Exposition of Galatians 4:1-7


From the time of Sinai till the coming of Christ the church was under the pedagogue: the Law of commandments contained in ordinances! This law proclaimed that no flesh shall be justified by works of law which we perform. By the law is the knowledge of sin; the law is the power of sin and death. It was added to the promise in order that the exceeding sinfulness of sin might be revealed. Only in Christ’s redemption on the Cross is there any hope of life, righteousness, and peace. Man must become a new creation by the Spirit of Christ. He must be baptized into Christ; he must put on Christ, the whole Christ, as prophet, priest, and king. He must become a Christian. He must die to law through law, that he might live unto God by the faith of Jesus Christ. 

In the Old Testament dispensation, from Sinai to Christ, the entire church was really an heir of the promise in Christ. However, the time was “not yet” that she should receive the Spirit of Christ. That must wait till the time called “the fulness of time.” That was the time appointed of the Father in the terms of the ratified covenant with Abraham and with his Seed, Christ. 

To make this clear Paul now proceeds, in these first seven verses of Galatians 4, to use the metaphors of an heir-child, as he is a minor, and as this same child is an adult in life. They are the same person, with the same rights, but they are treated differently in each of these stages of their life. The child is under tutors and stewards till the time appointed; the man is free; he has received all that is implied in being a son by adoption to life and glory, to occupy his place in the father-house with its many mansions. (John 14:1-3)


(Gal. 4:1-3) In the Old Testament the church was like little children who needed to learn the spiritual alphabet of the Christian religion. They were under the first principles, which they needed to learn before they could attain to the full knowledge of salvation in Jesus Christ. They all pointed to Christ in dim shadows and types. They were really lessons which were the first principles of the “world.” The lessons were all geared “under law”: do this and thou shalt live. In a sense that was true not only of the Jew but also of the Greek. The morality of the latter also dealt with the “good man.” It was ever the way of works. The one perished in his sins “without law” and the other perished in his sins “by law.” But they both are under worldly principles, which could not save, but could only point up the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of man as he is apart from the saving grace in Christ. Because these principles could in no way help man actually to perform them (Gal. 3:21) they are weak through sin. (Rom. 8:3) Paul calls these principles weak and beggarly! This was true of the Pharisaic self-righteousness as well as of the weak Pagan moralism. Both are weak and beggarly. They have no power and they leave one destitute in his spiritual poverty of guilt and shame. 

Rudiments of this world! 

They have nothing in them of the power of God unto salvation. 

What is worse is that the Old Testament Church, from Sinai till Christ, was in a perpetual state of bondage. Such was the state of the Church when Christ was born. They were lost in their sins. Is He not the only one who will save His people from their sins? Is His Name not called Jesus by the angel of the Lord? The term translated “were in bondage” means: in a completed state of bondage. There was no way out. The just demand of the law must be satisfied. And the law under which Israel was held was weak and beggarly. It could not help the impotent sinner; it could not justify the ungodly and it could not sanctify the filthy sinner. All was hopeless for the heir-child under law. 

And this was thus by the appointment of the Father in the Testament. Paul makes this clear from an illustration in ordinary life of his day. It makes very little difference whether he is referring to the strict technical law of his day as applied by the Romans or to Greek law, as far as his point of comparison goes. In either case men, (boys and girls) were minors (nonage) in the strict sense till they were 14 years old, and they received their full rights when they arrived to the age of 25 years. In either case they were under the supervision of pedagogues, tutors, governors. They are shut under law unto the time appointed of the Father in the will. 

This is very meaningful for our purpose. 

This means that Paul is here not speaking of individual Christians before and after their conversion. He is not speaking of an individual saint at all in the Old Testament. He is comparing the legal and spiritual status of the Church in the Old Testament with that of the church after Faith has come, in the dispensation of the fulness of time. He is comparing the Old Testamentchild-church with the New Testament adult-church. They are the same church. The adult is the full-grown child. It is the same person! This refutes the false teaching of Premillennialism which would separate as two spiritual entities the. Old Testament Kingdom from the New Testament Bride of Christ, the Church. If premillennialism is correct, then Paul does not make his point here, and the, Galatian errorists win the day. But Paul would have them one church, the one planting of the Lord, the one tree which continues from the Old Testament into the New Testament. (John 15:1-5Rom. 11:17-21) However, let it be understood, once and for all, that the Old Testament church is the “child” and the New Testament church is the “adult” in the same church, which is the body of Christ, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all!

