And because ye are sons ( ὅτι δέ ἐστε υἱοί ). The apostle is adducing proof that God's people had actually received the adoption of sons; it was because it was so, that God had sent into their hearts the Holy Spirit, imparting that vivid consciousness of sonship which they enjoyed. The fact of the adoption must have been there, to qualify them to be recipients of this divinely inspired consciousness. The affirmation in Romans 8:16 , "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God," closely resembles our present passage; but it is not identical. We are not made sons (the apostle intimates) by the Spirit giving us the consciousness of sonship; but, having been previously made sons, the Spirit raises in our spirits sentiments answering to the filial relation already established. The position of the clause introduced by "because" is like that in 1 Corinthians 12:15 , 1 Corinthians 12:16 . The persons recited by the "ye" are still God's people; not the Galatian believers in particular, except as a portion of the whole Church of God. The apostle puts the thought in this form to bring the truth more strikingly home to their minds. This he does more closely still in the next verse by "thou." But that he has in view God's people as a whole is clear, not only from the whole strain of the context, but also from the phrase, "into our hearts," in the next clause. God hath sent forth ( ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεός ); God sent forth. The tense indicates that the apostle does not refer to a sending forth of God's Spirit to each individual believer, parallel to that "sealing" which believers are stated to be subjects of in Ephesians 1:13 . This historic aorist, as it does in Ephesians 1:4 , points to one particular emission—that by which the Comforter was sent forth to take up his dwelling in the Church as his temple through all time ( John 14:16 , John 14:17 ; Acts 1:4 , Acts 1:5 ). The Spirit of his Son . The Spirit which "anointed" Jesus to be the Christ ; which throughout animated the God-Man Jesus; which prompted him in full filial consciousness, himself in a certain critical hour with loud outcry ( μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς , Hebrews 5:7 ) to call out, "Abba, Father!" The phrase, "his Son," is aetiological; by it the apostle intimates that it was only congruous that the Spirit which had animated the whole life of the incarnate Son should be shed forth upon those who by faith become one with him, and should manifest his presence with them, as well as their union with Christ, by outcome of sentiment similar to that which Christ had expressed. Since the sonship of Christ is here spoken of as if it were not merely antecedent, but also in some way preparatory to the sending forth of the Spirit, it best suits the connection to construe it, not, as in Ephesians 1:4 , as that belonging to him in his preincarnate state of being, but as that which appertained to him after being "made to be of a woman," and in which his disciples might be considered as standing on a certain footing of parity with him. This harmonizes with the relation which in the Gospels and Acts the sending of the Spirit is represented as holding to his resurrection and ascension. The interpretation above given in one point presupposes the apostle's knowledge of the story of the agony in the garden, when, according to St. Mark ( Mark 14:36 ), Jesus himself used the words, "Abba. Father." This presupposition is warranted, not only by the probabilities of the case, but also by what we read in Galatians 5:7 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Pauline, certainly, if not actually St. Paul's. We have to add that the Gospels not only make repeated mention of our Lord as addressing the Supreme Being by the compellative of "Father," but also represent him as constantly speaking of God as bearing that relation both to himself and to his disciples. This mode of designating the Almighty was characteristic in the highest degree of Jesus, and up to that time, so far as appears in the Scriptures, unknown. The manner in which the apostle here speaks of the "sending forth" of the Spirit in close proximity to the mention of the "sending forth" of the Son, strongly favours the belief that he regarded the Spirit, as being also a personal agent. In Psalms 104:30 we have in the Septuagint "Thou wilt send forth ( ἐξαποστελεῖς ) thy Spirit, and they will be created." In Psalms 43:3 and Psalms 57:3 God is implored to "send forth [ ἐξαπόστειλον , Septuagint] his light and his truth," "his mercy and his truth;" these being poetically personified as angelic messengers. Into your hearts ( εἰς τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν ). But this reading of the Textus Receptus is , by recent editors, replaced by the reading, εἰς τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν , into our hearts , the other reading being regarded as a correction designed to conform this clause with the words, "ye are sons," in the preceding one. In both cases the apostle has in his view the Church of God viewed generally. His putting "our" here instead of "your" was probably an outcome of his feeling of proud gladness in the thought