Galatians 4* The folly of returning to legal observances for justification.(1-7) The happy change made in the Gentile believers. (8-11) Theapostle reasons against following false teachers. (12-18) Heexpresses his earnest concern for them. (19,20) And thenexplains the difference between what is to be expected from thelaw, and from the gospel. (21-31)1-7 The apostle deals plainly with those who urged the law ofMoses together with the gospel of Christ, and endeavoured tobring believers under its bondage. They could not fullyunderstand the meaning of the law as given by Moses. And as thatwas a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage; they were tied tomany burdensome rites and observances, by which they were taughtand kept subject like a child under tutors and governors. Welearn the happier state of Christians under the gospeldispensation. From these verses see the wonders of Divine loveand mercy; particularly of God the Father, in sending his Soninto the world to redeem and save us; of the Son of God, insubmitting so low, and suffering so much for us; and of the HolySpirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers,for such gracious purposes. Also, the advantages Christiansenjoy under the gospel. Although by nature children of wrath anddisobedience, they become by grace children of love, and partakeof the nature of the children of God; for he will have all hischildren resemble him. Among men the eldest son is heir; but allGod's children shall have the inheritance of eldest sons. Maythe temper and conduct of sons ever show our adoption; and maythe Holy Spirit witness with our spirits that we are childrenand heirs of God. 8-11 The happy change whereby the Galatians were turned fromidols to the living God, and through Christ had received theadoption of sons, was the effect of his free and rich grace;they were laid under the greater obligation to keep to theliberty wherewith he had made them free. All our knowledge ofGod begins on his part; we know him because we are known of him.Though our religion forbids idolatry, yet many practisespiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most,and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches fortheir god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And manyignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all ofmercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there ismercy for them with God, though they repent not, but go on intheir sins. It is possible for those who have made greatprofessions of religion, to be afterwards drawn aside frompurity and simplicity. And the more mercy God has shown, inbringing any to know the gospel, and the liberties andprivileges of it, the greater their sin and folly in sufferingthemselves to be deprived of them. Hence all who are members ofthe outward church should learn to fear and to suspectthemselves. We must not be content because we have some goodthings in ourselves. Paul fears lest his labour is in vain, yethe still labours; and thus to do, whatever follows, is truewisdom and the fear of God. This every man must remember in hisplace and calling. 12-18 The apostle desires that they would be of one mind withhim respecting the law of Moses, as well as united with him inlove. In reproving others, we should take care to convince themthat our reproofs are from sincere regard to the honour of Godand religion and their welfare. The apostle reminds theGalatians of the difficulty under which he laboured when hefirst came among them. But he notices, that he was a welcomemessenger to them. Yet how very uncertain are the favour andrespect of men! Let us labour to be accepted of God. You oncethought yourselves happy in receiving the gospel; have you nowreason to think otherwise? Christians must not forbear speakingthe truth, for fear of offending others. The false teachers whodrew the Galatians from the truth of the gospel were designingmen. They pretended affection, but they were not sincere andupright. An excellent rule is given. It is good to be zealousalways in a good thing; not for a time only, or now and then,but always. Happy would it be for the church of Christ, if thiszeal was better maintained. 19,20 The Galatians were ready to account the apostle theirenemy, but he assures them he was their friend; he had thefeelings of a parent toward them. He was in doubt as to theirstate, and was anxious to know the result of their presentdelusions. Nothing is so sure a proof that a sinner has passedinto a state of justification, as Christ being formed in him bythe renewal of the Holy Spirit; but this cannot be hoped for,while men depend on the law for acceptance with God. 21-27 The difference between believers who rested in Christonly, and those who trusted in the law, is explained by thehistories of Isaac and Ishmael. These things are an allegory,wherein, beside the literal and historical sense of the words,the Spirit of God points out something further. Hagar and Sarahwere apt emblems of the two different dispensations of thecovenant. The heavenly Jerusalem, the true church from above,represented by Sarah, is in a state of freedom, and is themother of all believers, who are born of the Holy Spirit. Theywere by regeneration and true faith, made a part of the trueseed of Abraham, according to the promise made to him. 28-31 The history thus explained is applied. So then, brethren,we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free. If theprivileges of all believers were so great, according to the newcovenant, how absurd for the Gentile converts to be under thatlaw, which could not deliver the unbelieving Jews from bondageor condemnation! We should not have found out this allegory inthe history of Sarah and Hagar, if it had not been shown to us,yet we cannot doubt it was intended by the Holy Spirit. It is anexplanation of the subject, not an argument in proof of it. Thetwo covenants of works and grace, and legal and evangelicalprofessors, are shadowed forth. Works and fruits brought forthin a man's own strength, are legal. But if arising from faith inChrist, they are evangelical. The first covenant spirit is ofbondage unto sin and death. The second covenant spirit is ofliberty and freedom; not liberty to sin, but in and unto duty.The first is a spirit of persecution; the second is a spirit oflove. Let those professors look to it, who have a violent,harsh, imposing spirit, towards the people of God. Yet asAbraham turned aside to Hagar, so it is possible a believer mayturn aside in some things to the covenant of works, when throughunbelief and neglect of the promise he acts according to thelaw, in his own strength; or in a way of violence, not of love,towards the brethren. Yet it is not his way, not his spirit todo so; hence he is never at rest, till he returns to hisdependence on Christ again. Let us rest our souls on theScriptures, and by a gospel hope and cheerful obedience, showthat our conversation and treasure are indeed in heaven.
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