4. Arguments for the proposition, 3:1-4:7

vii] The seventh argument.


In our passage for study, Paul argues that through God's grace, believers are free from the slavery of the law for blessing, because they are now God's full-grown sons and no longer spiritual infants.


i] Context: See 3:1-5. It seems very likely that this passage is the final step in Paul's argument in support of his proposition developed in 2:15-21. In fact, this passage is virtually a summary of Paul's arguments so far. The passage has prompted numerous source theories, given its unusual language and images, but they add little to its meaning. Note the similarities with 3:23-29. The following passage, 4:8-11, is most often tied to this passage, even to a wider unit identified by Bruce as 3:26-4:11, by Fung as 2:15-5:12, by Garlington as 3:1-4:31, ...., so it may well serve as a personal statement rounding off Paul's arguments in 3:1-4:7, so Dumbrell, Longenecker, Dunn, ..... (Note the similar expression of distress at the commencement of this argumentative section, 3:1-5). None-the-less, it is more likely that 4:8-11 serves as an introduction to the series of exhortations that run through to the postscript, 6:11-18.


ii] Background: See 1:1-10.


iii] Structure: The seventh argument in support of the proposition:


The gospel, apart from the law, facilitates new life in Christ.

Supporting argument:

#7. In Christ we now have the full, free enjoyment of sonship in God, with all its associated blessings, 4:1-7;

Analogy, v1-2;

the age of immaturity is over.

Application, v3-7;

once minors / enslaved, v3;

redeemed through Christ, v4-5;

renewed by the Spirit, v6-7.


George divides this passage into three parts: 4:1-3, "Our past condition"; 4:4-5, "The coming of Christ"; and 4:6-7, "The Spirit within".


iv] Interpretation:

The seventh argument: In 4:1-7 Paul outlines his concluding argument in support of his proposition that a person, who is in the right with God on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ, is freely able to appropriate the fullness of God's promised new life apart from law-obedience. Summing up then, Christ, "born under the curse of the law" ... fulfills all its requirements, absorbing its curse by his death on the cross", Dumbrell. "God's purpose [in all this] was both to redeem and to adopt, not just to rescue from slavery, but to make slaves into sons", Stott. Consequently, as adopted sons in Christ, both Jews and Gentiles receive God's promised blessings, a foretaste of which is the gift of his life-giving Spirit. So (pointedly addressed to the Gentile Galatian believers infected with notion that law-obedience facilitates God's blessings, "you", v7), a believer, as a son of God, is rightly an heir to the promised blessings of God [and this apart from law-obedience].


A further note on the temporary nature of the Law. As already noted in the studies on 3:19-29, Paul argues for the temporary nature of the law in temporal terms (a salvation-history approach), but applies it in logical terms. In salvation-history terms "the guardianship of the Mosaic law was meant to be for a time when God's people were in their spiritual minority; but now with the coming of Christ, the time set by the Father has been fulfilled", Longenecker. It follows, as a logical consequence of this truth, that for those in Christ the law has fulfilled its appointed task of confinement such that they now possess the full and free enjoyment of divine sonship. Although the logical sense is dominant, Paul's "us" (believing Jews) and "you" (believing Gentiles) indicates that Paul's thoughts, as always, are couched in a salvation-history frame.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:1

Concluding argument in support of the proposition:

#7. For those in Christ, the law has completed its appointed purpose of confinement, such that in Christ we now have the full and free enjoyment of sonship in God, and this with all its associated blessings, v1-7.

i] Paul paints an analogy of a son growing up in home where he is under the control of a guardian / administrator until he is of age, v1-2. During such time he is treated little different to a servant. Scott argues that this is an illusion to Israel's Egyptian enslavement, but it best illustrates the guardianship of the law until the coming of Christ, until Israel's coming of age (in temporal terms), which frame applies to a believer's coming of age in Christ and of their outgrowing the subjection of the law (in logical terms).

de "what [I am saying]" - but/and. Transitional; used here to indicate the next step in the argument; "my point is this", NRSV, Dumbrell.

ef o{son cronon "as long as" - [i say] for as long as, for as long a time as. Idiomatic temporal expression.

oJ klhronomoV "the heir" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be. A child who has come into the inheritance of their father "will receive his father's property", TEV.

nhpioV adj. "child / underage" - [is] an infant, babe. Predicate adjective. The word can refer to anyone in their minority, therefore also, "child / youth." "A minor", NEB.

ouden diaferei (diaferw) + gen. "he is no different from [a slave]" - he nothing differs from [a slave]. Followed by a genitive of direct object, doulou, "slave". Here, "no different from" and so therefore "no better than a slave, even though the whole estate will be his by inheritance when he comes of age."

w[n (eimi) pres. part. "although [he owns]" - being [lord]. The participle is adverbial, probably concessive as NIV. "Even though everything their parents own will some day be theirs", CEV.

pantwn gen. adj. "the whole estate" - of all. The genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "lord over all."


