, are both alike to Thee."

By it God the Father is made our Father. The incarnate God-man is made our Elder Brother, and we are made —

1. Like Him.

2. Intimately associated with Him in community of life, standing, relations, and privileges.

3. Joint-heirs with Him of His glory. The Holy Ghost is our Indweller, Guide, Advocate, Comforter, and Sanctifier. All believers being subjects of the same adoption are brethren.

(A. A. Hodge.)

I. THEN WE ARE TO NOTICE THE GRACIOUS RELATION IN WHICH GOOD MEN STAND TO GOD. They are not servants, but sons. As I have before intimated, this privilege belongs to believers alone; they only can properly be called the sons of God.

1. That true believers are the sons of God by a new creation. By nature they are the children of wrath even as others. They are the offspring of degenerate, fallen man, the posterity of Adam, the sinful representative of mankind. The temper of the mind is renewed, and the outward conduct is reformed. A spiritual and vital influence is felt, and a spiritual and vital principle is imparted.

2. Believers are the sons of God, by their union with Christ. "Wherefore, my brethren," says the apostle to the Romans, "ye are also become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him that is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God."

3. Believers are the sons of God by adoption. Adoption was an act frequent among the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans.

II. THE HAPPY CONSEQUENCE WHICH RESULTS FROM THE PRIVILEGE OF OUR BEING THE SONS OF GOD. If a son, then an heir of God, through Christ. They are heirs of all that God possesses. The treasures to which they are entitled are vast and immeasurable. Believers, too, are heirs of all that God has promised. Christians are said to be heirs of the promise. If they have but little in possession, they have much in prospect; if not rich in enjoyment, they are rich in faith and hope. Believers, too, are heirs of the righteousness of Christ. Believers, too, are heirs of salvation, and angels are their ministering spirits. Those happy beings have charge over the people of God, and minister to them in their path to glory. They are called, too, heirs of the grace of life. Salvation is all of grace. Believers, too, are heirs of the kingdom. God has provided a kingdom for them that love Him, and of this kingdom they are heirs. They are also heirs of the world. This promise primarily refers to the land of Canaan, which Abraham and his seed were to possess; but here heaven is typically promised and represented.

III. NOTICE THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS PRIVILEGE IS OBTAINED. If a son, then an heir of God, through Christ. Now we are heirs of God through Christ, because he has purchased this privilege for us. Christ, too, can only give this glorious privilege. He is the Head and Representative of His Church. Believers are the members of His body, and receive their spiritual nourishment from Him. It is through Christ we obtain this privilege as joint-heirs with Him. To Him the birthright blessing properly belongs. The Father loved the Son, and hath given all things into His hands. In conclusion, let me inquire — If not heirs of God, what are we? We are heirs of Satan — that prince of darkness, who now employs us in the drudgery of sin in order that he may reward us with the damnation of hell.

(Isaac Clarkson.)

The apostle had laid down some broad, simple rules of the gospel (verses 4, 5).

I. THE BELIEVER'S CHANGE: he was a servant; he is a son.

1. A servant to sin (Romans 6:16). Unconverted man's virtues are splendid sins. Servants in a large house have different work, but if well done, master is satisfied.

2. Slave to the world — its fashions, opinions, pleasures.

3. In bondage to the law. He cannot see the freeness of the gospel (Romans 3:28; Romans 5:1). But there is a change (ver. 6; Romans 8:15). There is now an interest in God; filial affection to Him; freedom of access (Ephesians 2:18; Proverbs 15:8); an abode in the Father's house (John 8:34-5; Ephesians 2:19-22).

II. THE BELIEVER'S HOPE. An inheritance is not purchased by ourselves — it descends. It implies —

1. Full forgiveness. One unpardoned sin is certain hell (Ezekiel 18:4; 1 John 1:7).

2. Inward righteousness — imperfect, but improving (Luke 23:41; Hebrews 12:14).

3. That God Himself will be the portion of His believing people (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). Whatever Christ has, we have.In conclusion —

1. Is it not a wonder that privileges such as these should be so much overlooked, undervalued? Can every one here say; "I was a servant of sin, but I am now a son of God?" (Romans 10:10).

2. If not a son of God, what is the alternative? (Galatians 6:7, 8). An heir of the one or of the other is every one present at this moment. We must expect opposition, but we are well led, supported (2 Corinthians 12:9; Revelation 21:7).

(H. M. Villiers.)

He simply reminds those Christians of their early state, and calls them to consider their present condition. Once they were servants, now they are sons; once in bondage, now free.

