The Inferiority of Immaturity (Galatians 4:1-11)
This week our daughter Beth graduates from high school, an event which marks the conclusion of a long and wearying process of education, both for our daughter and for us as parents. Friday evening we will attend what has been traditionally called “commencement exercises.” The term “commencement” focuses on the fact of beginning, not of conclusion, and indicates that a whole new world lays ahead for the high school graduate. Beth will be going away to college. This means a greater amount of freedom for her, accompanied by greater responsibility. She will no longer be prompted by her parents to get her school work done or to clean up her room. In many ways graduation is the realization of a long-awaited event, to be followed by greater challenges and opportunities.
There are other emotions associated with graduation, however. Graduation is not just a beginning, but an end, a point of termination. Beth’s graduation is the conclusion of twelve long years of required education, of term papers, tests, and such things as science fair projects. It also means leaving behind certain relationships. While there will be occasional class reunions, the reality is that she will never again see some of her classmates this side of heaven (and some, not at all, for a painfully obvious reason). Graduation also marks the end of the carefree life for which parents have assumed most of the responsibilities. Now Beth and others in her class will begin to think more carefully about budgeting and earning sufficient income to meet expenses.
Now, but much more in days to come, Beth will nostalgically look back upon her high school days and yearn to return to them. She, like most of us, will forget about the hardships and the restrictions and remember the carefree joy of living life without assuming most of its responsibilities. This is an experience common to man. Novels and movies all play upon the theme of turning back the clock, returning to those golden days of the past. In the Old Testament, we find the Israelites, who had yearned for freedom from their cruel taskmasters, soon seeking to return to Egypt when faced with the difficulties of life.
The Judaizers of Paul’s day had also wished to return to the past and to take the Gentile Galatian saints with them. They painted a glorious picture of life as it had once been under the Old Testament economy of the Law. While they were willing to concede that faith in Christ was necessary for salvation, it alone was inadequate, and thus the Law must be added as well (cf. Acts 15:1,5; Gal. 3:1-5).
The “different gospel” (cf. Gal. 1:6-10) which the Judaizers preached led to an attack on the apostleship of Paul who had first proclaimed Christ crucified to them, resulting in their salvation (cf. 3:1-5). Paul defended his gospel and his apostleship in the first two chapters of Galatians. His salvation and growth as a Christian were largely independent of men, and particularly of the renowned apostles in Jerusalem (1:13-24). Nevertheless, they wholeheartedly accepted Paul, his message and his ministry, as signified by their giving him the “right hand of fellowship” (2:9) and refusing to give ground to the Judaizers, who insisted that Titus be circumcised (2:3-4). When Peter acted inconsistently with the gospel, Paul rebuked him publicly (2:11-21). Paul could hardly be accused of being a man-pleaser whose gospel catered to the whims of men (cf. 1:10-11).
In Galatians 3 Paul began to defend his gospel in its particulars. It was Paul’s gospel of salvation by faith alone, apart from law-keeping, which resulted in the Galatians’ reception of the Holy Spirit, along with His on-going miraculous manifestations of power (3:1-5). Abraham, too, the “father of the faith,” was justified by believing God’s promises, and thus all men become the seed of Abraham by believing in His promises (3:6-9). The Law cannot produce the blessings which God promised Abraham, but only cursing, for men cannot keep every law consistently (3:10-12). This curse on all men does not hinder the fulfillment of God’s promises, for Christ Himself has borne the curse of the Law by being nailed to the cross (3:13-14). Furthermore, the Abrahamic Covenant preceded the Mosaic Covenant, thus taking precedence, for a later covenant cannot modify or abrogate a covenant which has been previously ratified (3:15,17). Since the promise was made to and accomplished though a specific person, Christ, it was certainly accomplished because He is the Son of God (3:16).
The Law did have its purpose in the fulfilling of God’s promises to Abraham. The Law made the problem of sin painfully obvious. The Law defined sin and actually resulted in multiplying sin to where it could not be denied. The purpose of the Law, however, was provisional and was never intended to be permanent (3:19). The Law was not in opposition to the promises of God, for this economy pointed men to the promises and proved every means of obtaining them, other than faith, to be futile. The Law did not oppose faith, but prepared for it and promoted it as the only means to receiving God’s promised blessings through Abraham (3:22-24). Since the Law was provisional and preparatory, it was set aside after the coming of Christ, and it thus ceased to make the old distinctions between Jew and Gentile, which was the basis for the pride and zeal of the Judaizers.