of his own happy experience. A precisely similar change in the pronoun, attributable probably to the same cause, is observable in the remarkably analogous passage in Romans 8:15 , "Ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Crying ( κράζον ); crying out aloud. The word expressing loud utterance betokens in this case undoubting assurance. No faint whisper this of an inner consciousness, shy, reticent, because afraid to assure itself of so. glorious, so blissful a relation; no hesitating half-hope; it is a strong, unwavering conviction, bold, though humbly bold, to thus address the all-holy Supreme himself. The "cry" is here attributed to the Spirit himself; in Romans 8:15 to believers, these being the Spirit's organs of utterance; presently after in the Romans, verses 26, 27, the Spirit himself is said to "intercede with groanings which cannot be uttered … according to the will of God." Analogously, in the Gospels, evil spirits in demoniacs at times are said to "cry out", while in other passages the cry is attributed to the possessed person. Abba, Father ( ἀββᾶ ὁ πατήρ ). In addition to Romans 8:15 , just cited, the same remarkable words are found once only besides, in Mark 14:36 , as uttered by our Lord in the garden. St. Luke ( Luke 22:42 ) gives only "Father" ( πάτερ ); St. Matthew ( Matthew 26:39 , Matthew 26:42 ), "my Father" ( πάτερ μου : in verse 39, however, νου is omitted by Tischendorf, though he retains it in verse 42). St. Matthew, by adding μου to πάτερ here, which he does not add in Matthew 11:25 , Matthew 11:26 , seems to indicate that the form of address which our Lord then employed bespoke more than usual of fervency or of intimacy of communion. According to Furst ('Concordance'), " Abba ," אבָּ ) , occurs frequently in the Targums " sensu proprio et honorifico;" in the Jerusalem Targum taking the form "Ibba," אבָּאִ . In consequence, we may assume, of ,the "honorific" complexion of this form of the word, it was in Chaldee the form usually employed in compellation, or for the vocative. The hypothesis that either the Divine Sneaker, or the Evangelist Mark, or the Apostle Paul, added ὁ πατὴρ as an explanatory adjunct to the Aramaic "Abba," for the benefit of such as might need the explanation, is resisted
The evidence of sonship.
"And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." The presence of the Spirit was the witness of their sonship ( Romans 8:15 ).
I. THE MISSION OF THE SPIRIT . "God sent forth the Spirit of his Son." Here are the three Persons of the blessed Trinity. "God manifests himself in the Son, but communicates his life by the Holy Ghost" (Oosterzee).
1 . He is called the " Spirit of his Son ," just as he is called the " Spirit of the Father. " The title applies to the Son, not in his Messiahship, but in his Godhead. He is often described as the Spirit of Christ; and, if that were all, it might imply that he is simply related to Christ in his office as Mediator, either given to Christ or given by Christ. But he is called the Spirit of God's Son, which is not a title derived by Christ from his office, but from necessary and eternal relation. It cannot be supposed that he is the Spirit of the Father in one sense and to one effect, and the Spirit of the Son, who is also God, in another sense and to another effect. It is this eternal and necessary relation which is the ground of his coming forth in the free interpositions and covenant operations of his grace.
2 . The mission of the Spirit. Just as in the fulness of time the Son was sent forth, so in the fulness of time the Spirit was sent forth to apply and witness the redemption purchased by Christ. It is the Spirit who unites us to Christ in our effectual calling, and makes us "sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
3 . The sphere of his operations. "In your hearts." It is thus an inward, sanctifying, saving work; for it has its seat in the heart, in which the habits of grace are implanted, and out of which are all the issues of life. "I will put my Spirit within them."
II. THE OFFICE WHICH THE SPIRIT PERFORMS IN THE BELIEVER 'S HEART . "Crying, Abba, Father."
1 . The crying is the earnest importunate prayer of the the believer , of which he is the organ and the Spirit the agent. The intensity of feeling in prayer is due to the Holy Spirit, who enables us to realize our need and the fulness of supply in Christ Jesus.
2 . The cry finds voice in the tender accents of " Abba , Father. " The two words—one Aramaic, and the other Greek—are a fitting type of the union of Jew and Gentile in Christ. The dearest conception in Christianity is the fatherhood of God. The believer is enabled by the Spirit of the Son to realize the tenderness as well as the dignity of the new relation in which he stands by adoption.
III. THE CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE MATTER . "Wherefore thou art no more a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." Thus the apostle corroborates the closing verse of the third chapter: "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." The slave is not an heir; the son enters on his father's inheritance, which comes to him, not by merit, but by promise.
Majority through the gospel.
