Galatians 4: Bible Chapter Summary

Take a deeper look at the fourth chapter in the New Testament Book of Galatians.

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We've seen that the Book of Galatians was one of Paul's most intense epistles to the early church -- probably in part because it was the first one he wrote. As we move into chapter 4, however, we begin to see the apostle's care and concern for the Galatian believers break through.

Let's dig in. And as always, it's a good idea to read the chapter before going any further.

Overview

The first section of this chapter concludes Paul's logical and theological arguments against the Judaizers -- those who had falsely taught the Galatians to seek salvation through obedience to the law, rather than through Christ.

One of the main arguments of the Judaizers was that Jewish believers had a superior connection with God. The Jewish people had been following God for centuries, they claimed; therefore, they were the only ones qualified to determine the best methods for following God in their day.

Paul countered this argument by pointing out that the Galatians had been adopted into God's family. Both Jews and Gentiles were slaves to sin before the death and resurrection of Jesus opened the door for their inclusion in God's family. Therefore, neither Jews nor Gentiles were superior to the other after receiving salvation through Christ. Both had been granted equal status as children of God (vv. 1-7).

The middle section of chapter 4 is where Paul softens his tone. He points back to his earlier relationship with the Galatian believers -- a time in which they had cared for him physically even as he taught them spiritual truths.

(Most scholars believe Paul had a difficult time seeing during his time with the Galatians; see v. 15).

Paul expressed his deep affection and care for the Galatians. He also spurned the Judaizers once again for attempting to derail the spiritual maturity of the Galatians simply to further their own agenda against him and his work.

At the end of chapter 4, Paul used another illustration from the Old Testament to again reveal that we become connected with God through faith, not through obedience to the law or our own good works. Specifically, Paul compared the lives of two women -- Sarah and Hagar from way back in Genesis -- in order to make a point:

21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and the other by a free woman. 23 But the one by the slave was born according to the impulse of the flesh, while the one by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. 24 These things are illustrations, for the women represent the two covenants.
Galatians 4:21-24

Paul wasn't comparing Sarah and Hagar as individuals. Rather, he was showing that God's true children haven always been free in their covenant relationship with God. Their freedom was a result of God's promise and faithfulness -- God made a promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him (see Genesis 12:3). The relationship was entirely dependent on God choosing His people through grace.

Those who attempt to define salvation by keeping the law were making themselves slaves to the law, just as Hagar was a slave. And because Hagar was a slave, she was not part of the promise given to Abraham.

Key Verses

19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 20 I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you.
Galatians 4:19-20

Paul was deeply concerned that the Galatians avoid being pulled into a false expression of Christianity that would damage them spiritually. He compared his fear, anticipation, and desire to help the Galatians to a woman about to give birth.

Key Themes

As with the preceding chapters, the primary theme of Galatians 4 is the contrast between Paul's original proclamation of salvation through faith and the new, false declarations by the Judaizers that Christians must also obey the Old Testament law in order to be saved.

Paul goes in a number of different directions throughout the chapter, as listed above; however, that comparison is his primary theme.

A secondary theme (connected to the primary theme) is the dynamic between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Paul makes is clear in this chapter that ethnicity does not play a factor in terms of our relationship with God. He has adopted Jews and Gentiles into His family on equal terms.

Finally, Galatians 4 spells out Paul's genuine care for the welfare of the Galatians. He had lived among them during his earlier missionary journey, and he had a deep desire to see them retain a correct view of the gospel so that they would not be led astray.

Note: this is a continuing series exploring the Book of Galatians on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Click here to see the summaries for chapter 1chapter 2, and chapter 3.