Gal 4:1-5 “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
The third chapter of this book ends with the declaration that, being Christ’s, we are Abraham’s seed and therefor heirs of God’s promise. Lest we think too highly of ourselves, Paul points out a fact of life for heirs under Jewish law. As long as the heir is a child his lot is no different from that of a servant. It does not matter that he will someday possess all that his father has: he is no different than a servant in his father’s house until he reaches maturity.
The heir is under tutors and governors until a time appointed (according to Strong’s – fixed beforehand, that is, a designated day) by the father. Strong’s also identifies the word “tutor” with the term “school master” as used in the third chapter. Again, the tutor and governor were not hired for that position; they were usually household servants chosen by the father.
As used here, the term tutor is generally believed by scholars to refer to one who had authority over the person of the heir: he was charged with the physical well-being of the heir. The heir was under the control and discipline of the tutor even though he would one day receive all his father had willed him. The governor, on the other hand, was seen to be more of a steward of that which the heir would someday possess. As governor, it was this man’s responsibility to exercise discretion in all that the heir would inherit and see that it grew in value. The heir, until the time appointed by the father, had no say-so in how his inheritance was handled.
Paul uses this illustration to show us that we had no volition of our own while we were held under the law. Regardless of what might be ours when the time appointed of the Father came, we were powerless in its use as long as we were under the law. As long as Paul and his audience were under the elements (basic instruction) of the world (the orderly arrangement of the Jew’s religion), they were no more than slaves. This is the lesson that Paul was driving home to the churches at Galatia.
To go back under the law was for them to not be able to serve God in the liberty they had been called to. If they yielded to the brethren that had come from Jerusalem to trouble them, then the Gentiles would no longer have any say in what they ate. They would not be able to enjoy fellowship with the brethren at Jerusalem without being circumcised. They would not even be sure of being considered fully-functioning members of the church at all.
Thanks be to God the Father, when His appointed time was fully come, He sent His Holy Son Jesus! He came, made (caused to be – see Strong’s) of a woman, made (caused to be) under the law: He was made to enter this way for a reason. He delivered us from our carnal nature; He delivered us from being under the law. He made it possible for us to be sons and in full possession of our right to inherit.
Before someone takes me to task for the use of the word “right,” may I humbly remind us all that because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus, it is our right. It was not obtained by our own merit, but, because He cannot fail, we are rightful heirs of God. We are rightful heirs because we have received the adoption of sons. We have received the adoption of sons because Jesus has redeemed us from the law (from tutors and governors).
The power to adopt is never in the hands of the children. The children of adoption do not choose their parents. Laws have to be fulfilled before an adoption can take place. The adoptive parents have to prove they are capable and have the means to take care of their adopted child or children. Our Heavenly Father has adopted us, assured us that we are His heirs and joint heirs with His Only Begotten (Rom 8:17), and confirmed it with an oath (Heb 6:17) that is based in His promise to Abraham.
May we always thank our Heavenly Father that He appointed a time, sent His Son, sealed our adoption, and delivered us from tutors and governors into His direct and holy leadership through the Spirit!