We Are All Born Into Freedom
[Galatians chapter 4, verses 21-31]
Continuing today with the book of Galatians, we’re going to finish chapter four as we sort through this Biblical book of the early church at Galatia, which would be in modern-day Turkey. Taking up where we left off last week, let’s continue starting at verse 21 as the apostle Paul continues to express his concern for the congregation there because of false teachings that were contrary to what Paul had taught them in person and in the Spirit. He begins by comparing false doctrines with slavery.
“Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in an ordinary way; but his son by a free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the woman represents two covenants. One covenant is from Mt Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mt. Sinai in Arabia and corresponds with the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, ‘Be glad, oh barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband’.” (Gal. 4, verses 21-27, NIV)
As we noted in an earlier study, Paul is once again writing about early Christian converts who were formerly Jews who practiced adhering to the Law of Moses while also professing belief in Christ as the promised Messiah. They clung to both practices even though they were no longer required to do so, since the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Law, and this is why Paul was so upset with them. And so he goes on by comparing the origins of the Jews and Gentiles. Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, had his son Isaac with his wife Sarah when he was 100 years old. Prior to this (in Genesis chapter 16) Abraham had a son with one of his slaves, whose name was Hagar. He agreed with his wife, since they had been unable to conceive and they had become elderly without any offspring, and so at age 86 Hagar bore Abraham a son, Ishmael. The way that Isaac had come into the world was by a promise of God made to Abram (who soon became Abraham) in Genesis chapter 15 when He said, “But Abram said, ‘Oh sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children, so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ Then the Word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15, verses 2-6, NIV)
There are therefore two sets of descendants from Abraham; that of Hagar, who bore him Ishmael and that of Sarah, who bore him Isaac 14 years later. The descendants of Isaac became the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the times of King David and his son, King Solomon, from whom Christ was a direct descendant. That is what Paul was referring to when he wrote those words the way he did. “Slavery” refers to those who do not believe in Christ as the Son of God, but those who are free represent those who have put their complete faith and trust in Jesus and the Savior of the world. Those who refuse to believe in Christ are in slavery to sin, often without realizing it. This is something all of us can remain ever mindful of, and the way we can do this is to follow the writings of the apostle Paul when he wrote that we are to “continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord”. This does not mean we should be scared to death of God – quite the contrary, in fact. It does mean that as we live our lives for Christ and place our complete faith in Him, we should be ever mindful of the awesome power and unimaginable glory that God personifies. To say the least, it is completely beyond man’s understanding or comprehension. It is “the peace of Christ which surpasses all human understanding”, as Paul wrote in the book of Philippians, a book that we’ll be getting to later on. For now, let’s conclude today’s study beginning at verse 28.
“Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same way now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.’ (Genesis 21:10 – PB) Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” (Gal. 4, verses 29-31, NIV)
Paul hits a very important point right here when he compares Isaac, Abraham’s first-born, to Christ, the second Adam and God’s first-born. Also notice, the son of Abraham and the Son of God were both borne by “the power of the Spirit” since both were of a supernatural conception. That is the exact parallel Paul is using when he compares the two, and it is striking to me that the validity of his argument remains unchanged up until today. Since we are all descendants of Isaac, and since the descendants of Ishmael became the modern-day Arab nations, we are not borne into slavery but into freedom, a freedom whose only precondition be an uncompromising and full-fledged belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Lamb who takes away our sins. But when we are born again “of the water and the Spirit”, as Jesus taught Nicodemus in John chapter 3, the Holy Spirit then inhabits the hearts and minds of those who truly believe.
Interestingly enough, the descendants of Hagar the slave woman became the nations of Islam, and the descendants of Isaac became the modern day Israelis, as well as all Jewish people in other nations such as the US and Europe. But there is still more to this than merely tracing family trees. As you will recall from one of my previous studies, the difference between the Gospel of Christ and the Old Law is that the Old Law was for the Jewish nation as God’s chosen people according to the promise He made to Abram that I already quoted. The new law, or New Testament as we now call it, extended the salvation of Christ to both Jews and Gentiles, which became the modern Christian church denominations we have today (personally I do not count myself among any denomination other than the followers of Christ, but that’s another topic altogether). Salvation through Jesus Christ, which is essential for everlasting life even when our human bodies wear out, is now unconditionally available to everyone, or as Luke wrote in the book of Acts, “even all whom the Lord our God will call”. This is the best news of all, but there are two things we have to do first. The first is to believe in Jesus and accept Him into your heart as your personal God and Savior, because Jesus is not only the Son of God, but he is also the way, the truth, and the life. No one, Jesus said, can come to – or even approach – our heavenly Father unless they come to his Son first. Jesus then intercedes to the Father on our behalf. But there is one more thing we must do, and that is to obey His commandments. This means we are to love God with all our hearts and minds, with all our souls and all the strength we can muster. Degrees of human strength are unimportant here, but a willingness to serve plus a thankful and grateful heart are the most necessary ingredients. The last commandment we must obey – not counting the original ten commandments which are understood here – is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Not compared to ourselves, but instead as well as we treat our own selves, which is always as best we can. So it should be with others also. Being a steadfast student is very important here when it comes to following Christ. If we follow Christ’s two greatest commands, that’s how we know we are operating within God’s will.