Paul, having spoken of the Law-school in the preceding sections, and of the participation of believing Gentiles in the privileges of the Abrahamic family, proceeds in the present section to speak of the times before Christ's advent as infantile, of the advent as the fulness of times, and of the majority which is realized by believers through the gospel. Four leading thoughts are thus presented.
I. THE IMPERFECT TIMES . ( Galatians 4:1-3 .) The Old Testament times represent the experience of all men before the reception of the gospel. They were the minority of humanity. The soul was then like a child who is placed under stewards and guardians, and is not allowed to take charge of itself. It lived by law and rule, and had not entered upon proper self government and independence. Now, all the world was in this legal condition as well as the Jews. Nay, we are all before conversion in it; we are legalists by nature, we do what is prescribed with more or less fidelity, and congratulate ourselves upon the doing of it. It is the "infantile" stage. It is the imperfect times, as contrasted with the riper experience the gospel brings. And yet it is better that the soul should be at the school of Law than wandering waywardly after its own devices. Better be under restraint than be utterly spoiled by getting our own way. We ought not to under-estimate the discipline which the Law-school secured.
II. THE ADVENT OF THE SON . ( Galatians 4:4 , Galatians 4:5 .) It was Christ's coming which brought in the fulness of times. He came to put an end to the world's minority and to secure the world's redemption. He did so by being "born of a woman," by being "born under the Law," and undertaking all his brethren's responsibilities. Having obeyed the Law in its penalty of death for disobedience as well as in its precepts, he redeemed men from the condemning power of Law, and secured their adoption as sons. The world at the advent of the Son must have looked differently to the eye of God the Father. For milleniums he had been looking anxiously down to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. But, alas! the verdict had to be that "they are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" ( Psalms 14:2 , Psalms 14:3 ). But at the advent of Christ a new example presented itself, a new type arose—a sinless Being appeared upon the stage, with all the interest around him of sinlessness. A breach of continuity took place when the babe was born in Bethlehem. Instead of the world being now condemned wholesale, it possessed for the Divine mind a deep attraction. The drama of sinlessness amid temptation was being carried on, and a repulsive world became the centre of moral and spiritual power. A new age thus dawned upon humanity. Man's minority was over and his inheritance was at hand.
III. THE ADVENT OF THE SPIRIT . ( Galatians 4:6 .) The magnificent panorama of sinlessness, however, might have passed impressively before the eye of God, and have given flesh interest to the problem of humanity, without at all affecting men themselves. But the advent of the Spirit secured men in their spiritual inheritance. The cry of the human heart, which had been so indefinite before, became definite and pathetic. It became the cry of children who had learned at last to feel at home with God. The converted Jew and the converted Gentile began to cry to the one Father in heaven, and to feel "orphans" no more (cf. John 14:18 ). The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of adoption enables human hearts to look up hopefully to heaven, and to realize that it is no longer empty, but filled with the presence of an infinite and all-merciful Father, who desires above all things the welfare of his children. It is this marvellous arrangement of the advent of an infinite Spirit of adoption which ensures the reality of adoption, and makes all the sons feel at home. Poets doubtless wrote about man being "God's offspring" ( Acts 17:28 ), but the fancy of the poet could only become a fact of human experience when the indwelling Spirit prompted the cry, "Abba, Father."
IV. THE HEIR THEREBY ENTERED UPON HIS MAJORITY . ( Galatians 4:7 .) The termination of slavish fear, and the advent of a sense of sonship, is what we call conversion. But we hardly realize at once the meaning of our inheritance. How magnificent it is! To realize that God no longer is angry with us, but looks down with ineffable tenderness as our heavenly Father; to realize that, though we have nothing of ourselves, we have become heirs of all things, and find that all things are being made to work together for our good ( Romans 8:28 ); to realize that we are "heirs of God through Christ,"—is surely glorious! There is happiness when noble heirs reach their majority. What feasting and good will and congratulation goes on in the baronial halls! Poets sing of it, and artists paint the scene. But no joy of majority on earth can compare with the joy which attends the sense of our spiritual majority before God. The baron's heir is filled with mingled feelings if his heart beat true, for he knows that the condition of his inheritance is, alas! his father's death. He must be base indeed who can contemplate such a condition without emotion. But when the Spirit of adoption comes within us it is to enable us to realize that, not only is our majority come, but also our inheritance as sons of God; into this inheritance we may enter at once. The Father never dies, and his presence, instead of keeping us out of our enjoyment, consecrates and enlarges it to a heavenly fulness. "All things are ours, if we are Christ's" ( 1 Corinthians 3:20-23 ). May we no longer live as bond-servants before God, hut enter by adoption into the privileges of sons!—R.M.E.