While the heir is in their minority they are under supervision, as if they were a servant, until freed at a time set by their father.

alla "-" - but. Adversative / contrastive; "but he is under guardians and managers", ESV.

uJpo + acc. "under" - [is] under. Expressing subordination; "under".

epitropouV (oV) "guardians" - guardians. Unlike a guardian appointed by a father (a different Greek word), this guardian is appointed under law, although both perform the same function. "Men who take care of him and manage his affairs", TEV.

oikonomouV (oV) "trustees" - [and] stewards, tutors, guardians, trustees. Rather than suggesting the minor has a second guardian, Paul is probably describing the function of the guardian. The word was sometimes used of an administrator of slaves and this might have prompted Paul to use the word to describe the guardianship. Possibly "teacher", CEV, but better "trustees".

acri + gen. "until" - until [the time previously appointed]. Temporal construction. We would probably say, "until he is of age"; "until the time which his father has chosen for him to receive his inheritance", Phillips.

tou patroV (hr roV) gen. "by his Father" - of the father. Usually taken as a verbal genitive, subjective, ie., "until the appointed time/date set by the father", Zerwick.


ii] Paul applies the analogy, v3-7. As a child must submit to the authority of their guardian until they reach their majority, so "we" had to submit to the subjection of the law. "We", spiritual heirs of God's blessings, were once similarly under supervision. By "we" Paul probably means "we Jews", although what he says applies to Gentile believers who are now also heirs with Jewish believers. As for the supervisor, "the basic principles of the world", Paul is referring to the law, and in particular, the Mosaic law. For Paul, the law is an instrument of spiritual bondage, cf., v5.

ouJtwV adv. "so" - so, thus, in this way, in like manner. Comparative / correlative, linking what proceeds with what follows. Virtually a kaqaper ..... ouJtwV construction - "just as ..... so with us ......"

kai "also" - and = also [we]. Here adjunctive; "so also with us."

oJte "when" - when, while. Temporal conjunction introducing a temporal clause.

hJmeiV pro. 1 pl. "we [were]" - Emphatic by use. It is generally understood that here Paul's use of "we" includes both Jews and Gentiles, ie., he is being inclusive. This is probably the case, but we do need to remember that Paul often distinguishes between "we Jews" and "you Gentiles". Those who argue that "we" = "we believing Jews" hold that Paul is illustrating the guardianship of the law over the people of Israel, their release from its administration into the full responsibilities and blessings of sonship, a sonship that Gentiles also share through Christ, and this apart from the law. In the end, Paul's use of "we" ultimately includes "you".

nhpioi adj. "children / underage" - infants, childish. Predicate adjective used as a substantive.

h[meqa dedoulwmenoi (doulow) perf. pas. part. "we were in slavery" - we have been enslaved. The perfect participle with the imperfect of the verb "to be" forms a periphrastic pluperfect construction. Possibly expressing a continuous state of slavery. Bligh suggests it is an afterthought, "we were under the elemental powers of the universe - in a state of slavery."

uJpo + acc. "under" - Expressing subordination.

tou kosmou (oV) "[the basic principles] of the world / [the elemental spiritual forces] of the world" - [the rudimentary elements, material] of the world. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic / of definition, limiting by specifying the elements in mind. "Elements that make up a series", Longenecker. Of these possible meanings, the fourth seems likely:

• "material world", as of Israel's contamination by the surrounding nations and thus the loss of the nation's uniqueness, and held to this reality by the law, so Dumbrell, Longenecker, Sanders;

• "the elemental spirits of the world", referring to evil satanic forces, or lesser spiritual beings, Betz, Wright, or more generally "primal and cosmic forces however conceptualized", Dunn;

• "the celestial elements of the universe", referring to the elements of the cosmos - earth, air, fire, water;

• "the rudiments of the world" RV, referring to the elementary teachings, truths, regulations, rules...., "the prescriptions and ordinances to which religious men outside of Christ surrender to", Ridderbos; including the Mosaic law, Bruce; "the rudiments of the service of God", Belleville; or particularly the law of Moses, the Torah, Hayes, Martyn, Fung, Barnes. "This is why Paul can make the equally startling assertion that the Torah is no better than pagan religion", Garlington, cf. 4:8-11.


