Summary: God’s sovereign choice in making us His children
There was a problem in Galatia, People had forgotten about the truth of the Gospel. They had come to think, or been taught by false teachers, that God’s salvation was not a complete and thorough act of God’s sovereignty and grace alone, but it needed our help, our effort to either cause it, complete it or sustain it.
Now it must be clear that Paul has not yet discussed what the Christian life should look like in terms of conduct and lifestyle, that’s coming. What Paul is trying to is simply to drive the point home, over and over again, Salvation is by Faith, and that Faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. When we teach with our words, as the false teachers were doing, or with our example of aloofness and legalism, like Peter was, that salvation can be accomplished, helped or maintained by works, we miss the mark.
He has used the example of the Galatians’ own experience, Abraham, even the law itself to drive home his point that Salvation is, and always has been on the basis of God’s Grace to a sinful mankind.
Paul is now going to use the metaphor of a family relationship, that of a child:
Verse 1 & 2
"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, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father."
Before we believed in Christ as our Savior, we were as slaves- we were even referred to as slaves to sin; only there was a difference. You see a slave has no future, but a child of the king is different; even though he has a status that is like a slave, he is destined for something more. What were the guardians and managers? It was the Law and the Prophets, the revelation of God that was bringing us the point where the Spirit of God accomplishes faith in our heart.
And what a statement of the sovereignty of God: when are we saved? When we believe in God. Well, when is that? The date set by the Father. This truth of the absolute control God has over all things should not make us feel trapped, or give us a fatalistic view of the future, no; it should drop us to our knees and thanking God that His choice of us included nothing of our merit, for we had none to offer. It was God, through His Son, that placed the value on us.
"Woe to the one who quarrels with his maker-- an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, "What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say "He has no hands’?
Woe to him who says to a father, "What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, "To what are you giving birth?
Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his maker: "Ask me about the things to come concerning My sons, and you shall commit to me the work of My hands.
It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands and I ordained all their host.
I have aroused him in righteousness and I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city and will let My exiles go free, without any payment or reward," says the LORD of hosts."
Now, in our way of thinking, it is assumed that an heir is not in control of the estate until the death of the father. That is often how we think of it, in terms of receiving what our parents had in their “last will and testament”. However, in Middle Eastern cultures, a son can become an equal with the father in terms of land and wealth of the estate. It is at a certain age, or a particular point in a young man’s life when the father decides that he is able to bear the estate. We see this in the proverb of the Prodigal Son. That son had the “right” to a division of the estate and wealth.
But, before that time, we were not seen as heirs, but as children who were under control of others.
"So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world."
I think that there are two aspects to the “bondage” here. The first was the Jews, who were being held captive by the false philosophy of the rulers of the time; that is that keeping the law, and the traditions, in outward form, would insure righteousness. Jesus over and over again confronted the false idea of keeping the law, that following all of the multitude of regulations that the leaders had heaped upon the law, that doing these things would accomplish salvation. It was, and always had been by grace alone that people were saved, whether the Jew, the Gentile, in ages past, present or future.