The  Commentary
on the Book of Galatians

By Brother Given O. Blakely.



Gal 4:1 "Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world." (Gal 4:1-3)



The passage before us is not a simplistic one. It is based upon a form of reasoning that is rarely presented to the modern church. So far as acceptance is concerned, all of the "heirs" are on an equal footing. They all are forgiven, washed, justified, and sanctified. They all have access to God, the indwelling Spirit, and the whole armor of God. However, when it comes to the privileges of reigning, teaching, and ruling, there is a clear distinction among them. The modern church has not done well in delineating the restrictions of spiritual infancy, as well as the advantages of spiritual maturity. In fact, the burden of both its methodologies and its message has to do with keeping people in an immature state. The infrequency and brevity of its proclamations contribute to this cause. The appointed means of growth - the ministry of the various members of the body - has been largely withheld from the people (Eph 4:11-16). Its penchant for outreach and evangelism has also proved to be a spiritual bottleneck that pulls the people deeper and deeper into juvenileness. The proclamation of rules, routines, procedures, and various forms of problem resolution also guarantee a lack of spiritual growth. All of this exists in spite of the clear mandate from the Throne to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18), grow up into Christ in all things (Eph 4:15), and no longer be children in understanding (1 Cor 14:20). Just as with the church in Galatia, these deficiencies are traced back to those who are teaching the people. They have perpetrated "another gospel" (2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6). We know that is it another Gospel because of the results it has produced. That, of course, is how Paul knew what the Galatians were listening to was not from God. Now Paul will reason with the Galatians concerning the effects of spiritual childhood. His aim is not to eliminate people from the body of Christ, but rather to enable them to see that if they do not grow up into Christ, God Himself will eliminate them. This is because no fruitless Christian is mature. However, everything about the Gospel, the present ministry of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, and valid preaching and teaching is calculated to bring believers into a state of spiritual maturity and productivity. It is serious beyond comprehension for this not to occur.


Gal 4:1 "Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all."

THE HEIR. Other versions read, "the son," BBE "children," NLT "that child," LIVING and "the inheritor (heir)." AMPLIFIED Translated from the Greek words o` klhrono,moj, the words "the heir" mean, "an heir . . . one who receives his allotted possession by right of sonship," THAYER"literally, one receiving an allotted portion, heir," FRIBERG and "holder or possessor of an estate." LEH

One cannot escape the fact that God's election is involved in heirship - just as surely as it was in Isaac ( and Jacob. The "eternal inheritance" is, in fact, an allotment of the whole, much like the division of Canaan by lot to the twelve tribes. The appointment of that inheritance is made in Christ Jesus, and in strict accordance with one's role in the body of Christ.

Heirship is not to be assumed! If we are children of God, then we are "heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17). If we are "Christ's," then we are "heirs according to the promise" (Gal 3:29). Being "justified by His grace, we should be made heirs" (Tit 3:7). Angelic hosts minister to those "who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb 1:14). Those who are "rich in faith" are "heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to those that love Him" (James 2:5).

Here, however, we are not speaking of the fact of heirship, but of the privileges associated with it. Those privileges are affected by the condition of the heir - whether he is a child or a man; a spiritual infant or one who has "grown up into Christ."

AS LONG AS HE IS A CHILD. Other versions read, "as long as they are minors," NRSV "is not of age," NAB "still under age," NJB "a babe," YLT and "a child and under age." AMPLIFIED

Some are of the opinion that the words "a child" is describing the Jews prior to being converted, and as compared to the Gentile converts. Thus, God had appointed them to be heirs, but until they were converted, they could not enjoy the privileges of the inheritance.

Reverting to Law as a means of sustaining identity with God removes the privileges of being an heir. This is clearly taught by Paul in his comments about Isaac and Ishmael. "Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free" (Gal 4:30-31).

Again, no one outside of Christ is referred to as an appointed "heir." If we are begotten "children," then, and only then, are we heirs (Rom 8:17). Only those who are "justified by His grace" are "made heirs" (Tit 3:7).

We are speaking, therefore, of the "children of God" (Rom 8:16), "begotten of God" (1 John 5:18), and "born of God" (1 John 3:9). Their status in Christ is not in a fixed state. Some have argued that once a person is born again, they cannot be unborn. Even though they may go astray, they teach, that does not change their status as "children of God," for that condition, they allege, is a fixed one.

However, this is not at all the case. When it comes to the inheritance, a person can be a legitimate heir, like Esau, yet lose the inheritance. He can be placed in the Garden of Eden, yet expelled from it. He can be delivered from Egypt, cross the Red Sea on dry land, drink water from a rock, and eat miraculous manna - yet be shut out of the promised land. Furthermore, we are "children of God by faith in Jesus Christ" (Gal 3:17). That status is no more sure than our faith.