I. Every believer will find it to his advantage occasionally to recall his former condition under the Divine law, previous to the glad day in which grace came to him with full redemption. They say it is the custom in the city of Munich to arrest every mendicant child that is caught begging in the street, and put him immediately at school under some proper supervision until he is able to obtain a moderate support. As he enters the institution, his portrait is taken by an artist precisely as he appears in his uncleanliness and rags. This picture is always carefully preserved, so that when he is educated and matured enough to appreciate his position it may be shown to him. Then he will know how much has been done for his good, even while he was thinking unkindly of the restraint he resisted. Furthermore: he is made then to promise that he will keep She likeness ever afterwards, in order not only that it may remind him of his abject career as a beggar, and so keep him humble, but also make him think of others as companions in misfortune, and so render him charitable to the poor. And it is said in the reports that some of these castaways thus saved to usefulness, make the strongest and the most hopeful friends for the recovery and rescue of any young lad, however unpromising he may at first sight appear, a mere waif and wanderer in the world. Here in our lesson the apostle seems to have a very similar purpose in mind. For he begins with the description of men in a state of nature (vers. 1-3), and having shown how deeply in "bondage" they are, he proceeds to set forth the glorious interposition of grace in the gospel (vers. 4-6), by which they might receive the "adoption of sons." It is as if we all looked steadily back for a moment to see what we were once, and in the height of our gratitude looked around to see what we now have become, and to inquire how best we could glorify our Saviour.

II. In the next place, the apostle dwells upon the lofty position of those who are the children of God. They are not any more bound by the drudgeries of service; they are not under "tutors and governors" any longer; they are "sons." It remains for us only to understand what adoption implies, and then this liberty will be defined, and this relationship established.

1. A son by adoption takes the name of his new father for all the future. No matter how honourable that may be; no matter how clear the aristocratic blood may have run in the ancestral veins; no matter what the world's heraldry has to say of ancient prowess or feudal right; any one who is legally adopted bears the same proud designation. Although the forefathers never knew him, the Children of this generation must hereafter call him a brother, the mother must consider him the same as her son. The analogy holds perfectly here. To be sons of God means to bear His name. Christians are called such after Christ; it is said that the Germans often call a true believer a "Christ."

2. An adopted child receives the care of his father. The privileges bestowed upon the other children are exactly the privileges bestowed upon him. Indeed, a son by adoption is often more likely to want peculiar help, simply because on entering an entirely fresh line of relations and duties he has everything to learn and much to unlearn. He hardly knows the first rules of the house, and he does not at all understand the dispositions of those within the family circle. He cannot be expected to arrive at once, as if by a flash of intuition, at a full apprehension of even his father's will; he will need time to be instructed in the delicate solicitudes of watchful obedience. Hence, he must have more forbearance, more patient instruction, more provident guardianship, perhaps than all the rest together. To be the adopted sons of God means just in this way to share His peculiar parental care. Jesus our Lord left on record an engagement of it for His brethren (John 16:27). Even the Father Himself has made a covenant promise for help (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).

3. An adopted child takes the honours of his father. The child goes away from the old condition wholly into the new. A prince might bring a peasant's son into a royal household; then he will be a peasant-boy no longer; he is a king's son. That sets him on a level with the nobles of the realm; for he takes the condition of his parent as if he had been born under the same roof.

4. A child by adoption receives an appropriate share in the wealth of his father. Numbered in the household, bearing the common name, he can also draw on the joint resources. Former poverty is forgotten. Avenues of influence are suddenly thrown open to him.

5. An adopted child receives at last the inheritance of his father. "What God has laid out for His people is much, what He has laid up for them is more. "The Saints' Inventory" contains a list of spiritual possessions, most rare and valuable (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

III. It would seem now as if there could be no need for the apostle to press his closing consideration. How could any one wish to go back into service after he had experienced these advantages of sonship? How could he "desire again to be in bondage"? We are told that the Israelites, even when they had manna, wished for onions and leeks of Egypt; and, even when God was feeding them, sighed for garlic. But what is this beside the folly of those who accept times and seasons in the place of the " blessedness" of a sonship of God with Christ!

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The Weekly Pulpit.
I. WHAT WE WERE — SERVANTS. The idea of bondage is implied, and refers to the twofold influence of sin.

1. Its entire sway over ourselves. The language of Scripture is decisive on this matter. Sin has not only affected a part of human nature, but the whole.

2. Its power to exclude every good influence. The slave has no intercourse with the outside world. Others must not speak to him, or offer him any counsel. His master will not allow any foreign influence. Sin keeps out the light; the sinner does neither see himself nor his surroundings.

II. WHAT WE ARE — SONS, Adoption is the term used by the apostle to designate the change. No comparison, however, will exactly represent the altered state.

1. As sons we are partakers of the Divine nature. The Spirit of God has imparted a heavenly disposition to our hearts.

2. As sons we are partakers of God's care and government. Correction is a necessary part of the relationship.

III. WHAT WE SHALL BE — HEIRS. There is a present right, but minority excludes full possession for want of fitness.

1. Maturity There is a stage in our experience when restrictions and limitations will be removed. We now only know in part.

2. Indebtedness — "through Christ." He is the!ink between us and the inheritance.

(The Weekly Pulpit.)

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