Paul has made his deep concern for the Galatians very clear. He now goes on to offer an allegory for these men which was unmistakable, given their knowledge and background.
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; 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;
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 4:21-27
In an effort to reason and help them see what they are doing, Paul questions them. He’s like, “Hey you guys who think you want to be under the law – do ya remember what it says? Let’s review…Remember Abraham? Which one of his sons was from God and which one was from man? These guys were very different weren’t they? Hagar represents slavery. Ishmael was a result of man’s faithless attempt to accomplish God’s will by his own effort. Trying to keep the law to earn God’s favor is a result of the very same unbelief which brought about Ishmael. This error results in exile, slavery, and never receives an inheritance from God.
Sarah, however, represents the promise of God. She had no entitlement. She had no faith. She laughed at the very notion of God’s ability to save her from her desolation. She neither trusted God nor obeyed him in this situation – even after the promise was made to her. Still, God’s will prevailed despite her. God’s will prevails to save his children despite them – not because of their own works!”
Now, Paul does something that makes theology geeks get up at 3 a.m. and worship God. Paul applies the Old Covenant Promise to the New Covenant believers. He takes God’s Word and he interprets it for us. He leaves no room for error. He says:
Now you, 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 4:28-31
Now, you, brothers. You are not slaves! You did not come by way of Hagar! You are Issac’s brothers and sisters. Stop regarding men who are trying to tell you otherwise and enslave you by your never-going-to-be-good-enough works. These men are persecuting you because they are slaves; they are jealous; they are excluded by mere virtue of their lack of spiritual birth. Cast out their ideologies! Do not let them oppress you any longer! Spiritual birth does not come from man’s efforts! Spiritual birth comes from God’s promise! We are not slaves! We are free!
Oh! The glory of the truth! Let no man confine God’s children to a mere game of merit and measuring up! Let no teacher, no matter how influential, or prominent, or persuasive imprison the people of God! We cannot be dismissed on account of our failures!!! Brothers and sisters! We cannot be dismissed on account of our failures!!! Hallelujah! We are saved on account of our faith! This, not from ourselves, but the very gift of God alone! We are not slaves, and even if we were, it would not save us! No amount of morality or law keeping would ever make us righteous! No amount! It is our freedom that gives us a heart to obey rightly; to be godly; to love truth; to cease from rebellion. And that freedom is found in the love bestowed upon us by Christ and his promise. Therefore, use love to lead. Use love to lead! Not the wretched law! Be like Christ and bestow love and grace in the face of failure. And when you do, you will find that there is no need to lunge at others with the law. They will love it, too, because of you.
This is glorious! Glorious truth! This is truth that makes a miserable sinner like me want to worship. This is holy ground. How beautiful! How glorious! How absolutely amazing! Praise God! We are not slaves. We are children of a promise which cannot be broken! That is what makes us obedient. That is what gives us the confidence to go hard after God. That is what we pour our very lives out believing. The law is nothing more than our accuser. It is the promise which serves as our motivator. Amen!