“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything.” (Gal. 4:1)
The heir is the heir as soon as he is born but he doesn’t receive the inheritance. He has to wait until the proper time. This might be when the father dies or it might be a date set by the father. Either way, the heir has nothing until that time. Paul compares the heir with a slave. The child is put under a guardian and is almost like being in prison as Paul mentioned in chapter three. This seems like a strange thing to mention in a letter to the Galatians doesn’t it. But, Paul has an idea of where he is going and what he is trying to prove.
What Paul wants to do in this part of his letter is show that the Old Testament Law is no longer valid. The discussion of the position and rights of the heir is just another way of doing that. To Paul, being under the law as like being a child with a guardian. No different than a slave in terms of the promises of Abraham. At the same time, those under the law and those not under the law were owners of all God’s good gifts even if the gifts had not yet been distributed.
Like the father of the heir might set a date to transfer ownership, so God had a time in mind when the law would be superseded by the promise and the gift of grace would come. Paul admits to not being able to understand why the Galatians or anyone for that matter would want to give up the ownership of the promise and return to being a slave. From God’s point of view, the coming of the promise and the new covenant of grace was a sign of maturity, of growing up. To go back under the law was to return to childhood.
Isn’t it nice to know that we are the owners of everything God has to give? All that He gives to the Son He gives to us. We are joint owners with Christ. Since God owns it all so we own it all. But, let’s not confuse the cattle on a thousand hills with the spiritual blessings in Christ. The manna in the wilderness does not compare with the bread of life. Water from a rock will never be as sweet as the living well. A temple in Jerusalem, whether in antiquity or future is nothing when compared to the temple of the living God where he lives among His people, that is the church.
There are those still looking for earthly treasures, a reign on the earth, a temple in Jerusalem and earthly riches. Those belong to the slave days. Christ is reigning now and His saints are reigning with Him. The saints are the temple of God and one day that temple will be in heaven. Who would want the cattle on a thousand hills when the riches of glory could be theirs? Jesus warned us not to lay up treasures on earth but to lay our treasures in heaven. Waiting for an earthly reign on this earth is counter-culture to Christ. He is done with this earth and has gone back to His home in the heavens. If you want to live and reign with Him I suggest you make plans to travel to heaven and not Jerusalem.
Task for Today: Think about this verse and about Paul’s message to date. There is a major comparison with the earthly and the heavenly, the flesh and the spirit. Which does Paul favor? Which should you favor? When God destroyed the temple in Jerusalem He was sending a message that He no long dwelt there. The new covenant tells us where he dwells, in the temples of his people who collectively make up the great new temple. That temple will be taken to heaven when Jesus returns. Quit thinking earth and think heaven. Rejoice that you are an heir to heaven, not earth.