Paul begins by comparing being an “heir of God” (Gal.3:29; 4:7) to being an heir of men (4:1). A man’s boy was already “lord” of his lands and servants, but he wasn’t ready to be in charge of his lands and servants. He needed to be under “tutors and governors” (4:2) to teach him how to be an adult so he knew how to be in charge of them. That continued “until the time appointed of the father” (v.2). After that, he was ready to be about his father’s business, as the Lord was at age 12 (Lu.2:42,49). Modern Jews call this a bar mitzvah.
As heirs of God, we were “in bondage” or servitude (cf.Ezra 9:9) under the “elements of the world.” The word element means the simplest form of something, as when Sherlock said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” In elementary school, I learned that in chemistry, elements are the simplest form of matter that are the building blocks of all other forms of mat-ter. For example, water (H2O) is made up of two atoms of the element hydrogen and one atom of the element oxygen.
The elements in our text refer to the law. When the law says, “thou shalt not kill” etc., those are simple rules that are the building blocks “of the world” (4:3). Paul could tell the Galatian Gentiles “we” were under it, for if a Gentile wanted to be saved in time past, he had to learn what the law said about being saved. God put all mankind under the law to teach us we couldn’t be saved by keeping even the simplest of rules.
But “when the fulness of the time was come” (4:4), i.e., when the years were fulfilled that Daniel said must pass before Messiah could come (Dan.9:25), He came. That’s when “the time appointed of the Father” to stop treating the Jews as His children came. It was time to make them His sons and make them the lords of all He owned in the earth in the kingdom. But they wouldn’t have it, so God introduced the mystery.
The Lord had to be “made of a woman” (Gal.4:4) because
He had to be kin to us to redeem us (Lev.25:47-49) out of the bondage of sin Adam sold himself into—and us with him, since the children of slaves are slaves too. When we believe, Christ redeems our souls (Gal.3:13), but our bodies will be redeemed at the Rapture (cf.Rom.8:23). That’s why Paul said he was still “sold under sin” (Rom.7:14). So Christ had to be made a man to redeem men, and made under the law to redeem them that were under the law (Gal.4:4).
He did all that so that we could “receive the adoption of sons” (4:5), the bar mitzvah-type sonship we’re talking about. We received it (Rom.8:15) when we got saved, but Jews in the kingdom dispensation won’t be sons till they appoint the Lord their Head in the kingdom (Hos.1:10,11). That’s when God will put His Spirit in their hearts (Ezek.36: 27). But He’s done that for us now (Gal.4:6cf.IICor.1:21,22).
The name “Abba” (4:6) is associated with saying, “not my will, but Thine be done” (Mark14:36; Lu.22:42). When God puts His Spirit in kingdom Jews, they’ll be able to say that, just as the Lord could, because the Spirit will “cause” them to do His will (Ezek.36:27). Paul could say we have received that Spirit because the Spirit does that “in us” when He fulfills the righteousness of the law “in us” (Rom. 8:3,4).
What do we inherit as God’s heirs? Well, we are only His heirs because we are the spiritual seed of Abraham (Gal.3: 29). That means we inherit the eternal life that he inherited, but also “the world” (Rom.4:13-16; ICor.3:21,22). We’re not going to live in the world like kingdom Jews will, but we will “judge the world” because “we shall judge angels” in heaven (I Cor. 6:2,3), and heaven is over the earth (Isa.55:9).
So when Paul says we are no longer servants, we are sons (4:7), that means we went from owning nothing to owning everything. A slave owns nothing, for his master owns all that he has, but a son is “lord of all.” What a rags to riches story is ours in Christ!