ALREADY, BUT NOT YET: The first 7 verses of chapter 4 are a great example of the tension that's often present in New Testament theology. We are already children of God, and can even consider ourselves heirs, since God has promised us an inheritance that can 'never perish, spoil or fade' (1 Peter 1:4). But as Paul writes in v1, as long as we are 'underage,' we are 'no different from a slave, even though we own the whole estate.' What Paul means is that although we are already sons of God, we have not yet fully realized the benefits of that. We must confidently endure the 'elemental spiritual forces' of the world 'until the time set by our Father' (v2), knowing that God will be faithful to His promises.
DON'T LOOK BACK: The middle section of chapter 4 touches on the main theme of the letter to the Galatians: Although they had been saved by grace, they were still trying to earn God's favor by adhering to Old Testament laws and rituals, which, as we learned in Hebrews, were only shadows and blurry pictures of the coming salvation in Christ. Paul uses harsh language in this letter - he called them foolish and bewitched in chapter 3, and now in v11 he wonders if he wasted his time preaching to them. That's how serious it is for those who have been saved by grace to ignore that grace by trying to earn salvation.
GOD USES ILLNESS: I'm writing this on the morning of March 16, as we are all just now struggling to comprehend all of the closures and restrictions being placed on society. Things may be way different by the time you read this next week, but in v13, Paul mentions that the whole reason he had to spend time in Galatia and share the gospel with them was due to an illness (v13-14). Isn't it amazing that God works even through unforeseen things like illness!
WHO'S YOUR MAMA? Paul drops a huge bomb in the final segment of this chapter. He compares Hagar & Sarah, the mothers of Abraham's sons Ishmael and Isaac. To this very day, massive tensions exist between Ishmael's descendents (Arabic nations (which are now Islamic)) and Isaac's (Israel). But Paul tells the Galatians that if they persist in clinging to the obsolete Jewish laws, they are actually heirs of Ismael, not Isaac! I'll bet this passage really ruffled feathers when it was first read!
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR YOU AND ME? We're not really struggling with whether or not to adhere to Jewish laws and ceremonies anymore, so this all might seem irrelevant. But we struggle just the same with our innate tendency to view our religious practices (going to church, serving on committees, even reading the Bible, etc) as the basis for our salvation rather than God's grace. The point of Galatians is that losing sight of grace will cause us to become enslaved to those good things God has given us.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The God in control of all things, who uses even illness for His good purposes (v13), and who knows you (v9).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: You are God's child and are filled with His Spirit (v6-7). Pray that you will follow the Spirit's leading, and not the 'forces of this world' (v3).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: