Galatians 4 English Standard Version (ESV)
Sons and Heirs
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles[b] of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Paul's Concern for the Galatians
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
12 Brothers,[c] I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?[d] 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Example of Hagar and Sarah
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;[e] she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
28 Now you,[f] brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Galatians 4 New Living Translation (NLT)
4 Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles[a] of this world.
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.[b] 6 And because we[c] are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”[d] 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.[e] And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
8 Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. 9 So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? 10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters,[f] I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.
You did not mistreat me when I first preached to you. 13 Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News. 14 But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then? I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible. 16 Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?
17 Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them. 18 If someone is eager to do good things for you, that’s all right; but let them do it all the time, not just when I’m with you.
19 Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. 20 I wish I were with you right now so I could change my tone. But at this distance I don’t know how else to help you.
Abraham’s Two Children
21 Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife.[g] 23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise.
24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia,[h] because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27 As Isaiah said,
“Rejoice, O childless woman,
28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. 29 But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit.
30 But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[j] 31 So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.
Galatians 4 The Passion Translation (TPT)
From Slavery to Sonship
4 In a similar way, God has promised our ancestors something better, but as long as an heir is a minor, he’s not really much different than a servant, although he’s the master over all of them. 2 For until the time appointed by the father when he comes of age, the child is under the domestic supervision of the guardians of the estate.
3 So it is with us. When we were juveniles we were enslaved under the hostile spirits of the world. 4 But when that era came to an end and the time of fulfillment had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,[a] born under the written law.[b] 5 Yet all of this was so that he would redeem and set free all those held hostage to the written law so that we would receive our freedom and a full legal adoption as his children.
6 And so that we would know for sure that we are his true children, God released the Spirit of Sonship into our hearts—moving us to cry out intimately, “My Father![c] You’re our true Father!”
7 Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re his, we can access everything our Father has—for we are heirs of God through Jesus, the Messiah!
8 Before we knew God as our Father and we became his children, we were unwitting servants to the powers that be, which are nothing compared to God. 9 But now that we truly know him and understand how deeply we’re loved by him, why would we, even for a moment, consider turning back to those weak and feeble principles of religion, as though we were still subject to them?
10 Why would we want to go backwards into the bondage of religion—scrupulously observing rituals like special days,[d] celebrations of the new moon, annual festivals, and sacred years?[e] 11 I’m so alarmed about you that I’m beginning to wonder if my labor in ministry among you was a waste of time!
Paul’s Personal Appeal
12 Beloved ones, I plead with you, follow my example and become free from the bondage of religion. I once became as one of you,[f] a gentile, when I lived among you—now become free like me. When I first came to minister to you, you did me no wrong. I can’t believe you would do wrong to me now!
13 You are well aware that the reason I stayed among you to preach the good news was because of the poor state of my health.[g] 14 And yet you were so kind to me and did not despise me in my weakness,[h] even though my physical condition put you through an ordeal while I was with you.
Actually, you received me and cared for me as though I were an angel from God, as you would have cared for Jesus, the Messiah himself! 15 Some of you were even willing, if it were possible, to pluck out your own eyes to replace mine! Where is that kindhearted and free spirit now? 16 Have I really become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
17 Can’t you see what these false teachers[i] are doing? They want to win you over so you will side with them. They want you divided from me so you will follow only them. Would you call that integrity? 18 Isn’t it better to seek excellence and integrity always, and not just only when I’m with you?
19 You are my dear children, but I agonize in spiritual “labor pains” once again, until the Anointed One will be fully formed in your hearts! 20 How I wish I could be there in person and change my tone[j] toward you, for I am truly dumbfounded over what you are doing!
An Old Testament Allegory
21–22 Tell me, do you want to go back to living strictly by the law? Haven’t you ever listened to what the law really says? Have you forgotten that Abraham had two sons; one by the slave girl, and the other by the freewoman?[k]
23 Ishmael, the son of the slave girl, was a child of the natural realm. But Isaac, the son of the freewoman, was born supernaturally by the Spirit—a child of the promise of God! 24 These two women and their sons express an allegory and become symbols of two covenants. The first covenant was born on Mt. Sinai, birthing children into slavery—children born to Hagar. 25 For “Hagar” represents the law given at Mt. Sinai in Arabia. The “Hagar” metaphor corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem of today who are currently in bondage.
26 In contrast, there is a heavenly Jerusalem above us, which is our true “mother.” She is the freewoman, birthing children into freedom![l] 27 For it is written:
“Burst forth with gladness,
28 Dear friends, just like Isaac, we’re now the true children who inherit the kingdom promises.[n] 29 And just as the son of the natural world at that time harassed the son born of the power of the Holy Spirit, so it is today. 30 And what does the Scripture tell us to do?
31 It’s now so obvious! We’re not the children of the slave woman; we’re the supernatural sons of the freewoman—sons of grace!