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Galatians 4 International Children’s Bible (ICB)

I want to tell you this: While the one who will inherit his father’s property is still a child, he is no different from a slave. It does not matter that the child owns everything. While he is a child, he must obey those who are chosen to care for him. But when the child reaches the age set by his father, he is free. It is the same for us. We were once like children. We were slaves to the useless rules of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son. His Son was born of a woman and lived under the law. God did this so that he could buy freedom for those who were under the law. His purpose was to make us his children.

And you are God’s children. That is why God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts. The Spirit cries out, “Father, dear Father.”[a] So now you are not a slave; you are God’s child, and God will give you what he promised, because you are his child.

Paul’s Love for the Christians

In the past you did not know God. You were slaves to gods that were not real. But now you know the true God. Really, it is God who knows you. So why do you turn back to those weak and useless rules you followed before? Do you want to be slaves to those things again? 10 You still follow teachings about special days, months, seasons, and years. 11 I am afraid for you. I fear that my work for you has been wasted.

12 Brothers, I was like you; so I beg you to become like me. You were very good to me before. 13 You remember that I came to you the first time because I was sick. That was when I preached the Good News to you. 14 Though my sickness was a trouble for you, you did not hate me or make me leave. But you welcomed me as an angel from God, as if I were Jesus Christ himself! 15 You were very happy then. Where is that joy now? I remember that you would have taken out your eyes and given them to me if that were possible. 16 Now am I your enemy because I tell you the truth?

17 Those people[b] are working hard to persuade you. But this is not good for you. They want to persuade you to turn against us. They want you to follow only them. 18 It is good for people to show interest in you, but only if their purpose is good. This is always true. It is true when I am with you and when I am away. 19 My little children, again I feel pain for you as a mother feels when she gives birth. I will feel this until you truly become like Christ. 20 I wish I could be with you now. Then maybe I could change the way I am talking to you. Now I do not know what to do about you.

The Example of Hagar and Sarah

21 Some of you people still want to be under the law of Moses. Tell me, do you know what the law says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons. The mother of one son was a slave woman. The mother of the other son was a free woman. 23 Abraham’s son from the slave woman was born in the normal human way. But the son from the free woman was born because of the promise God made to Abraham.

24 This makes a picture for us. The two women are like the two agreements between God and men. One agreement is the law that God made on Mount Sinai.[c] The people who are under this agreement are like slaves. The mother named Hagar is like that agreement. 25 She is like Mount Sinai in Arabia and is a picture of the earthly Jewish city of Jerusalem. This city is a slave, and all its people are slaves to the law. 26 But the heavenly Jerusalem which is above is like the free woman. She is our mother. 27 It is written in the Scriptures:

“Be happy, Jerusalem.
    You are like a woman who never gave birth to children.
Start singing and shout for joy.
    You never felt the pain of giving birth to children.
But you will have more children
    than the woman who has a husband.” Isaiah 54:1

28 My brothers, you are God’s children because of his promise, as Isaac was then. 29 The son who was born in the normal way treated the other son badly. It is the same today. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son! The son of the free woman will receive everything his father has. But the son of the slave woman will receive nothing.”[d] 31 So, my brothers, we are not children of the slave woman. We are children of the free woman.


  1. 4:6 “Father, dear Father” Literally, “Abba, Father.” Jewish children called their fathers “Abba.”
  2. 4:17 Those people They are the false teachers who were bothering the believers in Galatia (Galatians 1:7).
  3. 4:24 Mount Sinai Mountain in Arabia where God gave his laws to Moses (Exodus 19 and 20).
  4. 4:30 “Throw . . . nothing.” Quotation from Genesis 21:10.
International Children’s Bible (ICB)

The Holy Bible, International Children’s Bible® Copyright© 1986, 1988, 1999, 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a division of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.

Galatians 4 New International Version (NIV)

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b] Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces[d]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Hagar and Sarah

21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband.”[e]

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f] 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.


  1. Galatians 4:3 Or under the basic principles
  2. Galatians 4:5 The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture.
  3. Galatians 4:6 Aramaic for Father
  4. Galatians 4:9 Or principles
  5. Galatians 4:27 Isaiah 54:1
  6. Galatians 4:30 Gen. 21:10
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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