GALATIANS 4:21-31 "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22: For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23: But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24: which things are allegory. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar. 25: For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26: But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27: For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28: Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29: But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30: Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." 31: So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”
In the preceding chapters we saw that, while the Galatians were a Gentile people who had been saved by grace, they were being influence by certain Judaizing teachers who were trying to put them under the law. These legalists said, in "Acts 15:1: "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved," so Paul wrote this letter to expound on and clarify the foolishness of mixing Law and Grace and to make clear that salvation is not by works of the law but entirely by faith in Christ.
Evidently these Jewish teachers were referring the believers back to the Old Testament where they could give them scripture after scripture that made it seem evident that the law was the supreme test, and that God had said that meeting the requirements of the Law was necessary to complete their salvation. "The man which does those things shall live by them" Romans 10:5, and, in Galatians 3:10: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” They were trying to impress the believers that it was of great importance to try to please God in order to gain divine favor by human effort.
Paul asked point blank, "Do you really want to be under the law of Moses? Don’t you hear (understand) what the law demands? Read it for yourself, don’t take someone’s word for it. Find out just what God has said."
After theses searching questions, he quotes an incident from Genesis 16.
Verse 22: "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman."
This is the story. God had promised Abraham and Sarah they would be the parents of a son from whose lineage the Seed, in whom all nations of the earth should be blessed, would come. That, of course, would be Christ. Years went by and there was no fulfillment of that promise. The heathen nations around them had a custom that, if the wife bore no children, the husband could take another woman who was not his wife, and have a child by her.
Sarah had an Egyptian servant girl named Hagar, and, in spite of a promise from God that she would have a son, Sarah suggested that Abraham take Hagar as his concubine and have a child by her. Abraham did, and as a result of that union a son was born who they named Ishmael. Abraham hoped that God would accept Ishmael as the promised son through whom the Messiah should come into the world. But God had said that the promised Seed would come through Sarah. Abraham pleaded with God and said, "O that Ishmael might live before You !" (Genesis 17:18). But God’s promise stood and He said, as it were, "He can have a certain inheritance, but he cannot be the child of promise. Sarah shall have a child, and in that child My covenant will stand."
Paul goes on to explain the symbolic meaning of these events which the Old Testament records and which actually took place. Speaking of Old Testament records, scripture says, in 1 Corinthians 10: 11, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."
In other words, God brought about all these events for a purpose.
During the last several hundred years, the archeologists have not discovered one thing to refute anything written in Scripture, while thousands of discoveries have been made that helped to authenticate the Bible record. As far as faith is concerned, the Bible record doesn’t need to be authenticated because we believe what God has said. These discoveries have helped prove to the skeptics that Scripture is true.
The Arabs descended from Ishmael and the Jews from Sarah’s son, Isaac. From the very beginning the two boys were enemies and they still are. That explains the trouble in Palestine today.
From a natural standpoint, it would have been absolutely impossible for Abraham and Sarah, at their ages, to have a child when Isaac was born except for one thing, God promised it.
The apostle Paul goes on to explains the symbolic significance of the two mothers and their two sons. He tells us these things are an allegory. God has used allegories all through the Bible to bring us moral and spiritual lessons, so here the Spirit of God unfolds one for us.
Verse 23-26: "But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh; and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are an allegory. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.”
These two women represent two covenants, Sarah, the Abrahamic covenant, and Hagar, the Mosaic. The difference between these two is this. The Abrahamic covenant was the covenant of God’s sovereign grace. When God said to Abraham, "In you and in your Seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed" there were no conditions whatsoever. it was a promise from God. God was going to do it; and He didn’t ask Abraham to do anything, He simply told him what He was going to do.
This exemplifies God’s grace. He doesn’t demand any terms or ask us to do anything in order to receive that grace. Romans 3:23-24: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." You and I can’t do one thing to deserve or obtain salvation. God gives it freely. Henry Ironside wrote; “If you had to do one thing in order to be saved, if you had even to raise your hand, to stand to your feet, had to say one word, it would not be a gift.”
Romans 11:6: "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work."
That is what the Spirit of God tells us in the Word.
God’s covenant of grace is illustrated in Sarah. God had promised Sarah, "You shall have a child, and that child will be the means of blessing to the whole world."
No matter how impossible it seemed to man (or woman), in God's good time His Word was fulfilled through Isaac. The Lord Jesus Christ came through the lineage of Isaac and brought a blessing to all mankind.