But then "Christ came and changed everything", Hunter. The time for ending the heir's minority came about when God sent his Son. Jesus took upon himself the human condition of flesh ("born of a woman"), as well as the condition of subjection ("born under law"), but did so without sinning, cf. 2Cor.5:21.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a counter position, "but".

oJte "when" - Introducing a temporal clause.

tou cronou (oV) gen. "the set time" - [came the fullness] of time. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative.

to plhrwma (a atoV) "fully" - the fullness. That which fills or completes, so in the coming of Christ, the Old Testament era comes to an end, is completed. Christ's birth introduces a new era. It is this point that prompts the selection of 4:4-7 as the epistle for Christmas 1. "But when the time was right", CEV.

exapesteilen (exapostellw) aor. "sent" - [god] sent forth. To send forth as an authoritative representative. The Father's sending the Son implies the preexistence of the Son, but does not prove it. It does though imply that Jesus was the Son of God prior to his sending and not because of his sending. "God sent his Son into the world."

genomenon (ginomai) aor. mid. part. "born" - [the son of him] having become. The accusative participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the accusative "son", "who was woman-born". "Becoming" and therefore possibly "born", although "made", AV, in the sense of "became a human person", maybe Paul's intention. It is not actually "beget", rather Paul is saying that Jesus comes to us as a human person bound under the responsibilities of the law. This statement does not support the virgin birth, but probably does reference it, so Dumbrell; "born as any child is born", Barclay.

ek "of [a woman]" - from [a woman]. Expressing source / origin, or standing in for a partitive genitive, "of a woman."

upo + acc. "[born] under [law]" - [having become] under [law]. Expressing subordination. Possibly in the sense of being subject to the Torah and thus obedient to it, "his Son obeyed the law", CEV, or in the more general sense of someone who lived in a society bound by law, "brought up under the Jewish law", Barclay, or even "born as a Jew", Martyn, but probably in the sense of "under the Sinai covenant and its curse", the requirements of which Christ fulfills in his obedience.


At great cost Christ comes and sets free those in bondage to the law, bestowing "not merely sonship, but the privileges of sonship - the full status of sonship", Guthrie. The purpose of the Son's coming, of his taking upon himself our human condition under the curse of the law, was the redemption of those under the subjection of the law (the obedient Son took upon himself the curse that hung over the disobedient sons) that we might "receive the adoption of sons" and thus the full blessings of sonship.

iJna + subj. "to [redeem] .... that [we might receive]" - that [he might redeem the ones under the law] that [we might receive the sonship]. Both hina clauses may be final expressing purpose, "in order that", or the first final, and the second consecutive expressing result, "in order to redeem .... so that we might receive." It is possible that the second takes the place of an epexegetic / appositional infinitival clause and so serves to explain the sense of the first hina clause; "in order to set free those subject to the law, namely, that he might receive us as his adopted sons."

exagorash/ (exagorazw) aor. subj. "to redeem" - may buy back, redeem. Possibly with the stress on release, "so he could set us free from the law", CEV, but more likely "from the curse of the law", Dumbrell, Ridderbos, cf. 3:13-14, or more generally, "that he might redeem those held under the power of the law", Martyn.

uJpo + acc. "under [the law]" - Expressing subordination.

iJna + subj. "that [we might receive]" - Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, but see above.

thn uiJoqesian (a) "the full rights of sons" - sonship. Accusative direct object of the verb "to receive." Receive the status of sons, "receive the adoption as sons", NASB. In the ancient world adoption bestows full family rights on the adopted person, thus the blessings of sonship for all who believe.