DIFFERETH NOTHING FROM A SERVANT. Other versions read, "does not differ at all from a slave," NKJV "are not better than slaves." NRSV That is, in privileges and in responsibilities he is no different than a servant, or slave. He has to be told what to do, and cannot launch out on his own. The legitimacy of his justification is not in question because he is a young child. However, he is, as a child, in a jeopardous situation, for he can be "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14). Because of the weakness of his faith and understanding, he is more susceptible to the ploys of the devil, for he is "ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor 2:10-11).

In our day people are being taught that saying what they are in Christ equates to victory - that confession of the truth, though not seen clearly, will cause one to triumph. But this is not the truth. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world, not confession. We can successfully resist the devil by being "steadfast in the faith,"not by making a confession. There are matters that can only be appropriated by growth in Christ. Where this growth has not taken place, whether a confession takes place or not, there is no practical difference between those who are under grace and those who are under Law. The Galatians are a case in point. Another people so characterized were the Corinthians, whom Paul could not address as spiritual (1 Cor 3:1).

THOUGH HE BE LORD OF ALL. At the very instant a person is in Christ Jesus, they have the prospect of experiencing the benefits of being an heir. However, until they have passed through the trial of water and fire, of deserts and of sufferings, and until they have grown up into Christ, they will have to be directed by commandments, directives, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Until they are grown up, they cannot move about freely.


4:2 "But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father."

We must keep in mind that the Galatians had removed themselves from Him who had called them into the grace of Christ (Gal 1:6). This instruction is owing to that circumstance. By adopting an emphasis of Law, they had moved into a childish environment, where there was an actual loss of what is obtained by grace. Now, Paul had to take them by the hand like toddlers and gently lead them back to the starting line of spiritual life. They had not only ceased to grow, they had actually went backward - something like a person in the flesh who loses their ability to reason. This is an area of teaching that has been almost totally obscured by the dust and rubble of human tradition. People who have gone backward are being taught that it is relatively easy to make up for lost ground. However, only God can restore the years eaten by the locusts of spiritual childishness, and if He does not do so, the task is absolutely impossible.

UNDER TUTORS AND GOVERNORS. Other versions read, "guardians and stewards," NKJV "guardians and managers," NASB "guardians and trustees," NIV "keepers and managers," BBE "guardians and caretakers," CJB and "guardians and administrators." NJB

Paul will liken this situation to the Jew serving God under the Law, and liberated by the coming of Christ. However, this is not the kernel of his teaching to the Galatians. It is rather that they have returned to a system that requires the care of other spiritual men. You may recall that elders are said to "take care of the church of God" (1 Tim 3:5). However, is this intended to be a permanent condition, with the church always being subordinate to them?

We are categorically told that this is not the case. Rather, the objective is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, so that through "the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph 4:16). This was actually happening among the brethren at Rome, where they were "able also to admonish one another" (Rom 15:14). The brethren in Thessalonica were also doing well in this regard, comforting and edifying one another (1 Thess 5:11). That is certainly not a circumstance in which the people are "under tutors and governors."

By comparison, Corinth had to come under tutors and governors once again, even though they came behind in no spiritual gift (1 Cor 1:7). They could not use these gifts properly because they had reverted to a childish spiritual manner. Even though there were some who had been given the word of wisdom and the gift of discernment, yet Paul had to again tutor them on the unacceptability of fornication, taking one another to the courts of law, not considering weaker brethren, and conducting themselves improperly at the Lord's Table. He even had to re-establish the reality of the resurrection of the dead, and the validity of his own apostleship. The Corinthians had descended into a state where they required tutors and governors - even though they had been washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Cor 6:11).

THE TIME APPOINTED OF THE FATHER. Other versions read, "the date set by the father," NASB "the time set by the father," NIV "the day appointed," ASV "the time fixed by the father," BBE "the time previously set by the father," CJB and "whatever age their father set." NLT

There comes a time when the children must grow up. The longer that growth takes, the more serious their jeopardy. The Hebrew believers had also returned to a Law mentality. They were solemnly told, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat"(Heb 5:12). As a tutor and a governor, Paul had to tell them they were tottering on the brink of eternal ruin. They had to "go on to perfection," growing up into Christ, or they would stumble into a chasm from which they could not be retrieved (Heb 6:1-6).

With earnest tones the Hebrews were reminded that when blessings from God are poured forth, and yet barrenness continues, the people will be cursed and destroyed (Heb 6:7-8). With tenderness Paul told them that he was persuaded of "better things" from them, "and things that accompany salvation" (Heb 6:9). But they had to be awakened from their slumber and jarred out of their complacency. They, like the Galatians, were reverting to a system of Law, from, which they had been delivered (Rom 7:6).