Majority and minority.
I. THE CHILD COMING TO HIS MAJORITY . Analogy. "But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bond-servant, though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards until the term appointed of the father." At the close of the preceding chapter Christians were described as Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise. It is with regard to this that the apostle now makes use of an analogy. It is a very simple and well-known case on which he founds. It is that of an heir, while he is a child or is a minor, as we say, i.e. has the paternal control yet exercised over him. He may be the heir of a kingdom; but, so long as he is in his nonage, he differeth nothing from a bond-servant, though he is lord of all. He is better in some respects, but not better in respect of subjection to control. He is under guardians of his person and stewards of his property. When the Prince of Wales in his childhood on one occasion refused submission to his governess, appealing to his dignity as heir of the throne, Prince Albert very pertinently read him this passage out of the New Testament. The supposition is that a minor has not yet wisdom to guide him; his will therefore, meanwhile, is a cipher. He can only act through guardians and stewards, who are understood to carry out the father's will. This arrangement continues in force until the term appointed of the father. It has been a question whether Paul contemplates the father here as dead. It is enough to say that he is regarded as in the background, while his will is operative. In the case to which the analogy applies the Father is alive. Objection has been taken to Paul describing the limit of dependence as appointed of the father, when in most countries it is fixed by statute. The infancy of a Roman child ended at seven; he donned the virile gown at seventeen; be was not entirely emancipated from tutelage until he was twenty-five. There is this to be said, that the limit was not necessarily fixed by statute; that when it was so fixed it was in name of the father, and that there was discretionary power within the statute.
1 . The Church ' s minority. "So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world." The minor here is generally supposed to be both Jews and Gentiles. But it is scarcely a Pauline idea that the heathen compared with Christians were as children compared with men, heirs in their minority compared with heirs come to full rights. Certainly their religions were not the rudiments which God taught them. The reference is to be determined by the way in which the analogy is introduced by the apostle. He points back to his description of Christians as Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise. He must be understood, therefore, as pointing now to those who were formerly Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise. These were the children over whom God placed guardians and stewards. The instruction he gave them was of a rudimentary nature. They were not taught religion in its perfect form (which is Christianity), but only the rudiments. These were true so fat' as they went; still, they were only religion in a form suitable for children. They were rudiments of the world, i.e. of the outward and sensible ; for the world in an evil sense cannot be brought into connection with the Father teaching his children. It is by the outward and sensible that abstract truth is introduced into the minds of children. So, while the Church was in its childhood, God carried forward its education by outward services and sensible representations. This was inconceivably better than being left to themselves, as the heathen were; but it was bondage in comparison with the spirituality which was to be brought in with a full revelation. "It was a yoke," said Peter, "which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear." The amount of bodily service required by Jews, in their frequent washings and journeys to Jerusalem, was very great. And even the types, in their keeping back the plain meaning, confined the spirit. This was the Church in its state of minority.
2 . The Church ' s majority. It is matter for thought that the Church came to its majority in connection with the greatest manifestation of Godhead.
(a) The Divine Messenger. "God sent forth his Son." The pre-existence of Christ is implied. God sent forth from himself—from his own immediate presence. It was not an archangel whom he sent forth, but his own Son. As the Son of God, Christ was eternally pre-existent—the equal in every respect of the Father. In the Son, the Father saw himself perfectly reflected. And yet he was in a mysterious way subordinated as the Son to the Father. To him, then, it essentially belonged to be sent forth, as on creation, so on redemption. On his part there was a perfect response. For, in the volume of the book of the Divine counsels it was written that he was prepared at the fitting time to speed forth to do the Father's will.
(b) His birth of humanity. "Born of a woman." Though unborn as the Son of God, he was subjected to the ordinary law of human birth. "Man that is born of a woman," said Job; and so also it was true of Christ that he was born of a woman, lie was not a separate creation from humanity, without father, without mother. But he was brought into the closest relation to humanity by having a human mother. Even from the first he was looked forward to as the Seed of the woman.
(c) His birth of the Jewish race. "Born under the Law." Historically he was connected with the Jewish race. It has been said that what the Jewish nation provided was the mother of our Lord. His surroundings were Jewish. lie was subjected to the rite of circumcision. He was placed under obligation, not only to the Law of God generally, but to the Mosaic Law in particular. It is not to be inferred that he was merely Jewish. For the singular thing is that, though brought up a Jew, in his teaching and life he did not give the impression of belonging to one nation more than to another. Still, the Mosaic system had authority over him, and had to do with his training as the Messiah.