From Servitude to Sonship
1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
In chapter 3 Paul has established, on biblical and theological grounds, the superiority of grace over law, of receiving the blessings of God through faith as opposed to the curse which comes through the works of the Law. He now seeks to illustrate and apply this truth by turning to a well-known practice in the ancient world, that of an heir coming of age, so as to enjoy all that he has legally possessed, but which has been beyond his personal control.68
Here Paul refers to a Roman legal process, well known to himself and his readers.69 According to Roman law, the heir was under the control of a tutor until the age of 14. This tutor was named by the father and placed in his will. From the age of 14 until the heir was 25, he was under a curator, at least sometimes named by the father. The tutor and the curator were not necessarily intended to be synonymous with Paul’s “guardians” and “managers” (4:2). It may be that the “guardian” was in charge of the child, while the “manager” was in control of the assets of the child.70 When the heir reached the age of 25 (or the age stipulated by the father), he then entered into the full privileges of his possession. Until that time, the heir was in the frustrating predicament of legally owning his father’s inheritance without actually enjoying its possession.
Our legal system places an estate in the hands of a trustee until the child reaches legal age, with a certain amount of funds provided during childhood as established by the father. We can hardly imagine the confinement of the “heir” of Paul’s day who had someone to tell him what to do and not to do and another to spend his money for him. The closest we might come to this is with the Federal Government. The IRS takes a certain amount of money from us as a reserve fund against projected taxes, even when we may get much or all of it back. Until the government decides to give us our money, it is theirs to control.
The restrictions on the heir of ancient times were far greater. Can you imagine what it must have been like for a young man to be, as it were, a millionaire, and yet not be able to do as he wanted with this money? For all intents and purposes, the heir was no different from the slave, for he received only what the “guardians” and “managers” determined to give him (4:1).
In verses 3-5, Paul makes the analogy to the status of the Jews who lived under the Law. The “heir” under Roman law had legal ownership of his father’s wealth; he did not actually possess it or enjoy it. So too the Jews had the promises of God to Abraham, yet they were not yet realized or enjoyed. Just as the Roman “heir” was under the dictates of the appointed “tutor” and “curator,” the Israelite was under the Law, with all of its restrictions and mediators. The time for both preparatory periods to end was established by the father. For the “heir,” it was the age determined by the Roman law or specified by the father.71 For the believer, the Law’s tutelage ended at the appointed time when the Father determined for the Son to be sent to the earth to redeem fallen man.
The expression “elemental things of the world” in verse 3 has been the source of considerable discussion. Bruce comments:
“The word stoicheia means primarily things placed side by side in a row; it is used of the letters of the alphabet, the ABCs, and then, because the learning of the ABCs is the first lesson in a literary education, it comes to mean ‘rudiments,’ ‘first principles’ (as in Heb. 5:12).”72
I do not see the term as it is used here to have a highly technical meaning as some have suggested. Paul is trying to show the benefits of maturity, as opposed to the restrictions of immaturity. Those principles under which a child is restrained and governed are appropriately labeled “elementary.” These “elementary principles,” these ABCs, have been put aside, thankfully, and replaced by something far better.
Paul seems to speak specifically here of the Jews as implied by the term “we” in verse 3, which is paralleled in verse 5 by “those under the Law.”73 Christ was sent to the earth as one “born of a woman” (4:4). This was necessary to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15, and also was a necessary part of the incarnation, so that Christ could die for man as man. In addition, Christ was born “under the Law” (4:4) so that He was able to bear the curse of the Law to enable men to receive the blessings which God promised to Abraham’s offspring (2:13-14). The “adoption as sons” (4:5) is that enjoyment of the promises of God to Abraham, and the passing from the restrictions and confinement of the Law to the fullness and freedom of grace.74
The Gentile Connection
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
Paul has previously taught that sonship has not only come to the Jews but also to the Gentiles. While the particulars are not identical, the process of the Gentiles coming to faith is similar to that of the Jews, and thus similar to the analogy of the “heir” under Roman law which Paul has given in verses 1 and 2. In verses 6-11 Paul compares the sonship of the Gentiles to that of the Jews, stressing the foolishness of seeking to place themselves under the Law as the Judaizers urged.