The gift of the Spirit is usually treated "as confirming the relationship", ie., confirming sonship, so Dumbrell; or the "fruit and evidence of the truth that God has received them as sons", Ridderbos, ie., product of, as well as evidence of; or "the adoption and the gift of the Spirit are concomitant", Guthrie, "simultaneous .... the receiving of the Spirit is the sequel to their instatement as sons", Bruce (both resting on "faith"). Yet, it seems best to understand that "the Spirit was a gift consequent and subsequent upon their being made sons", Dunn, a product of sonship, the blessing above all blessings of sonship, of being right with God, which blessing is ours in the faithfulness of Christ, appropriated through faith, and not works of the law. cf., Gal.4:5-7, Rom.8:15-17. As Dunn notes, the receipt of the Spirit is the beginning of a believers experience of sonship, of being right with God. Paul will explain how new life in the Spirit proceeds in 5:13-6:10.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating the next step in the argument; "and because you are sons", Barnes.

oJti "because" - Probably causal, "because / since", but possibly introducing an epexegetic noun clause, "that" = "to prove that (to show that) you are sons", NEB, making the point that the Spirit is an evidence of sonship. Yet, most of the older translations take oJti as introducing a causal clause explaining forward - the Spirit is sent because you are sons. "In that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son ...", Dunn.

este (eimi) "you are [sons]" - Obviously "you Gentiles", although some argue for "you, both Jews and Gentiles."

uiJoi (oV) "sons" - Predicate nominative. "God's son's by adoption", Dumbrell.

exapesteilen (exapostellw) aor. "sent" - [god] sent. Sent forth as an authoritative representative. Although aorist, its sense here, with regard the Holy Spirit, must be collective. Successive sendings are intended.

tou uiJou (oV) gen. "[the Spirit] of [his] Son" - [the spirit] of the son [of him]. A theologically tricky phrase and only used here in the New Testament. The Western church holds that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son", while the Eastern church holds that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. Paul is probably not thinking about "proceeding" here, so not an ablative genitive of source/origin; "the Spirit from the Son." Paul may be toying with the idea expressed in Romans 8:15, "the Spirit of sonship", or as Murray paraphrases it, "the Spirit who imparts the assurance of sonship and enables believers to call God their Father", which sense would be an adjectival genitive, attributive, limiting "Spirit". Of course, possibly just possessive.

kardiaV (a) "heart" - [into] the hearts [of him]. Best understood as the seat of reason, the inner person, rather than the seat of feelings. The stomach is the seat of feelings. Thus, the Spirit indwells the believer; "God sends the Spirit of his Son to us and he takes root in our inner being."

krazon (krazw) part. "who calls out" - crying out, calling out, crying. The participle is adjectival probably limiting "Spirit", as NIV. Grundmann argues that the "crying" here is not that of the Spirit, but rather the ecstatic outcry of a believer overcome by the presence of the indwelling Christ and who, in this state, calls out to the Lord in prayer.

abba "Abba" - abba [father]. Aramaic for Father. An example of Jesus' own words in Aramaic carried over into the Greek. The Greek translation "father" is supplied. Given the presence of the Spirit in the believer's life, we are able to "utter the cry of deepest familial intimacy in prayer and worship, addressing God as Father", Dumbrell.


"No longer slaves, we are sons and heirs, by God's own act given free access (apart from the law) to all the riches he destines for us", Hunter. The Galatians must remember that they are now sons of God and therefore, heirs of the full blessings of sonship. To put themselves under the law again, as the children of Abraham are under the law, is to revert to spiritual infancy. It involves trying to attain what is already attained by a gift of God's grace.

wJste "so" - so that, in order that, thus. Serving to introduce a consecutive clause expressing result; "it becomes apparent (therefore)", Ridderbos.

ei\ (eimi) "you" - [no longer] are you [a slave]. A move to the singular is emphatic, "ye" underlined.

alla "but" - Strong adversative. "You are no longer a slave but a son".

uiJoV "a son" - a son. Predicate nominative. In the sense of an adoptive son of God, given this status in an act of divine grace through Christ.

ei "since" - [and] if, as is the case, [a son, then also an heir through god]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true.

dia + gen. "[God has made you]" - through [god]. Expressing agency. Some suggest "by God's own act", but "through God", RSV, is best in the sense of: through the gracious act of God the believer is no longer a slave but a son, a son and heir, and therefore the believer does not need to submit to the law to gain the blessings of sonship. "By the will of God", Zerwick.

klhhronomoV (oV) "an heir" - Predicate nominative. "Heir of God", Fung, Betz, or "heir of the promise made to Abraham", Cranfield, Martyn, Dunn. "Sons and heirs, members of Abraham's family of believers", Dumbrell, and thus by right, inheritors of the promised Abrahamic blessings - "life".


Galatians Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]