Tuesday, 12 April 2016
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, Galatians 4:1
In the previous chapter, and in particular verses 23-25, Paul had spoken about those under the law as being under a tutor (someone who would tend to the child as a guardian). He will now expand upon that thought, comparing the child, here termed “the heir,” who is under a tutor, to a person living under the law.
This “heir,” as long as he is a child does not have the right to run the estate. He doesn’t have the maturity or understanding of what to do in order to keep the estate. And so, even though he is the heir to the estate, at that point he “does not differ at all from a slave.”
The word here translated as “child” is the Greek word népios. It refers to an infant, and figuratively to a simple-minded or immature person. Thus it is a minor who has the inability to properly handle the full rights that he may be entitled to.
A slave has no right to run an estate. Instead, he takes orders, performs whatever functions are required of him, and keeps out of those areas his master has forbidden him to participate in. The child of the master, though heir, is in exactly the same position. And so he truly is no different than the slave in this regard. And this is despite the fact that “he is master of all.”
The heir will someday assume the full rights of his position. But that time must wait until he is ready and capable of doing so. Until that point, he may have certain privileges, but he does not have the right to the estate itself.
Paul will continue to discuss this and explain what he means, but he is making a parallel to those under the law before coming to Christ. Their status as heirs was not in question, but their rights as heirs were not fully developed. Until they came to Christ by faith, they did not have the rights of the inheritance. Instead, they remained in a position of servitude to the law. This would only end in their coming to Christ through His accomplishment of the law.
Life application: For the nine-jillionth time, Paul has shown that being under the law is contrary to being “in Christ.” The law keeps people in bondage; the gospel frees them. To mandate observances of the law to those who have already come to Christ can only be harmful to the relationship that had been established. To mandate observances of the law to those who have not yet come to Christ can only keep such a person from ever being liberated and to entering into a right relationship with God.
Wonderful freedom! This is what we enjoy when we call on Christ. The chains are broken, hearts are set free, and adoption as sons of God takes place. The law which stood against these things is nailed to His cross, and the joy of the Lord comes in its fullest sense! How good You are, O God, to have reconciled us to You through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord of glory! Amen.