Yes, we were under those first principles as church once! 

But that shall never more again be the case. 

The clock of God has struck the hour of Christ’s birth. And now all things shall be changed for the “child-Heir.” 


(Galatians 4:4, 5) Yes, God had to change matters for the child-heir, for the children of election, both out of the Old Testament and out of the New Testament Dispensation. He did this once and for all when the fulness of time came. It was the time appointed of the Father in His will for His children and heirs in Christ Jesus; It was the right time when Jesus was born. The time struck on the clock of God. Then God set the wheels of heaven in motion: the whole world must be taxed by a decree of Caesar Augustus, and a woman must go to Bethlehem to give birth to her first-born son, and she must call his name Jesus: for he it is that shall save his people from their sins. And He shall be Immanuel, that is, God with us. (Luke 2:1-7Matt. 1:18-23

Time has a measure to it and design. All things from Adam lead to Christ. And that time then is a fulness of time. When the last day has come in that long history, and the “days are accomplished that she should be delivered,” then the heavens can break open and the multitude of the heavenly host can sing, “Glory to God in the highest,” and all the angels can come forth to worship the Son in the flesh.” (Luke 2:12-14Hebrews 1:5, 6) It was not the time when the reprobate world was ready to receive the Christ at all, but it was the time when the stage of God is set for the Son of God to be born, suffer, die, rise from the dead, and sit at the right hand of God, Lord over all things. It is the time when the “dispensation of the fulness of times” will usher in our present New Testament Church into the time when all things shall be put under one head, both in heaven and on earth. (Eph. 1:10) Such was the wisdom of our heavenly Father over His heir-children.

Yes, the Son was made from a woman in the fulness of time, from a woman born in the Old Testament and under law! 

The virgin Mary must be a woman from the Old Testament as was Sarah, Ruth, and Hannah. She is a part of that Old Testament church which is under the law as a taskmaster to Christ. She must go to the temple on the fortieth day of, her purification, and then present herself and her son to the Lord. (Luke 2:22) Yes, she must bring the Old Testament bloody sacrifice of the pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons. She is under the law as given by Moses in Leviticus 12:2-8. And so the Son of God was “made” under law. He was redeemed by the redemption of the firstborn son. (Num. 3:13Num. 8:17) Yet, He is “made” of a woman. He had no human father. Mary’s son was conceived by the Holy Ghost. The Son of God “took upon Himself” our human nature in Mary. He chose His own mother, the blessed among women. (Luke 1:30, 42) Paul seems to suggest in the choice of his words here that this was a unique birth, when he writes, “made of a woman, made under law.” The eternal God “became,” as far as His flesh was concerned: The Word was “made” flesh! (John 1:14

God sent His Son into this world with a mission, with a definite task to perform as the Mediator. He was “sentout” from God. Jesus says repeatedly while on earth: and this is the will of Him that sent me. (John 6:39, 40) And He comes and cries, “Behold, I come to do thy will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7Psalm 40:6) This task which He has come to perform is that He must “redeem those who were under law,” that is, the entire church, as she was in the status of being but a child in nonage, under the Old Testament Law; the first principles of the world. The task was to bring the ransom price at Calvary on the accursed tree. For this purpose He must come under law. Jesus comes under the law: do this, do this, pay, pay, pay. He Who knew no sin was made sin for us. (II Cor. 5:21) And this God did in the fulness of time, the time appointed in the promised Testament. Up to that point the children were under tutors and governors. They did “not yet” have the actual rights of the adopted sons: the actual forgiveness of sins, and the obtaining of the righteousness of Christ Jesus. The church only had this in a promissory note. Christ has the assurance of this. Wherefore we read in Hebrews 9:15, “And for this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 7:22Rom. 3:25

Yes, the entire church in heaven and on earth now has this great adoption of children. Legally we have rights to heaven and to all the blessings of God’s covenant now. We have had this, the one church, Jew and Greek, from the time of the fulness of time when Christ died for us on the Cross. “But now once in the end of the ages hath he appeared to put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. 9:26)