Hagar, on the other hand, was a bond-woman, and symbolically speaks of the covenant of the Mosaic Law made at Mount Sinai. That’s the place where God said, "The man who does those things shall live in them," - but no man was ever found who could keep the Law perfectly, consequently no one ever obtained life by keeping the Law.
Sarah, typifies grace. She became the mother of the child of promise. Hagar typifies law, and she became the mother of the child of the flesh, and the law speaks only to the flesh. On the other hand, the believer is the child of promise and has been born of divine power. "John 3:3: “unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
People generally are ready to take up with legality because legality appeals to the natural mind, why, then are they so afraid of grace? The following is one answer.
There was a man who translated thirty eight large volumes of what was called “Oriental Sacred Literature” into his own tongue. Those religions differ in many thousands of ways but they all agreed on one thing, and that is that salvation was to be won by self effort, the only difference being as to what the effort was. They all taught salvation by works, and every religion except the one revealed from heaven, requires something from the individual in order to win divine favor. This appeals to our human nature because our nature became corrupt in the Garden of Eden and we have an inborn desire to amend for that.
Our intuition tells us that God will help those that help themselves. If we do our best, surely God cares enough to do something for us. But our best amounts to absolutely nothing. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Isaiah 64:6.
We have nothing to present to God that would earn our salvation. When we learn that, we’re ready to be saved by grace alone. Christ has done the work for our salvation, so the believers in Him become the children of God's promise.
Hagar typified the earthly city of Jerusalem which at that time was the center of the legal religion (the Law) here on earth. But Sarah typifies the Heavenly Jerusalem above "which is the mother of us all who believe." (both Jew and Gentile) Even Abraham looked for that heavenly city. God promised him an inheritance on earth and some day his children will have that inheritance, but he still looked forward to the Heavenly City. Hebrews:11:10: “For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Some day, when their eyes are opened, the Jews who believe that Jesus Christ is their Messiah will have that inheritance.
The Jews were driven out of Palestine over 1900 years ago because they "knew not the time of their visitation." When their own Savior visited earth they rejected Him. They said, "We have no king but Caesar." And when Pilate asked, "What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?" they said "Away with Him! Crucify Him!" John 19:15, "His blood be on us, and on our children" Matthew 27:25.
The Jews are going back to Palestine. They haven’t changed their attitude nor confessed the sin of crucifying the Lord of glory. How can they expect God’s blessing as they go back to the land? Their trouble will continue to increase until the awful days of the Great Tribulation. Symbolically, they are the children of Hagar, but some day, after the Church has been caught up to be with the Lord, God will turn back to Israel and a remnant from them will be saved.
"They will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son," Zechariah 12:10. When they own the One they once rejected as Lord and Savior, He’ll cleanse them of their sins and take them back to the land. He’ll destroy their enemies and they will become a blessing to the whole earth. That’s the divine program as laid down in the Word of God.
The Jews’ troubles have all come because they sought the blessing after the flesh and not after the Spirit, so they refused the promised Seed when He came.
In Verse 27, Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1: "Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman, says the Lord."
What a strange scripture! It follows Isaiah 53. There we have the most complete prophecy that is to be found anywhere in the Bible of the coming into the world of the Lord Jesus and of His suffering and death and resurrection. Isaiah 53:5-6: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah closes that chapter with Verse 12: "And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors." And the very next word, in Verse 1 of chapter 54, is "Sing!" That's something to make you sing: "He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." That’s me!
And so grace now has untold millions of children, and there will be millions more in the glorious age to come.
Verse 28: "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise." God has promised a full, free, and eternal salvation to every one who trusts His Son. The believers are the children of promise. But the children of legality can’t understand this.
Verse 29: "But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now." During the dark ages, for over 1,000 years the doctrine of grace was practically lost to the Church, and many were trying to save themselves through long weary pilgrimages and thousands and thousands of prayers repeated over and over and by building monasteries. These were “the children of the bond-woman” but God opened the eyes of a number of them who became the stalwarts of the faith. They found that while men had been trying to save themselves by human effort it was only through the grace of God that a poor sinner could be saved.
Verse 30: "Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." God says, "My children are the children of promise; My children are those who are saved by grace." Verse 31: "So then, brethren, we, are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." The apostle Paul closes the chapter with this thought; "In other words, we have nothing to do with the legal covenant but we are the children of the covenant of grace.” Verse 1 of the next chapter says this; “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.” And to that, I say; Amen!