In verse 6 Paul broadens his reference to the benefits of sonship which belong to the Gentile Galatian Christians. The “you” (4:6) refers specifically to the Galatians just as the “we” (4:3,5) referred to the Jews.75 The evidence of sonship is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, which causes us to respond and relate to God as Father. This ministry of the Spirit was not present under the Law in the Old Testament.
Since the Galatian Christians possessed the Holy Spirit (cf. 3:1-5), the spirit of adoption (4:6; Rom. 8:15-17), they were just as certain of their sonship as the Jewish saints. Since they were sons, they could no longer be slaves. Better still, they were also “heirs” of the promises to Abraham (4:7).
While the Jews were no better than slaves under the economy of the Law (4:1), the Gentiles were truly slaves, in bondage to elementary principles. These elementary principles were somehow related to the false idol worship of “no gods” (4:8; cf. 1 Cor. 12:2; Eph. 2:1-3). How foolish it would be for them to turn back to the “elemental things,” which Paul here calls “weak” and “worthless” (4:9).
The relationship between the “elemental things” of verse 9 and those of verse 3 is perplexing to biblical scholars. Yet, while the particulars are not certain, the point is clear. Both the Jews and the Gentiles have in the past lived under “elemental things.” It would be foolish for either Jews or Gentiles to leave the better things of Christ to return to the “elemental things” of their past. I believe that Paul is seeking to convince the Galatians that since it would be foolish for a Jew to return to the “elemental things” of the Law, it would be even more foolish for a Gentile to seek to be under the Law. Both, in Christ, have come to possess something far better—forgiveness and freedom, obtained by grace through faith, and not by law-works. For the Gentile to seek the “elemental things” of the Jew is as foolish as returning to the “elemental things” of their pagan, idolatrous past.
When we lived in the Northwest, I hauled our trash to the county dump in a trailer. Those of you who know me well would not be surprised to hear that I often returned with a trailer full of garbage from that dump—to me, a discarded washing machine tub was not garbage, but a potential planter! In our affluent society, one man’s trash is often another man’s treasure. This is not true, however, when considering elemental things. According to Paul, Jewish trash should not become a Gentile’s treasure, which is precisely what the Judaizers were promoting.
Those things to which the Galatians returned were not the “elementary things” of their own past, but rather those of the Jewish past. In verse 10 Paul cites the celebration of certain holy days, months, seasons, and years as evidence of their turning back to the inferior things of the past. We see a very similar description in the second chapter of Colossians. One characteristic of the Law was that it distinguished nearly everything. It distinguished what was sacred from what was secular, what was holy from what was defiled, what was clean from what was unclean. In the mind of the Judaizer, it separated the Jew from the Gentile in such a way as to make the Jew superior to the Gentile. In the final analysis, the Judaizer saw the Law as superior to grace and the Mosaic Covenant as better than the cross of Christ. To Paul, all these arbitrary distinctions were overshadowed by one great distinction, the “elementary things” of the past and the “better things” accomplished through Christ. Paul’s work was in vain (4:11) if the Galatians failed to realize the superiority of Christ over the Law.
Before suggesting some applications of our text, let me underscore several observations about those truths which Paul would have intended his reader to understand from verses 1-11.
First, under the Law the distinction between Jews and Gentiles was not as great as the Judaizers taught. Paul has already indicated in chapter 3 (v. 28) that in Christ the distinctions which men make in order to gain superiority were all set aside. All men (and women), whatever their sex, race, or socio-economic status, are considered equal in God’s eyes through the blood of the cross. Paul continues in chapter 4 to show that even under the Law the Jews were hardly superior to the Gentiles. The word “differ” in verse 1 includes the idea of superiority,76 thus reminding the reader that the Jew was not truly superior to the Gentile under the Law, since the Jews, like the Gentiles, were in bondage to those things which could be called “elemental.” While the Judaizers considered themselves (as Jews) to be custodians of God’s gifts and promises, the Old Testament Jew was himself in bondage “under guardians and managers” (v. 2). The superiority complex of the Judaizers was unfounded.
