Summary: Relying on external law is the bondage of slavery. Jesus redeemed us from the law & made us heirs of God. The Christian does not need to wait to enjoy the riches of Christ. If he is a son then he is an heir.
FAITH LEADS TO MATURITY
One of the tragedies of legalism is that it gives the appearance of maturity when, in reality, it leads the believer away from a spiritual dependance upon God. The Galatian Christians, like most believers, wanted to grow and go forward for Christ; but they were going about it in the wrong way. Their experience is not too different from that of Christians today who get involved in legalism, hoping to become better Christians. Their motives may be right, but their methods are wrong.
This is the truth Paul is trying to get across to his beloved converts in Galatia. The Judaizers had bewitched them into thinking that the Law would make them better Christians. Their old nature felt an attraction for the Law because the Law gave them direction and measured external results. As they measured themselves and their achievements, they felt a sense of accomplishment, and, no doubt, a little bit of pride. They continued serving the law thinking they were going forward when actually they were backsliden.
Such people are in a situation similar to the airplane passengers who heard their pilot announce: "Our navigator has lost our position, folks, and we have been flying rather aimlessly for over an hour. That’s the bad news. But the good news is the we are making very good time."
Relying on external law is the bondage of slavery. Jesus redeemed us from the law and made us heirs of God (CIT). The Christian does not need to wait to enjoy the riches of Christ. If he is a son then he is an heir.
I. SUPERVISED CHILDREN, 1-2.
II. ADOPTED HEIRS, 3-5.
III. THE CRY OF SONS, 6-7.
In verses one and two Paul uses a legal analogy to illustrate the difference between living under the Law verses living under Christ. 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,
The illustration is that of a wealthy estate whose heir is still a minor. No matter how wealthy a young father might be if he dies his minor children will have to wait for their inheritance until they are of age. Though this child is the legal heir and accordingly the owner of everything, yet with respect to taking possession of and exercising control over the estate that has been left to him, he is no better off than a slave.
The reason for his inferior position is because he is under the guardianship of a minor as verse 2 states. but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.
Until the child attains to the age stipulated by the father he is heir by right (de jure) but not yet in fact (de facto). For the interim the child as stipulated by his father’ testament is under guardians, over whom his care has been entrusted. The heir’s estate was under the stewards or managers (often slaves) to whom the supervision of his estate has been entrusted (Lk.12:42; 16:1ff; Rom. 10:23). [Roman law (tutela impuberis) provided for the child to be under a guardian or tutor appointed by the father until he was fourteen. The estate was under a steward appointed by the state until he was 25.] The point is that the heir did not receive his full inheritance until the authority of these guardians ended.
II. ADOPTED HEIRS, 3-5.
Though usually not realized, all men are born slaves and held in bondage by the forces or understandings of this fallen world. Men often turn to religion to find basic help in rebuilding their life, but religion can lead people into further bondage instead of an encounter with God. Verse 3, So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
The elemental principles of the world are the beginning or basic stages of anything. [Stoichos means a beginning row, line, or a series of things in the forming of the universe or in actions. It can also mean low in rank, basic elements or inherent components. -Logenecker, Word Biblical Com, 165] Even basic religious practices whether in the Jewish or pagan religions hold people in bondage. [Jewish religious leaders had added their multiple rules and regulations to those received by Moses just as other religions formed theirs.] People sought redemption in these building blocks, or first principles be they in nature or religion.
It was like learning the ABC’s and stopping there. When Christ came the full revelation of God’s principles and teaching came but legalism’s rejection forced its adherence back into the supervision designed for the immature stages of childhood where guardians were required. The law was preparatory just like learning the rudimentary or basic functions of the alphabet are preparatory to learning to read and write. Sticking with legalism was like continuing to recite the ABC’s when with the coming of Christ an abundant life was made available to them. Legalists are children in bondage, not sons joying their inheritance. They are immature and ignorant, not mature and wise.