(a) Deliverance from the Mosaic system. "That he might redeem them which were under the Law." It is true that God sent forth his Son to redeem from the curse of the broken Law generally, and from the curse of the Mosaic Law in particular; but it is also true that, in connection with that, he had a subsidiary design to which prominence is given here. It was that, by his Son discharging all the obligations of the Mosaic Law, and answering its ends, it should no longer continue a burden on the conscience. And it is well to have this subsidiary design connected with the great sending forth of the Son.
(b) Instating of Christians as sons. "That we might receive the adoption of sons." "We" is to be taken in the wider sense here, as it was taken in the narrower sense in the third verse. The reference is Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise. As these were, in the minority of the people of God, Jews, so now are they Christians. The design of the sending forth of the Son was to bring up the people of God into the position of sons. Not only does the time of his being sent forth rule the time of their becoming sons; but the fact of his being Son seems to rule their getting the position of sons. The Son goes forth, and it is sons he brings with him to glory. Such was the twofold aim of the manifestation. He proceeds to show how God did not stop short at giving us the position of sons. He followed it up by giving us the qualification of sons. The Spirit of the Son our qualification as sons. "And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Our qualification was the Spirit of his Son, i.e. the Spirit who was sent forth on the Son, and who fitted him for his work. He was within him as the Spirit of the true Son. In the darkest hour Christ conquered by being true to the Father. The Spirit proceeds from Christ upon us. He is also within us as the Spirit of the true Son. He draws us to God as our Father. That is the congenial element of his working. The word "Father" is the outcome. His is the language of filial confidence. His is the language of filial affection. His is the language of filial obedience. His is withal the language of earnestness. He is represented as crying, i.e. importunately calling. And he is represented as crying, "Abba, Father." The idea is emphasized by repetition. And it is expressed in two languages, Aramaic and Greek, strikingly showing the fusion of Jew and Greek in Christ. According as the Spirit of Christ thus dwells in us are we qualified and have the realization of our freedom as sons. General conclusion regarding heirship. "So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." He individualizes what he says by changing from the plural to the singular. Even the Gentile had not to pass through Judaism into the kingdom of God. The fact of sonship having been formerly arrived at is simply stated here as the basis on which a conclusion is drawn regarding heirship. If thou hast the position of a son, and the qualification of a son, through God's infinite love, art thou not certainly an heir through the same love? Thus it is made out that the people of God have attained to their majority. They have the heirship, not of mere children, i.e. without rights, but of sons, i.e. with full rights.
II. THE SON FALLING BACK INTO HIS MINORITY . So he represents the Galatians.
1 . Their idolatrous past. "Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them which by nature are no gods." It was their disadvantage that they were ignorant of God. That being the case, it was not to be wondered at that they did service to idols. The religious instinct, if it does not find the true, will find the false. If we have not God to fill up the vacuum of our nature, we must have idols. These Galatians had done service to them which by nature were no gods. Paul's idea in one place ( 1 Corinthians 10:20 ) is that they were devils whom the heathen worshipped. They certainly were only Divine in their own imagination. They had not the nature of God; they disputed for power; they were not even moral. What bondage to be in error regarding the greatest of all objects! What fearful bondage to think of him as not only imperfect, but as swayed by the vilest passions!
2 . Their relapse. "But now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labour upon you in vain." They had come to know God, i.e. when the gospel was preached among them. It was then that they first knew God in his unity and in his real character as a God of love. But, having said this, he corrects himself. It was rather that they had come to be known of God; for it was purely of God that the gospel came to them. They were not thinking of it; even Paul was not thinking of it; for it did not lie within his plan to preach the gospel to them. By a singular providence, to which he refers in the next paragraph, he was constrained to turn aside to Galatia. It was God, then, that had given them the advantage. The relapse from Christianity into Judaism as affecting the position of the Christian sabbath. How are we to understand the language which is employed in this place and in Colossians 2:16 , Colossians 2:17 ? Are we to infer from the teaching of the apostle (for it is no more than an inference, and a startling thing it is to be left to inference) that, as Christians, we are relieved from obligation to keep sacred one day in seven? It is not unnecessary, in view of all that has been written on these passages, to guard against an understatement of the difficulty. For instance, it is said by Ridgeley and others that certain feast days, being withdrawn from a common to a sacred use, were called sabbaths, and that the apostle alludes exclusively to these. Unless the difficulty is fairly admitted and mastered, it is sure to leave doubt on the mind, and to be ever coming up for settlement in exegesis. There is really only one difficulty, but it is presented under different forms. The passages in question are similar; so much so that the same writer can readily be detected in both. There are two statements in Galatians, and these correspond to two statements in Colossians. Taking, then, the parts which correspond as one, we have to deal with two statements.