The reason why the perpetual lack of spiritual maturity is serious ought to be abundantly evident. There is nothing at all in salvation that encourages or contributes to a lack of spiritual growth. Grace will never leave those who receive it in a non-growing state. Faith that is kept will not allow spiritual stagnation. Life cannot possibly contribute to a person being insensitive toward God. Such things simply are not possible. The only acceptable explanation for spiritual retardation is that God's great salvation has been neglected (Heb 2:3). The Spirit has been grieved and quenched (Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19), and a departure from the faith has taken place (1 Tim 4:1). All of this has occurred within a time-frame that was particularly designed for growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. How innocent is that?


4:3 "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world."

EVEN SO. Other versions read, "so we also," ASV "in the same way we also," CSB "It was the same way with us," GWN "So too with us," NJB and " So we [Jewish Christians] also." AMPLIFIED

The reasoning here must be seen. The Galatians themselves did not fit into the scenario now described. The Jews were "children" in the sense of all the promises being given to them in prospect of the coming Savior (Rom 9:4). The Gentiles were "not a people" prior to coming in to Christ (1 Pet 2:10). After being made "fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph 2:19), the Galatians had been led back under the Law, which was vastly inferior to their position in Christ. It was like returning to infancy.

Thus Paul now describes those who were under the Law. They had the promises and a covenant with God, yet they did not have the privileges of the sons of God as long as they were under the Law.

WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN. Other versions read, "while we were children," NKJV "while we were minors," NRSV and "when we were babes." YLT In a general sense, the Jews - particularly those who were looking for redemption - were "children" in prospect. They were partakers of "the root and fatness of the olive tree" (Rom 11:17). They were citizens, and in a sense "the household of God" (Eph 2:19). They were in covenant with God, and possessors of the promise given to Abraham. However, apart from the prospect of a Savior and a New Covenant, they really had very few advantages - and the ones they did have were largely outward. Now their condition outside of Christ is described.

WE WERE IN BONDAGE. Other versions read, "were held in bondage," NASB "were in slavery,"NIV "were enslaved," NRSV and "were in servitude." YLT Just like childhood is a state of slavery and servitude, so the Jew were like a chained and restricted people - even though they were God's chosen people. They had advantages in the flesh, but the Law brought them no eternal advantages, nor did it promise reconciliation and eternal life. Their state was one from which they had to be delivered!

THE ELEMENTS OF THE WORLD. Other versions read, "the elemental things of the world," NASB "the basic principles of the world," NIV "the elemental spirits of the world," NRSV "first rules of the world," BBE "elemental spirits of the universe," CJB "the rudiments of the world," ERV "basic forces of the world," NET "basic spiritual principles of the world," NLT "under the ordinances of the world," TNT and " [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations." AMPLIFIED

The Amplified Bible captures the sense of the text. Other modern versions garble the text, confirming that the translators had no cogent idea of its meaning. "The elements of the world" refers to the various rules enforced by the First Covenant. They were all worldly in nature - that is, they had to do with life in this world. Even their sanctuary was a "worldly sanctuary" (Heb 9:1) - and that was the highest aspect of their religion. The Law dealt with rules of conduct, but had no transforming power. It was an order of "tutors and governors," designed to prepare for the work of God, yet having not one whit of power to bring the enablement to the people.

Here is an aspect of the Law, or rules and regulations, that is being overlooked in our day. It is a system of enslavement. And why do? Because it provides no power to do what it demands, and no remission for the infractions of it. It solidly nails people to the world, and unless they are delivered from the world, they cannot possible extricate themselves from it.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER. Here was the situation at Galatia. By going back to a system of Law, the people were becoming slaves to a religion confined to this world. Whereas the salvation of God is calculated to change one "from glory to glory," and to conform people to the image of Christ, the Galatians had entered into a state of retrogression - the antithesis of growth and ultimate conformity to Jesus. The irony of it all was that their religion had thrust them into this condition. Furthermore, being enslaved to the rudiments of a religion adapted to this world they actually became more vulnerable to "the God of this world" (2 Cor 4:4).

They had not grown, and thus were not ready for the advancement that comes at the time appointed by the Father - a time when things come together, understanding is possessed, and spiritual advance is realized. By adopting the approach to identity with God that was found within the fabric of the Old Covenant, they had put themselves at an unspeakable disadvantage. They had become like babbling infants that needed to be held by the hand, tutored and governed by others.

The absolute irony of the situation is that the preponderance of modern Christian teaching is nothing more than a warmed up version of the Law - in fact, it is even inferior to the Law, for it deals with rules and procedures that are strangely absent from the Law and its ordinances. The seriousness of the situation cannot be overstated. It is responsible for much, if not all, of the moral failures found among professing believers. Flesh now has the ascendance.