Galatians 4:1-3

1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all,

2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.

child (v.1) — minor, immature

does not differ (v.1) — has the same privileges and responsibilities as a slave

though he is master (v.1) — even though all property is willed to him or even if the father is dead and he’s already inherited.

guardians (v.2) — one to whom something is committed

stewards (v.2) — governors — with responsibility for property

These terms cover both the person and the property of the heir.

When the law was in effect, people were in a state in regard to it that corresponded to childhood.

time appointed by the father (v.2) — In the life of the Hebrew boy there came a time, appointed by the father, when “adoption” proceedings took place and the boy was declared to be the son and heir of the father.

Before that time he had been a son, indeed, but “under tutors and governors.” He had been told what he must and must not do, as well was what he may and may not do. In this he differed nothing from a servant.

But finally the “time appointed” arrives. He is a grown son now. It is assumed that he will no longer need overseers to keep him in check. There will be natural understanding and cooperation between father and son. And so the “adoption” proceedings take place — a declaration that the son now enters into all the rights and privileges of full sonship. — Stam, page 211

elements (v.3) — principles of religion. For Jews, the ceremonial aspects of their religion. For Gentiles, the practices of paganism.

of the world (v.3) — the order of human affairs

Paul is wishing to show his Galatian readers that their desire to adopt these Jewish rites, as grounds of acceptance with God, would be merely a proof and an indication that they lacked the maturity which belonged to the true followers of Christ. There are some Christians today who fail to realize that trust in ritual observances or in moral achievement or in doctrinal orthodoxy may indicate merely a relapse into second childhood on the part of those who should know the freedom of full-grown sons. — Erdman, page 81.

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