(a) There is a statement about distinctions of times. The statement made by the apostle in this Epistle is that Christians, by observing days, and months, and seasons, and years, were returning to bondage, and that, on that account, he was afraid of them, lest he had bestowed labour upon them in vain. In the preceding context his teaching is that they have the liberty of sons, and are not as under tutors and governors. It is to be noted that the bondage referred to was in making distinctions as to times. His order of classification is to begin with the more frequent and to proceed to the less frequent observances. There are first days, or weekly observances; then there are months, or observances connected with the new moon; at a longer interval are the seasons, or great festive occasions, of which there were three in the year; and, at the longest interval, are the years, in which the reference is to the sabbatic year and the year of jubilee. The corresponding statement in Colossians is that Christians are not to be judged in meat or in drink (or, in eating and drinking), or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day (Revised Version), on the ground, as given in the context, that the handwriting which contained these things has been put out of the way, being nailed to the cross. Under the head of distinctions there is a sub-classification having reference to distinctions in meats and drinks. As to meats, there were some that were appropriated to holy uses, and numerous prohibitions are mentioned in Le 7:10-27. As for drinks by themselves, wine was forbidden to the Nazarites and also to the priests during the time of service. The apostolic teaching is that Christians are entitled to disregard such distinctions. The classification of times in Colossians (years being omitted) proceeds in the reverse order from the less frequent to the more frequent, beginning with the feast day, and ending with the sabbath day. What meaning is to be attached to the sabbath day will be seen; but the apostolic teaching is plainly this—that, as Christians are freed from the observance of the three principal feasts, and freed from the observance connected with the new moon, so also are they freed from the observance of the sabbath day. In reference to the passage in our Epistle, Alford remarks, "Notice how utterly such a verse is at variance with any and every theory of a Christian sabbath, cutting at the root, as it does, of all obligatory observance of times as such." And similar remarks are made by him elsewhere. But:
( α ) In that view of it , the conclusion is a much wider one than can consistently be admitted. It is not merely that we are under no obligation to observe a Christian sabbath, or, in other words, that we are free to observe it or not as we see fit; but it goes further, and is this—that the observance of a Christian sabbath implies fault. We accept Alford's remark on the word translated "observe." There does not seem to be any meaning of superstitious or inordinate observance, but merely a statement of the fact. The view, then, is that the ordinary observance of a Christian sabbath supposes the making of distinctions as to (lays which are all done away with under Christianity. How, then, is this observance of one sacred day in seven regarded by the apostle? It is condemned by him as a bondage from which we need to be freed. Nay, more, it is held as affording ground for fears being entertained with regard to our very Christianity. "I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labour upon you in vain." If that, then, was really the view of the apostle, should we not have expected of him that, in his own practice, he would have disregarded all distinctions of days? But how does that consist with what is recorded of him? If we turn to Acts 20:6 , Acts 20:7 , we find what his practice was, upon which Alford thus suitably comments: "We have here an intimation of the continuance of the practice, which seems to have begun immediately after the Resurrection, of assembling on the first day of the week for religious purposes." If we turn next to 1 Corinthians 16:2 , we find him issuing a general order to the Churches connected with the first day of the week, upon which Alford again suitably remarks, "Here there is no mention of their assembling , which we have in Acts 20:7 ; but a plain indication that the day was already considered as a special one, and one more than others fitting for the performance of a religious duty." If, then, the apostle thus recognized a distinction in time, how can he escape from the condemnation which he passed upon these Galatian Christians? Was he not in bondage in so distinguishing? and have we not reason to be afraid of him ? It is either this or the conclusion drawn is too wide. And what are we to make of the consistency of the writers who take this view? They no sooner make out the language of the apostle to have reference to all distinctions of time whatsoever, than forthwith they search about for reasons for the observance of a sacred day. Alford upholds the observance of the Lord's day as an institution of the Christian Church, analogous to the ancient sabbath, binding on us from considerations of humanity and religious expediency, and by the rules of that branch of the Church in which Providence has placed us. And Frederick William Robertson says, "So far as we are in the Jewish state, the fourth commandment, even in its rigour and strictness, is wisely used by us; nay, we might say, indispensable." And further he says, "Experience tells us, after a trial, that those Sundays are the happiest, the purest, the most rich in blessing, in which the spiritual part has been most attended to—those in which the business letter was put aside and the profane literature not opened, and the ordinary occupations entirely suspended." That is to say, the apostle was afraid of the Galatian Christians for making a distinction of one day in seven; and yet the Galatian Christians were right after all. A modification of so wide a conclusion as is supposed is suggested by the passage in Colossians. It is there stated that we are not to be judged in meats and drinks; that is, we are freed from all such distinctions in meats and drinks as existed under the Law. But yet it is the case that, under the New Testament dispensation, there exists a distinction of meat and drink. For in the Lord's Supper we have bread and wine appropriated to holy uses and placed under certain restrictions. And, if it does not follow from the apostle's language that all distinctions of meats and drinks are done away with under Christianity, so neither does it necessarily follow that all distinctions of time are done away with.