Second, far from producing a greater spiritual maturity, being under the Law was proof of the opposite—immaturity. The theology of the Judaizer was that grace alone was not sufficient to save (cf. Acts 15:1) nor to sanctify (Gal. 3:3). Their solution was to add law to grace. In other words, the Law was necessary to produce godliness and maturity in the life of the Christian, whether Jew or Gentile. Paul nullifies this theology by associating the Law with childhood and immaturity. He describes the period during which Israel was under the Law as the time when they were children (Gal. 4:3) It is necessary to restrict and confine a child because children are too immature to make wise decisions. We do not let our children make important decisions, because they are neither wise nor mature enough to do so. Thus, by associating the Law with the immaturity of a child, which requires tutors, custodians, and stewards, Paul indicates that the need for rigid rules and regulations is the mark of immaturity. How then do the Judaizers dare to promise a higher level of spirituality through a return to the Law?
The word “elemental” (I prefer the term “elementary”) is by no means a compliment. This is illustrated by a principle of education which I am told is employed in the armed forces. This principle is known in its abbreviated form as “KISS,” which stands for, “Keep it simple, stupid.” There is only one reason to keep something simple, and that is because those being taught are stupid. Paul is reminding the Galatians of a similar principle related to the Law, which is by no means complimentary to those who would look at the Law as placing them on a higher plane of spirituality.
Third, Paul has given further proof that the Law which God gave through Moses was not contrary to God’s promises made to Abraham. In verse 21 of chapter 3 Paul asked the question, “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?” The analogy of the heir under Roman law gives further proof that this was not the case. As a child, the heir was still the owner of his father’s goods, but there was a period of restriction and regulation necessary before all of the privileges and responsibilities were to be given over to the child. Restriction was a necessary part of the program which culminated in full sonship. So, too, the restrictions of the Law were necessary during Israel’s immaturity, until full freedom was granted.
Fourth, Paul has once again underscored the foolishness of seeking to turn back the clock and surrender the benefits of freedom under grace for the regulations and restrictions of bondage under Law. Why would an heir, once he has gained full possession of his father’s goods, ever wish to return to his previous guardianship? Why would one who has come to full sonship through faith in Christ ever wish to return to the confinement of the Law? Such a thought was shown to be foolish, even in terms of such a secular matter as legal sonship under Roman law.
Returning to the dictates of the Law is similar to convincing Picasso to abandon the freedom of his own style of painting and thereafter paint “by numbers.” I should add that the opposite extreme is absolute libertinism, the absence of any rules, which leads to randomly dripping paint or throwing it at the painting—or having a dog walk through paint and then onto a canvas.
The truths which Paul has exhorted the Galatians to embrace are relevant to men and women of our century as well. Allow me to suggest some of the ways this passage may apply to you and me.
First, we who are Christians must be sensitive to the fact that we have a predisposition to return to the past. Most of us are known as political and theological conservatives. I believe, for example, that our country has departed from many of its founding principles and practices, and I would desire to see us return to them, as a nation. Likewise, there are many times when men must return to their spiritual heritage.
The most important change a person will ever experience is that of conversion. Paul has described his dramatic conversion from the religious fervor of Judaism to personal faith in Christ. He turned from a confidence in his law-works, a self-made righteousness, to faith in the saving work of Christ (cf. 1:11-17; cf. also Phil. 3: 1-16). The Bible likens a man in his lost state to a sheep which has wandered away from its shepherd (Isa. 53:6). Peter thus describes conversion: “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25).
My friend, if you have not yet acknowledged your sin and the fact that you have strayed from God, I urge you now to turn to the One who can save you—Jesus Christ.
It is little wonder that Christians are so frequently called sheep, for we too are prone to stray. As the hymn writer says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.” The prophets of old called for repentance, a turning back to faith in God and obedience to His commandments. Our Lord told Peter that he would turn around after his denial: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, emphasis mine).
