In the story of Abraham, we find two sons, two wives, two covenants, two mountains, and two cities. So we have only two options. One option leads to eternal life in the kingdom of God. The other leads to destruction.
Chapter 1: Paul introduced the two of his main themes: 1) his apostolic authority and, 2) the gospel of justification by faith alone. Paul claimed you can recognize the true gospel by its substance (grace based on the cross of Jesus Christ); its source (divine revelation).
Chapter 2: Paul argued that the gospel he preaches is not man-made, but he received it through revelation from Jesus Christ. He reviewed his biography to prove that he had no chance to learn the gospel from the other human beings. Yet the other apostles confirmed he preached the same gospel.
Chapter 3-4: Paul gives five persuasive arguments for justification by faith alone.
- Galatians 3:2-5—First, Paul argues from experience. Did you receive the Spirit because you got your act together and finally started keeping the law? Or because you heard the gospel—that Jesus died in your place — and believed it? You received the Spirit because you have faith.
- Galatians 3:6-14—Second, Paul argues Scripture confirms our experience. The Scripture teaches Abraham believed and God counted it to him as righteousness. From the beginning, righteousness came through faith and God promised He would bless all those who have faith like Abraham. Those who fail to keep the law are cursed and Jesus took the curse for us, so that we might be saved through faith.
- Galatians 3:15-22—Third, Paul appeals to common sense. Paul argued God made a promise to Abraham, but the Law which came later was a deal. And the deal does not nullify the promise.
- Galatians 3:22-4:11—Paul explains why God gave the Law. “Why the Law then?” The law teaches us we are sinful and we need a savior. But having learned that lesson, we should graduate from law-keeping to the maturity of faith.
- Galatians 4:12-20—Fourth, Paul appeals to the Galatians to return to the true gospel on the basis of his deep affection and his demonstrated concern for them.
21Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. – Galatians 4:21-23
- God promised to make Abraham a great nation, to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan and bless all nations of the earth through Abraham. The Jews thought they were part of God’s chosen people because of this covenant.
- John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7-10), Jesus (John 8:31-42) and Paul (Galatians 3) taught that the true children of Abraham are not those physically descended from him, but those who share his faith.
- Paul illustrated that same point with Abraham’s two sons. Both sons had the same father, but only one who had faith inherited the promise.
- Paul addresses this passage to people who want to be under the Law as a means to justification.
- Hagar was a slave and her son Ishmael was born into slavery (Genesis 16).
- Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was a free woman, and her son Isaac was free. Isaac was Abraham’s heir (Genesis 17-18).
- This story clarifies that not every physical child of Abraham inherits the promises given to Abraham.
24Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” – Galatians 4:24-37
- Allegories, parables, and metaphors abound in the writings of the ancient near east.
- An allegory is a continued metaphor in one object symbolizes something. The point of resemblance is the point of allegory.
- Sarah and Hagar symbolize two different ways to approach God: the slavery of Old Covenant Law and freedom in Christ under the New Covenant.
- If you seek God’s favor through the Old Covenant, you are bond by the law. You’re not free to choose which laws to keep and which to ignore.
- If you seek God’s favor through faith in Christ, then you are free with respect to the law. You can keep kosher when appropriate. You can eat with the Gentiles when appropriate.
- Both sons are descendants of Abraham, but when determining the heir, it matters who their mother is. Likewise, when God determines who inherits, it matters who has faith.
- Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1. Isaiah says poetically, God’s people have great cause for joy because the New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant.
28Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29But 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. 30But 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.” 31So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. – Galatians 4:28-31
- Gentile believers are born according to the promise and the Spirit and are true children of Abraham. Why would you go back to the Law?
- Just as Ishmael persecuted Isaac, others will persecute you. But what was true of Ishmael and Isaac is true of Gentile believers and the Judaizers. Like Isaac, Gentile believers will inherit the promise. Like Ishmael, the Judaizers will be cast out.
- The Judaizers say the Messiah set us free from God’s wrath into obedience to the Law. Paul says the Messiah set us from from God’s wrath and the demands of the Law.
- Keep standing firm in the faith and do not take on the yoke of slavery to the Law again.