( β ) We are to understand the language of the apostle to have reference to Jewish institutions as a whole. It is not as though there had been before him the one point— Is it right to observe one day in seven ? Then his argument would have been—The Jews did that; we as Christians are relieved from it, or rather are to be condemned, if we countenance such a distinction. But, instead of that, the apostle is giving a characteristic of Jewish institutions as a whole. There was a multiplying of distinctions in them, both in respect of meats and drinks and in respect of times. And what the Galatian Christians were chargeable with was their abiding by all such distinctions as were made under the Law. Nay, they probably added to them by adopting gospel distinctions or symbols as well. To circumcision they added baptism; to the Passover they added the Lord's Supper; and to the observance of the seventh day they added the observance of the first. It was a legalistic spirit which possessed them. They were making the gospel more complicated, more burdensome in its outward prescriptions, than the Law, whereas it is characterized by simplicity and freedom. No wonder, then, that the apostle was afraid of them because of their making so many distinctions. They were endangering the gospel; they were forgetting their privileges as sons.
( γ ) We are to understand the language of the apostle to have reference to Jewish institutions in so far as they were Jewish. The sabbath was not a purely Jewish institution; it existed from the beginning. The essential idea of it was a proportion of time devoted to God in acknowledgment of his sovereign right to all our time. The proportion was sovereignly fixed at one-seventh, and there is reason to believe that it was fixed in relation to our physical constitution. Under the Law the sabbath, while retaining its original character, received certain ceremonial adjuncts. It was numbered among the moadeem , or feasts; and was, indeed, placed at the head of them. "Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be for holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest." The special services appointed for the sabbath in the sanctuary were these: first, the doubling of the daily burnt offering—two lambs instead of one, with a corresponding increase in the meat offering; and then the presenting of the fresh loaves of shewbread on the Lord's table. When, then, the apostle says that we are not to be judged in respect of the sabbath day in the same way in which we are not to be judged in respect of the feast day and in respect of the new moon, this meaning is plainly suggested—that we, as Christians, are freed from all the ceremonial adjuncts of the sabbath. But, more than that, there was a practical question as to the observance of what was called the sabbath as distinguished from the Lord's day—the observance of the seventh day as distinguished from the first. The connecting of God's time with the seventh was from the beginning, but it had been very much bound up with the Jewish ceremonial. It also came to be regarded as the Jewish day as distinguished from the Christian day; and it had a certain position as such during the period of transition. The apostle, then, may be understood as deciding for the Christian Church that they were under no obligation to observe two sacred days in the week. Now that they observed the Lord's day they were freed from the observance of the sabbath. But at the same time, the sabbath had a broad human aspect. This Christ declared when legalism was expiring, and not certainly as though the sabbath were expiring with it. He said that the sabbath was made for man. It lies embedded in our deepest nature. It is needed under all earthly conditions and dispensations; and is not certainly to be numbered, like the feast day and the observance connected with the new moon, among things Jewish , from which as Christians we are freed. Whether it is the seventh day or the first is matter of Divine arrangement for the time being; but underneath both there is the obligation laid in our nature, from which we cannot be freed, to devote a proportion of our time to God.