If you have wandered away from a vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, I must urge you with full assurance that the proper course of action for you is to return to your faith and to walk with Him.
It is necessary to say also that there is a danger in trying to turn back the clock or attempting to relive the old days in a way that is unhealthy and ungodly. It is our desire as Elders of Community Bible Chapel to have a truly New Testament church. This does not mean, however, that we seek to live a kind of “instant replay” of all that has taken place. This is a great part of the error of those who demand that all of the tongues, the healings, and the miracles must be experienced today. While God is sovereign in the bestowal of His gifts and power, we can never demand these things simply because they have happened in the past. A New Testament church, in our opinion, is one which operates on the basis of New Testament principles and which depends upon New Testament power (the power of the Holy Spirit). The results are left to God, who sovereignly bestows spiritual gifts, who sovereignly directs and determines ministries, and who sovereignly blesses (1 Cor. 12:4-6).
In his excellent book entitled The Church Unleashed, Frank Tillipaugh challenges his reader to compare the brief and narrow list of ministries which describe the vision and service of the evangelical church today with the diverse and prolific ministries of the parachurch organizations. Our conservatism, our desire to preserve or return to the past, has often paralyzed our ability to minister with any level of freedom and flexibility. The classic defense of this mentality of putting the past in cement is “We’ve always done it that way before.” Let us beware of our tendency to remain static or, worse yet, to move backwards in areas of ministry.
If Christians are to grow and to progress in the faith, then while the fundamentals will never change (and will sometimes need to be returned to), much of our past should not be repeated, for it will be inferior. Occasionally I will have a need to return to one of my old sermons, either in print or on tape. I can tell you that I wish there were some way to get some of my messages out of circulation. At least I can say that I hope that if I preached that same text today I would do a better job. In this sense, I don’t want to go back to my old way of preaching. If maturity comes over a period of time, there must be those things to which we should avoid returning. The bottom line is this: we must always seek to return to those things which are fundamental, but beware of returning to those things which Paul has called “elemental.”
Second, the Christian must always be eager to learn the lessons of the past, without attempting to relive the events of the past. The Scriptures abound with references to the past. History is given to us so that we might learn valuable lessons from those who have walked before us, yet without the painful experience of repeating the errors of others. We must therefore learn to differentiate between the lessons which have been learned, the principles which have been taught or illustrated, and the events which have been experienced. Those who wish to relive the past are seeking to avoid the painful realities of the present.
Third, we must learn to distinguish between “nostalgia,” a romanticized recollection of the past, and history, a realistic report of the past. Nostalgia, someone has said, is a lie. It really is. Nostalgia looks at the past through rose-colored glasses. Nostalgia exaggerates the good things and eliminates the negatives. When the Israelites were without food and water, they wistfully remembered the leeks and the garlics of Egypt. I understand how one could long for something spicy after months or years of eating bland food, but leeks and garlics are not the essence of life. Furthermore, the Israelites did not recall the bondage of Egypt, the harshness of their taskmasters, nor the toil of their brickmaking. Nostalgia always distorts the past, dwelling on that which is desirable and minimizing the pains and problems.
The Bible is written in such a way that it is difficult for the reader to relapse into nostalgia. The events of the past are portrayed in a way which does not minimize or seek to conceal men’s sins. While we tend to make heroes of the patriarchs, a simple reading of the text makes it obvious that these were men, like us, with feet of clay. This is even emphasized for us: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours [subject to like passions as we are, KJV], and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months” (James 5:17).
Fourth, we must be diligent to watch out for the symptoms of nostalgia which are evidence of a spiritual problem. There are several tell-tale signs of the Galatian syndrome for which we must constantly watch. Most notably there is the symptom of a preoccupation with the past to the point that we avoid considering the future and fail to think in terms of the present. Added to this is an unrealistic glorification of the past and a pessimism about the future. The problem with nostalgia is that it inclines us to go backward, rather than forward.
