Jerry C. Brewer
Taken from its context, Galatians 4:6-7 is often used to teach that the Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling directly in his body. But, like all passages, these verses must be considered contextually, and the context does not render that conclusion. Under discussion is the redemption of those under the law, and their progression from servanthood to sonship—spiritual minority status to adulthood, or majority.
The first seven verses of Galatians 4 connect with the last verses of chapter 3, where the apostle had shown that the baptized Jews and Gentiles were together sons and heirs. The first seven verses of chapter 4 compare Judaism with the position of a minor who had not reached the status of sonship — an heir apparent who was yet a minor. But having been redeemed from the law they had ‘received the adoption of sons,’ and God had sent the spirit of sonship into their hearts, calling God Father” (Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Mission And Medium Of The Holy Spirit, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, 1967, p. 74).
The word spirit in the phrase, “spirit of his son” in verse 6 does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but to the spirit in which God’s children serve Him. Neither should the word “son” be capitalized. It does not refer to Jesus Christ, but to the disposition, or attitude, in the hearts of those who are the children of God today. When the New Testament was written, it was written in uncials, or capital letters, and had no punctuation marks. The punctuation and capitalization of the text was done in later years by translators who capitalized those words in this verse. But the context does not call for the capitalization of either word. We are convinced that the meaning of verse 6 is that, unlike those under the Mosaic economy, Christians serve God, not in the spirit of servants to a master, but in the spirit of sons to a Father. The “spirit of his son” is not a reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That was the conclusion of R. L. Whiteside in his comments on the similar passage in Romans 8:15.
The Jew under the law was moved principally through fear, and idol worshippers were moved by fear. But not so with the Christian. ‘But ye received the spirit of adoption;’ or, more exact, ‘Ye received the spirit of sonship.’ A Christian is one who has been born again; he is a child of God by birth, rather than by adoption. He serves God, not through a spirit of slavish fear, but through a spirit of filial obedience. Spirit as used in this verse does not refer to an individual personal intelligence, but to a disposition or attitude. …The spirit of fear is displaced by a spirit of reverence, trust, and worship. The term Abba means Father. It seems that the two terms are used here for emphasis (A New Commentary On Romans, 1945, Miss Inys Whiteside, Pub., Denton, Texas, p. 178).
The Greek word for father is pater and abba is an Aramaic word. I believe the use of both words here simply illustrates the merging of Jews and Gentiles into God’s house, which is the church (1 Tim. 3:15) and the relationship of both as God’s children. The service rendered to God by both Jew and Gentile, as His sons, means both can call Him Father. That Galatians 4:6 refers to the disposition of sons of God, and not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, ought to be evident from the context. The contrast there is clearly drawn.”Wherefore, thou art no more a servant, but a son.” That same contrast is also made in the Roman passage between the “spirit of bondage” and the “spirit of adoption.” Neither of these passages refers to the Holy Spirit, but to the basis of our service to God in this dispensation. Unlike the servanthood of the Mosaic dispensation, both Jews and Gentiles now serve God in the spirit of sonhood.
It has been postulated that one has the person of the Holy Spirit dwelling in his body “because ye are sons.” But the emphasis and contrast in Galatians 4:6-7 is upon and between sonship and servanthood—not some direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit because we are Christians. The spirit of sonship is in our hearts because we are sons.
So the spirit of verse 6 is not the Holy Spirit, but the spirit of sonship, as the following verse 7 specifies: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” It is the same sonship and the same spirit of sons as in Romans 8:15: “But ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.” Here the spirit of adoption is in contrast with the spirit of bondage, and there is no reason for the small S on spirit of bondage and a large S on spirit of adoption—for the spirit of adoption in Romans 8:15, and the spirit of sons in Galations 4:6, do not refer to the Holy Spirit (Wallace, p. 74).