(b) There is a statement made regarding the transitory nature of ceremonial institutions in which the sabbath is included. There is not much difficulty presented by the statement in this Epistle, that ceremonial institutions are weak and beggarly elements. This language is to be applied to them in respect of their having served their purpose. They had been, with certain drawbacks, very helpful and rich in blessing to God's people. They may have been once so to some of these Galatian Christians, but, now that the Divine authority had been removed from them, now that the gospel had come in their place, to turn to them was indeed to turn to the weak and beggarly elements. So it was with the sabbath , or seventh day. It once had the Divine sanction. It once was one of the channels through which the Divine blessing flowed. But, now that it was no longer to be observed as the sacred day, now that the Lord's day had come in its place, to turn to it was to turn to one of the weak and beggarly elements. Nor is there much difficulty presented by the corresponding statement in Colossians that ceremonial institutions are the shadow of things to come , whereas the body is of Christ. That does not exclude the possibility of there being a sign to represent the substance, the reality, after it had come. We know that circumcision represented regeneration, the putting away of the sin of the flesh. And the Divine blessing accompanied it as the shadow of the coming reality. But when the reality came that corresponded to circumcision, it was put by Christ into the New Testament institution of baptism. In the context here the two ordinances are closely interwoven in the apostolic thought. "In whom ye were also circumcised" (the reference, says Alford, being to the historical fact of their baptism) "with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ: having been buried with him in baptism." We know, too, that the Passover pointed forward to a sacrifice to be offered for sin. And it was a nourishing ordinance as the shadow of the coming sacrifice. But when Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (and it happened at the very time of the offering of the paschal lamb), the great reality was put by Christ into the New Testament institution of the Lord's Supper. And so it seems to be with regard to the sabbath. It pointed forward to the reality of a rest in Christ, and as such it was refreshing. But when the reality came, and needed no longer to be shadowed, it was put into the institution of the Lord's day. And we have reason to think that it will remain there for us until its full disclosure in heaven.—R.F.
I. TRUST IN THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD IS A PECULIARLY CHRISTIAN GRACE .
1 . Christ revealed the fatherhood of God. Mohammedans think of "Allah" as an omnipotent autocrat, and Jews regard "the Eternal" as a righteous Lord, but Christians know God as "our Father in heaven." It is not that the idea of the fatherhood of God was not conceived before the time of Christ, for Hebrew psalmists found comfort in it ( Psalms 103:13 ), and even Homer sang of "the father of gods and men." But
2 . The fatherhood of God is to Christians a relationship of love and gentleness. God is not regarded, like the Roman father, as one who might be a terror to his children. The "Abba, Father" in the old home language—the language of the nursery—suggests the feelings of little children to their father, and may we not say their mother (see Isaiah 49:15 )? The type of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven is a little child; a little child's affection for his parents is the pattern of the purest Christian devotion. Nevertheless, this childlike confidence does not conflict with the rightful authority of God. The father is not weak because he is gentle. The trust of love is an obedient trust.
3 . From trust in God's fatherly love the Christian life grows into a habit of aspiration. The yearning of the soul for God is met only to be deepened and intensified, so that the Christian learns to press on ever nearer and nearer to God, the burden of his heart's desire finding utterance in the cry, "Abba, Father."
II. THIS GRACE GROWS OUT OF AN INSPIRATION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD 'S SON . Christ reveals the fact of the fatherhood of God; but the mere knowledge of that fact which we may derive from studying the words and life of Christ will not enable us to realize the spirit of trustful sonship. It is little to know that God is a Father if we do not experience the love and close relationship of his fatherhood. So great a change is required before we can do this that nothing short of a Divine inspiration can make it possible. Indeed, it is Christ's Spirit in us that utters the cry, "Abba, Father." Thus the yearning of the soul for God is itself the result of God's visit to the soul. All aspiration springs from inspiration. Because Christ lived in trust and communion with God, his Spirit entering us enables us to do the same. He is the true Son, and therefore his Spirit gives to us the grace of sonship.
III. THE DIVINE INSPIRATION DEPENDS ON OUR RELATION OF SONSHIP WITH GOD . Though God is naturally the Father of all, it is not every one who can cry, "Abba, Father." The mingled trust and aspiration of such a cry are only possible to those who are sons indeed, reconciled to God and restored to the family home. The Spirit that inspires the cry is not given to all. We must be receptive if we are to receive it. The Spirit of God's firstborn Son is given to the true sons of God. The sonship, St. Paul teaches, is the consequence of our own faith, and the inspiration follows. Therefore the consciousness of trustful aspiration towards God as our Father is a proof of sonship. The Spirit thus bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God.—W.F.A.