Galatians 3:26-4:20 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What do you think it means when in Galatians 3:27 Paul writes of being “baptized into Christ” and being “clothed” with Christ? Note Romans 6:3-4 (printed below)

…do you not know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

To be spiritually “baptized into Christ” means to share in His death so as to also share in His resurrection life (note Romans 6:3-4 and Galatians 2:20). True faith in Christ means not only trusting in Christ’s atoning death on our behalf but also entrusting ourselves to Him, allowing ourselves to become spiritually joined with Him in His crucifixion and entering into His resurrection life. To “clothe” yourself with Christ means to be identified with Christ: to share in His identity. By way of illustration, a young boy may put on the jersey of his favorite football player in an attempt to become identified with him.

2. What has God done for the Christian to give us assurance that we now are children of God? See chapter 4 verse 6 (printed below).

Now because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, and he is crying out to God, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6)

In verse 6 the apostle assures us as believers in Christ that “God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, and he is crying out to God, Abba, Father.” Just as God sent forth His Son into the world to save all who receive Him (verse 4), so God sent forth the Holy Spirit into the hearts of all who receive His Son (verse 6). From His residence in the believer’s heart, the Holy Spirit raises up the cry to God of “Abba, Father.” This is the cry by which the eternal Son of God Himself addressed His Father (note Mark 14:36). Note that it is the Spirit Himself who is directly addressing the Father on behalf of the believer. This is a spiritual intercession being made on behalf of the believer, not a personal plea being made by the believer himself. Consequently, the grounds for assurance are here founded upon the work of God, not based upon the emotions or the prayers or the endurance of the individual Christian.

3. How does Paul describe the condition of the Gentiles before they came to Christ? See chapter 4 verse 8 (printed below).

At that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to those spirits who by nature are not gods. (Galatians 4:8)

In verse 8 the apostle reminds these Gentile Christians of their spiritual condition prior to the time they came to faith in Jesus Christ. At that time they did not know God; they had shut Him out of their lives and consequently they were given over to spiritual ignorance and darkness and bondage (note Ephesians 4:17-18). Furthermore, they were in bondage to those spirits who by nature are not gods. That is to say, they were enslaved to the practices of idolatry and under the dominion of the devil and his demonic spirits (note Ephesians 2:1-2).

4. What concern does the apostle express about these Galatian Christians, what were they in danger of doing? See chapter 4 verses 9-11 (printed below).

But now that you know God—or, rather, are known by God—how is it that you are reverting back again to the weak and worthless rudiments all over again? (10) You are observing days and months and seasons and years. (11) I have fears concerning you, that somehow I have labored among you in vain. (Galatians 4:9-11)

Now the Galatians have come to know God, or rather to be known by God. They have met the Lord Jesus Christ, He has set them free from their spiritual bondage, He has granted them the forgiveness of their sins, He has brought them back to God and has brought them into the very household of God. So why is it, asks the apostle in verse 9b, that the Galatians are now turning back to a life of spiritual and religious bondage? The Galatians were not returning to their old pagan bondage of idolatry; rather, they were allowing themselves to be brought into a pseudo-Christian bondage by the false teachers who were troubling the churches throughout the region of Galatia. Verse 10 is referring to the Old Testament ceremonial laws that were being re-introduced by the false teachers as a mandatory requirement for salvation. The apostle calls those laws “weak and worthless rudiments” because in themselves they had no power to save; they were intended to stimulate a desire for salvation and illustrate the sanctifying/purifying work the Savior would accomplish in the lives of His people.

5. Under what circumstances did Paul first preach the gospel in Galatia and how was he received? See chapter 4 verses 13-15 (printed below). Why does Paul remind the Galatians of these things?

You know that it was because of a physical malady that I preached the gospel to you the first time. (14) Even though my physical condition was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. On the contrary, you received me as though I were an angel from God, as though I were Christ Jesus himself. (15) What has happened to your sense of blessing? for I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. (Galatians 4:13-15)

In Galatians 4:13-15 Paul reminds the Galatians of the reception he received from them when he first brought them the good news that Jesus saves. He writes that it was “because of a physical malady that I preached the gospel to you the first time.” His coming to Galatia was due to some physical malady that had caused him to alter his scheduled itinerary. He goes on to indicate that his physical infirmity was of such a nature as to tempt the Galatians to reject him. Either due to physical repulsiveness or the assumption that such an affliction must be a sign of God’s displeasure, the Galatians were naturally tempted to reject the apostle and his message. But rather than reject him, the Galatians welcomed him as if he were an angel from God, indeed, as if he were the Lord Jesus Himself. They were willing to do anything for Paul—even going so far as to be willing to pluck out their own eyes (no doubt the apostle is here speaking figuratively for emphasis)—so deep was their gratitude to him for having brought them the message of salvation. Paul now calls upon the Galatians to remember their initial response to the gospel and the joy and blessing they received when they put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as He was offered through Paul’s preaching. His intention is that upon remembering the blessing they received from the gospel the Galatians will come to their senses and return to their initial position of trust in Christ and Christ alone, rather than rejecting the gospel to adopt to another form of spiritual bondage.