Fifth, we must be able to recognize some of the wrong motivations for turning to the past. The Christian life begins, continues, and culminates with faith. God often develops our faith by putting us into situations where we do not know (and we cannot determine) what lies ahead. At times such as these we face two alternative attitudes: fear or faith. We often seek to turn back the clock when we are afraid of possible unknown dangers which lie ahead. Faith trusts in the God who has proven Himself faithful in the past; fear prefers to return to the past. Is it any wonder that the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt when faced with the Red Sea ahead and the Egyptian armies behind?
Another wrong motive for reliving the past is the desire for a trouble-free life. Whenever we face adversity, our inclination is to turn from it, regardless of the cost. When the Israelites came to a place without food or water, they longed to return to Egypt. They did not like the rigorous life to which God had called them. So too the Hebrew Christians, to whom the Book of Hebrews was written, began to shrink back because of their adversity. We too think of the “good old days” when times are tough.
One of the strongest attractions of the past is that of simplicity. If Paul’s analysis of his culture is correct, it is true that life is simpler for the child who is given very simple, elementary, rules to keep. As we grow older, life becomes much more complex; the issues are not so clear, and the decisions are more agonizing. It is when we become weary of the complexity of life that we yearn for simplicity. Since legalism simplifies life, declaring categorically what is right and what is wrong, we yearn to return to it. Freedom always has the price tag of responsibility. The freedom which we have in Christ is sometimes surrendered by those who prefer simplicity to complexity, formulas to faith. No wonder so many Christians buy books and attend seminars by those who offer formulas which give us ready answers to life’s toughest questions.
Sixth, we need to learn to rightly relate the past, present, and future. When life becomes difficult in the present, the nostalgic saint always turns back to the past and seeks to relive or reproduce it. This way he avoids the pains of the present and the uncertainties of the future. However, faith rises above fear. When times are tough we ought to recall the past, remembering our sinfulness and God’s faithfulness. This should cause us to cast our every fear and doubt upon Him who is faithful. This enables us to look at the future in light of the past, knowing that what God has promised He surely will do. In light of this hope, we should live our lives in obedience to His word, whether or not that brings immediate rewards.
I urge you to read through the Psalms in which you will find the psalmists crying to God out of their present distress, and then looking back on God’s faithfulness in the past, and thus finally looking forward with faith. I would also encourage you to see this same approach to life in the Book of Hebrews, written to those who were becoming faint-hearted because things were getting tough.
Let us turn back to the truths of God’s word, to His promises, and to the evidences of His character. However, let us not seek to turn back the clock to avoid adversity or to make life simple and easy. Let us look forward, knowing that what God has promised, He will accomplish, for He is faithful, a lesson which history emphatically records.
68 The “now” of verse 1 is rightly understood as Paul’s continuation and further development of what he has been teaching in the previous chapter. The imagery of an heir coming of age, however, is not synonymous with that of the “prison-warden” (3:22) or of the “slave-attendant” (3:23-25):
“Paul takes up a different analogy from those used in 3:22-26 to set forth the contrast between the previous period of spiritual immaturity and the new life of full-grown freedom, bringing it up to date by including the theme of inheritance, introduced in 3:29. The law has been compared to a prison-warden and a slave-attendant; now its role is compared to that of the guardians and trustees appointed to take care of a minor and his property.” F. F. Bruce, Commentary on Galatians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 192.
69 This matter is dealt with in detail by Francis Lyall, Slaves, Citizens, Sons: Legal Metaphors in the Epistles (Grand Rapids: Academie Books—Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), cf. especially chapters 4 and 5. F. F. Bruce, Commentary on Galatians (p. 198), agrees with the conclusion of Lyall that Roman law, rather than Jewish or Greek law, is the basis for Paul’s illustration in 4:1-2.
73 There is also a sense in which every man, Jew or Gentile, is under the Law, but I do not believe that Paul is stressing this here. He first likens the Jew under the Law to the “heir” before he is of age, and then he likens the Gentile under the “elemental things” to the Jews, under the Law.
74 From passages like Romans 8:19, I would understand that sonship, like salvation, has both present and future dimensions. While we enter into the freedom of sonship now, and the joy of relating to God as our Father, we will more fully be blessed in eternity. It is that future revelation of the “sons of God” to which Paul refers in Romans 8:19.
Related Topics: Spiritual Life